One can assume it’s not easy surviving as a band for over 15 years, especially in today’s ever-changing music scene. For prog-rockers dredg, this has become a reality. Recently, idobi had a chance to chat with vocalist Gavin Hayes about the band’s current tour with Circa Survive, the band’s upcoming album, the changing landscape of the music industry and much more.
idobi: How is everything goin, man?
Gavin: It’s going well. We’re just wrapping up this Circa Survive tour. We have another couple of weeks left on this and then we’re heading home for a little bit. It’s going well, though. It’s been a great tour, actually.
You said the tour has been going well, what makes that so?
First and foremost, we knew 2 out of the other 3 bands that are on this tour already. They’re old friends. Then Animals as Leaders, we’re sharing a bus with them so we got to know them pretty quickly and we bonded well. You know, getting along [with other bands] and having a good time on tour is always beneficial to the shows, as well. It just makes everything fun. That’s the main reason why. Also, all of the shows have been sold out, or close to selling out. It’s been a good experience.
Despite the fact that Circa Survive is headlining the tour, have you found that there’s been a lot of good reception for your guys’ set each night?
G: Not every night. Some crowds have been blankly staring at us, which is fine. In the end, when we walk off stage, it’s been good. Some crowds have been crazy. Overall, it’s been one of our better tours. We’ve had a lot of our fans out, which helps to guide the crowd, even if they’re not familiar with us.
Are there any cities or shows that have been particularly memorable?
Halloween was fun in Dallas. San Francisco was really fun, overall. I know it’s our hometown, but it was really good for all of the bands. We had a great time. There have been a lot of good ones, actually. I’m sure that it varies for each band but there have definitely been a few, for us. We’ve been doing some headliners in between, too. We did Syracuse last night, which was fun. Those are some of the standouts.
You guys are doing a couple of headlining shows after the current tour wraps up, correct?
Yeah, we’re doing a few. We’re doing 3 on the way back west, since we have to drive all the way back out there, anyhow. We added some markets…Indianapolis, Omaha and Sparks, Nevada. We’re just trying to hit some markets that we didn’t hit on this tour. I believe that we’ve never even played Indianapolis before.
Wow. That should be a good one, then.
Yeah! Or a bad one (laughs). We’ve never played there, so who knows.
Well if you’ve never played there before, hopefully everybody you’ve missed in the last 15 years makes it out to the show.
Do you guys have anything in mind for after those few hometown shows? Going into 2011, it looks like you guys will have some openings in your schedule.
We’re pretty much taking some time off for the Holidays and in mid-January, I believe January 16, we’re doing a benefit show down in LA for Chi Cheng. There are a lot of bands on that show. It’s P.O.D., us, Hoobastank and a lot more. I’m drawing a blank on who else is there. We’re going to do that and we’ll be starting another tour in March. Most likely a headlining tour, since our new record comes up March 29. We’ll start around March 22 so we’re on the road when it comes out. We’ll most likely be starting on the West Coast so we’re in California for the release shows. That will probably take us through April and I’d assume we’ll go to Europe after that for some festivals or something. No concrete plans but that’s how it’s looking now. That’s the goal at the moment.
So you mentioned that the new record is going to be released March 29, it seemed that might have originally been a rumor, of sorts. But that being said, I’ll assume that the album is completed, correct?
It is, yes. We’re doing some mastering touch-ups, some EQ things, but the album is done, overall. It’s ready to go, pretty much. We’re getting all of the artwork together and completing all of the final steps before it’s released.
For a band that seems to have a big influence in the art and everything that goes with the album, have you come up with any specific artistic themes or even an album title for the next record?
We’re working on that right now. Drew, our bass player, has a brother who is a photographer. It’s going to be photography based, I believe. I know we’re looking to have it be darker than our past records. We’ll see. We’re still waiting on some of the photographs now so we can see where we’re headed with that. We’ll probably do some painting along with it.
Do you guys have a title for the album yet?
Not yet. We’re deciding that in the next day or so. It’s a democratic process, so it takes a little longer than normal.
Understandably. You mentioned that the artwork would be a little bit darker on the album, do you think that’s indicative of the overall theme or tone of the music on the album?
Yeah, it’s kind of a dark record. A lot of friends and other people I’ve showed it to, they describe it as a “dark pop”. It’s got a dark undertone, but I don’t necessarily feel like the lyrics are extremely somber or anything. It definitely varies, like a lot of our records. You have some songs that are mellow, for example, there’s a straight-up acoustic song on this record, which I guess is lyrically sort of somber. It’s just a dark undertone. I mean, it’s [produced by] Dan the Automator, so there’s a lot of his influence in there. His music seems to have that tone to it, you know? I think that comes through a little bit.
How did you guys end up working with Dan the Automator on this album, anyways? It seems like a departure from a lot of the stuff he’s done in the past, or maybe even who you’ve decided to work with.
