He’s sat behind the drum kit for everyone from Eddie Vedder, Joey Santiago, Ziggy Marley and Jack Johnson to legends like Jimmy Cliff and David Gilmour. He has explored Afro-Cuban rhythms and percussion via Ritmo Y Canto, dabbled in dubby electronic reggae with Culver City Dub Collective and to the far edges of soul-jazz with “Blue Painted Walls In Faraway Places”.
He has never made the same record twice. So is it a surprise that Regardless of the Dark is his first album as a front man? Stepping out from behind the drum kit to create a collection of songs that can stand alongside those of his peers? At least a little bit, because it nearly didn’t happen.
Playing alongside so many great musicians had made coming up with his own material all the more challenging. He threw his own first record out because he wanted to go back and do it again until it felt right. The final result is this ten song voyage from “Brazil” to “Reno”. It took nearly three years to record the album – on the road on a laptop, in random studios on off days, and at home in Topol’s garage in Venice, CA. Focusing less on rhythmic based songs as in previous projects, Regardless of the Dark aims at narratives and lyrical storytelling about life in the northern Nevada and California mountains.
Traveling the world with great songwriters and artists also helped plant the seeds for this batch of songs to come to life. The sound of the feel of the album is influenced heavily by hours spent on the road reading books and listening to music, hearing other people tell their stories over and over. The literary influences can be heard throughout. The works of Junot Diaz, Cormac McCarthy and Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle all provided their own kind of inspiration here.
The album opens with the Lee Scratch Perry/Congos inspired groove of “Brazil,” about people living their lives on auto-pilot, a song partially inspired by Vonnegut’s Timequake. “Crystal Bay” is a murderous allegory about the circular nature of life, warning that things we do will always catch up to us.
The ramshackle sea shanty of “The Captain” describes the remorseful title character as a man who willingly sinks his own ship but refuses to go down with it without an attempt at forgiveness. Always buoyed by the presence of good friends and collaborators, Topol has assembled a number of talented musicians to flesh out the instrumentation here.
“Hollow,” was recorded in Barcelona with The Pinker Tones, and sparkles with castanets and melodica. Dengue Fever’s David Ralicke lends his horn work to “Lemon Yellow” and “Brazil,” while “Crystal Bay” was recorded in East LA with the help of Ozomatli’s Raul Pacheco. Mason Jennings lends his talents to a number of Topol’s songs including additional vocals, guitar and keyboard work on “The Captain” as well as the album’s closing track, “Reno.”
At its base, Regardless of the Dark ruminates on a sense of place, and how leaving your roots behind can help you discover that they were what made you unique in the first place. Likewise, as his own musical roots stretch out well below the surface, on this record Adam Topol has shown he can tell stories and weave melodies alongside the best of his mentors and peers.