Another band in a long line of fantastic bands to come out of the Berklee School of Music in Boston, Dopapod combines elements of Jazz, Fusion, Funk, and just about everything else to create their own unique sound. I got a chance to speak with Rob Compa, Guitar player, about their influences, working with guests, and what the future holds for the band.

Can you give a brief history of the band?

Rob Compa: To the best of my knowledge, the first incarnation of Dopapod started in late 2007. We all met at Berklee College of Music in Boston. It actually began as a duo with Eli (keyboards) and drummer Michelangelo Carubba, who now plays in the funk band Turkuaz, who are a terrific band and great friends of ours. I joined the group in March of ’08, after doing some Reggae gigs around Boston with Eli, and we went on as a trio for awhile. Maybe 8 months later, we added Chuck Jones on bass and Neal “Fro” Evans on percussion. That quintet lineup is whats on our first album, Radar. Eventually, Neal took over on drums, making us a quartet, which is how its been ever since.

A question you probably get every time you do an interview, how did you come up with Dopapod?

Rob Compa: Hahaha, yeah we get that one every time. I’m not totally sure what the answer is. Eli came up with it before I was in the group, so you’d have to ask him.

When sitting down to write Drawn Onward, was the songwriting for the album a collaborative effort or was it more each of you comes in with your own songs and then collectively record them?

Rob Compa: It was very collaborative. In fact most of our songs have been created as a team. Eli is usually (but not always) the one to bring in the initial idea, which usually starts as a computer demo that he makes. It kind of varies how complete the tune is. Sometpodimes is just one or two ideas or a groove, and all of us will finish writing it together, just throwing ideas around. Other times, like in French Bowling, he has every section pretty much finished & one of us might have an arrangement idea or something. Other tunes on Drawn Onward, such as Flipped or Black and White, are total collaborations. For those two, we pretty much sat in a room with one vague idea and said “OK. Let’s make a song out of that. Go.”

When listening to the album, I heard a lot of Soulive and Medeski Martin and Wood in the album, who would you guys say are your greatest influences for this specific album?

Rob Compa: We’ve all got different influences. I know those two you mentioned are huge influences for Eli. As a group, we were also listening to and playing lots of Primus tunes around the time we wrote some of the music. Some of the tunes have specific artists or vibes that we associate with them. For Nuggy Jawson, for example, we were going for The Who and Rush. And when we were writing “Turnin’ Knobs” we wanted to channel that steady, repetitive groove that’s found in Afrobeat music.

You have chosen to release the album through your website for free as a download as well as some paid options for higher quality and physical versions; what prompted the band to choose that route for distribution?

Rob Compa: I’m not exactly sure. I guess we just know that people can firgure out how to get it for free if they want to anyway, so why avoid it? Just go with the flow. And making money off of this album is, to me, much less of a priority than getting it to new ears. That’s the main thing; Making the best music we can and getting new people to give it a listen.

Building off of the influences question, you brought in Gabriel Marin of Consider the Source for the final track of the album, “Bahbi.” How was it working with him and working with guests in general in the studio?

Rob Compa: Gabriel was great, and Consider The Source are definitely an influence for us. They’re an unbelievable, totally unique band, and as a guitarist I’m just totally floored by Gabe’s playing. He came in not really knowing the tune at all. He just brought his guitar, plugged into my pedals and some random amp that was in the studio, and went for it. & it turned out great. He also played that acoustic, droning middle eastern instrument on the track. We’ve only had a couple other people join on studio recordings in the past, and I think Gabe’s session was actually the only one I’ve ever actually been in the studio for, so I can’t rightly judge any other guest appearances we’ve had.

On the same token of having extra people on the album, in your live show, do you bring out a lot of guests? When guests come on stage, how do you work them into your sound?

Rob Compa: We have on stage guests a fair amount of the time. We don’t really try to work it into the sound. If we want someone to sit in, then we’re confident that they know what they’re doing enough to know how to work themselves into our sound.

You are about to embark on a more than two month tour; how do you prepare and practice for an upcoming tour?

Rob Compa: Well for the past month, we’ve been rehearsing almost every day. The main goal right now is to write new music, so that we can vary every night’s setlist as much as possible. We also usually try and learn some covers to throw into our sets to make each show special. And of course, we go over all of our older tunes to dust them off. Also, Luke, our sound and light engineer, is pretty much always in work mode, creating new light scenes, making his rig better, etc. He even fixes pedals and some other instrument gear when needs be. He’s a machine… truly.

While on tour, what kind of music do you listen to in the bus/van?

Rob Compa: Electric Apricot.

What is your favorite venue or city to play and what is your favorite festival to play?

Rob Compa: We’ve got lots of favorites. We love playing in Boston, since its sort of home for us. Nectar’s in Burlington VT is great. Savannah GA is awesome. Northampton MA always gets crazy. Oneonta NY is the first town Dopapod ever played in, so it always gets nuts. As far as festivals, we love Bear Creek in Florida. And Disc Jam is a super fun, grassroots festival that’s always full of great friends.

If you could play anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Rob Compa: Red Rocks.

Is there any particular moment that sticks out from a past tour as the “craziest” or the most interesting story?

Rob Compa: … Eli had to chase a mermaid into a church in Albany once, while Chuck slept peacefully in a sexy red dress and black wig. That’s as detailed as we’re willing to get.

To close, where do you see the music industry going in the next 5 years? 10 years?

Rob Compa: I think it’s already getting to this point, but I could see musicians needing to rely on touring much more to support themselves, with much less focus being on album sales. It’s always been that way in the festival and jam scene, but I think that attitude could potentially spread to other, more mainstream scenes of music. Beyond that, I have no idea. As a kid I used to wonder what would replace CD’s, and I was sure the only feasible theory was smaller CD’s, and I could not have been more wrong haha. So I have no idea what to theorize for the next ten years.

Where do you see the band in the next 10 years?

Rob Compa: I guess just bigger venues and more fans. And I have no idea what we’ll want our music to sound like by then, but I know we all want it to be different. Change and growth are a beautiful thing, so we just want it to continually be changing and evolving as the years go by. And I know something all of us want is to get to a point of success where we can tour for months at a time and then rest for equally long periods of time, so that we can all have all the normal stuff that most people want out of life, like families and side-projects, as well as the crazy, touring lifestyle that we love so much and are experiencing right now.