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Counting down the days till La Dispute drop their fourth LP? We got you fam.
MORE: DOWNLOAD AUSTRALIA: Open The Gates Of Hell In Its Sydney Debut // MORE: The Amity Affliction: Bringing Misery Home REVIEWS: LA DISPUTE: Panorama // FALLUJAH: Undying Light // CHILDREN OF BODOM: Hexed // IN FLAMES: I, The Mask
The Michigan-based post-hardcore troupe is on the verge of their massive release of Panorama. To get the low-down, we caught up with La Dispute resident yeller Jordan Dreyer to chat about new music, lyrical inspiration and all things in between.
Hysteria: Panorama is your first album in four years. There can be so much pressure on musicians to consistently be pumping out work; did you feel any of that pressure personally?
Jordan: I think we’ve been fortunate to have an audience that is patient and exceedingly loyal and dedicated. We’ve always been able to operate on our own time schedule. Beyond that, we’ve always been very cautious about feeding into outside pressure of any sort. I think if we tried too hard to adhere to any sort of schedule for a release we’d compromise the end product. Also, I think it’s worth noting that we have a lot of logistical hurdles to jump through, we all live in different places so it’s difficult to get together regularly, we’ve got to take some time off in between things so we can all go home and be with family. So sure we felt pressure when we started but it wasn’t like we were sitting down, trying to write music so that people wouldn’t forget that we exist.
We’ve heard the record was inspired by a drive you’d take with your partner. Can you run us through how that drive really influenced this album in a little more detail?
My partner and I would drive to Lowell, Michigan many times a week. She’s from that area so I would hear a lot of stories about people along the way when we would pass notable landmarks. We’d take these drives regularly and I’d hear these stories so every time we would take the drive again it would remind me of its presence. The ideas sort of incubated in me with these stories attached, that’s kind of always been the initial impulse for records that we’ve done- just hearing a story, at least from a lyrical standpoint in my head.
With these drives I’d think about these people and the way that they grew outward and the fact that other people in the community had affected my partner in the past, or her family or someone she knew. As we drove further out of a town that was populated enough that these things get lost in the noise, it was easier to draw connections to the people that were tangibly affected by them. So that sat with me for a long time and it burrowed into my head and when I went to start writing, those were the themes that I thought of.
Lyrically Panorama feels a little more personal than past releases. Did that close link pose any difficulties that you didn’t come across previously?
Yes and no. I think it would be silly of me to suggest that it didn’t, I had a difficult time completing this record. With these things being so close to me and the people in close proximity emotionally and physically to me… I held myself to a higher standard and was more scrutinous of what I was doing. I think subconsciously I put myself through the ringer editing because it was important for me to be careful about what I was saying. I think death is a complicated topic and grief is a difficult thing to conceive if you’ve felt it directly or, if like me, you’ve felt very little of it.
There was definitely a standard I held myself to and an anxiety I felt about being true to people’s lives and deaths.
Does it ever get too much, writing about subject matter that’s as heavy as death?
I don’t know. Maybe, yes. When you’re writing you’re so focused on doing the best that you can and about contributing to something that’s valuable, not only to you but also to the people that are making it with you. It’s the way that you sort of lose the forest for the trees and you disconnect. As far as performing things, there’s always a period of time where it’s a bit difficult but over the years it’s gotten me to compartmentalise. In a live environment it’s not necessarily about what I’m saying or the stories that populate the songs that we’ve written so much as it’s about feeling the emotional energy from people that have connected with what you’ve done. It becomes more visceral and you feel it more than you think about it.
I don’t have any regrets. I think we spent two months on that stuff and we all had it in the back of our heads that it wasn’t working. The best decision that we made was to start over.
What was it like working in tandem with Will Yip?