He remixed one of our songs in ’05-’06 and we became friends. He lives right down the street in San Francisco, actually. We became friends and had lots in common and started hanging out. Over the years we’d talked about doing a record together. It seemed like good timing for all of us, so it just happened. We just did it. He was like, “Hey, let’s hear some songs”. We gave him a bunch of demos and he took control of it. We actually did it very quickly.
What do you think working with him brought to the record?
Definitely it helped because he’s a really quick worker, so it helped to expedite the whole process. He is, in my opinion, more of a “feeling” producer than a “perfection” producer, which I enjoyed. We went in and did drums and bass in 3 or 4 days, then with guitar we even used a lot of the guitar on some of the demos we’d given him. He was like, “Shit, these sound good, why try to recreate it?” It was very, you know, spontaneous, loose and based on performance and feeling more than anything. Or other than trying to be ultra meticulous and perfecting everything until it’s stale. That was an interesting approach. There were some vocal takes that I could have had, pitch-wise, a better take but he would say, “No, that feels really good. Just sit with it and see how you feel about it in a couple of days.” Then I’d find that it did grow on, you know?
What are some of the influences for this record, either musically or lyrically?
Musically I think that part of it was the collaboration from working with Dan. There are actually 3 songs on the record that he wrote, musically. This record, in a way, is a sort of collaboration. It is still a dredg record, but there are some elements that have more of a collaborative element. There are a bunch of influences, lyrically. This isn’t really a concept record or anything. The songs are taken from newspaper articles I’ve read or anything. There’s a song about my sister. Some of the songs are personal. I actually met a bunch of my biological family since we’ve made our last record and some of it is loosely based on that. More important personal things have happened to me in the last year and I feel as if it comes off that way. At least lyrically, it seems genuine, from my perspective.
So more of a personal record?
Yeah, maybe a little bit more personal than some of our past records. I think it translates well, though.
The last album was out about two years ago, so with this next album set to release in March, that seems to be a shorter than usual wait for you guys. Why is this one being released so quickly as opposed to other records in the past? Was it a label issue or just a more personal thing?
Nothing to do with any label issue this time. I guess the last one took so long because of changing labels and other personal things, though. I was actually living in Seattle during the writing so I think that part of that, working remotely, sped up the process a little bit. We were just sending music back and forth rather than four opinions being in a room. Obviously that can damper the creative process sometimes when you have a lot of opinions in one room. I think we knew that we wanted to get a record out a lot faster than the 3 or 4-year span that we’d done in the past. With the way the industry works now, you need to keep offering as much music as possible because people have access to more music than ever. I feel like people’s patience has dwindled down to a small point, you know? It’s what we need to do and I don’t see any reason why we can’t continue to do so. We learned a lot from this writing process and I can’t really see us going back to spacing records out 3 or 4 years.
You mentioned working remotely for this album. Was this one of the first times that had happened and do you think a lot was gained from the short time period between records?
I think so. As I said, you’re trading music back and forth. For me to do work as a vocalist, that’s more under the microscope. I could sit there with my headphones and a track and add to it or sing a verse or chorus and say “That worked great” or “That’s cool” or “That’s not”. It’s just more under a [personal] scope, you know?
When should fans expect to hear any new music from the upcoming album?
I’m guessing they should be able to hear it in the beginning of next year. I’m not positive, though. I’m sure we’re going to release a song or two on our website when we rebuild that. We’ll at least give some taste of [the record], unless there’s some unforeseen leak of the record, which I can’t predict right now. That’s very possible, though. In either case, I’d say late-January or so.
You guys have been around a long time, obviously a lot longer than some of the elements that are changing the landscape of the music industry right now. You talked about the leak or fans having a shorter attention span, do you think that all of those things have given you guys a different outlook or approach to things than when you first began over 15 years ago?
Things have changed a lot from when we first started. When we first started, it was all about handing out demo tapes and things were more based on a local music scene rather than, you know….everything being about globalization of the business. We’ve grown with the times. We were a band when the Internet was hitting. At one point, it was surprising to say, “Oh, wow, we have a website and people are e-mailing us from Turkey!” That was really amazing to us, at the time. We’ve grown with the business and tried to evolve with it as best we can. I think that’s what we’re trying to maintain right now. I believe it’s what you have to do in any business.
So do you think that all of these changes and the technological landscape of the industry make it harder or easier for an up-and-coming band?
I think that on one level it makes it easier because it’s easy to promote yourself online and build a website or have your music on MySpace or Pandora or whatever it may be. In turn, it’s been oversaturated so it is easier to get your music out there but now there are a lot more people with music out there. When we were a band in the Bay Area, you knew the clubs, you played the clubs, other bands went there, you swapped or demos or whatever. You expanded that way, through slow growth within the state. Then maybe you’d be out on the state lines and stuff and go from there. Now you just put up a website and it’s there for everybody in the world to see and like or dislike or critique. As I said, there’s more music than ever and a lot of it’s amazing music, but it’s harder to dig through the oversaturation, I guess.
Alright man, thanks a lot. Is there anything else that you’d like to say?
I think we’ve pretty much covered everything. We’ll be touring again in the Spring so hopefully we see some people out there. Thanks!