Bands We Like: Dredg

By Zachary Swickey

Some bands or artists may not have platinum albums or chart-topping hits, but they are still critically favored and have loyal, cult-like fanbases. Take for example Ryan Adams or even The Mars Volta – both are revered by fellow musicians and their fans flock to their performances. They may not be selling out arenas, but their attendees know every word to every song. The same can be said about Dredg, an enthralling experimental rock band based out of the Bay area.

Dredg consists of four friends from Los Gatos, California, who have weathered the storm and managed to stay together for well over a decade. The best way to listen to them is in a live setting: Bassist Drew Roulette plays barefoot due to all the triggers and pedals he must set off; drummer Dino Campanella can be seen playing the piano and drums simultaneously on occasion; guitarist Mark Engles shreds on his guitar with insane ferocity; while singer Gavin Hayes often wails on a slide guitar (even known to snap a screwdriver in half while playing with it). Roulette and Hayes are even known to raffle off some of their paintings at their shows. The band has a chemistry and musicianship that is quite rare, something you only see in bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as if they were born to play together.

They’ve been around awhile – one of their first touring mates was Alien Ant Farm if that says anything – independently releasing their first album, Leitmotif, back in ’98 at a time when gladly forgotten bands like Limp Bizkit ruled the charts. While a solid first effort, Dredg truly stepped up their game with their followup release, El Cielo – translated as “Heaven” or “Sky” in English. El Cielo is a concept album about sleep paralysis, a phenomena that occurs when someone’s body is shut-down deep in the REM cycle while sleeping, yet is self-aware, unable to move.

The album is full of thought-provoking lyrics such as “babies are born in the same buildings where people go to pass away,” which doesn’t sound like it would roll off the tongue, but singer Gavin Hayes recites everything with a poet-like charisma (resembling a modern-day Jim Morrison when performing). El Cielo paints a thick atmosphere throughout with hints of Indian-influence – strings abound and there are sounds that were likely obtained using unorthodox recording methods. Even the instrumental segues that connect the hour-long album are must-listens. Oh, and did I mention the album was recorded at George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch?

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