Interview: Jordan Dreyer (La Dispute) discusses touring, “Wildlife” and homemade instruments

Michigan-based quintet La Dispute is a band distinct from their post-hardcore peers, their energy breathing new life into an old-school style. Earning the band instant respect is their unique exposition of colossal musical climaxes, subtler but equally powerful soft moments, the captivating storytelling and imagery of the poetic lyrics, ambitious production feats, and frontman Jordan Dreyer’s unforgettable sob-screaming. As they kick off their US tour to promote their sophomore album “Wildlife,” I had the opportunity to sit down with Jordan and talk touring, homemade instruments, 18th century French comedy and how they got the album to sound so raw and untweaked.

Read the interview here.

DyingScene (Mara): You started out playing house shows in basements; how does that compare to your massive tours today? Do you prefer an intimate atmosphere or the energy of a huge crowd?

La Dispute (Jordan): Well, I don’t know if any of our shows are massive. I mean, some of our best shows have been in basements, and some of our best shows have been in 300-400 cap venues, so it just depends on the night and the atmosphere.

So, you’re from Grand Rapids, and the lyrics from quite a few of your songs reflect your hometown atmosphere, as well as specific places and events. As you’ve toured around the world, have you gained inspiration from the new people and ways of life you’ve experienced and how do you think they’ll manifest or influence future songwriting?

Well, of course, I think it has already manifested itself in our writing. You know, what you write about is what you experience and what you’re surrounded by, and that’s home, which is Grand Rapids.  But it’s been different in the last couple of years getting to meet new people, hear new music and see new places. I think that everything that happens to you affects you and the way you create.

So one of the biggest feats for “Wildlife” was the lack of artificial reverb on the album. What was that like, and how did the decision come about?

Well, we wanted to make the record as organic as possible; we tried to minimize studio tricks and everything. We tried to come up with something that captured what we sound like live and naturally. We entered the studio with that mindset and the complete lack of artificial reverb came from two recording sessions. In the first one, we got done and realized we hadn’t used any so we decided that part was cool. So the whole thing went up without relying on computer tricks to capture effects. So yeah, it was an interesting process, it was a lot of fun, it was challenging at times to figure out how to do it, but I think we’re all pretty proud that we accomplished it.

You should be! It sounds great. Are you planning to try that again on future projects?

Yeah. Since we’ve been a band that’s always been important to us, so now we have more resources available to us in regard to writing and recording, so I think we’ll definitely consider that the next time we enter the studio.

So more about the recording, I’ve heard that while recording “Wildlife” at StadiumRed you all brought some really cool customized equipment and instruments. Are there any in particular that make your sound unique?

We tried to use a lot of different things just to make it more interesting recording. One of the things that we did end up recording with was an instrument that Chad’s brother actually made, so that one was unique to our recording completely.

What was that?

Oh, I wouldn’t even know how to explain it really; it’s a collection of scrap pieces that he made into an instrument. And we took it along, took it into the studio and it ended up on the album.

Wow, that’s interesting. So where did the name La Dispute come from?

The name comes from a French play that I saw performed when I was quite a bit younger, when we had first started writing songs and toying with the idea of being an actual band and I thought the themes present in the play were relevant to the ones that we were exploring in our songs, so I pitched it to the guys, and they went for it and here we are however many years later.


Yes! That’s the one.

On that note, listening to La Dispute is often compared to watching a movie; in addition to creative writing and musical composition you’re also very skilled as an actor and storyteller. Have you considered taking up any side projects such as filmmaking or publishing a book?

You know, I love to write.

I can tell.

[laughs] Thank you. It’s always something I’ve been interested in but it’s not something that up to this point I’ve pursued with any kind of ambition, but in the future I hope to. We’ll see.

I’m sure you’re very busy.

Yeah, I mean touring especially takes up a lot of time, so I think music is the focus presently.

I think for the past several months and more to come you’ve been playing close to a show a night, right? That’s gotta be exhausting.

It is. It is exhausting. It’s hard to keep a regular sleep schedule; you’re always playing shows and then driving and trying to get to the next city, so…. it’s a lot of fun, it’s very rewarding but it can get exhausting at times for sure.

Do you guys have any time for writing new material under your current schedule?

We haven’t really, since the record came out. It took us a long time to write, and to record, and I think the first thing we want to do when it comes out is just sit back and relax and compose ourselves. And then, of course, there’s the touring schedule, so we’ve been, since the record came out, working really hard, and now we’re just taking it easy.  Just trying to have time to ourselves and our friends and family and the like. So we’ll see how the rest of the year plays out.  We’ve got quite a bit of downtime and I think we’d all like to start being creative again but we don’t really have a concrete plan or a certain schedule.

What about a new “Here, Hear” or are there any splits or EPs or other projects you’re planning?

That’s always something that’s been important to us, “Here, Hear,” we’ve had a lot of fun doing it and it’s a cool way to challenge ourselves creatively and to kind of broaden the context so I’m sure we will in the future. As for when, I don’t know, we don’t really have a timetable set.

I understand. Is there anywhere you’ve yet to tour that you’re hoping to get to at some point?

Yeah, I think anywhere we haven’t been already is somewhere we’ve wanted to go. We’ve never really gotten to go to Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. I think that’s something that we’d all like to do and even South America would be a lot of fun, we’re trying to make that happen at some point. So we’ll see what happens!

Anyplace that has the best energy?  The best response to your music?

Australia has been pretty great to us. Germany has always been really, really good to us, the UK. And then, obviously in the States. Probably some of the best shows happen in certain cities in the US.

Are the responses different?  Is it different to play “Wildlife” live than it is to play “Somewhere at the Bottom of the River between Vega and Altair”?

Yeah, I think so. There’s a similar energy but a lot of the songs are little more withdrawn, I think there’s a little more going on, so it really depends track to track, but it’s been a lot of fun getting to play “Wildlife” songs since we’ve played “Somewhere at the Bottom” for so long. There’s still an energy to it, but it’s nice to get to play something that you haven’t played as much.

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