Keeping it Indie: CM Interviews Trails and Ways

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Is the new semester of college already stressing you out? Take a chill pill and check out the indie music scene, which has finally transitioned out of its ugly 80s outlook and into a more calm, and earthy beat. The Oakland, CA based Trails and Ways is one of the flagship bands leading this renaissance with its tranquil and natural aesthetic steeped in a samba throb

“I haven’t written any songs about solar wind power yet,” says Keith Brown, renewable energy consultant by day and indie-tastic synth player by night. Brown, along with Ian Quirk, Hannah Von Loon and Emma Oppen make up Trails and Ways. 

“We all met in college at UC Berkley, living in a cooperative house, ” Brown shares, explaining that the on campus housing, which is run by students democratically, is “basically a hippie commune.” Brown graduated in 2010 with degrees in geography and environmental economics, but that didn’t stop his musical pursuits–rather, it empowered them.

“Fundamentally, music takes you to different places,” he says when describing Trails and Ways’ musical philosophy. “In all of our songs we try to ground in a specific space, and we believe they take you on a journey.” This holds true for the band’s style; just listening to Mtn Tune seemingly transports you to an Appalachian glade. Brown did a lot of traveling himself, for the benefit of the band, and lived in Brazil for a few months while studying samba and writing music. 

Original songs aren’t Trails and Ways’ only good trick. One of my favorite aspects of the band is their covers. Almost a year ago they covered M83’s Midnight City and gave the song an acoustic and jazzy zeal, tweaking the lyrics to reinterpret the song with a more natural aesthetic. More recently, Trails released their cover of Sure Thing by Miguel, adapting the R&B classic for the contemporary indie scene. As Brown wisely puts it, “To [cover] a song, you have to embody that sound, learn how it’s made and then you can make it your own.” Trails and Ways did just that, reimagining the words into some hard-hitting lyrics that could rival spoken word poetry.

Reflecting back on his college career, Brown has but one regret. “I wish I had known in college how accessible the music world is, even with a low budget,” he admits. We could have started this while we were in college,” and he encourages college bands to do just that. Right now, they’re working on expanding through their Twitter and Facebook profiles, but have really hit the industry hard through music blogs. 

“[We’re] really honored by the blog posts from the music scene,” Brown says, talking specifically about music aggregator sites Hype Machine and We Are Hunted. “We were lucky enough to get on [those] charts a few times this year.” And the band’s success is showing. “In particular we’ve gotten contacted by many labels and managers… but we’ve been completely DIY up until now.”

Trails and Ways’ future projects include releasing Trilingual, their first LP, early next year. The album will feature songs in English, Portuguese and Spanish. Right now the band aims on publishing more and more music videos and is currently working on a creative video project involving an interactive webcam that will come out this year. “Our goal isn’t to have 30 million followers,” Keith explains about their fan base. “We’re already beyond our wildest dreams of how many folks are following us on the Internet.” I suggest you do just that

Whether you listen to music on Spotify, Pandora or just on your iPod, keep Trails and Ways on your radar. This band is hitting the number one spot on music charts all too often, and just like their musical philosophy, this band is going places. Check out their stacked Soundcloud page and be prepared to press the repeat button.


Sophomore > Journalism > Boston University

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