The Acquired Taste of Unpredictability
Whether their artistic influence is derived from stories of worldwide travel, sleep paralysis based upon a Salvador Dalí painting or a letter to the six billionth person born to the world, dredg has always found an inspiration to create a work of art completely unlike its predecessor. Their unpredictability is not only their muse; it’s their goal for each album.
With their fifth studio album, Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy, the Bay Area rock band ride the fork in the road they took with 2009’s The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion and take you down a new path with no concrete or guardrails. Produced by Dan the Automator (Gorillaz, DJ Shadow, Kasabian), dredg unfolds an entirely new sound that requires plenty of listens to appreciate and understand.
“We knew going into this record that we wanted to do something different,” frontman Gavin Hayes shares. “We were making a conscious effort to work with someone like [Dan the Automator] where we knew he would have influence on this record and kind of approach this record as a collaboration as opposed to a regular producer-band relationship.”
They had already collaborated in 2005 when Dan remixed “Sang Real” off Catch Without Arms, but this time around, Dan took a much bigger role with the band by writing six songs and daring them to produce material that was better.
“We knew that [Dan] was going to be part of the album. He actually wrote more songs, and he was like, ‘If your songs beat mine, if they beat ’em all, then we won’t use any of the ones I wrote,’” Hayes recalls.
Of the six, only three made the album (“The Tent,” “Before It Began” and “Sun Goes Down”). Drummer Dino Campanella worked with Dan to fine tune or add to his drum compositions while Hayes would collaborate on vocal melodies. The result is a work that borders on hip-hop in terms of rhythm and, as Hayes describes, “dark pop.”
Hayes admits it wasn’t a conscious effort to write a record as poppy as Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy sounds on the surface, but that even compared to a true pop record, dredg is still far from that sort of label.
“In a way, I think most of our fans know that each one of our records is going to be different and we’re not really a band that regurgitates ideas or styles. We’re about evolving as people and artists,” Hayes continues. “Our longterm fans realize that. They know that maybe if this record isn’t their favorite that maybe the next record will be along the lines of something they enjoy more.”
dredg strayed away from the concept album for Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy. Hayes instead drew upon the inspiration from meeting his biological family last year, writing to his sister in the army and random stories that caught his interest in the newspaper. Hayes says if there is a theme to the album, it’s about the distance between people.
The distance was literal while Hayes lived in Seattle during the recording. The band e-mailed tracks to each other for eight months, with Dan’s participation early on. Hayes admits he prefers this method of recording because it’s more efficient for his creativity.
Even the album title has its own interesting story. On the way to a restaurant after recording one night, Tim Carter the sound engineer, recalled stories of his time as a rodeo worker. He told them how he would dress up along with another entertainer as the duo “Chuckles and Mr. Squeezy.” The story amused all of them to eventually consider the name as the album title after Dan the Automator pushed for it.
“We had a lot of album titles that were a little too reminiscent of past records. It was more of a serious tone,” Hayes shares. “As an afterthought, it symbolizes a collaboration between two people who come from different roots and create one idea and in turn being a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing where it’s one idea, one piece of art derived from two personalities, but it is only one entity.”
With a new record label, album and musical direction, dredg seems pleased with never having to look into the rearview mirror. They’re too excited about the road ahead.