An unlikely but powerful combination of punk fury and prog rock ambition, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead were formed in late 1994 by singers/guitarists/drummers Jason Reece and Conrad Keely. The longtime friends originally met in Hawaii before settling in the indie hotbed of Olympia, Washington, where Reece drummed for the notorious Mukilteo Fairies. After relocating together to Austin, Texas, the duo began playing shows as "You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead," eventually adding both the conjunction and the ellipsis to the band's name. The pair also recruited guitarist Kevin Allen and bassist/sampler Neil Busch, thus transforming the group from an indie two-piece into an arty quartet. After issuing a live cassette on the local Golden Hour label, AYWKUBTTOD -- already legendary in indie circles for their anarchic concert sets -- released their self-titled full-length debut on Trance Syndicate in early 1998. Following the label's collapse, the band moved to Merge's roster and issued Madonna in the fall of 1999.
After signing yet another record deal with Interscope, they issued the formidable Source Tags & Codes in 2002, followed by The Secret of Elena's Tomb EP in 2003. The elaborate Worlds Apart arrived early in 2005. Despite widespread acclaim for the album, its sales were disappointing, leading Keely to consider disbanding the group. However, he and the rest of AYWKUBTTOD found inspiration in their frustration and bounced back with So Divided -- initially conceived as an EP, but gradually expanded into a full-length effort -- in late 2006. Their subsequent departure from Interscope Records convinced the musicians to launch their own label, Richter Scale Records, in partnership with the Texas-based Justice Records. Free of the constraints of conventional label deals, the band then brewed up a batch of contemporary prog anthems and released an EP, 2008's Festival Thyme, to ramp up support for a full-length album. The Century of Self followed in early 2009.
AYWKUBTTOD then scaled down their lineup, choosing to record their next album as a four-piece. The result, Tao of the Dead, also doubled as one of the most band's most conceptual works to date, with a 16-song set list divided into two lengthy tracks, each of which was performed in a specific musical key. After Keely's move to Cambodia's capitol city, Phnom Penh, he, Reece, and Tao of the Dead recruits Autry Fulbright and Jamie Miller headed to Hanover, Germany in the summer of 2012 to record Lost Songs. One of the band's most overtly political sets of songs, the album was released that October. The group returned to Texas' Hill Country to record 2014's IX, an introspective set named after the ninth planet in the solar system in the world of Frank Herbert's Dune.