A new reggae band from Cleveland, Ohio has found itself on the rise. The eight-piece band, known as Tropidelic, may be far from any tropical islands in Ohio, but that doesn’t stop them from dishing out an interesting mix of reggae, hip-hop and high-energy funk for audiences across the country.
Now is the time to listen to this up-and-coming band as they finish their most recent tour, which ended on April 10 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
This summer, they are planning to release a new album called “Heavy Is The Head,” and The PHOENIX recently spoke with Matthew Roads, the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, about the band’s origins, new music and what the tour life is like.
Tropidelic formed when Roads began playing music with some of his college friends at Kent State University. Roads said he was unsure where the name Tropidelic came from, but was confident that its meaning remained the same despite several changes in the members.
“I honestly can’t pinpoint [the origin of the band’s name]. It’s evolved a lot, but it’s a catchy, good name,” Roads said.
The band consists of Roads, Bobby Chronic on guitar, James Begin on vocals and trombone, David Pags on bass, Derek McBryde on trumpet, Darrick Willis on drums and new member Frank Toncar on sax, percussion and keys.
Roads said that the band’s eclectic fusion of funk, reggae and hip-hop was inspired by a number of bands he listened to while growing up, but he was never picky about what he listened to.
“Slightly Stoopid, obviously Sublime, a lot of hip-hop,” Roads said, “I grew up on classic rock, but we all have a diverse palette of musical interest.”
The band currently plays 120 shows a year. Nowadays, because the band is so busy, they only get to spend time together to jam, write and produce when they are on the road.
“We’re gone a third of the year jamming on the bus,” Roads said, “Everyone contributes from different fronts. It’s very much a team effort.”
Tropidelic has four albums under its belt. The first, “All Heads Unite,” debuted in 2012 and features one of their more popular songs, “Gritz.” Roads said that the humorously explicit lyrics were intentionally written and refer to a girl using her boyfriend for money.
“That was actually brought to me by another dude. He had different lyrics, more serious lyrics,” Roads said. “We made it catchy and fun.”
Their second album, “Police State,” was inspired by a police incident involving one of the former members of the band. They raided his home looking for the previous tenant, and as result, saw a lot of publicity. Roads said that the title of the album was somewhat inspired by the scenario but that it also clearly expressed the sentiments of a few of the band members’ attitudes towards the police. Overall, “Police State” continued their funky sound, but also made a political statement.
Tropidelic released two albums in 2016. The first, “Go Down with the Ship,” released in April, includes all original songs. Their latest album, “The Hard North,” featured two original songs amongst a selection of old, rebooted and rejuvenated originals. Roads said that the remixes were produced in part through collaboration with the band, and in part by sending out the music and receiving back the remix from others. Roads said that remixes were important to the sound of the album.
“In this industry it’s all about content, content, content,” Roads said. “We thought it would be a good idea to revisit some old songs.”
Although most of the songs on “The Hard North” were remastered, “Atonement,” one of two originals on the album, had an important story that Roads detailed.
“The song is just the hardship of being on the road and living this lifestyle,” Roads said. “I’ve sacrificed a lot of things to give this my all. You sacrifice relationships and careers. It really helps for personal growth. The song is about finding your fulfillment.”
In regard to Tropidelic’s long-term career goals, the band is confident in their aspirations and share similar goals.
“We want to have a major distribution deal, and be touring and playing music full time and influencing our generation,” Roads said. “We want it all.”
Roads said that having a career in music is possible if you want it badly enough and are willing to go the extra distance to achieve your goal.
“If music is something that you want to do, be willing to sacrifice everything else and be realistic and willing to have a ten year plan,” Roads said. “It takes a hard ten years of touring. It’s a long hard road. If you have a false perception of what it’s going to be then you should reevaluate.”
Tropidelic usually plays in Chicago two or three times a year, so look out for their next local show. Their forthcoming album, “Heavy Is The Head,” is slated for release this summer and the band is incredibly excited to play one of their biggest shows yet this summer at Electric Forest Music Festival. Tropidelic’s music is available for streaming on all platforms.