Interview by Scott Preston
Live Photos by A.J. Rosenberg
From the underbelly of Cleveland’s blackened music scene rises a brazen group of innovators on a quest to crumble the walls of a genre and stimulate a new generation of creative minds. Reggae-rockers, Tropidelic, untie the knots of expectation and sow together dance, hip-hop, funk and ska in a seamless display of unbridled realism, pulling from an amalgamation of influence never before seen in the cold Midwest. The end result is an in-your-face party suited for the laid back festival-goer as much as the aggressive listener or seasoned music enthusiast.
Cincy Groove: How/when did Tropidelic first get together?
Matthew Roads: In 2006, myself and my roommates formed the group out of similar musical tastes and the need to feed some positive vibes into our lives living under the gray Ohio sky. We lived in a thrashed old house on one of the big party streets in Kent and practiced in the flooded and graffiti-covered basement.
Cincy Groove: How would you described the bands sound today compared to when you first started?
Matthew Roads: The band’s sound today is a bit more aggressive and soulful. Every position saw member changes in early 2009. The new members come from many different backgrounds of influence so each guy is bringing different vibes to the table. Chris (guitar) came from playing in several successful punk/ska and metal bands. J (drums) had seen more musical success than the rest of us in a large pop-punk outfit. Corey (bass) use to dj drum & bass and skips to the tune of electronic / jam music. Myself and Dj Mekadog are more so the hip-hop heads. All of us love reggae. The music, we fuse it and reuse it.
Cincy Groove: What was the inspiration for the bands latest EP? where was it recorded? who did the artwork?
Matthew Roads: The latest EP “Erie Vibes & Irie Tides” highlighted our life in Cleveland and traveling the region. We recorded it in Chris’ attic in a hundred-year-old house in Lakewood in Cleveland’s West Side. We also did some of the production at Ante Up Studios in the East Side. Dave Maynard @ Black Metal Tattoo Company designed the album art. The insert photo is from inside an amazing but crumbling church in the East Side.
Cincy Groove: What was some highlights for the band in 2010?
Matthew Roads: 2010 was a good year. We are still very much growing but a lot of seeds were planted this year that have already opened doors for us. I’d say some highlights were playing the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ and performing at Sublime w/Rome & The Dirty Heads Cleveland stop as well as the 311 & Pepper tour. We spent a lot of the summer at what’s come to be a favorite spot for most of us, Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in Garrettsville, OH. We also signed to Little Fish Records this past year and hosted a dope night at Beachland Ballroom on New Year’s Eve to end it.
Cincy Groove: What was some of the music that influenced you growing up?
Matthew Roads: I grew up on classic rock and oldies radio until late middle school when hip-hop and a lot of the 90s alt rock filled my brain. The reggae for me came later, after my tastes and skills had developed I dug deeper for the real treasures music had to offer. That was back when Napster was a free for all. I got my hands on a lot of great music early on.
Cincy Groove: Do you remember the first time you heard one of your songs on the radio?
Matthew Roads: No I don’t remember specifically. It was probably on WJCU 88.7 or WSTB 88.9. Both stations have embraced us quite a bit over the years.
Cincy Groove: What are some of your favorite places to play in Ohio? outside of Ohio?
Matthew Roads: Nelson Ledges Quarry Park is our favorite place to play and live in harmony. Cleveland mainly sees us at House Of Blues, The Grog Shop or The Beachland Ballroom. We had a great time in Yellow Springs last year and also at Jackie O’s in Athens. Mr. Small’s in Pittsburgh is a favorite of ours. There’s probably quite a few naysayers but The Robin Hood in Kent will always be a favorite of mine.
Cincy Groove: What other artists are you impressed by?
Matthew Roads: The only time in recent years I can recall being extremely impressed was stumbling onto a Schwartz Brothers ( Glen Schwartz formerly of The James Gang) show at the Beachland. The dude has got to be well into his 70s and absolutely shreds a blues guitar with a wild personality to match. If you sort my Itunes by play count the top 5 right now is The Black Keys, A Broken Social Scene, Slightly Stoopid, Atmosphere and Citizen Cope. I’ve been bumping Alborosie’s “Escape From Babylon To The Kingdom Of Zion” all week and also the new Girl Talk.
Cincy Groove: Do you all still have “day jobs”?
Matthew Roads: Some of us do but all of our jobs are pretty flex to accommodate for dream chasing. We prefer “night” time.
Cincy Groove: Are there any upcoming shows you are excited about?
Matthew Roads: We are looking forward to hitting Rochester and Buffalo later this month. Also we will be supporting Badfish (Sublime Tribute) at their Ohio dates this February, 2/23 Bogarts – Cincinnati, 2/24 House Of Blues- Cleveland, 2/25 Newport Music Hall – Columbus.