It was great [laughs]. Will is an enormous talent and one of his most admirable strengths is getting in tune with people’s personalities. He knows us very well, we didn’t just make a record with him, we’re also really close friends with him. Will is a person I speak to often, he’s one of my best buds. He really knows what each person needs and what each project needs. He zeroes in on that and he throws himself into it 110% and commits himself totally to helping you realise your vision. We are not the easiest people in the world to work with because we’re very particular; we have a lot of idiosyncrasies—each of us and collectively as a whole. We asked a lot of Will and he answered the call and beyond. It was really fun, we had all these ideas and we didn’t have as much time as we had in the past because we started the record and then we scrapped it and started over. We kind of just took every creative whim and indulged it and Will let us do it. We threw a bunch of shit at the wall and saw what stuck and it was fun and difficult at the same time. I think the best times in the history of our band have been when we saw an obstacle and got over it though. I don’t think we could have done it with anybody but Will this time around.
As you touched on before, at the time of the records creation, only three members of the band actually lived in Michigan. What challenges did that bring and how did you overcome them?
You can write songs over the internet and you can send files back and forth and you can get something out of that but I feel like there’s some ways you aren’t able to connect with each other on a creative level if you’re not in the same room. The obvious for me is trying to find a way to get together, from not only different cities and states but a whole different continent. When you can get together, you only have so much time, so we all blocked off three months when we were all going to be in Grand Rapids. One of my band mates actually lives in Australia, so he was going to be in the states so we blocked off some time and I think having that three month window to write presented its own anxieties and that was a whole different thing we had to overcome.
When you sit down and you’re working nine to five and days and weeks go by and you’re not making much progress you start looking at the calendar and realising how little time you have left and you start to feel more anxious. People being away from home is hard, not having your bed to go sleep in at the end of the night can be taxing emotionally and physically. There are a lot of things and I feel like a lot of that is what made it difficult for us. In the time we spent in between records, apart from each and touring we had to relearn how to do it.
We’ve heard that almost a full record of material was scrapped in the process of Panorama being made. Any regrets about that?
I don’t have any regrets. I think we spent two months on that stuff and we all had it in the back of our heads that it wasn’t working. The best decision that we made was to start over. After working for two months, we all sat down and had an honest conversation with each other about what wasn’t working and about what we wanted out of this record. It got us all on the same page and it helped us to realise the direction that we wanted to go collectively. That was a brand new start; there was this brand new excitement. We wrote Rooms of the House, recorded it and then took all this time off and then we went back and I think we started to try make Rooms of the House Part two. We were leaning on some of the same strategies and ideas we had when making that record and we really needed to be less analytical and less structured and go by instinct. It kind of made me go back to the way we wrote songs when we first started making music together.
Were there any changes with your writing process on this record?
You can’t ever go back exactly to how it was when you started, there’s a level of recklessness that you have when you don’t know what you’re doing. I think it was a cool synthesis of how we wrote Rooms of the House and how we wrote earlier records. I think we’ve all grown a lot over the years, playing music and consuming art and being around people that inspire us. I think everyone’s process has changed over the years, but on a base level I think it was just about trusting our instincts.
Have your sources of inspiration changed over the years?
Oh man, I don’t think about it as often as I should but the cool thing about having spent the last ten or so years in a creative field, and around other creative people is always swimming around in their work and inspirations. It really introduces you to new things…it’s a very communal thing. I think that everyone’s influences and inspirations change. It’s a fun thing to play music and surround yourself with art because you learn so much and you learn from the people that inspire you. I’m rambling now though! (laughs).
A lot of structural change has taken place around the band over the years including changes in record labels. What was it like debuting this record as the first with Epitaph?
It was cool. I’ve always been fairly hesitant to relinquish control and to involve too many people. When we were making this record we felt like it was time to try new things and more openly embrace collaboration with people. We talked to Epitaph briefly during Rooms of the House and we circled back to that and it became very apparent that they had our best interests in mind and they were operating on a level that we felt comfortable with ethically. It felt like they wanted to help us make something and to help us have people hear it. It’s been really exciting to be in new territory in that regard and to have them in our court helping us.
So we know you’ve just visited Australia but can we expect to see you back any time soon, playing some of these new tracks?
Definitely! I’m not sure when exactly but it’ll be in the not too distant future.