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Trails and Ways | The Band Made in the Bay Area
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Trails and Ways | The Band Made in the Bay Area

Picture of Katie Tao
Updated: 24 April 2017
Birthed in Berkeley and currently stationed in Oakland, Trails and Ways’ dreamy, near-trancelike yet still buoyant melodies and vocals are encapsulated in their recently released debut album Pathology. Comprising four members, Hannah Van Loon, Ian Quirk, Keith Brower Brown, and Emma Oppen, the Californian, and specifically Bay Area, roots of Trails and Ways have shaped them as individuals and as a collective music group.

Trails and Ways’ music has a vibrancy, a bubbliness, to it – lighthearted in its sound, the carefree ambiance of their songs is pleasing. To say the least, their music is enjoyable to listen to. Yet behind the more immediate airiness, the cheerfulness, are lyrics holding more weight in their reference to current social evolutions in California and the Bay Area. Such fully formed yet charismatic songs rapidly attracted listeners’ interest when the band released their first few tracks, such as ‘Nunca‘, as well as their Trilingual EP, in 2013. On their debut album, Pathology, Trails and Ways continues to offer the same pleasing-to-the-ear songs with the breeziness of ‘Say You Will‘, preceded by the more punch-like ‘Skeletons‘ and followed by the fuller, colorful vitality of ‘Mtn Tune‘.

With the release of Pathology comes a post-album nationwide tour, and three days after the album’s release, Trails and Ways performed their opening show at The Independent in San Francisco. The location for their first show was fitting for not only have the band and their friends performed at that particular venue several times before, but the members and the band itself have historical ties to the Bay Area. Three of the four members (all except Keith who is from Portland, Oregon) were raised in the Bay Area. Hailing from different parts of the Bay – Hannah grew up in San Francisco, Ian in Hayward, and Emma in Tomales – strengthens the band’s ties to San Francisco, the city of their opening show, as well as Berkeley, where the band members met and the band formed, and Oakland, where they recorded Pathology and currently reside.

Beyond social as well as nostalgic childhood ties, however, the band members of Trails and Ways are attracted to the Bay Area, and particularly Oakland, for what it has to offer in terms of creation, unity, natural landscape, and, of course, food. The music and art community in Oakland they belong to has given them the opportunity to form and expand friendships (with some of their friends even contributing as guests on the album). Additionally, Oakland and Berkeley’s hill trails – namely Redwood Regional and above Clark Kerr – have served many times as places for hikes and runs for the band members. As a regular surfing spot for Emma and Ian, another important place is San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. The band also notes Addis, La Familia, and Donut Farm as their go-to food places that, as Keith claims, they have ‘eaten a few hundred pounds of’ food from.

In 2014, the band wrapped up their summer tour by playing at Outside Lands in San Francisco. Such a performance was a sort of ‘homecoming’, as Keith puts it, and they ‘played with a lot of energy, feeling pretty thrilled… big gusts of real authentic San Francisco fog coming straight at [them]’. For Trails and Ways, the sense of home, of belonging and of permanence, is captured within the Bay Area in many ways, particularly with its beauty, its individuality, and its vibrancy; as Keith notes, ‘I ascribe to the theory that the Bay Area is a vortex; the longer you live here the harder it gets to imagine living anywhere else long-term.’

Katie Tao

Her Bay Area roots still founded firmly within her, Katie is a student at Pomona College who has a love of soccer, an attachment to the beauty of the outdoors, a desire to travel and find new hubs of people and food (particularly Japanese and Chinese cuisine), and a belief in an overall healthy yet hearty lifestyle.