Trails and Ways – The Interview
Chatting with the guys from Trails and Ways gave me the comforting feeling of coming home at the end of a long day. Easy and relaxed as a pair of well worn jeans, this group of 4 college friends give off a wholesome, inspiring energy. They are passionate, open and humble and after only a year playing songs together, this was their first SxSW.
I was lucky enough to share a beer with Ian, Keith, Emma and Hannah before their gig at the Hype Hotel in Austin. Fresh faced and smiley, they are not party fiends; don’t get me wrong, they’re down for a good time, and they’re very entertaining, but they understand life is more than just parties and morning afters. They actually give a shit. Which is probably why they all look so damn healthy. As Keith talks about being a vegan, I start to feel guilty about the wild amounts of tacos, BBQ’s and beef brisket I’d consumed since arriving in Texas.
Although equality hangs around the Trails and Ways gang like smoke in a room, I pegged Ian as the ring leader. He laughed and said his nickname is the The Task Master. He gets shit done. At the same time as being wonderfully creative. Not a common mix, which is why I guessed he was an Aries on the cusp of Pisces. (Cuspers are always magnetic and full of contradictory qualities) Hannah is a charming and modest girl her fellow band members are in awe of. ‘She’s so much more learned in musical expression than all of us. She plays piano, violin and guitar and bass better than all of us combined,’ says Keith. Emma (or Enya), a natural beauty who wasn’t wearing a scrap of make up lives by the motto be here now. She’s not a buddist but she clearly thinks like one. Kind of fits with band’s political stand point and ethical views. And Keith is all colours and opinions; he writes a lot of the songs so this makes makes perfect sense.
I spoke to him about Nunca, the most well known of their tracks, as I was intrigued by the use of the Portuguese word for ‘never’. He spent a few weeks in Sao Paulo right after graduating college and was massively involved in the street art scene thanks to a friend of his. It was an ‘entrancing world‘, that had such an effect on him, the song was born. Nunca is about trying to convey how much something means to you, how it’s engraved in your memory and how you will never forget.
While they write songs about emotions, the band are also fiercely political with strong views and a determination that could help change the world. They believe they have a social responsablity as artists. ‘We have songs that touch on climate change,’ said Keith, talking about their track Chills. ‘We do ‘love songs’, but you can’t sensor the world we live in. I want to be honest about my politics.’
Ian, whose father is a politician agrees. ‘My parents’ era of music was very political – the Vietnam era – and that’s what I grew up listening to. Music is so powerful it should talk about something that matters. Not that love doesn’t matter, but it’s so powerful that you night as well use it to actually move that social ball somewhere. The last main stream band doing it was Rage Against the Machine. I want our band to be like that,’ Ian says. Minus the dreadlocks, anger and songs with lots of f-words in them of course.
Moving away from politics (phew as I know nada) and onto dating (more my thing) we had some giggles about the perils of single life and relationships. Emma and Ian dated for 5 years a long time ago. It’s totally laid to rest now, which is good as sex can make things terribly messy in more ways than one. Emma talks of her robustness as a women, and how men often can’t handle this. And I have to agree. ‘It takes deep confidence to handle a woman like that,’ she says. ‘Men like that are hard to find.’
So where is their ‘trail’ leading? They certainly didn’t expect to be playing at the Hype Hotel at SxSW 2013, so the future is as exciting as it is unknown. Emma said that a year ago they didn’t feel connected as a band. ‘But now we’ve settled in, we’re in it together,’ she smiles. And Hannah agrees; ‘you’re part of a collective, we keep each others interests in mind, I don’t want to trample anyone else’s voice or make them feel uncomfortable.’ A band that will never make compromises or bow to the demands of major labels, Trails and Ways have taken a very organic route through their approach to life and music making. With respect for each other as solid as this I’m sure their trail will lead to many fulfilling places, both musically and personally.