By combining post-hardcore with heavily literary-influenced lyrics, La Dispute has earned an avid fanbase since making their debut in 2004. Getting their start on the DIY scene, the band has remained in touch with those ethics, which is evident by the release of their third full-length studio album, Rooms Of The House, last March on their own label, Better Living (with the help of Staple Records). The group is hitting the road once again for a co-headlining stint alongside Title Fight with support from The Hotelier, but before setting out, vocalist Jordan Dreyer took the time to talk to about the story behind the video for “Woman (Reading),” what authors he’s currently enjoying, and staying in touch with where they come from.
So La Dispute is about to embark on a co-headlining tour with Title Fight. Have you worked with them before?
Yeah actually, they’re some of our very closest friends. We did a European tour with them a couple years ago and it was great, so we’ve been kind of trying to find the time to make it happen again. And we finally did, which is exciting.
Along with the tour, a series of “seated alternative shows” were announced. What will these consist of, and how did this idea come about?
It first came about when we did a show at a church as a benefit, as a way to expand our live performance and try something new for ourselves. We did a quiet, seated show and played a lot of our more withdrawn, subdued songs; some things we don’t play very often, or some things we had never played live, and then did a question and answer with the audience. It was really rewarding and fun, and it went better than we had expected. We were all kind of nervous, which is funny because we’re so used to playing shows, but it was a different thing, so everybody had butterflies. But after that experience, we decided that we wanted to do it again and play some more intimate shows for people.
The band has a strong DIY background. Do you feel like your roots in this scene still affects you?
Definitely. I think, I guess you could call it “formative years” although really any year you exist is a formative year because you’re always growing, but we were pretty immersed in the DIY scene in the Midwest in particular, playing basement shows and whatnot. I think that still affects how we operate, both musically and from a business standpoint. We’re very particular about maintaining control over our music and our work, and that’s translated into every aspect of being a creative entity. I think everyone would say that same thing, as it’s something that we still feel very connected to and in debt to. All of the proceeds from one of the seated shows we’re doing is going to an arts cooperative that lost its space a couple of years ago. It’s still an important part of us and we still try to support it as best we can.
Are there any bands coming out of the Grand Rapids scene that you’re currently into?
There’s so many people in Grand Rapids doing great things, it’s hard to name one. There’s a really great interconnected DIY scene of house shows and small venues that is flourishing more than it ever has, at least in the last 10 or 15 years of my life that I’ve been aware of its existence. There’s a really good folk scene, a really good punk scene, and a really good hardcore scene… There are just a lot of really great bands.
Rooms Of The House was released about a year ago now. Any new music in the works?
There isn’t anything super concrete. We live in different places so it’s a little hard for us to hammer out something. When we did Rooms Of The House, we all flew back into our hometown and holed up in a cabin for five weeks so we could really focus on it. But we always stay connected and everyone’s very active in what they do. There’s a lot of internet collaboration, like sending files back and forth to each other to try and really find songs for a new project, so hopefully we’ll start something a little more concrete in the near future.
A key characteristic of La Dispute are the poetic lyrics. What authors affect your writing?
It depends on the time in my life that you ask me. In the past, I would have probably said a lot of Kurt Vonnegut and a lot Vladimir Nabokov for previous records. Rooms Of The House was mostly derivative of my favorite author at present, Don DeLillo, so it was kind of an awesome convergence of my own experiences and finding myself in the middle of seeing my ideas fleshed out. But I would say Don DeLillo right now is my primary literary influence, but there’s so much good literature in the world it’s hard to pick out one single writer in the list of people who affect me.
What have you been reading lately?
I’ve been reading a lot of essays and it’s been really rewarding. I’ve always been a fiction person but I’ve been trying to immerse myself more in other genres. I haven’t really yet sat down and tackled a full piece of non-fiction, but I’m reading a lot. There’s a lot of incredible writing being published in these areas, so it’s kind of hard to sort through it all but I’ve been trying. But there’s a writer for the New Yorker named Teju Cole who I really like.
La Dispute released a very artistic video for “Woman (Reading)” a couple months back. What sparked the idea for this, and why choose this song?
I think that there’s a tendency to pigeonhole bands who play a more aggressive style, so we wanted to push for something that would show a different side of us as people and as musicians. And I think that we also really liked the song, which made it kind of easy because everyone has their favorites that they particularly enjoy off the record, so we wanted to do one of those. Our very initial impulse was that we wanted to work with a performance artist of some sort and try to collaborate between two different mediums, so we started talking to Niall Coffey, who was the director, and when he shot the video he auditioned a bunch of dancers, and that’s kind of how it all came to fruition.
Are there any plans to put out more videos from Rooms Of The House?
Not in the immediate future. We had never really done a video until this record, and it was a lot of fun to collaborate across mediums with such talented people. I think when we have the new record out we would focus more on that. It’s really been interesting to see the medium [of music videos] flourish again. Growing up in the decade I did it, watching music videos late at night, like the ones they couldn’t show during the day, was a such an integral part of my life. It’s cool to see people making really powerful videos. That Sia video for “Elastic Heart” is a real affirmation that it’s a powerful medium.
What are the band’s plans for after this tour?
We’re working on putting together a short European run from the end of spring to early summer. There’s one show lined up with Fucked Up in London which should be a lot of fun. We’re also trying to make our way more into Eastern Europe which we haven’t done in a long time, save for going to Russia this last tour cycle, so we’re trying to go places that we haven’t yet been. It’s been a big talk lately amongst ourselves and all the people involved in making our band happen because we don’t tour as often as we used to, so we’re trying to seize every opportunity to go somewhere interesting and cool or go to a place where people have not had the opportunity yet to see us. And then I guess after that probably writing.
La Dispute will be performing at Union Transfer in Philadelphia on March 26 and Webster Hall in New York City on March 27 as part of a co-headlining tour with Title Fight and The Hotelier. For more information, go to ladisputemusic.com.