The ‘Drawn Onward’ tour in full swing, the foursome brought their unique brand of ragesauce to the intimate stage at Sullivan Hall in New York City. This being my first live experience with the band, I could feel the crowd’s energy and anticipation, like a smack in the face, the instant I walked through the door. High energy sets from tour mates The Mantras, and jam rock quartet Turbine, set the stage for what everyone was waiting for… full tilt DopaRage.
With the clock showing nearly 1am, the guys wasted no time bringing the heat as they kicked off their set with a new song in ‘Brain Dead’. Starting out on the heavier side, the crowd was quickly immersed in the vibe, and bodies… they were a movin. Next, the slow building quiet beginnings of Black and White marked the first song played from the new album. A personal favorite of mine, Black and White takes the crowd on a groove adventure ending in an all-out electronic assault loop. Lighting engineer Luke Stratton was killing it already, highlighting the intensity in both the music and the crowd.
With so much talent on the bill, it was only a matter of time before we would encounter a sit-in guest. Mantras guitarist Keith Allen was promptly invited to the stage to take part in the groove explosion that is Indian Grits. With double the guitar licks and the heavily soulful keys from Eli, there was not a stagnant pair of feet on the floor. The set continued this way, plowing through jam after jam such as Turning Knobs and Freight Train. Fully blown away by an almost tangible vitality… I settled into pure rage as Dopapod brought their set to a close with an Onionhead into French Bowling combo that literally felt like being trance-ported into something beyond this world. So that’s what a quasi-experimental foray into bewilderment feels like huh?
Rob, Eli, Neal, and Chuck did nothing short of bring the fire on this cold night in NYC. Finally, I know why I haven’t stopped hearing about the technical and improvisational brilliance of live Dopapod. A demonstration in aural opulence, it’s a must see for every live music enthusiast.
I had a chance to sit down with Dopapod drummer Neal ‘Fro’ Evans. Hard to believe that at only 26 years of age, Fro is actually the oldest member of the group. We dipped into a van on Sullivan Street to chat about the tour, the album and the awesomeness.
L4LM: Fro, thank you so much for taking a minute to talk with L4LM. Let me start by saying that Dopapod has such a unique and diverse sound. Just today you advised fans on your Facebook page that, if asked to describe Dopapod’s music: “just say ‘Pre-Post RAGECORE'”. Tell us, what is Pre-Post Ragecore?
FRO: Pre-Post Ragecore is definitely a blend of pretty much all of the different awesome styles of music at their most raging element. So like we rage some heavy metal and we rage some funk and we rage some quiet-ly. Ya know, as raging as quiet as possible. So its like, “Oh my god this is raging so quietly! This quiet jam is so raging!”
L4LM: Ive also heard you guys describe your sound as a pocket groove. Tell me about that.
FRO: Pocket Groove is just something where its like got this feel to it that’s real deep. It makes you move and carries you; carries the feelings that you have. They always say, How can you carry a groove if you ain’t got no pocket.
L4LM: This being the Drawn Onward tour, I definitely want to ask about the album. This is your sophmore album, how has the band changed since the first? And what do you want people to know about this release?
FRO: The biggest difference is that I’m playing drums. We had a different drummer for the first, and I played percussion. I kinda joined the band right as they were finishing the first album andI’m barely even on it. Maybe a little Triangle and a Jam Block but thats about it. So the band, at the time of the first album, was just straight ahead funk and groove kind of stuff. But then there was the lineup change, and we were getting alot of influence by the festivals we were playing and getting into the new stuff. So there was a newer blend of styles. I definitely brought a heavier element to it, which vibed with Chuck the bassplayer, who also has a heavier side. We kinda bring the metal and the punk rock and that kind of thing to the band. Eli (Keyboards) has the soul funk kinda thing and Rob (guitar) has the more jam like Phish and Scofield and stuff like that. We all love all the different stuff, but we each have our own heavier influences. The second album is really a pretty level and clear balance of all the influences, plus influences that hit us all at the same time as a band.
L4LM: With so many elements and Influences coming to the collective party, how did you guys click so well?
FRO: I think it works so well because we all just love music too much. While we all have, I wouldn’t call it preferences, but if you look at each of our iTunes libraries, you’ll see that I may have more of this or that than the other guys but we all still listen to what everyone grooves too. Nobody’s ever like ‘hey turn this shit off!’ We all just fuckin like music so we get together and were all pretty passionate about it and its kinda the only thing we know how to do and we like to do so.
L4LM: You guys are huge on the festy circuit. Tell me a bit about what that’s like for you guys and how it has pretty much catapulted you compared to these smaller winter time indoor shows.
FRO: Its the festival thing, where people go because they love music and wanna make a full weekend of it and hear all the differnt kinds [of music]. Its fun when we get to go play and we fall into the late night category so a lot of people end up raging those hours. Those late night slots really just bring the Heads out and we’ve gotten a really great response at the festivals. It spreads the word. For Instance we did that Bonnaroo parking lot thing last year when we played the campground. We did a couple sets on stage during the weekend, but then a last set we did was 11pm on Sunday night after Widespread, the last band. So there was no more music after the festival but us. We set up and just played the campground and had a pretty sweet spot. Kids walking back to their tents were like “Sweet there’s more music! I was definitely not done raging!” We probably played for a thousand people throughout the night just walking by. Immediately after that we were doing our little circuits into Ohio and people were just coming up to us saying “dude I just saw you at Bonnaroo, now I know it, and now I’m coming every time..”
