TOFU AND WHISKEY Trails and Ways have zigged when others zagged. Though in reality, the band's process is becoming more in line with the path many underground musicians take to create and distribute work in 2013. It's avoided traditional labels, instead choosing to release a record through a Tumblr-based community project, and before that generated intense web interest with original singles, clever covers, and inspired remixes, building a reputation as a talented crew of globally inspired dream poppers.
And that windy route has paid off. The melodic Oakland quartet, which was named one of the Guardian's Bands on the Rise earlier this year, will play its biggest headlining show yet this week, Fri/7 at the Independent (9pm, $12, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com). It's part of its first full US (and Canadian) tour. All of this is in celebration of a record that's been buzzed about since the first hints were dropped a year or so ago: the Trilingual EP is here.
If you've been following the band's trajectory, you've heard many of the tracks before. Five-song Trilingual begins with faraway wind chimes and sturdy hand-claps, kicking off new single, "Como Te Vas," which then builds into a electronic dance pop track with catchy guitar hooks over island synths and layers of echoing Spanish vocals. It bleeds directly into championed early released "Nunca," lovely and moody "Tereza," which ends with the sounds of rolling waves, along with previous single, the bossa nova beat driven "Border Crosser" (which supports the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights) and bubbly "Mtn Tune." A few of the tracks showcase that two female-two male vocal counterpart dynamic of Trails and Ways, others spotlight and highlight one or two voices — all strong in their own right.
"Some of the songs we put out last year but had never given them a home. It's our debut of songs written and recorded together as this band," guitarist-vocalist Keith Brower Brown tells me. "Working as this four-piece changed how and what we do to the core. Before we went on this first major tour, we wanted to bring together our work so far — and new material — into this physical object to tour behind, a declaration of who we are and what we've done as a band."
Although the foursome — Brower Brown, bassist Emma Oppen, drummer Ian Quirk, and guitarist-synth player Hannah Van Loon — initially considered expanding Trilingual into an LP, they decided not to force the additional tracks, to let the work settle and grow organically. "We realized that we never want to rush a full-length out the door. A lot of things have happened really fast for us — especially given that we've just been doing all this on top of demanding jobs and other projects." (That ends soon; two of the four quit working full-time jobs on May 31, so when they return home from tour, they'll be spending "infinite time" on their music.)
"If you're too deep in the echo chamber you can feel this pressure to kick out new material every week. But when we put out a debut LP we want it to be as good as the albums that inspire us to make this music."