A Trip Around the World

I.V.’s Tripdavon Returns Home

by Drew Mackie

As a rule, the lifecycle of Isla Vista bands parallel the parties that serve as their most frequent gigs. No matter how raucous the party, an empty keg means the partygoers will be shuffling off to the next destination. In a similar way, scads of Isla Vista-spawned bands have flourished in the area’s party-hungry, venue-rich atmosphere, then all but vanished when, after four years, graduation sends the band’s fan base — if not the members themselves — in different directions. It’s a dilemma that’s cursed many bands with short, glorious lives and abrupt ends.

But then there’s Tripdavon.

Well after three of the five members graduated from UCSB, the band was riding a tour bus across Germany, Austria, Holland, and Hungary accompanied by Eric Burdon, the renowned front man of The Animals and War, and playing to packed venues, poised for the greatest exposure the band has gotten yet. On top of that, Tripdavon was fortunate enough to score a deal with Advanced Technology Office — the creators of iSee, a new attachment that can convert a standard iPod into a handheld video recorder — to be the only rock band to have videos packaged with the product.

Indeed, Tripdavon defied convention by outliving its collegiate surroundings. But the band’s members, who now live together in Montecito, haven’t let their recent success cloud their judgment. Despite a world tour under their belts, the boys — Justin Fox, Greg Doscher, Adam Coons, Dave Heer, and Russ Cummings — are keenly aware they are a young band yet to prove their potential on their sophomore album, The Enlightened Operative (released November 9).

The tour, in fact, was not in the original plan. Tripdavon was initially supposed to play at Burdon’s 2005 CD release party at the Viper Room in Los Angeles, but when that gig fell through, Burdon summoned the band with him to Europe. Fox, 27, a longtime Santa Barbara resident, said yes. It didn’t take much work to convince the others to come along. “That very day, I nearly cut off my hair for a job I was going to get at the DoubleTree,” said a relieved Cummings.

As much as the boys like to recall their European tour, however, they admitted that a truer test of the band’s abilities was recording the second album. Upon returning from their time with Burdon, Tripdavon migrated north to the quiet streets of Weed, California. They teamed up with Sylvia Massy, whose multimedia recording complex occupies a full city block in the town and who previously produced albums for Tool, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Prince. Beginning on June 7, the band recorded for 40 days in Weed. The outcome? What the boys estimate is their most mature sound yet and nothing but gratitude for Massy’s influence on the project. Doscher explained that one song in particular, “Never Let You Go,” was presenting a few problems. “It needed some work, mostly on the chorus. But the verses and the bridge, too,” he joked. In the end, Massy’s tutelage helped find the gems buried within the song’s faulty structure and rebuilt it into one of the new album’s stronger tracks.

The album represents a kind of rock that defies the subcategorization that befalls so many other musical efforts. No prefixes, no hyphens, no alt, no indie — just rock in the purest sense. “In the end, if you have a guitar and drums, you’re a rock band,” said Coons, the band’s guitarist and a New York native who arrived in California to study at UCSB. It’s a genre that stands out even though it shouldn’t, especially in the hip-hop and reggae-saturated Santa Barbara music scene.

However selective downtown might be about live music acts, Tripdavon originally flourished in Isla Vista, where throngs of wandering revelers allowed for a greater variety of musical acts. “I’d rather take the backyard in I.V., honestly. If you’re in I.V., you know if you’re playing a good show,” Fox said. “If you’re not, then everybody gets out their cell phones and starts talking.”

That knowledge comes from many years of hard knocks. The boys’ first gig had them performing for 400 I.V. partyers at an apartment complex on Del Playa Drive, dubbed 6525 Palooza. Shortly thereafter, they played UCSB’s annual Reel Loud in 2004 under the name Audiophile. The members were pleased with their sound but knew their name was a clunker. Although initially cagey about the etymology of “Tripdavon,” the band’s members now freely admit the name came from their initial rehearsal space’s proximity to a Vons grocery store. Music breaks often resulted in a “trip to Vons,” which the five eventually slurred into the band’s name. While touring, the band discovered that Tripdavon comes close to a German profanity, though the name never caused them trouble while abroad.

Whatever the origin of “Tripdavon,” the name has served the band well. And though word of the band may spread to communities beyond Santa Barbara, the members maintain the band is a local fixture. “Our home is always going to be Santa Barbara,” Fox said. “Every time we leave, it’s amazing to get back. Coming up over that hill and seeing Santa Barbara and the ocean and smelling that sweet air …” But if the past is any indicator, the future holds many a foreign horizon. After all, according to Doscher, “We’re going to ride this thing until the wheels fall off.”

Tripdavon celebrates the release of its second album with a show at Velvet Jones on Thursday, November 9 at 9 p.m.

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