Dopapod may seem busy performing concerts on the road for their winter tour and promoting their third studio release, but if you ask them, they’re just hitting their stride.
Dopapod has enjoyed success recently on the road after giving some well-received shows in Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Buffalo, where they tested out live versions of tracks from their latest studio effort, “Redivider.” The studio tracks were recorded on a scenic, solar-powered farm in the small town of Pomfret, Conn., and they show the huge musical strides the band has made since their second studio album, “Drawn Onward,” which was released less than a year ago. Our own Carey Vanderborg caught up with the electro-soul quartet and spoke with Dopapod guitarist Rob Compa as they prepared to rock their way down South en route to a much-anticipated appearance at the Aura Music & Arts Festival in Live Oak, Florida.
L4LM: Tell us a little bit about how you, Eli, Chuck and Neal came together to form Dopapod.
I think the group officially came together in October 2007 — I wasn’t in it yet. I joined six months later, but it started out just Eli, our keyboardist and a drummer. The drummer was Mike Caruba, who’s no longer with us, he’s in his own band now. And then we just added members a little bit at a time. And so I wasn’t in school, I had dropped out from Berklee a little before that. We were all living in Boston, but most of us were still in school, so at first it was really gradual. We played a couple gigs in Boston where we had, like, four original songs, and the rest of the shit we would just make up. So gradually we built up a repertoire and started writing songs and eventually Mike left and Neil, who was playing percussion with us at the time, took over the drum kit. That led to the quartet lineup that we’ve had for the past few years. And so here we are.
L4LM: For the first two albums, you guys took the conventional route by recording in traditional studios. With “Redivider” you mixed it up and secluded yourselves at a remote location. How was that recording experience different from your previous ones?
Well, I loved it. It was actually one of the most fun, most memorable musical experiences of my life. We did it there because the guy who runs the farm is a great friend of ours and he actually books shows there. Bands play there at the same barn that we recorded at. Actually, some of the first gigs we did were at that barn. Like really early on when we were just a trio – me, Eli and Mike. So he hooked us up, let us stay there and it’s a beautiful place, just incredible. So when you have all day on this plot of land with seriously no distractions, nowhere to go, all you do is just sit on this farm and think about music. So there are no distractions and all you’re doing is creating and a lot of times in the studio it doesn’t feel like that because you’re being charged by the minute and by the hour and so there are things that you might want to try but you can’t because the time is expensive. You know, like sometimes I’ll have plenty of ideas for guitar overdubs I’ve wanted to try, but a lot of them I just didn’t even bother with because of time. So I had to pick the ones that I would be sure would most likely work. But at the barn, I took my time. We all did. I think we had a whole day where I just sat with Luke, our sound and light guy who actually engineered the album for us and produced it. And so I got to try a million things and half of them worked and so it was just a lot of experimentation, like trying harmonies to see if they sound good. So the whole thing was like that. Turning that barn into just a giant toy that we could play with, and if something didn’t work then it wasn’t a big deal because we had time on our hands. I think having time contributed to creativity and if you’re having fun then creativity is easy. If you’re not having fun then it’s kind of like paddling upstream. This wasn’t like that at all. This was sort of like us just cruising along.
L4LM: This is the first album where you guys feature vocals. Where in the creative process did that addition come to mind?
You know, I feel like if you write music the same way for long enough, or if you do anything the same way for long enough, then you get bored and you want to find new things. And, I mean, we’re not going to add another band member anytime soon, I can tell you that. But we can sing. And me and Eli like to sing and it’s like adding a new instrument — it really is. So that was just like a new avenue for us to go down. It wasn’t forced or anything like that. We didn’t do it for the sake of getting a bigger fan base or anything like that, it was just a new way to make music that reinvigorated the creative process.
L4LM: So Dopapod is on a pretty lengthy tour, and one of the stops is Aura. What kind of fulfillment do you guys get when you do festivals as opposed to your own shows.
I think the first thing that comes to mind is the hang. At this point in touring, you know, we’re just around each other all the time and we play for people, but mostly we just hang out with each other and every band is like that. But festivals are cool because everyone is on their respective tours and we all intersect for this one weekend and we get to have this huge and hang. We get to sit in with each other’s bands and party backstage and have a great time. Then we split ways and then a couple weeks later maybe there’s some other festival where all the bands that we’re friends with are backstage and we’re hanging out again. So that for me is a cool part along with the fact that you get to play for people who normally might not have gone out of their way to see you play. Like, they might not have paid the $10 to see you at a club, so you could get ahold of fans that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. And that’s a great thing, you need that.
L4LM: You guys are pretty well versed in the festival circuit. Are there any festivals in particular that you’re most looking forward to?
Well Aura, obviously, even though it’s not the summertime, is definitely exciting. But otherwise, it’s a little early for festival announcements now. But I know that Catskill Chill is one that’s always a great time so I’m definitely looking forward to that and Gathering of the Vibes was super cool as well. That was probably the most exciting one for last summer, but as of now it’s probably too early to say what festivals we’re even doing. It’s a little early on in the booking process.
You can catch Dopapod in New York City next week at the Highline Ballroom (Feb. 21) where they’ll team up with Kung Fu for a great night of music. Tickets are available at Highline Ballroom’s website. You can also catch the band at a variety of festivals this summer including Aura Music Festival!