Dredg has been accused of almost every musical crime any band in any genre can be accused of. They’ve pissed fans off by being too heavy, too soft, too experimental, too alternative, too pop, too electronic and more. The indie rock collective from Los Matos, California has changed their sound with every release, alienated nearly all their followers, converted new ones and made a career out of it.
Below, singer Gavin Hayes talks about the creation of the band’s new record, Chuckles And Mr. Squeezy, and the virtues of not giving a fuck.
It’s always suspenseful when I’m about to hear a new Dredg record because I never know what to expect. What did you try on this one that you hadn’t tried before?
I think the main thing is that we made a conscious effort—we have too in the past—to do something different. Basically, use the record prior as kind of a building point. This record was a direct reaction to our last one, which we spent years on—very meticulous. I consider [The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion, 2009] a very Dredg record. It’s got a lot of instrumentals, it’s conceptual, kind of rock-oriented. This time around we just wanted to do something way different and approach it more like a collaborative record with [producer] Dan The Automator. We knew he’d bring some creative elements to the table as well.
It’s definitely a different record for us, and a lot of people have been asking if it was a conscious effort. I think it definitely was. We’ve been a band for 17 years and the last thing we want to do is just make another Pariah-type record or a standard rock record. We felt like it was good timing for us, so we rolled with it, you know?
I think your fans have accepted that by now.
Some have. I’ve received some pretty intense hate mail about it. I don’t see it as being way out of left field. To me, as someone who wrote the record, a lot of these songs were written after Catch Without Arms , it really doesn’t seem like a fresh new idea and this whole new twist, other than the fact that Dan worked with us and there are some of his elements involved. But yeah I’ve gotten some pretty passionate emails about what people think about it, which is fine. It kinda happens every record and it’s part of throwing something out there to be judged; it’s nothing that new. I didn’t expect such hate for it (laughs).
I kind of got the sense that you guys sort of expanded upon what you did before, even with the song “Zebraskin” from Catch Without Arms, and made an album with that in mind.
Yeah, totally. I think any of these songs would have worked with other records and vice versa. You could put “Zebraskin” on this record, or even a song like “Matroshka.” This isn’t to me that new. We’ve been writing songs along these lines for at least five years now. But whatever, it is what it is.
On many of the songs there’s a different treatment of the electric guitars in particular. I kinda felt like they were more in the background and you experimented with synths. Is that something that you guys have been doing for a while live?
Yeah. I think it’s due to two things. First and foremost, a lot of how this record was written. I was living in Seattle at the time and a lot of it was written remotely. Honestly, Dino [Campanella, drums] took charge and wrote a lot of these songs. It was more about productivity than about who was and wasn’t involved. A lot of the songs were written by Dino, beatwise and then keywise. He’s more of a piano player and drummer, so a lot of these songs have those roots. And then on top of that, the way it was mixed as well. Dan didn’t mix guitars really loud. Some songs, like the songs that were guitar-driven songs were written in a room as a band. So those were mixed that way. It’s almost as if he mixed it how he felt it was written.
I mean, songs like “Thought Of Losing You,” “Upon Returning” are a little more rock-oriented, a little more guitar-driven; the guitar is audible and it’s mixed louder. But some of these other tracks like “Down Without A Fight” or something. Basically Dino wrote that song and sent to me and then I laid vocals down and Mark [Engles] added some guitar parts. It was mixed that way as well.
When you joined the band 17 years ago would you have foreseen an album like this?
No. I honestly wouldn’t even have foreseen us still being in a band. When we first started—even our first couple records, Leitmotif and we put out an EP before that—we went into the studio like, “Oh, let’s record a demo.” And that was back in a time when you traded demos and you brought your demos to shows and it was all about who you interacted with and what cities you played. It was about networking and more of an organic form, I guess.
I didn’t foresee any of this. I obviously wanted it to continue just everything was so up in the air back then. I really didn’t think about it, to be honest.
