INTERVIEW: La Dispute on their new album Panorama and massive Australian tour
La Dispute have literally and figuratively come a long way since forming in Michigan in 2004. Literally because they are now spread out across the globe, with members now residing all over America and Australia, and figuratively because they keep finding new ways to reinvent themselves.
The group are best known for matching vocalist Jordan Dreyer’s trademark spoken/shouted performances and poetic, story-telling lyricism with loud post-hardcore instrumentals. Yet with each successive record they have brought in new ways to shift up this dynamic. Their latest outing from March this year, Panorama, is the band’s fourth album. It features some of their most restrained performances yet, saving the truly explosive parts for moments that most deserve it.
La Dispute are about to embark on a huge Australian tour that will see them play 15 shows all across the country. The tour will kick off here in WA, with successive shows at Amplifier Bar in Perth and the Newport Hotel in Fremantle on the 5th and 6th of September respectively. We were lucky enough to talk on the phone to drummer and founding member Brad Vander Lugt ahead of these shows.
So, first of all, congratulations on Panorama, it’s one of my favourite albums of the year.
Oh, thank you!
I understand it wasn’t the easiest album to record and write for, so how did that process go down?
Yes, you’re correct in that, it was a tough one. No album has ever been easy for this band, but for some reason, Panorama was particularly difficult. I think a lot of factors went into it. We are all pretty spread out, I am in Australia and the other guys are in the States, so it takes a lot of planning to get the wheels moving and things in motion.
We rented a space in Michigan for three months. We all have friends and family there, so it’s a good meeting place for us. We spent three months writing, but we weren’t happy with a lot of the ideas we had, so we scrapped everything and started again. It was just a big process, but we eventually settled into a groove of sorts and things started falling into place pretty quickly with once we had some ideas we were happy with.
For us, and probably for most bands I think, every record is kind of about relearning the process again. We always push ourselves to do something different, and that is probably a big part of it. You don’t want to redo something, so you have to try some different things out. Yeah man, it was definitely a process, but we are all very happy with the results, so the work was well worth it, but it was definitely a big task to undertake.
Yeah, for sure. I think the results speak for themselves, it’s a great album. As you touched on there, you’re spread across the world now and you all have different lives now. How do you think these new circumstances have fed into the album, if at all?
I definitely think it has. As any individual, I think, you start… Not going in different directions, but life takes you on different paths. We’re quite spread out now, so that’s a big thing. And also, you get interested in different things, so we all bring different ideas and life experiences to the band every time, different sounds…
But even things outside of musicality. You get involved in different things, and it takes a lot of planning to get there, but the results are the most positive because new experiences bring different ideas like I said before. You know, it wouldn’t be the same record if we all lived in the same spot. You get together for a reason, it’s very deliberate, you’ve got to put in the time and effort while you’re together to make something happen. So, there’s a lot of pressure with that, but I think it’s a good kind of pressure, it kicks you into gear and you want to make the best of the time you’ve got while you’re all in the same place. It’s definitely different, but I’m glad we’re still making it work, and it’s definitely good for everyone. Especially because we’ve all got families and stuff now, but we’re still plugging along and making it work in a really positive way that sits nicely with the lives we have.
One thing that I really like about this album, and this is probably true for all your albums, but for this one in particular I noticed how the music really did match the lyrics quite well. When you’re writing a song, do you match the track to Jordan’s lyrics, or is it sort of the inverse?
It’s definitely different from record to record. This time around particularly, we met in the middle a bit. We had a lot of discussions about themes for the record, not just lyrically but also as far as the sonic landscape we wanted to create for the record, so Jordan had that in his mind. We had these pictures up on the wall, and we talked about what we wanted things to sound like. So it was kind of cool, we fed off each other, we had ideas for visuals, and then that informed the sound of the songs we were creating and in turn Jordan would write to that. And we would bounce things back and forth, because we started getting demos back and we started adding extra layers and feeding off Jordan’s lyrical content as well. It was a good culmination of all of us working together and bouncing things back and forth. And yeah, I think you’re right, I think as far as our records go it’s the closest one to that marriage between musicality and lyrical content, so I appreciate that!
I think it’s always interesting hearing artists talk about their writing process.
Yeah! And it evolves too. If we do another record it won’t be the same, it’s just a snapshot of that time, and this time around it worked well this way out of necessity. But from those records in the past we did it differently too, so it just depends.
Yeah, of course. So, apparently this game called Tales from the Loop fed into the recording process, where did that land?
*Laughs* Sure. It’s funny, I keep getting this question, so I don’t know, I think it’s been talked up more as a thing than it actually was. It was really just one afternoon, we wanted to break up the writing a bit. There were ups and downs during those three months, and it was a down where we were all just a bit… not discouraged but run down a bit. We just needed something to do that was a bit different to shake things up and maybe just get our minds off the record. So Adam [Vass, the bassist] is really into RPGS, he designs them and stuff which is really cool. He suggested we play a game for fun. And it was! I’m not sure I’d say it influenced the record in any way, but like anything, it was a nice uplifting experience to get us out of that headspace of a really daunting record we were making and just have fun for a day. It was definitely a positive thing, but I don’t want to overplay it, it wasn’t a huge influential factor on the record by any means.
Of course! Changing paths a little bit here, so you’ve now signed onto Epitaph, which is a really awesome label. What are some of the other artists you share that label with that you’re particularly a fan of?
Yeah, sure, it’s a pretty legendary label. We’ve got a lot of friends on there, which is cool, it’s nice to be amongst your peers and friends, and people we’ve known for years. Defeater, and Touché Amoré, The Menzingers, a lot of bands I love. One of my favourite bands on the label is a lesser known one, The Sidekicks, I absolutely love that band. There are so many bands I love, especially growing up, like Converge. It’s cool, and it’s humbling, and it’s exciting, and they’re all such amazing people and they really care about their bands. It’s not all about numbers to them, they want to facilitate something special, and we’ve been so happy with them.
Yeah, absolutely, and you mentioned so many awesome artists there. So, I am really looking forward to hopefully seeing you over here in Perth on one of your shows.
You’re four albums deep now, and there are heaps of very well-loved songs, does it become a bit of a struggle to create a setlist every night now?
It does, but I think people will be very happy. We’ve been trying, especially as of late, to have a bit of everything. We are pulling from all four records, and we are trying to fall into fan favourites, but every tour we’ve tried to do the setlist a little different as well. So yes, it is difficult to please everyone, but we are doing a very wide variety of songs, so there’s something for everyone, so if you didn’t like a particular record but you liked another one there’s a good chance we’ll be playing songs off that record too.
No issue there for me, I love all your albums.
Oh, thanks man!
How has it gone translating this album into the live setting given it’s quite different to your other releases?
Yeah, it was a bit of a challenge this time! Recording it is one thing, but then translating it live is a whole other thing. We’ve been fortunate in that on some of the we’ve had really good friends play guitar, so we have three guitars on a lot of songs, and percussion and extra drum parts with me because there’s a lot of percussion parts on the record. It’s been really fun reinterpreting these songs. Nothing is ever going to be exactly the same as on record, but I think it’s special in a different way. I finally feel like, now that we’ve had two tours on Panorama, we have got our footing and we’re playing these songs well. It’s exciting.