As far as introductions go, this one is one of the most difficult I’ve ever had to write. How do I possibly introduced one of the coolest interviews I’ve ever done? How do I thank Craig enough for transcribing this after there was an issue with the audio file when we tried to put it on Youtube? How can I tell you about how La Dispute put everything together so perfectly for the Wildlife Tour (with Balance and Composure, All Get Out and Sainthood Reps)? Hell, I don’t even know where to start, so I’ll just give you the basics. This Spring, La Dispute headlined the Wildlife Tour in support of their 2011 album Wildlife. Keep Calm and Carry On was lucky enough to sit down with Jordan Dreyer, vocalist of La Dispute. Here it is.
Donald Wagenblast: How’s the Wildlife Tour been?
Jprdan Dreyer: It’s been amazing; can’t complain. All the shows have been great, all the bands are amazing, so we’re having a really great time.
DW: And this is your first- this is probably some of the biggest shows you’ve ever played at this point, correct?
JD: Yeah, as a headliner. Well, actually tonight will probably be the biggest show we’ve ever played as a headliner.
DW: Wow, that’s great.
JD: Yeah, we’re really looking forward to it. But, yeah attendance has been great, shows have been good.
DW: Great. So this is in support of Wildlife, the album that came out in 2011. Compared to Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair, how did you compare the recording process between the two albums?
JD: Umm, this time was a bit different. We had a lot more resources available. And we had a lot more knowledge of the recording process. So, yeah it was definitely different and it was definitely a lot more involved because we had a lot more resources. When we recorded Somewhere… it was our first go at it, and we were a relatively young band, so we didn’t really know how to approach everything we wanted to approach. This time around we did, and it was accordingly more involved but also more satisfying.
DW: Okay, so it’s been labeled sort of as a concept album. Is that true, or do you maybe want to elaborate on that a little?
JD: Yeah, I always hesitate to use the term concept album, because I think it gives off the wrong impression. People think of an ongoing linear narrative, and people think about space and Pink Floyd, which is fine. But it is a concept record in the sense that we wrote the record around a pretty specific concept. The record is set up as a collection of “short stories.” “Short stories” for a lack of a better way to describe it. There’s a collection of “Short stories,” and then there are annotations throughout from the author who’s written them. So in that sense it’s conceptual, but we also wanted it to be digestible as individual songs and not just from beginning to end.
DW: So, in writing that, did you think of it as you were writing a short story, or as you were writing a song when you were penning the lyrics for it?
JD: It’s a combination of both. Obviously, you are writing with limitations. You’re writing with special limitations, and you’re writing with the cadence of your voice in mind, and you’re writing with the movement of the song itself. I definitely wanted them to tell stories. I wanted there to be a beginning, middle and end, and I wanted there to be a story arc and everything. So in that regard it was definitely like writing a story, but obviously different because of the canvas I guess.
DW: So do you think of yourself as a storyteller or as a songwriter for La Dispute?
JD: Well, I guess storyteller more than anything. I hesitate to call myself a songwriter or a musician in any way, because I don’t really actually play anything. So I would say more a storyteller.
DW: Your style is very different, you’ve got all these different moving parts, and there’s not really as many vocal melodies when you guys are recording for La Dispute. How do you go into the studio approaching your lyrics? Do you guys write the songs, and then you put lyrics over them, or do you kind of come into them with stories, and then they put them to music?
JD: It’s a little bit of both. This time around we wanted to be as cohesive as possible between the music on the record and the lyrics, because we had such a specific concept. So what we did, I would come to practice with my ideas for the songs. I would type of eventually a synopsis, what I felt the moods and tones should be. And then we’d sit down and try to figure out how to accomplish that in parts that match the feeling. Then we’d construct the song around the concept, and once the song was done I’d go back and write the lyrics. So it was a little bit of both.
DW: Okay. And you’re also the vocalist of the band, so you have to deliver these stories that you’re writing. How do you come up with your delivery for certain aspects of certain song? Is it difficult then to convey the emotions you want to convey with your vocal styles?
