When you think reggae bands, U.S. reggae bands at least, you think of a group of musicians growing up by the sun-soaked beaches, jamming in flip-flops as the waves crash behind them.
Not for Tropidelic.
The reggae and funk outfit comes from “the sunny shores” of Cleveland, Ohio. But that doesn’t stop them from delivering an absolutely irie audio experience. The band dropped their excellent album, Heavy is the Head, in November. If you’re suffering through the cold sweeping the country, I suggest pushing playing on this album and you’ll be immediately transported to a more tropical state of mind.
I caught up with Matthew Roads of the band last year to talk about their new record, and their plans for 2018. Tonight, they hit New Jersey to play Debonair Music Hall (formerly Mexicali Blues) in Teaneck, NJ with Flobots.
It’s a common question I’m sure, but you guys have an absolutely killer name. Can you talk about how you guys came up with it?
It came from a friend of the band year’s ago and it struck us as memorable and easy although we’ve seen many a club botch the spelling.
You guys come out of Cleveland — for those unfamiliar with the scene — is there a thriving reggae/funk scene out there? If yes, how did you guys separate yourselves from everyone else in the scene? If no, how difficult was it to make your name in a scene where you didn’t have contemporaries?
The music scene out here is great. We’ve made it our goal to separate ourselves since day one. I think we’ve been able to make that possible by staying diverse but true to ourselves. There are bands in our area that we work well with on the same bill but there are far fewer of us than there are metal bands, hip-hop acts or even indie-rock sounding bands..
Who would you say are your greatest musical influences?
My personal influences that I think are most pertinent to me now stem from a lot of the music I picked up from immersing myself in the outlets available to me in college as well as music that was referred to me by some of my mentors. The Roots, Atmosphere, A Broken Social Scene, Slightly Stoopid, LCD Soundsystem, Pharcyde are a few that come to mind.
Can you talk about the construction of your sound — there’s such a rich blend of so many genres in your music — was this something you had in mind from day one, or did it evolve?
This whole project has been an evolution. We started off with the goal to make reggae-rock music in an area where there was very little of that but even early on, the music never turned out like that. What came out of the band naturally was more of cross-breed of different things, a lot of hip-hop was infused since Day 1 and it progressively got into more and more styles.
You dropped your new record a few days ago — how do you feel it stands out from the rest of your previously released material?
I guess every band would say this about their new record but it’s our best to date. We’ve gotten better at writing and filtering out material. We’ve gotten better at understanding our audience and creating comprehensive works as opposed to throwing a batch of songs on an album.
If someone had never listened to you guys before, but was interested in checking you out, what song would you recommend they check out in order to fully get your vibe, and why?
I think it’d be pretty difficult to get our full vibe by listening to one song based on one song since they can be very different from track to track. I will say “Dollar Saved” feels the most in-the-pocket for us as far as recordings go and highlighting what we do best as individual members.
What do you love about being in this band?
I love that the music has an effect on people. I love the natural high of being onstage with my bandmates. I
You’re opening for Flobots on their current tour. Prior to being announced for the tour, had you jammed with them before? Also, how does it feel to be asked to tour with a band that has national recognition like this?
I think we performed with them years ago in Cleveland. I love the band and some of us have been long time fans. We have been on the road with national acts before and it’s always a blast and honor to have the opportunity to share the stage with a group that has already garnered a sizable name and audience.
What are your plans for the rest of 2018?
Aside from the Flobots tour, we have a few week run with Badfish in February and are appearing at Reggae Rise Up in March in St. Petersburg, FL with acts like Rebelution, Damian Marley and Matisyahu. We have some big news coming soon for late spring and summer.