You mentioned Dino being more of a pianist than a drummer. One of the things that really blew my mind when I saw you live for the first time was that he plays drums and keys at the same time. So, with that in mind, what challenges does this record pose when it comes to performing it live?
We’re working on that now, actually. We’re trying to balance. We’re actually having a friend of ours helping out, doing some backing vocals and guitar parts and some keys. For instance, on “Down Without A Fight,” Dino is going to be playing drums, we’re going to be running a loop as well, and then Mark is going to be playing the keyboard part, Drew [Roulette] will be playing bass, and out friend, Ben [Flanagan]—who’s in The Trophy Fire, who we’re touring with—he’s going to be supplying some harmonies and guitar texturing and stuff. It actually sounds really full and it sounds great.
I mean, this record was live drums to loops and we’re going to be doing a lot of that live and there might be a certain twist on some of the songs. I feel like, for some of the people who dislike this record or don’t think it’s very us or whatever, I hope they come see us live. Just rehearsing it, I mean, the songs sound just bigger and cooler in a live form.
I don’t know. It’s gonna have its own twist but I think we’re tackling it in a good manner. We’re not big on running loops but we’ve done it in the past and we’re trying to minimalize it as much as we can, while retaining the song and how it sounds on the record.
The refrain from “Another Tribe” seems to be sort of a tongue-in-cheek message, maybe to the fans. Is that what you had in mind when you wrote it?
Yeah, kind of. It was just observing. As I get older, I feel less and less connected to certain scenes and stuff—and I never really have, to be honest. And, not only from a musical standpoint… I have a wide array of friends and stuff, so it’s just kind of about that human need to be connected with their tribe that they feel comfortable. It wasn’t directly aimed at the fans, or music in general, but it is kind of tongue-in-cheek.
The last album was inspired by Salman Rushdie’s essay Imagine There Is No Heaven: A Letter To The Six Billionth Citizen, was there anything like that that inspired any of the lyrics on this one, or the music?
No, we kind of intentionally avoided that this time around. We just, first and foremost, wanted to get this record out a lot quicker than the last one so we didn’t want to limit ourselves. We had a few songs already and they weren’t really connected by any conceptual idea. So we just rolled with it and we said, “Let’s just write as many songs as we can and pick the best ones and record them.” We recorded this record extremely fast. We spent two days in the studio and then we did like a week at Dan’s house; he kind of has a home studio. Everything wasn’t as meticulous as Pariah.
There is kind of a common thread, I guess. Because when it was written, a lot of it to me is more personal than some of our older records. It’s a lot about family. It’s a lot about relationships within my family and I had met my biological family around that time. So a lot of that; those relationships between friends and family, even though there’s not a defined underlying theme to it. That seems to be a common thread through it.
I saw you guys with Circa Survive in November at Irving Plaza. Both you and Codeseven mentioned that New York City was way better than Philly, and that the Philly show sucked. I was wondering what happened there?
(Laughs) We both mentioned that. That’s funny. Philly was really bad for Codeseven. There were people booing and we got on stage and it was pretty much just one guy screaming at me and telling me to get the fuck off stage and I ended up flipping and because I’m old and I don’t give a shit anymore. So I kinda made a scene, and the crowd kinda turned on the guy. But whatever, it’s nothing new (laughs). It wasn’t terrible. Usually Philly is an awesome town for us, it just wasn’t good for the openers that night.
It’s Circa Survive country.
It’s their hometown. Everyone’s like, “I just want Circa and get out of the way,” basically, which is fine and understandable. It didn’t hurt our feelings. And Circa was super-apologetic. We were actually like, “Dude, who cares?” (Laughs) It was actually kinda fun just cause it was something different. It’s better than just people standing there and not having any reaction, I guess. I forgot about it in like two days.
Sorry to bring that up.
Yeah, now I’m gonna dwell on it all day (laughs).
Dredg hit the Highline Ballroom in NYC on May 19 and the Trocadero in Philly on May 20. Chuckles And Mr. Squeezy is available now. For more information go to dredg.com.