Arden Park Roots knows how to party–they’ve blown smoke with Spice 1 (who collaborated with the band on their most recent album Burning the Midnight Oil) and hung out at Ginuwine’s birthday celebration among other colorful anecdotes.
More importantly, they understand the value of hard work. “We were in the middle of a national tour, planning for a future tour, and putting together our new album all at the same time,” lead singer Tyler Campbell told me at a bar in downtown Sacramento, an air of exhaustion hanging about the words. “Fuck if I’ll ever do that again.”
Add to that the fact that Tyler took some supreme initiative, starting his own record label/booking agency/PR company in order to get Arden Park Roots off the ground. “I learned very early on that the booking would have to be done by someone else,” he explained, “so I became someone else. I set up Anxiety Boy Records in order to reach out to venues and publications as a third party. We would tour around the country with shows set up by this ‘third-party,’ doubling the bill as ourselves and as a Sublime tribute band. That was the only way we could get our name out there in the early days.”
The hard work seems to be paying off too: among other accomplishments, the band’s third full-length Pipe Dreams debuted at number two on iTunes and has remained in the top one-hundred for over a year and a half; they were dubbed the best ‘reggae/rock/funk band’ by the Sacramento News & Review; and, in 2012, they were inducted into the Sacramento Music Hall of Fame. And they have a real, full-time manager now as well.
The Bay Bridged: What initially drew you to reggae music?
Tyler Campbell: Natural ability, really. I grew up listening to a lot of different styles but it was the modern reggae rock sound, the stuff that Sublime was playing, that stuck. I was in a rock, metal band years ago but it didn’t work out. The California reggae sound just felt right and, with the addition of more talented band members over the years, the songs we write have become increasingly more complex, both in style and substance.
TBB: Reggae-rock has a sort of built-in following and loyal, if decidedly smaller, audience than certain other genres. Do you have intentions of breaking into the mainstream consciousness? And if so, what are the challenges that come along with it?
TC: We don’t want to remain underground. We want as many people to listen to us as humanly possible. If that’s what you constitute as mainstream, then yes, we want the mainstream audience. But we also know that it’s a long, gnarly process getting to that point. This particular band is seven years old, and we have to look at how far we’ve come to keep us going, to keep the forward momentum. If you look at the purely financial aspect you’re not gonna make it; those numbers will drive you crazy.
TBB: Seven years is a long time. How have you survived as a band during that span?
TC: We realize that success is not an overnight phenomenon. It takes years of dedication and hard work to break out. And we put our egos aside; that’s really the only way any band can survive. We all have a hand in the writing process, we all openly communicate and no one tries to take full control over the creative aspects. That’s vital for not just us, but any group trying to make it. I may write all the lyrics, but, as a whole, we each play our own particular role.
TBB: Speaking of lyrics, what was the inspiration for a song like “Revolution” off your new album? World events? Political awareness?
TC: There came a point in my life when I fully realized I wasn’t getting any younger, and when you come to that realization, you start focusing on things beyond yourself. I started looking at the world in a new light and my father, in particular, really influenced me as well. My dad is retired from the air force and I can see the hurt in his eyes at the way in which this country treats not only people in his age group, but also the poor, the young, the people forgotten by society. You just have to read the news to witness the corruption in other countries and how people are rebelling against those systems; the same things can happen here if we’re not careful. The younger generation is starting to wise up; you never know what might happen.
When I write lyrics, I usually don’t reveal them to my bandmates until I hit the vocal booth. It’s one thing to show them words on a piece of paper, totally different expressing the emotion and inflection behind them. Thankfully, they were totally cool with a political song, and they supported it with a more aggressive musical approach that fits the words perfectly.
TBB: What would you like Bay Area residents to know about the Sacramento music scene?
TC: Man, there’s a shitload of bands out here working really, really hard. The great thing about Sacramento is it’s much cheaper to live out here and, therefore, easier to dedicate your life to music. No one in the band has a full time job because we don’t have to with rent being as low as it is. That way we can really focus on our music and give it one-hundred percent of our attention. Add to that the comparatively easier access to garages and rental spaces, and you’ve got a really great environment to foster musical development.
We truly love San Francisco, and we play there a lot, but it’s also a cultural hotspot and completely inundated by bands looking to break into the scene. A place like Slim’s is overwhelmed by the volume of requests they receive. Sacramento, on the other hand, is looking for bands to play. The scene is unfortunately overlooked by a lot of people, and hopefully we can help change that.
Check out Arden Park Roots as they come to the Bay Area for the Reggae in the Hills Festival this June.