La Dispute are young, but with the release of 2008's Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair, they've certainly been catching a few ears on record and on tour. The band recently went out with their Midwestern brethren Native, and took some time to sit down and talk about where they're headed and the pitfalls of any punk community.
The most recent thing you guys have worked on is the third session of the Hear Hear EP's. What was the initial idea to start doing those?
Jordan Dreyer: The first time we had the thought was that we just wanted to do something to supplement the release of a 7", so we kind of brainstormed over the course of several weeks and kind of came up with the idea that each person would write a song and each person would play the instruments for each song. It kind of just started as something creative for us to do and something additional for the catalog and to kind of develop more too. Initially it was something just fun for us to do. The way that we see it is that it gives a broader context to the releases that are just put out. A chance to hear specific influences in each individual.
Is this more of a warm up in going into recording later?
Dreyer: I think it was a chance for us to, as we developed as an artist, was a chance to foreshadow what was coming on the [next] record, and kind of give a little bit of a preview in a way. Obviously not specifically, because it's a whole different process - a whole different sound. We did kind of use it to foreshadow what was to come. It was cool, because once those were out and once the record was out, people could go back and listen to [the Hear Hear sessions] and say, "Oh, that's where that comes from. Now I can see where that was quoted or developed."
These are definitely stripped down. Is that the idea, was to keep the Hear Hear tracks very minimalist?
Adam Vass: I think it ended up that way, because each of us took a song individually. You would have this very elaborate soundscape in your mind that would evolve. [Being limited in what we could do], my songs are definitely a reflection of things I'm into and things that I like. I feel like, if it wasn't just me, if there was a quartet of strings that I could get involved with it, then I would do so. It's kind of a combination of necessity and influence.
Dreyer: Comparing it to the studio recordings, there's only so much we can do, recording it in warehouses or basements instead of recording it in a full fledged studio. I'd say it is born out of necessity.
Vass: I also think that makes it more interesting. I feel like it's more direct from a mindset...You kind of just get your gut from it.
Dreyer: I think when you put boundaries and limitations on something, you can have a more interesting end product and it's more fun to see. [Like] if you wrote a poem and omitted the letter E.
How did the involvement in Well House Community Living of Grand Rapids come about?
Dreyer: We had been talking awhile about how we could put something back into the community. The whole housing crisis issue in Michigan has been prominent, and has been for a long time. We've been witnessed to it in Grand Rapids for some time, so we've been talking about doing something more than just taking the money for ourselves. The first thing we thought was about giving it to the homeless in our community. We didn't want to give it to a national organization because we wanted to know where the money was going and to see the fruits of the labor. The gentleman who put out [Vancouver], his sister is very involved in homelessness outreach in various different levels of Cedar and Grand Rapids. We did decide to do something in Grand Rapids. We contacted her and talked to her. The most encouraging, the most inspiring, the most beneficial way to give back I guess.
How has the housing situation directly or indirectly effected you guys?
Dreyer: I think for Brad and I, [we] work in a hardware store. We're cousins. Our parents own a hardware store, and our grandparents owned it before them. The way that we've seen it in the whole six-seven years, the whole "building" being on the decline, and we live in a fairly lower class neighborhood. Seeing people coming into the store and working with foreclosure and business going under. None of us have been homeless or anything like that. It's hard to avoid if you live in the state of Michigan. It's a little bit easier if you live on the West side instead of the East side. It's something you see every day. It's almost like when the recession became the front of the media onslaught. This isn't just happening. It's been happening for years where we come from, and not just in Michigan, but [all over] the Midwest.
Brad Vanderlugt: Indiana too, where Adam is from.
Vass: I'm from a town called Valparaiso, which is a town that is really well off, upper middle class, but that's only a few minutes from [destitution].
Dreyer: The whole Midwest is tied to so much of the [material] industry, that factory work has propelled the Midwest for years. There is suffering because of the collapse of General Motors, and it's not only effected Michigan, but that area in general.
On a positive note, it seems the Midwest is doing well with their local music scenes. Do you feel like there is a general sense of a "scene" happening there? Has it been there, but not well received or talked about until recently?
Vass: I think it's been there, and it's not that it has not been well received, it hasn't been as outgoing. People are really trying to work for something now. A big "this is our community, our area." We're Southwest Michigan, and then I'm from West Indiana, and then Chicago is an hour West from where I'm from. The whole lakefront area is very well connected now. Even in the past three years, seeing it from when I was living in Indiana to now, it's continually growing. As we branch out, we make friends in other places and connect. You just kind of see this web, this community growing and growing.
