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.”

4•1•1
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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