DREGG / EPITAPH / 2020
by Ryan J Downey
DREGG make powerfully energetic music, driven by themes of fierce individualism, with a sound that hungrily consumes metal, hardcore, and rap, only to heave it back up in a colorful rainbow of bombastic brutality and iconoclastic absurdity, lovingly fed to the audience like mother birds.
DREGG is as much a rifftastic metalcore outfit as they are unpretentious art-rock collective. The Melbourne, Australia fivesome is thrillingly provocative, occasionally disturbing, and filled with hip-hop swagger. The medium is the message, in their music, their tongue-in-cheek videos, and the exaggerated manifestations of each member’s “id” presented via elaborate theatrical costumes.
Imagine Eminem, fronting Mr. Bungle, while sipping absinthe, after an Oscar Wilde binge. Or Hatebreed, covering the Wu-Tang Clan, inside an art installation, curated by Andy Warhol’s ghost.
“People want open conversation about all kinds of ideas,” says frontman Christopher Mackertich. “Even if the songs sound angry, we like to spread a pretty optimistic message. We are all about confidence and being yourself, no matter how bizarre your ideas may seem. Be free to be weird.”
The self-produced videos from DREGG are a combination of complex, compelling, and startling. “Hyperbole,” “Offended,” “Ridiculous,” and the stop-motion clip for “Exploring the Kardashians Through the Universe” offer smart and devilishly silly critiques of corporate culture, governmental systems, mass media, and restrictive views on personal liberty and identity. But this is music that will only expose, never impose. With DREGG, the “answer” is already there within the questions.
Guitarist Jordan McQuitty likens the band’s approach to the camp revelry of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, with its genderbending blend of high-minded themes, horror infused farce, and all out fun. Rocky Horror is part Ziggy Stardust, part thuggery, and altogether enduring. DREGG aim for nothing less, knowingly bucking against the traditions of their chosen genre and scene.
As Billboard pointed out, the wild video for “Return of the Dregg” (featuring a long continuous shot through most of it) “features guys making out, the burning of a Children’s Bible, and an abused Chunk mask from the 1985 classic Goonies.” One watch and it’s clear that DREGG has one hell of a creative vision, with very defined views on what they have set out to accomplish.
While there are clearly creative cues taken from hyper-charged outfits like System Of A Down and Rage Against The Machine, DREGG skew neither far left nor far right on the political spectrum. Instead, they occupy a firm place outside of the argument, one of satire and critique. DREGG will take the piss out of all of the bullshit, like an episode of South Park set to metalcore.
“There’s no big political agenda, but at the same time, there is a big political agenda,” Christopher says, with a knowing laugh. “We’re talking about these things, but not in the way people may be used to. We are also very interested in philosophy and the confusion about what it means just to be alive. We delve into and explore into everything from politics to mental health to spirituality.”
Mackertich, McQuitty, guitarist and producer Sam Yates, bassist Aiden Zovic, and drummer Horhay Delalopez describe themselves as “five carbon-based creatures that are utilizing our time on Earth to perform rhythmic audio.” Those performances earned coveted spots at Sonic Temple in the U.S. (alongside Slipknot, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tool) and Download Australia. Billboard likened them to System Of A Down, “with more freewheeling guitar […] and screamo hooks.”
Painted faces, crazy masks, discordant visuals; no matter how weird, DREGG offers much more than shock value. This is music and art intended to provoke and inspire. If there’s one major takeaway intended for the audience, it’s to unleash the weirdo within. DREGG aim to push the boundaries of self-expression, open up conversations, and they move the crowd while they do it.
“We don’t want regular people to walk into our show and feel like they’re outnumbered,” McQuitty points out. “Or like they’ve come to the wrong place. We want everyone to feel part of what we are doing, because to this day, we know what it’s like to feel alone in a crowd.”
Wild abandonment, voraciousness, celebration, examination, and acceptance are all essential.
“I’ll be a DREGG till I’m dead,” the band declares. Will you?