After two decades of timeless records, Oklahoma City’s Traindodge continues their post-hardcore dynasty with the release of their eighth LP, The Alley Parade, on Spartan Records. Yet, while the band’s collection of canonized albums have become required listening for every budding heavy band since the 90s, and their legacy of hundreds of shows (sharing stages with the likes of Mudhoney, Cursive, Avail, and Botch, to name a few) has impacted thousands, perhaps the biggest mystery surrounding Traindodge is how under-the-radar this band has flown throughout its prolific career. Whether it be a nod to the band’s integrity or an unwillingness to conform for commercial success, as journalist Jason Heller put it, “Unlike the hordes of post-hardcore wannabes who think screams, noise and posing make the band, Traindodge synthesizes brainpower and horsepower into a contorted, rock-heavy wallop that’ll leave you scratching your head as much as banging it.”
But let’s start at the beginning.
In 1993, brothers Jason and Rob Smith joined bass guitarist Chris Allen in a pre-existing band. Over the next three years, the three musicians connected deeply over a shared love for the harder side of indie rock – Fugazi, The Jesus Lizard, Jawbox, and much of the already buzzing Kansas City scene. After endless amounts of writing and some natural lineup shifting, Traindodge was born.
“At the time, the loftiest goal I had was to go on tour and if we were lucky, make one album. I figured we’d maybe last three to five years. That’s a long time when you’re 22. None of us knew anyone who’d had a band that long,” says Jason Smith (vocals/guitar). “One thing that shifted for me [early on] was realizing that the more I invested myself in the band, the more satisfying it got. Getting on the road and meeting like minded people confirmed for me that even the midwest can seem like a bigger place. Even through the flimsy ‘networks’ we were stumbling through in our first few years, I could gradually see the reality of being that band that traveled around and woke up some unsuspecting crowds. Maybe it’s a defect I have, but I just found that lifestyle really addictive. I still love it. Even in the down times we’ve had, I’ve always felt like I’m where I belong.”
Fast-forward twenty seven years later, The Alley Parade is the band’s eighth full length record, and first since 2016. The lineup also features second guitarist Ross Lewis who joined Traindodge full time in 2011. “We’ve been chipping away at writing this record more or less since the last one came out, which, with all of us not in the same city, and a global pandemic to boot, took a sec,” says Rob Smith (drums/synth). “Some of these songs were written in 2017, and some were finished weeks before we went into the studio last year. That gives the newer songs a more spontaneous feel, while the older ones feel a bit more ‘lived in,’ and I think that’s a strength of the record – it is the most immediate, accessible thing we’ve ever done.”
While new in approach in some ways, longtime listeners of Traindodge can rest assured that The Alley Parade packs just as much grit and punch as any of its recorded predecessors. “The way we write music now is very much the way we were doing it in the 90s when we started, which is everybody in the room facing each other,” says Jason Smith. With such an extensive catalog and with such unprecedented changes in both the production and consumption of music, it is nothing short of remarkable that the band has maintained such a steady and creative drive. “When our first album came out in 1999, my brain immediately felt this huge invisible clock starting. Our discography had started, for better or worse,” Smith continues. “If we had a better album in us, we had two to three years to get there without looking like divas. But I don’t know - as a music fan, I just apply that sense of responsibility to ourselves to make a document before too many years pass. Decades later, I still feel that invisible clock.”
As artists grow and mature, their sources of inspiration often follow. After finding it difficult to connect with the massive outpouring of music in the early 2000s, members of the band stumbled into a timely reunion with the music of Rush while on tour. “We stayed up and watched a whole DVD and had an insanely fun time,” says Jason Smith. “Some of those songs take me back to junior high when I was first really starting to explore music. I realized then that that was the most fun I’d had listening to music in years. It scratched an itch that I didn’t realize I had. For me, that sort of started the whole fascination with going back to the music we grew up with and exploring more. Went back and got reacquainted with Rush, Thin Lizzy, Blue Oyster Cult, Sabbath, ZZ Top, etc. We never really looked back. We gradually became more of a rock band after that.” The fingerprints of all of these sources of inspiration, combined with the hallmark tenacity of every previous Traindodge release is abundantly present on The Alley Parade.
To bring the record to life, the band returned to RCRD in Atlanta, Georgia to record their third consecutive album with Dan Dixon. “We’ve known Dan for years, having toured a ton with his old band, Dropsonic,” says Rob Smith. “There’s something to be said about working with someone who both knows you so well personally and the way your band sounds. Sonically, he knows exactly how we’re supposed to sound, so we can get to things a lot faster. At the same time, he’s great at getting us to try things that we might not otherwise, which is super valuable.” The session lasted one week, and the band was able to track the entirety of The Alley Parade in that time. Lyrically, much of the record stems from an ebbing meditation on both loss and the process of reflection, and the title of the record itself directly points in the direction of the thematic content, highlighting the notion of its duality. “[The title] is bleak, bizarre and hopeful all at once,” says Jason Smith, “the album sort of sounds like that, too.”
At a certain point in a band’s career, certainly one with the longevity and endurance of Traindodge, creating music is no longer something you want to do, but rather something you need to do. The legacy of this band already stands on its own, and it is nothing short of a gift that listeners keep receiving additional offerings from the band. “The band remains front and center in my mind every day,” says Jason Smith. “Having an outlet like this is central to my well being. I realize I’m a balanced person because of it. To that end, I do whatever I can to make it work.” “We [also] all still really like working together and spending time together,” adds Rob Smith, “and we’re super grateful to have people still really care about what we’re doing after all these years. It’s about the most fun, rewarding thing I can think of, so why stop? If you have not created the space in your life to dig into Traindodge’s illustrious catalog, please wait no longer. If you are a longtime listener, prepare yourself for The Alley Parade available September 22nd.
Post-hardcore can be split into two eras: pre-At the Drive-In and post-At the Drive-In. Oklahoma’s Traindodge sticks out by sounding as if ATDI never existed. Unlike the hordes of post-hardcore wannabes who think screams, noise and posing make the band, Traindodge synthesizes brainpower and horsepower into a contorted, rock-heavy wallop that’ll leave you scratching your head as much as banging it.” - Jason Heller (Westword)
No upcoming events.