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Dredg Is Performance Art You Can Rock To

Dredg Is Performance Art You Can Rock To

By Desirée Peerman
Photos by Desirée Peerman

As much about a visual experience as it is a sound experience, Gavin Hayes (vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin, saw blade, etc.) is a craftsman at his table of instruments creating an artful performance. Taken on a tour of El Cielo, Dredg’s new release, a similar visual performance is conjured in one’s mind. Soundscapes can transport a listening traveler to worlds distinct from each other in rhythm, melody, breaks, sound effects, and lyrics, like with a well-exercised Eurorail pass you can gain entry to and through varied cultures and customs. That’s one of the things I like about this recording. You definitely know when you’ve left one world and are entering the next. Or maybe these aren’t meant to be worlds but rather different scenes. Their composition begs an opera-type performance. Not many bands can or want to pull that off. Like the majors who have influenced them such as Pink Floyd and Miles Davis, I think Dredg has that dynamic and desire within. When I listen to El Cielo I wonder if they haven’t already slipped it to us. It’s not difficult to imagine when hearing the first words of the release: “Here we go down that same old road again.” I feel like I just came on board with Willy Wonka for a spin through his trippy tunnel. Don’t get me wrong. Dredg isn’t highbrow. This band rocks although probably not like anything you’ve heard before. “sorry but it’s over” might make a Tool fan feel at home. Worked for me without making me think it’s a rip-off.

“Our songs are like abstract paintings,” says Dino Campanella (drums, piano). “But we still love melody,” adds Drew Roulette (bass). “We still love good lyrics. Just because we want to be different doesn’t mean we want to be impossible.” It’s clear that Dredg want to do more than just play music. Natives of Los Gatos, these cats want to transform. They did that at Metro in Chicago on August 30th as a full house seemed to be transfixed during their set. At least that’s my interpretation as very few eyes strayed from the stage. All senses were engaged.

They’ve been together for a decade and maturity is their rite. After being signed by Interscope, the band recorded El Cielo primarily at George Lucas’ cavernous Skywalker Ranch Studios in the scenic Marin Hills just north of San Francisco. A solid choice for recording an organic expansive sound such as theirs. “There were just no distractions,” says Mark Engles (guitar). “You walk out of the studio, and there’s deer running around lakes and vineyards. It’s just a beautiful atmosphere.” An atmosphere that El Cielo has succesfully borrowed from.