This is downtown Los Gatos. The local icon is a pair of twin cats. Nothing good ever happens here.
Then again, sometimes it does. This small Northern California community, wedged midway between the silicon sprawl of San Jose and green rolling hills of Santa Cruz, is where the members of Dredg grew up, went to school, learned to play their instruments, gravitated toward each other, got drunk, discovered mind-expanding artists like Sepultura and Pink Floyd and Miles Davis, dreamt, came of age, made a lot of noise, and, in due time, became the most captivating and possibly most important new band to emerge out of nowhere.
That is not empty hyperbole. Together for nearly a decade, singer Gavin Hayes, guitarist Mark Engles, bassist Drew Roulette and drummer/keyboardist Dino Campanella have invested an inordinate amount of concentration into shaping their intense and strangely melodic sound. The evolution has not always been pretty, but once the band gained its balance, Dredg's sound matured beyond all recognition.
In just a few years, the stoic quartet went from the noisy bombast of 1997's Orph EP to the full-fledged audio panorama of 1999's 10-track concept album Leitmotif (which got a proper release by Interscope last year). Soaring guitars gave way to delicately plucked mandolins. Garbled lyrics yielded to deep, intricate prose. Anger turned to inspiration.
But the conclusive evidence of Dredg's wide-screen ambition is to be found on its forthcoming cinematic major label debut, El Cielo - its most tunefully captivating and sonically devastating work to date.
Recorded primarily at George Lucas' cavernous Skywalker Ranch Studios in the scenic Marin hills just north of San Francisco, the band found the perfect creative environment for its organic, expansive music. "There were no distractions," Engles says. "You walk out of the studio and there's deer running around lakes and vineyards. It's just a beautiful atmosphere." The endless big blue sky and vast terrain undoubtedly contributed to the fluid hour-long musical journey El Cielo navigates, with dreamy instrumental passages joining the songs together in a continuous mix.
A select list of producers - including Ron St. Germain (Tool, Creed), Tim Palmer (U2, Pearl Jam), and Jim Scott (Red Hot Chili Peppers) - helped the band further cultivate its pluralist vision. "We wanted to work with different collaborators because we wanted diversity," Hayes says. "We don't fit in a box. We don't like it when every song on an album sounds the same - same guitar tone, same drum sound. It starts to sound like the same song over and over. By no means did we want to make a standard album."
Success. El Cielo is a rock record that sounds nothing like any rock record you've heard before. There are drum circles, Bulgarian chants, broken thrift store trumpet solos, drum 'n' bass inspired breaks, strings, dulcimers, bouncing satellite dishes, celestial sound effects, Latin rhythms and lyrics about the subconscious mind. In lesser hands it would sound like the end of the world. But here, on breathtaking tracks like "Of The Room" and "18 People Live in Harmony," everything has its place. "Our songs are like abstract paintings," Campanella says.
"But we still love melody," Roulette adds. "We still love good lyrics. Just because we want to be different doesn't mean we want to be impossible. We take our oddities and mix them with something people can relate to, coming up with our own sound."
The band has already seen its extensive risk-taking pay off in small ways. An early demo put Dredg in heavy rotation on Boston radio, inspiring a landslide of effusive fan letters from complete strangers. The re-release of Leitmotif earned Dredg an opening slot on Alien Ant Farm’s European tour last year. And a series of homemade websites have popped up as early markers of escalating interest in the band.
Typical of the praise the band is inspiring, Shoutweb.com cited them as one of the primary bands to watch in 2002, enthusing, "Like Nirvana destroyed the heartless hair metal sludge of the 1980s, Dredg will deal a serious blow to the current era of commercialized rap-rock. Dredg have the potential to be one of the most important bands of our time."
The feeling must be contagious, for even the readers of the local Los Gatos newsweekly recently declared Dredg the best local band. Sure, the closest competition may be the accordion quartet in front of the Main Street ice cream shop, but as avid students of the serendipity espoused by The Celestine Prophesy, even the members of Dredg must know this is the most reassuring sign of their imminent success.
"The designation as Los Gatos' finest might seem a little small for Dredg," the article reads. "But locals refuse to let go of their favorite sons."