Fans will be well acquainted with the popularity and intensely focused fame that La Dispute conjures in its wake, due to the high emotions and creativity that frame their music. It is with this in mind that I picked vocalist and lyricist Jordan Dreyer’s brain about the inspirations and process of the new album that is currently being toured through Australia. Before taking a step back into the past to look at greater influences and a retrospective of La Dispute’s career; both musically and thematically.
Nice to meet you Jordan, my name is Dylonov, how are you?
I’m really well thank you. Nice to meet you.
It feels like forever since I saw you in Australia, when was the last time you were here?
We came over briefly to play the inaugural Good Things Festival, so it hasn’t been too long since we played shows, but it’s been a long time since we toured properly. I think that was five years ago. It’s been too long since we’ve been able to come back in the capacity we prefer doing shows in.
The new album sounds really complex. Are you bringing any musical guests?
It is not an easy feat. We’ve had to reconfigure some things and enlist some help from friends. In the US we had two friends of ours help us out; our tour manager was kind enough to learn a lot of auxiliary percussion, and one of our good friends was kind enough to play guitar, but only our tour manager can make the trip. There will be a lot happening on stage and we’ve had to kind of think outside the box. Chad and Corey and Brad have had to wear more hats than they normally do to make the songs translate.
Could you just quickly summarise the new album for me? The themes, the inspirations behind those complexities?
The initial impulse thematically came from a drive I would take with my partner repeatedly, where I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and where we live together there, to where she grew up, just thirty minutes outside of town. A placed called Lowell, Michigan. And the initial impulse for the album is hearing the history of the area as told by her; how it had reverberated through her life and the lives of others. So that was my basic approach thematically and lyrically, and we wanted to explore new things sonically. That was the principle creative idea. Because of that, this record feel a little unmoored from reality, a little ethereal. We tried to play with how memory pulls forward and backwards through time. We wanted to capture something we hadn’t before musically, it involved a lot of new instrumentation, a lot of new creative approaches in the studio, a lot of layering of sounds, to create something that felt more abstract and more complex, that really focused on creating an atmosphere.
In the same vein of trying new approaches, is that where the inspiration from the music videos come from? They’re all quite… unique.
In the history of our band, we’ve always focused on how we can accomplish what we set out to accomplish, and this is in all aspects of being a creative entity. That is our foundational approach, both musically and artistically. Generally, we’ve had our bass player Adam who has done all our artwork and art direction. This time around we really wanted to challenge ourselves, see how that affected the end outcome. Part of what we decided early on was trusting other very talented artists in a limited direction to help us realise a vision. The artwork is different from anything we’ve ever done and the videos; we wanted to go with different animators, again to be less tethered to realism. We found people who were talented in different mediums so sort of take our songs and go with them, and it turned out to be one of the more satisfying parts of the process, seeing what people could do with our art, and their art. It’s just very different to anything we’ve ever done, it was a fun and exciting experience.
Before you became a talented artist in your own right, did you write a lot of poetry, fiction, music?
Not really. When we started La Dispute I was very young. My entire life I’ve had a passion for creative things, specifically music and literature. I think I’ve always had high ambitions for how I would exist creatively when I came of age, but there was less execution of that. I mean part of that was… high school. I would write poetry now and then but never in any serious capacity. Luckily for me, I found the thing that synthesised those two loves, but by and large my creative output to this day is limited to the lyrics I write for the songs that La Dispute makes.
Were there any writer, poets, musicians that really inspired you when you were young? Any that you tried to emulate or even inspired you to write?
The ones I got into when I was young were ones that a lot of people get into. Reading E.E. Cummings when I was young; reading Dylan Thomas when I was young; reading Kurt Vonnegut. That was the first I remember having a connection to the literature, above the entertainment aspect, as if Kurt Vonnegut wrote for me. It was helpful in that sense, discovering his writing when I was a young person. I don’t know how much I tried to emulate him specifically – it wasn’t long after that I started to write poems for La Dispute so I’m not sure that… well I don’t know. There were a lot more that were musicians where even if I wasn’t trying to emulate what they do, the influence seeps in inevitably. Joanna Newson when I was younger… The Mountain Goats too. I don’t know if I ever sat down and planned to be a particular type of writer, or knock off a particular writer, but I’m sure I did so unintentionally, because of my love for them and the sheer immensity of their talents.
It’s wild to consider that you’ve been in La Dispute for fifteen years now, such a long time. In saying that, the re-release of Somewhere at the Bottom of the River… saw some changes; is there anything about other past releases that you’d wish to change?
Yeah. It’s a complicated relationship in some ways when you make a record at a time and you do that bearing in mind emotions that at the time feel… eternal. And aren’t. There are things I look back on and wish that I had know they would be less permanent than they felt, maybe I would have dwelled less on them than I did. In general there are things like that, but of course there are aesthetic choices, and I know other bandmates feel the same way about particular parts they’ve written on their respective instruments. There are things I look back on where I think “did I really need to say that word” or “do we really need gang vocals on that part” or “did I really need my voice to crack that intensely at that part” but I don’t know. There are general things that I look back on and there are some specific things but I think the healthy thing to do is to understand what was meant to express those things in the moment and realise they have their own history. So I think less about my regrets now, as I try to learn from every benchmark we’ve made along the way.
On a more lighthearted note; what have you been listening to yourself lately?
I have been listening to one of my favourite records in recent memory; it is called Caligula by Lingua Ignota. She’s from Providence, Rhode Island, I loved her last record… her new record is the most I’ve anticipated something being released in a long time, I fucking love it. There’s so much encapsulated in every song; takes what one would consider two unapproachable genres and the synthesis is remarkably catchy and engaging. It’s a really special record. I love the new Wreck and Reference, been listening to that quite a bit. I’ve been listening to a lot of hip hop records I haven’t in a really long time; The Pharcyde, Gang Starr, stuff like that. A lot of stuff that is either really engaging hip hop, or stuff that makes me feel kind of terrible in a really great way
I feel you. Okay, I need to go, but I will definitely see you in Sydney and Wollongong. Cannot wait to see you both nights.
Definitely. Please come by and say hello. Thanks and take care.
Interview by Dylonov Tomasivich
La Dispute are currently on tour across Australia, get your tickets here
La Dispute – Panorama Australian Tour
Tuesday 10 September – Barwon Club, Geelong 18+
Wednesday 11 September – Sooki Lounge, Belgrave 18+
Thursday 12 September – 170 Russell, Melbourne 18+
Friday 13 September – Pelly Bar, Frankston 18+
Saturday 14 September – Wrangler Studios, Melbourne All Ages
Sunday 15 September – Metro Theatre, Sydney Lic A/A
Tuesday 17 September – The Basement, Canberra 18+
Wednesday 18 September – Dicey Riley’s, Wollongong 18+
Thursday 19 September – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle Lic A/A
Friday 20 September – The Triffid, Brisbane Lic A/A
Saturday 21 September – Coolangatta Hotel. Gold Coast 18+
Sunday 22 September – Sol Bar, Sunshine Coast 18+