There are lots of ways a band can go from dream to scheme to success story.
There’s the hard way: Practice, practice, practice. Get in the van. Play shows. Sleep on floors. Empty bank account to record some tunes. Repeat.
Then there’s the way of Culver City Dub Collective, which will play Sunday in Bend (see “If you go”).
That’s not to say the CCDC’s founders — drummer Adam Topol and guitarist Franchot Tone — hadn’t paid their dues already.
Both men had spent years in Los Angeles playing in a bunch of different bands, Tone said in a recent phone interview from the mountains of Idaho.
Topol drummed in The Martinis with former Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago, made folkloric Afro-Cuban music as Ritmo y Canto, and toured the world as the timekeeper for surf-pop superstar Jack Johnson.
Tone was a member of a Supertone, a pop-rock band, and Honkystomp, which he described as “hillbilly music meets hard rock.”
At some point, the two became friends and started talking about recording together. Their diverse backgrounds presented a bit of a challenge.
“It was kind of tricky to find common ground that we could agree on musically,” Tone said. “But we found it, and it was sort of reggae and dub music, and we said, ‘Let’s do a little project.’”
CCDC grew out of “humble, kind of amateurish beginnings,” Tone said, as he and Topol took to recording songs in a tiny bedroom in Culver City, the “least hip” town in L.A., according to Tone.
Pretty typical story so far, huh? Well, this is where things start to diverge.
Those songs became an EP, and the guys expected CCDC to remain primarily a recording project, Tone said.
“We envisioned it as a studio thing, and it just kind of grew from that and got some momentum,” he said. “We were trying to just produce a nice piece of art. We had no commercial aspirations or ideas of touring. All that stuff just kind of fell into place naturally when interest began to build.”
You see, Topol played the EP for some friends, including folks in the Jack Johnson camp. Johnson himself encouraged Topol and Tone to sell the record at his merch table on tour. And eventually, the Everloving Records label heard the material and offered to put out a CCDC full-length album.
So Topol and Tone went back to work, writing some new songs and having friends remix others. The result, “Dos,” was released in 2007, and it’s an unhurried, ultra-cool slice of eclectic roots reggae featuring guest appearances by Johnson, Ben Harper, Money Mark and reggae legend Winston Jarrett.
“Dos” has a distinctly vintage vibe, with endless grooves that sound like they’re pumping out of a 30-year-old radio which refuses to keep up with the times. That was by design, Tone said.
“I’d only heard of (reggae) bands like Bob Marley and the Wailers and Peter Tosh and Steel Pulse and Toots and the Maytalls, and Adam kind of turned me on the precursors of that, like King Tubby and … the Studio One recordings,” he said. “The older stuff. The roots of the actual music.
“Definitely, the idea was to do way more old-school sounding stuff rather than a poppy reggae thing,” he said.
“Dos,” Tone says, “took on a whole life of its own,” and before the duo knew it, they were heading out on tour. The current band includes Topol and Tone, plus Dave Ralicke on horns and effects, Chris Joyner on keys and vocals, and Jose Esquivel on bass.
Remember earlier when we talked about the hard way and the CCDC way? Well, now you know the CCDC way.
“I was in all these bands in L.A. where it’s like, ‘Oh, we want to make it. We want a record deal.’ You’re just fighting and working every angle you possibly can and doing all these terrible gigs,” Tone said. “And then this just kind of fell into place naturally, and it’s evolved naturally.”
CCDC will continue to evolve. The band hopes to head back into the studio this fall, this time with five brains full of ideas to contribute to the next album.
“We’re definitely aiming to do something soon because what we’re finding is now that we’re headlining, we don’t have as much material as we need,” he said with a laugh.
That shouldn’t be an issue in Bend, where at least some of the crowd will love Tone and his mates no matter what they do. That’s because Tone moved here with his wife in January of 2008. He lives here full time and goes to L.A. regularly for work.
And he’s pumped to play for his Bend friends who’ve heard his music or know he’s in a band, but have never seen him play live.
“It’ll be cool for my Bend crew to see my L.A. family,” he said. “I’m excited to play the hometown.”