L4LM: You guys have done so many festies, including Burning Man, Bonnaroo, and Camp Bisco. I’ve actually been told that, by the band’s own admission, your set at Bear Creek last year was one of the best you guys have ever played.
FRO: In my opinion that was some of the most fun playing music I’ve ever had in my life. Just the vibe down there is so awesome, it’s just so chill. Everybody there is just so into it, they’re not going crazy on the ‘extra curriculars’ that happen at some of the festivals. The vibe there is for the music, and we feel that from the crowd for sure.
L4LM: Have to ask, how was Burning Man for you guys?
FRO: It was amazing! It was my 3rd year and the rest of the guy’s 1st Burn. It was a dream come true for me because the first time I went all I could think was “There needs to be more live music” It’s logistically way more friendly for DJ’s and electronic setups. But really you bring whatever you want. These people setup huge amphitheatre tents and people just play. So I was like “allright we can do this..” So we just went and brought the band gear and played our campsite a few times and there was some people there but then we went out and found other people’s huge stages and we just asked if we could play and plug in on their stage.They were like ‘yeah definitely’, without ever thinking this ‘band’ would setup on their electronic dance floor. Totally impromptu. Burning man is a week long and you go with zero expectations because you have no idea what’s going to happen. But what’s gonna happen is gonna be fucking magical and amazing. The vibe there is incredibly supportive and creative. Just go for it. If you can do it, do it. if you can bring it, bring it. They don’t stop you from doing what you wanna do there.
L4LM: I wanted to ask about whats coming up for Dopapd. Aura Music festival is around the corner. Being its a freezing night in NYC tonight, I bet you cant wait to get to Florida. Besides the warmth, tell me about what other bands you are psyched to play with and listen to, kicking off festival season at Aura.
FRO: So Stoked to get out of the cold! Well Kung Fu are great homies of ours, man those guys are so sick. The Heavy Pets, they’re awesome. We played a set with them in Athens, Georgia…. and they had me come up and play drums and the bass player from Consider the Source get up on bass. Oh we were jamming. Next thing I know, I look around and nobody from The Pets is on stage and its people from P-Groove and probably someone else I didnt even know and I was like ‘alright this is sick!’. The sit-in thing is fun, just getting to jam with all these awesome musicians.
L4LM: When playing your live shows, how much is straight improvisation and how much is structured and written. How much does it vary on any given night?
FRO: It’s pretty half and half in the way that the density of a 2 minute composed part might equal a 6 minute jam. We have spots in every song for improv. We’ll kinda do this composition thing and hit a climax and then it’s like, alright lets improvise. Its cool because the song always starts fully structured. We don’t know when we’re gonna do the improv till it happens, and then we might do it that way for months, and then have another idea while playing and change it up completely.
L4LM: I know you guys are all living in Brooklyn these days. But with a schedule like yours, where is ‘home’ for Dopapod?
FRO: Boston, Mass is our hometown. Boston is HUGE. We all met at Berklee School of music and had been playing around there for a couple years. I was the last person to enter Dopapod…it had been going on for a year and a half before I hopped on but I knew the guys from playing around at little clubs for funk night or a jam night. Eli and I actually both had played with Turkuaz. In fact, their current drummer is the old drummer from Dopapod, and no joke he literally just texted me as we are speaking right now, so it’s all real close. It just kinda got to be the busyness of each band and we decided to make the switch!
L4LM: Before releasing Drawn Onward, Dopapod released the live album, “I saw Live Dopapd, Evil was I.” Tell me about that release and what you were looking to achieve with the compilation.
FRO: All the cuts on that album came from selections from all the shows that we played in the first half of 2011. We had a multi track recording of each show, so when we set out to do it we cut them all up and listened to them. We decided the best versions of each song we wanted to put on it, and kinda just made a little ‘best of’ that half of year. Its cool because with all the improv stuff its really different every night. You could have seen us one night and heard this one song and then seen us another night and not even recognize it. Some of my favorite bands, I go see them live and it’s a thousand million times cooler than the studio album. To me a studio album can be a kind of vain attempt at capturing what the band does. It’s like taking a picture of an incredible sunset, but in reality, yeaaaaah you shoulda been there.
L4LM: Who is your favorite band to go see?
FRO: Hands down, Primus. Seen them 4 times with the last being at the Grammercy in NYC just recently. Sick show for the fans. Two nights in a row here, no repeats. They just jam for the fans.
L4LM: What was your first concert?
FRO: Kenny Rogers was the first I remember with my family for the Olympics ceremony in Denver. Then there was my first concert without my parents, a Christian heavy metal band called Tourniquet at a church. Then there was my FIRST concert with my friends, being Suicide Machines with Suicidal Tendencies.
Thank You so much Fro, I could seriously ask another 50 questions, if there weren’t a venue full of fans waiting for you guys to play right now. Have a great show tonight and have a great rest of the tour! And to all you live music fanatics out there, get on the ball and catch the Pre-Post Ragecore phenomenon, Dopapod, as the tour rolls on!
Written by Andre Reddy