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Dredg: art rock in the key of existential malaise 

Given the cinematic scope of their music, it's no surprise that Dredg spent a large part of their career in the studio.

Over 17 years and four full-length albums, the Los Gatos, Calif., quartet has amassed a repertoire of dynamically concise art rock in the key of existential malaise. Their last record, 2009's The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion, was a concept album inspired by Salman Rushdie's essay "Imagine There is No Heaven: A Letter to the Six Billionth Citizen."

But the band changed its tune in a couple ways in the past year.For one thing, the typically methodical band wrote and recorded an entire album in just one year. And the other difference? It's not a concept record.

"We just wanted to focus on the songs and write as much good material as we could," vocalist Gavin Hayes said during a recent phone interview. "We didn't really want it to be a conceptual record. It's really just documenting this past year of our lives."

There's a much quicker turnaround for the band this time because Hayes says that's how the music industry works now.

"I don't think it's wise anymore to take huge gaps between records," he said. "We did that on our last one. Maybe it was good for the recording process, but it can be detrimental to your place in the recording industry. It's so easy for people to get music now and it's already an oversaturated business. The more material you put out the better. You'll keep your name in the forefront and increase your opportunities to grow your career."

The group, which formed in high school (guitarist Mark Engles, bassist Drew Roulette and drummer/keyboardist Dino Campanella round out the lineup) and started off playing punk and metal covers, has progressed into creating towering rock music with a distinct ambience. For many years, though, the band's process involved a meticulous writing process and democratic approach.

"With four opinions, that can also delay things," Hayes said. "We've all accepted that this is what it is and let's just roll with it. Maybe everyone's not happy with everything, but we just accept it. This is where we're at in our career, and it's fine."

That philosophy has afforded Dredg the ability to write faster now.

"It's almost like this spontaneous approach is beneficial to our writing," Hayes said. "We aren't over-thinking things. There's a certain rawness we haven't had on our records in a while."

It's also meant drastic changes to their sound. Hayes says certain songs on the as-yet-untitled new disc are in keeping in Dredg's trademark grandeur, but there are also acoustic passages. He thinks a lot of it could be used in movie soundtracks, though not necessarily as a score.

"I'm having a hard time putting my finger on what this new record is," Hayes said. "Stylistically I can't really label it. It's almost like dark pop or something.

"By the time we're done recording I'm usually tired of it already. This one's still interesting to me."

The guys in Dredg may be adapting to the changing tides of the music industry, but they aren't totally abandoning the old format.True aficionados, they've designed much of the artwork for their albums themselves. Hayes says he isn't bothered that fans buy more of their music by the song than the album now — if they buy it at all.

"It is what it is because it's part of how things are evolving," he said. "I'd rather roll with it than try to fight it because that's not going to change anything. All it does is change your approach on how you want to market yourself."

He figures Dredg still has hardcore fans that are willing to buy music in deluxe vinyl packaging. Otherwise they can still showcase their visual side in other mediums.

"It's not like you can't still come up with great artwork and have it on your website," Hayes said. "There's still an image there, whether it be in a digital format or some tangible thing you hang on your wall. The way things are changing leaves more room for experimentation. There's no really correct way right now. It's unlimited at the moment."

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