JD: Yeah, the thing is I can’t rely on making an interesting melody. Because there is no melody, it’s essentially spoken word. So I have to pay careful attention to the sequence of words, and when to emphasize what, to make it not repetitive; to make it interesting to listen to, so it’s not just somebody talking over everything. As far capturing the moods and tones of a song, I think it comes pretty naturally. I write with that in mind and it translates to vocal intensity or volume of whatever else. And there are some things that I can’t control, there’s a certain crack to my voice that just kind of happens. So it’s a matter of just getting lucky in some ways.
DW: So, you are very distinctive with how loud and quiet you get with it, so how do you take care of your voice on a tour like this? Cause you’re at it at 110% every night on this tour, so has it been difficult to keep your voice on this tour?
JD: No, it hasn’t. The easy answer is no. And I don’t really do a whole lot to maintain my voice truthfully, which is probably not a good thing. When new first started touring I would lose my voice occasionally, but the more we’ve toured the more I think I’ve found that spot in my throat that is comfortable and that isn’t too detrimental physically.
DW: So you’re getting there!
JD: So I’m getting there! [Laughs] Yeah, yeah. But I’ve never really had a problem. The only time I’ve had a problem is when I get sick, get cold/have a flu, because it typically translated to me getting a throat something. Blame my parents for not getting my tonsils out when I was a kid. [Laughs]
DW: In terms of the Wildlife Tour, just wrapping up talking about the tour itself, how has the song selection been. Have you guys been leaning towards that album, because the tour is of the same name, or was there an effort to mix things up a bit? How have you approached it?
JD: Yeah, definitely an effort to mix things up, but more an emphasis on the new record. The record [Wildlife] came out 6 months, 5 months ago, so it’s been out for a while. And like you said it’s the tour for the record, but we of course still want to play old songs, and we still do, but we’ve been switching it up. So it’s Wildlife-heavy, but we’ve sprinkled old songs here and there.
DW: Oh that’s good. Switching it up a bit every night, that’s awesome. So, another release you guys have become more known for is the Here, Hear series. And it’s, correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s really a series of dramatic readings of poetry and short stories, if I’m not mistaken?
JD: Essentially yeah.
DW: So what sparked that? Was it just some free time that you guys had some studio time for or?
JD: Studio time? No, we did those-we recorded those all by ourselves. One on the side of the street, one out by the side of a lake, and one in Brad’s basement. But no, the initial genesis, we released a 7’ back in 2006, and we wanted something to supplement the pre-orders. So we got to talking, and came up with an idea; and the idea was to have each person write a song and record all the parts themselves, in kind of an attempt to show that persons individual influence and style.
DW: So like what’s going into the band and the LP songs. That’s really cool.
JD: Yeah, and then to add me into the mix, I picked pieces of literature that I was particularly enthralled by at the time, and read them over top of it. And it’s kind of developed over time. The third one we did was all original writing on my end, but it’s still the same. Each person records a song and each person records every instrument on that song.
DW: So for the Here, Hear series and for your LP’s and EP,s do you approach the songwriting differently then? Like, for Here, Hear III when you said you wrote all your own material, was there a different approach than maybe how you approached Wildlife?
JD: Yeah, definitely. It’s a different entity altogether, so yeah it requires a different approach. In some ways it’s because we recorded songs for Wildlife, they were full band songs, and they have a different feel to them than the songs that appeared on Hear, Here III, because it was, you know, Brad wrote a song, how Brad would write a song by himself. And Vass did the same thing, and Colin and Chad did the same thing, so each song requires a different approach because they’re different musicians and they write differently.
DW: So, do you think now, if you are to continue the Hear, Here series, and hopefully you do. Do you think you would go back to selecting authors you had been reading at different times, or do you think it’s now about putting your writing on top of the songs?
