From its beginning as a Franklin Pierce College party band, Roots of Creation rose through the club scene to become a staple on the regional festival circuit. The four-piece band mixes improvisational island rhythms with electronic elements and loop treatments for a highly original sound they call “dubtronica.”
Drummer Mike Chadinha uses an electronic drum pad, while keyboard player Talmadge “Tal” Pearson also employs a full range of synthetic effects. Guitarist and lead singer Brett Wilson’s vocals are fed through a delay pedal.
It’s no ordinary reggae band.
“We have a lot of stuff going on,” Wilson said recently from his home in Milford.
Since their frat party days, the band’s core — Wilson, Chadinha and Pearson — has remained intact. Wilson notes, however, that they’ve had a few bass players over the years; the latest is Chris Beam.
“We’re kind of like Spinal Tap,” Wilson laughs. “Each one has added a unique element and brought different things to the table, so it’s been an evolution. There’s not malice; it’s part of the journey.”
The band has several bookings for the upcoming festival season. At the end of May, they appear with headliners Strangefolk and Max Creek at the Strange Creek Campout in Greenfield, Mass. Over the Fourth of July weekend, they’re part of the massive four-day Nateva festival in Oxford, Maine, sharing the stage with Furthur, The Flaming Lips, STS9 and others.
They also perform regularly at listening rooms like the Stone Church and Harlow’s. Two of their more recent area appearances were big-ticket affairs: a Halloween show at the 888-seat Colonial Theatre in Keene and the Pirates and Wenches New Year’s bash in Nashua.
But on Thursday, May 6, Roots of Creation will play an intimate show at the Pasta Loft in Milford. Wilson said they plan to use the gig to try out material they’re working on for a new album in the fall, and invite a couple of special guests to sit in with the band.
But mostly, it’s a welcome opportunity to “bring it back old-school style,” Wilson said.
Guitarist Jay McGuiness, a well-regarded sideman who’s sat in with Luther “Guitar” Johnson, and bass player Brandon Downs (of the band Lowercase P) will join them for the free show.
“It’s like anything, you start to play in these huge venues and the grass is always greener,” Wilson said. “I miss it when we would just show up to a place and it would be packed and like 100 kids, and they didn’t have to pay anything to get in.”
While laying down tracks at Wilson’s home studio for the new album, Roots of Creation will release Live Volume 2 later this month, a collection of band favorites recorded over the past two years.
“We’re really focused and we feel like this is a pivotal point in our development as a band,” Wilson said. “We have a bunch of songs … we feel like they’re solid.”
They’ve built a reputation as a live unit, welcoming tapers and encouraging file trading. Pivoting to the studio presents some interesting challenges — spontaneity and improvisation are in many ways the band’s backbone.
“How do we make these songs really sound good,” Wilson asked, “and not too polished?”
The new album represents the band’s continuing evolution, Wilson said. “It’s going to be a little roots, reggae-based and incorporate a lot of home studio techniques that I’ve been learning over the years to create something new and current that our fans are going to enjoy, but also open us up to a broader audience.”
The goal is college radio airplay — the band recently did an in-studio performance at Boston’s WERS-FM — and perhaps more.
“Maybe we can change the soundscape of some of the [area] radio stations,” Wilson said, “and have something original come on there.”
A lofty aspiration perhaps, but the band’s shows continue to be a big draw, as well as providing good networking opportunities. The Nateva gig came about when the promoter for Grateful Dead spinoff band Furthur’s recent Verizon Wireless Arena show in Manchester caught their after-party gig at Penuche’s.
“He saw that it was at capacity and we were ripping it up,” Wilson said. “He was like, ‘Whoa, let’s get these guys.’”
Since moving to Milford nine months ago, Wilson has become a one-man booster team for the local music scene, promoting shows and DJ dance parties, including an upcoming one featuring DJ Midas on May 20 at the Pasta Loft.
“I’m kind of musical entrepreneur on the side,” he said, noting he dabbles in record production (he’s been at the console for each of Roots of Creation’s three albums) as well as festival and concert promotion. “I wear a lot of different hats. I enjoy music in general, and I like anything involved in it.”
He’s also booked shows by personal favorites like Moon Boot Love. “These are early ’90s jam bands that never got huge, but still play around,” Wilson said.
These gigs give him a chance to be both a fan and a musician.
“When I’m there I get to have a couple of drinks and really absorb the music,” he said. “It’s part of making a living in the music industry [but] it’s also fun, and it’s lacking in Milford.”
Roots of Creation
Where: Pasta Loft, Milford, 241 Union Square in Milford, 672-2270, www.pastaloft.com
When: Thursday, May 6, at 9 p.m.
Info: www.myspace.com/rootsofcreation; the band will also play the “Steamin’ Party” at the Isle of Shoals aboard the MV Thomas Layton Cruis Ship out of Portsmouth on Friday, June 4, at 6 p.m.