La Dispute: Into The Wild
Grand Rapids, Michigan is home to some peculiar, ahem, Wildlife, but perhaps none so eclectic and unique as the ten-legged post-hardcore beast known as La Dispute. With their biggest Aussie tour yet on the horizon, we had a good rummage around inside the head of the band’s sore-throated poet, Jordan Dreyer, to work out how they keep their art so “arty”, and how their intimate live shows have clambered out of living rooms and onto main stages around the world.
So Jordan, what originally inspired your narrative lyrical style?
Man that’s a good question! [Laughs] It’s probably a collection of different things. I guess first and foremost, I like to read a lot, and I always have. Another big thing that influences it is your environment, your surroundings, and the things you and those around you experience. There’s also a lot of interplay between myself and my bandmates in the writing process.
Before the band was formed, did you ever write poetry with the intent of it staying just as written poetry, or have you always intended for your work to be used in a musical context?
Before all this happened, I did write poetry, and I’ve also attempted short fiction to varying degrees of success in the past, but it was never something that I envisioned doing musically. But music is something I’ve always loved to do, and this is a way that I get to combine two different things that I love, and it’s great that it just kind of happened that way.
As a vocalist you incorporate a lot of passages that border stylistically on spoken-word. Are there any spoken-word performers or poets that you can site as an influence?
I tend to take influence more from fiction writers than from poetry, although that’s something I do also love. But I really like to approach my writing through stories and different characters. I really envy those who have the talent and discipline to do that in a lengthier format. I’ve always loved Kurt Vonnegut, Vladimir Nabokov is another big one. I’ve been reading a lot of John Delittle lately too. But there’s so much writing out there, it’s great, it’s an endless thing.
The vocals in your recordings seem very natural and flowing, almost spontaneous, as if they’re done in very long takes – is this an accurate impression?
Yeah, that’s actually true. They’re done in long passages. It’s important to me for things to feel organic, rather than being cut into place. I’ve always tried to keep that in mind when writing vocal parts for myself, so that I can pause for breath and such. More often than not, what you hear is one take or just a couple of long takes to try and stay as true to live performance and to my voice in general.
This vocal delivery style in particular, as well as your band’s overall sound, is being widely cited as a big influence on a lot of young Australian bands today. What’s it like to know you’re having this kind of impact on musicians on the other side of the world?
I didn’t know that was the case, but if it is, then it’s totally flattering to have somebody take something from what you’ve done – whether it be as an artist, or even just on an emotional level. That’s pretty mind-blowing, and something I might never get used to. It makes me think about when I was younger than I am now, and when I would find things that I took from other artists as a musician or writer. Even just on a personal level, influencing people in that way is a very powerful thing and I’ll probably never have the words to describe it adequately, but it’s really awesome.
Can you tell us about your relationship with the guys from Pianos Become the Teeth, who’ll be touring Australia with you?
They’ve been really close friends of ours for a long time, but we’ve never had the opportunity to actually share the road with them due to scheduling conflicts and stuff, although we’ve tried in the past. So we’re really excited to spend more time with them, they’re amazing people. And also just to get to watch them play every night and give people in Australia the opportunity to see them too. They’re not just close friends, they’re also a band we have a profound admiration and respect for, so to be able to play a part in spreading that to a different audience is so great. It’s one of the benefits of us having been to Australia a few times. I can’t wait, and everyone should make sure to be at the shows early to see them!
Last time you were in Australia, you played a lot of smaller, more intimate rooms, but this time around you’ll be playing some larger venues such as The Metro Theatre in Sydney. Is that daunting at all to be taking on much larger audiences and rooms than you have in this country previously?
I don’t think so, because it’s been a very gradual growing process here and elsewhere. Australia’s a really good example actually. When we first went there we played in rehearsal spaces, and in houses, but every time we’ve gone back the shows have gotten bigger. So I don’t find it that intimidating, and besides we’ve done some pretty large tours in the States with similar venues to that. It has always been important for us to maintain a level of intimacy though, so I’m not exactly sure what to expect, but I’m really excited and hopefully everyone will have a really good time, I know we will!
Since your first release, Vancouver, back in 2006, you’ve managed to crank out a very impressive amount of material, releasing a new record in some form almost every year since then and even releasing four different EPs in 2008! Is this high productivity level something you strive for consciously in your art?
Yeah, I think that to a degree we always felt it important to explore different avenues and challenge our restrictions, and just let the process happen artistically. So whenever we’ve had an idea we’ve pursued it as quickly and as dedicatedly as we possibly could. It’s kind of slowed down a bit at times as the process has changed and all of our lives have changed. Personally we’re all in different places so it’s not as easy to just get together every week and crank out a couple of ideas or a new song, so now it’s a little bit different, but it’s always been important to us creatively to be able to pursue every idea we have.
With such a busy touring schedule, how do you find the time to record consistently?
There has to be a lot of planning in advance, and it’s not just the rigors of touring, but it’s also those personal pursuits I was talking about. So we have to block off time to write and time to record, and then try to balance those things and our tour schedule with our home lives.
It’s getting close to two years since you released Wildlife. Are you making any plans for a new album yet?
Just recently we started writing songs and assembling ideas and bouncing things off each other. It’s still really early, and we require an absurdly long gestation period with these types of things and then we have to really sit down and be as meticulous as we all want to be. It’s probably too early to say anything too in-depth about the direction of the new record, because things always change when we get together, and we’ll start with an idea and once it’s on the table for everyone to look at and analyse it transforms. It’s a long evolutionary process. But I think it’ll be somewhat in the same vein, in that it will deal with human interaction, and with stories, and people’s experiences. We’ve never confined ourselves to a direction though or ruled anything out, so there’ll definitely be some new things that we’ll try. It might get a little weird, we’re all incredibly excited about where things are going now, so hopefully it will start to come together more concretely in the not-too-distant future, and we’ll be able to put it out for people to hear.
Beyond the scope of this new album, what is your overall artistic vision for the band’s future?
Well first of all, it’s something we want to do for as long we possibly can while it’s in our capacity . It’s an incredibly rewarding thing to create something when the five of us get together with all our different quirks and tendencies, and make something. And it’s also just a lot of fun to connect with people emotionally. Our musical community is pretty spectacular. As far as what we’ll do musically, I think it’ll just continue to operate the way it always has. We don’t rule anything out, so we’ll continue to expand and evolve and just see how it affects what we write. We are all very passionate about making music, about writing our records and everything that comes from it, so I think we’ll just continue to operate on that same level in terms of our vision for the band, and who knows what will happen sonically and lyrically?
La Dispute / Pianos Become The Teeth Tour Dates
Fri Jun 28th – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane (18+)
Sat Jun 29 – Trinity Hall, Brisbane
Sun Jun 30th – YAC, Byron Bay
Wed Jul 3rd – The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle (18+)
Thu Jul 4th – ANU, Canberra (18+)
Fri Jul 5th – The Metro, Sydney
Sat Jul 6th – Amplifier, Perth (18+)
Sun Jul 7th – YMCA HQ, Perth
Wed Jul 10th – Fowlers Live, Adelaide
Thu Jul 11th – The Brisbane Hotel, Hobart (18+)
Fri Jul 12th – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne (18+)
Tickets: SOLD OUT
Sat Jul 13th – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne (U18)
Sun July 14 – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne (18+)