JD: Yeah, I think it will be my own writing. The thing that we didn’t anticipate is that there can only be so many physical copies of them. So it’s pretty implicit in the packaging of both of those records that I was quoting other authors, but since then they’ve appeared on the internet as downloads, and some people don’t know that those are other people’s writings. So it’s dangerous business. We’ve had some very angry people who thought we were plagiarizing, and then we’ve had some other people who though I wrote E.E Cummings poems, and I wrote Tom Robbins books. So I think we’ll stick to- we’ll see, we’ll see what happens. [Laughs]
DW: So it’s been an interesting process, I guess, releasing all of those?
JD: Yeah, yeah, not a whole lot of foresight with that. And I don’t regret it. I think the idea was to pay homage to someone who I respect, and to incorporate that into another medium. And like I said we were very, very, very, implicit that the lyrics weren’t written by me in the packaging, but packing is all long since gone.
DW: So would you say that the authors that you quoted and read aloud, when you did use other authors’ writings, would you say that they influenced your own songwriting in a way?
JD: Oh yeah. And that was another cool part about Here, Hear is that if you look at the Hear, Here and then you look at the record that comes closest to it, you can see where some of those themes come up. So there are stuff on Somewhere that are from some of the pieces I read over on Here, Hear I. So it kind of gives you a next level of enjoyment.
DW: So do you see the Hear, Here series continuing at all?
JD: I think we all do, it’s just a matter of having the time.
DW: A matter of when?
JD: Yeah, it’s a matter of when. But I think it’s something that we’ll try to do so long as we’re a band.
DW: Great. So I was looking stuff up that I wanted to talk to you about yesterday, and I found this thing called “The Wave”. How people are referring to it is five bands: you guys, Make Do and Mend, Touché Amore, Pianos Become the Teeth, Defeater. And you guys are supposed to be the next wave of emotional…I don’t want to say post-hardcore, but in the vein of you guys playing the music and Touché Amore are playing music. Do you guys approve of this, or have you even heard of it at all?
JD: Well, the full story is that it started with us, it started with those five bands. We a long time ago, probably two years ago, started joking around, because we were playing a lot of shows together at the time, saying that we should have a gang name. Somebody jokingly said, “The Wave,” and made a fake MySpace. So that was the initial birth of that thing that people have taken completely out of context. Anyway, that was a joke. And some people have, again lack of foresight-I don’t think of any of us thought about the internet when we did it, and it became too much of a thing. People started talking about it in that way, you know like “next wave of emotional hardcore,” but it’s-I don’t mind being associated with those bands; I love those bands- but there are so many other bands. If there is a trend in punk towards the emotional side, then that’s fine. I’m not sure there is, but if there is there are a lot more bands that encompass it than those five, and it sucks that a lot of people have- I don’t know it’s just one of those things, the internet, the internet takes something and runs with it. And it becomes something you never expected it to be, and you’re like “Aww, shoot”. Anyway…
DW: So, that’s pretty much all I have from this. Are there plans for more La Dispute in the future? Are we going to see you in 2012, touring or otherwise?
JD: Yeah, it’s kind of all up in the air right now. We’ll be in Europe. We have 2 separate trips to Europe coming up. We have 2 weeks in the summer with Hot Water Music, and 2 weeks in the fall with Title Fight and Make Do And Mend. And then we’re playing Fest and a few shows around there, but I don’t know exactly we’re gonna be playing or how long that run will be. So it’s kind of up in the air, we have a lot of downtime after hitting it pretty hard in the last year.
DW: So, we gotta get you ready. You have to go soundcheck or whatever’s going on out there. But is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap this up?
JD: Thanks for the interview guys, I appreciate it.
DW: Yeah, of course. It was great to have you, thanks for doing it. That’s Jordan Dreyer from La Dispute. They’re about the tear down the house at the Union Transfer in Philadelphia for the Wildlife Tour. So best of luck and thank you for taking the time to do it.
JD: Of course, my pleasure. Thank you.
Again, I can’t thank Craig and Jordan enough for making this possible. Stay tuned for more of the good stuff!
Author’s Note: This interview was originally published on The Garden Statement’s parent website Keep Calm and Carry On. All content of Keep Calm and Carry On is now property of The Garden Statement. A letter explaining the switch in sites can be found here. Thanks!