by Charlie Swanson
As we reported last week, this year the Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF) unveiled a new concert series—dubbed MVFF Music, at Sweetwater Music Hall—that curates interesting concerts around the festival’s films and themes.
One of the most experimental nights of this series takes place on Friday, October 16, with Oakland indie pop quartet Trails and Ways. The band brings a new interactive video experience to the Sweetwater that plays along live with their shimmering, ethereal pop tunes.
By phone, Trails and Ways co-founder, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Keith Brower Brown speaks about the band’s international influence and their innovative concert visuals.
“I had been interested in music for some time, played some guitar growing up,” Brown says. “But not super seriously. I didn’t have that in mind when I went down there.”
“There” happens to be Brazil, where the Environmental Economics and Geography major traveled after graduating from UC Berkeley. His days in Brazil were spent studying the effects of wind farms on small fishing villages nearby; by night, Brown was pulled into the musical worlds of bossa nova and samba.
While abroad, Brown started writing songs with these new elements. When he came back to the U.S. in 2012, he shared those songs with drummer Ian Quirk, bassist Emma Oppen and guitarist Hannah Van Loon and formed Trails and Ways as an Oakland bedroom pop band.
For three years, the band toiled away in the bedroom, self-releasing an EP in 2013 and tweaking their technique. “We tried it a bunch of different ways before we felt like we got the right sound,” Brown says.
In perfecting their sound, Trails and Ways have cultivated a densely layered, richly musical fusion of those worldly influences on their debut LP, Pathology, released last June on Barsuk Records.
Trails and Ways worked with San Francisco visual artist and director Gonzalo Eyzaguirre, who directed the music video for their song “Jacaranda,” off the new album.
Essentially, they developed a system that would take the live feed from the band’s instruments and translate the signals into ever-changing shapes and patterns played simultaneously with the music.
With a slew of critical acclaim, more touring on the horizon and a new music video set on the Marin coast scheduled to drop this month, Trails and Ways are clearing a path that’s both innovative and imaginative.
Trails and Ways play as part of MVFF Music on Friday, Oct. 16, at Sweetwater Music Hall, 19 Corte Madera Ave, Mill Valley; 9pm; $20; 415/388-1100.