he arrival in 2002 of El Cielo (Interscope), the debut album by Dredg, seemed to herald nothing less than the birth of a new art-rock paradigm. Almost immediately, it seemed, the alternative quartet from Los Gatos, California took the world by storm. 

Seven years, countless gigs, and three studio albums later, the band has released The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion (Ohlone Records), once again turning the world of progressive, art-rock upside down. The band—singer Gavin Hayes, guitarist Mark Engles, bassist Drew Roulette, and drummer Dino Campanella—began their adventures together 1993, and as much as they welcome growth, there are some things the band is not willing to risk: There have been no lineup changes in Dredg’s 16-year history, a feat worth celebrating all on its own.

For now, however, all the attention is on the new album. The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion is filled with eerie strings, synths, and other instrumental flourishes that help paint the abstract images of Hayes’ lyrics, which contemplate mortality, death, aging and the consequence of decisions. The musicianship is boldly tasteful, a true testament to their diligence; the album is essential enough for old fans and accessible enough for new fans.

The members of Dredg are now poised to do what they do best: To perform their material to awe-inspired crowds who expect a lot and get even more. It is an endless journey for the band that continually raises the bar so high, but as singer Gavin Hayes explains to us, there’s no other way they know how to do it.

So how does it feel to have the album done?

It feels great. It’s been a very long process, so to have it in our hands now feels good. I’m really proud of this record, nothing is contrived and nothing was premeditated about it. It seems very pure and I hope it comes across as that.

Was the writing process different this time around?

Actually, it was pretty similar. We just sort of get in a room and play a bunch of different things until we find what we’re looking for. It’s a pretty collective process; it always works best when we are clicking and feeding off each other. We try to look at the collective result and sometimes one component—a guitar part or a bass line—will stick out more than anything else.

What was the recording process like?

It was a lot like Leitmotif in the sense that we took our time and experimented with a lot of different sounds and arrangements. It was more relaxed than anything. We worked with Matt Radosevich (30 Seconds to Mars, The Hives), who is a young producer—25 years old—who really knew what we were going for. He was open to anything and allowed us to have a hands-on role in the production of things. It was a great process. We were never stressed or strained and that’s important.

What did you do with your time away from touring after the release of Live at the Fillmore in 2006?

We didn’t really take a break; that’s when we did most of the writing for this album. We wrote more songs than we ever have in that span. I think we ended up with 25 to 30 songs, and having that many to choose from made it easy to create the mold of the album.

How do you go about writing your lyrics?

I usually write outside of the band/studio setting. I almost always have lyrics prior to the music being written. Sometimes it’s a verse or a chorus or a hook that sparks the evolution. The melody usually comes in after that. It seems to have worked thus far.

Are there any themes that reoccur throughout this album?

A lot of it is based on my beliefs in general. I’m an agnostic, so some of the songs touch on that subject a bit. I like it most when the listeners figure it out for themselves. There doesn’t always have to be an answer in the lyrics—sometimes the questions are just as powerful on their own. 

This album seems to be very accessible—anyone could pick it up and get into it. Do you feel that your fan base has evolved enough with you to follow your progression?

While some songs may seem more accessible, I feel like the record as a whole isn’t like that as much. The fans’ reaction has been really positive so far. I definitely think our listeners have evolved with us enough to know that we are not going to settle or make the same album twice for them.

You guys do have an amazing fan base. What do you attribute this to? 

Our approach, really. We’ve always just done our thing and tried to never bend in any way. They’ve stuck with us through all of it and we are incredible lucky to have them. It feels really good and gratifying.

And has your purpose for creating music changed after 16 years of doing it?

We just want to get better at everything we create, so we’ve probably changed our intensity and focus throughout the years. Evolution is so important to this band, so we always have to raise the bar. I never thought I’d be a singer, but I always wanted to be one way before I ever tried it.

Is singing something that has always come naturally for you?

Not really. It has taken a lot of work for me to get to this point. Actually, I’m adopted and I recently met my biological parents and found out that I have a sister who is an opera singer. So I suppose I at least have a little bit of singing in my genes.

Why do you make music?

Because everyone needs it on so many levels. I need the freedom I get from it and also the healing that provides. Everyone probably has a different reason, and that’s what’s so important about it.

You guys put on a very intense and emotional live show. What is it like to be creating all that energy onstage?

It’s hard to define, really. I don’t really think about anything during a show, so whatever is created just kind of comes out.

Now that you’ve left Interscope for Ohlone Records, do you have more freedom?

It actually doesn’t feel much different to me. Interscope always let us do our thing, so we never really felt the crunch of the major labels as some claim. It feels good to work with Ohlone, though. They’re doing a lot for us right now.

What do you feel the biggest misconception about Dredg is?

That we’re a good live band (laughing) or that we’re really serious people. We definitely are not–we are nightmares! We run into that a lot, though. You never really know what a band is like until you are around them, or in our instance, tour with them. A lot of times they’re nothing like how you’d picture them.

What are you listening to right now?

The new Cursive album is good. I’ve been enjoying the new Why album also. A lot of different stuff, really.

Who are your greatest musical influences?

Black Sabbath, shitty ‘80s pop music, and the metal that I was into when I was a kid. I was actually just watching an old Nirvana video and I started thinking about how you never knew what to expect next out of them. There is a lack of that nowadays. We could definitely use more of that right now.

And what have you been reading lately?

A book called The Spirit Molecule by Dr. Rick Strassman. It’s about transcendental and near-death experiences. Also, I’ve got my guilty pleasure reading by Dean Koontz on the road with me. 

How does it feel to have a big co-headlining tour lined up with RX Bandits in the summer?

We’re so excited; I think it will be totally great. The excitement around it so far is crazy, with both of our bands releasing new albums in the summer. I think our fans will definitely mesh together because we create a similar type of music; that is to say, it comes from the same place. I think the tour will be received really well all around.

What do you want to convey to your fans with this new record?

That it’s the next step in the progression of Dredg. That it’s inspiring.

You play electric guitar live on “It’s Not Worth It” from the new album. Is this something new for you?

I’ve actually been playing guitar since the sixth grade. I started playing long before I started singing. I played a lot of guitar on Leitmotif and El Cielo, but I didn’t play any of it for the live shows. A lot of times I’ll pick up the guitar to hash out melodies and harmonies for my vocals.

How have your relationships changed and developed since the band’s conception in 1993?

We’ve been together for so long that we’ve experienced almost everything a group of guys can experience together. We’re older with more responsibilities, so we’ve matured a bit, but it’s the same dynamic for the most part. We’ve never had a member change or any drama like that, so we’re pretty proud of that fact, as it is rare nowadays.

What do you still wish to accomplish before all is said and done?

I just hope that our music doesn’t die when we die. I want it to continue and outlive us so that a 14-year old can pick up one of our records in the future and still get out of it what we put into it. That would be the biggest accomplishment for me.

In many years to come, if Dredg had a tombstone, what would the inscription say on it?

Finally (laughing).


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