Dreyer: I think in general. Lately, in the past couple of years, I've always learned in school, the predator versus prey relationship. The predator always preys down and once it gets to a certain point, it seems to shift. In general, it seems like people are becoming more into the business of community and music that has been around and not really tapped into since the last time it happened. People are becoming fed up with the majority of certain scenes and the commercialization of punk. I think you see a general shift.
Speaking of community, you guys just got off of tour with Thursday. What do you think of a band like Daitro saying what they said about not wanting to tour with Thursday? Is there a negative outside perception to bands that eventually become successful on a rooted sound?
Vass: I think that was just a mistranslation. The initial thing wasn't as abrasive as it was. At the same time, it was still pretty abrasive, even at the very core of it. Geoff [Rickly] had a pretty well written retort to that in saying that's the kind of thing that really hurts the scene. You don't need elitism at all. When we spent time with [Thursday], we realized that they were just as important to the scene as we are. Just because they've been very successful with their time as a band, that doesn't remove them from the things that they have done and the things that they continue to do - to help music and the D.I.Y. community and the post-hardcore genre. They continue to write intelligent albums, even when they were on a major label. That's really respectable. That's very important, to continue to stay what [they] are, after their success. The fact that other bands can't really see that, or would shove them out because of that, it's not cool.
Dreyer: I think if anyone had anything bad to say about Thursday, and would have met them, carried a conversation with them and found out how genuine they are...
Dreyer: That's something you always have to reconcile - what's punk and what's not punk, what's right and what's wrong. When something gets popular ,there's always going to be a backlash from the people that were there prior to that. That sense of elitism and egoism only serves to build walls and create boundaries to exclude people from the greater good of their purpose to really just connect and have an impact and exchange positive ideas to coexist. When you distract from the greater good, you really take steam out of the movement.
Within this new community, this web you speak of, as you are touring across the United States, are you seeing any sort of elitism?
Dreyer: Honestly, I think for us, in the past two years, I think it's been the opposite. Where there was a time where we were booking shows, playing shows where certain people thought we should be. I think [the idea of elitism] has dissipated. I think we'll have to see what happens in the next year, for us and all those bands. I don't know, (to the band) you guys can either confirm or deny that. I feel like our specific scene in the Midwest, the network that Vass has talked about, has become more cooperative than previously.
Vass: I feel like [that negativity] might still be around, but it's never really affected us. Either the people we involve ourselves with aren't part of that, or I can't really think of a time when it affected us in recent memory.
La Dispute's sound is very reminiscent of bands like Thursday and mewithoutYou, but it's almost put together like a lot of the European acts. How does the writing process work for the band?
Vanderlugt: As for writing music, a whole song will come together, usually all the music will come first. If anyone has a part, we'll bring that in and expand on that. Vocals are usually the last thing. I don't know if that changes it.
Dreyer: To this point we've started somewhere musically, and finish the song before I put down anything on it. I'll usually have a pretty specific idea of what I want to talk about given the mood and feeling of what I want to talk about. Lately, we're at least attempting to shift that and work more as a unit rather than two separate entities. We haven't really done much of that yet, but we haven't really had much time to write since we've been out and about doing things.
Do you think that will change the sound of La Dispute, or shift into a more progressive territory that you are looking forward to?
Vass: We're really pulling for the latter there. [Laughs] I think it's an experiment right now, because we don't know how it is going to come out. We've basically been writing music in tidbits we call "skeletons." It can go in a lot of different directions, but they have a core that Jordan can write to them. We're not taking it further than that until Jordan begins to contribute what he has written, so we can all build into it. That way, we figure it can be a more cohesive product. Like I said, we haven't done it, so we don't know how it's going to come out. That's the idea now.
Dreyer: I think regardless of what the end product is, I don't think it won't sound like us...There's been a revolution thus far, and it's always managed to sound like us. I think even if it takes in another direction...
Vass: That's how it always has been. Everything we've put out has been a progression of us.
Dreyer: For us, it's more important to be true to what feels natural than to force ourselves to stay inside the mindset of what we had previously. I think it's more us to push our process than it is to say, "We don't want to compromise our sound, so let's continue what we had." it's more satisfying to us to push our sound creativity. I don't know. We'll see. We're all very excited to see where our sound will be going. It just feels natural.