April is upon us and spring is in the air bringing with it sunlight, budding plants and blooming flowers, hiking, and most importantly, Dopapod’s Spring Tour! Kicking off with three nights in Denver, one of Music Vibes favorites, Dopapod, will soon be playing weekend double headers all along the East Coast making extended stops in Denver (CO), Columbus (OH), Ashville (NC), Philadelphia (PA), and Cambridge (MA). Philly get ready to groove to some weird funky jams and witness incredible improvisations on April 22nd and 23rd at the Theatre of Living Arts! This series of performances is not to be missed as it is sure to be one of the concert highlights of Spring 2016.
Long-time fans of Dopapod, The Music Vibes has traveled all over the East Coast catching live performances dating back to before the website officially started in 2012. From performances at the Highline Ballroom and B.B. Kings in New York City, Phildelphia’s Trocadero and The Blockley (dearly missed but never forgotten), to more intimate venues such as the Stanhope House in NJ, summer festival runs at Catskill Chill and Gathering of the Vibes, the band has always managed to exceed our music expectations. Not only are the band members exceptional musicians, they are also really friendly and chill guys. Fond memories of Catskill Chill 2014 when Dopapod hosted a pancake breakfast for the Chillfam. Rob Compa serenaded us on his guitar as the rest of the band served pancakes to some really hungry fans (best pancakes if you ask me!) Check out the footage from The Music Vibes’ festival recap (Catskill Chill 2014 Recap Video – featuring Rob Compa on acoustic).
The Music Vibes has once again been honored to have had the opportunity to interview Dopapod’s guitarist, Rob Compa, and got the scoop on their music, the Spring Tour, food preferences, fond memories, and their big plans for 2016:
The Music Vibes (TMV): You’re kicking off your upcoming Spring Tour with three nights in Denver- what significance does this location have to you? What are your thoughts on Denver’s music scene?
Rob Compa (RC): I don’t have much personal history with Denver, except that our sound and lighting guy, Luke Stratton, lives there. It’s a great town. I’ve heard it called a “jam band amusement park” before. There’re great bands playing all over the city on any given night. You just need to pick which ride you want to go on and hand over your ticket. It has an amazing music scene.
TMV: Do you feel that using visuals and lights enhances the experience of your live performances? How much say do you have in this process?
RC: Yes, so, so, so incalculably much. I’m not a very visually creative person, so when I’m at a show the light show doesn’t affect me nearly as much as the music or seeing the band interact. It’s just not something I think about. But I’m well aware of how much the average person really enjoys it, and there’s been plenty of times after our shows where someone has said “Good show… AMAZING LIGHTS!” I’m totally ok with that. As long as they come back again, it doesn’t matter why to me. We pretty much just let Luke do whatever he wants. Most of the time I don’t even notice what the lights are doing while we’re playing, because I’m pretty focused on my own job.
TMV: What is your favorite piece of equipment and/or instrument? What was your first instrument?
RC: I only own two guitars, and they’re both equally important to me. The first is a Paul Reed Smith Hollow Body II, which I’ve had since 2005. The other is a Gibson CS-336, which I’ve had about a year. They both sound terrific for different reasons. The PRS is really bright and even achieves Fenderish sounds really well, and the Gibson is really fat, and Bass-y. My first guitar was a Hohner Rockwood Pro that my dad bought me for Christmas when I was in the 7th grade. I covered it in Star Wars stickers and sold it a few years later.
TMV: Would you say that your time spent at Berklee has significantly influenced your music? If so, in what ways? How does playing with classically trained musicians compare to playing with self-taught or ear trained musicians?
RC: Yes, for sure. Mostly in good ways, but sometimes in bad ways too. On the positive side, we’ve all been through tons of ear training and harmony classes, so when we improvise we’re really tuned in to each other and can hear a lot of little details. We can also write and improvise music that gets a little more exotic and unpredictable. On the negative side, though, it’s kind of hard for us to write a simple, four chord song that’s catchy. I guess we just get a little antsy.
RC: I don’t think the difference between playing with people who are trained vs. self taught is as huge as one might think. A great player is a great player; it doesn’t really matter what means to them achieving their abilities was. Whoever I’m playing with, though, I always remind myself that we’re playing WITH each other, not AT each other. Just listen and try to make each other comfortable, while still pushing each other a little bit.
TMV: Going back to you Bostonian roots, do you still have a relationship with Jazz Revelation Records? If so, what it is the nature of this relationship today?
RC: Na. Jazz Revelation Records was just a student run label at Berklee that would release a compilation of what some of the more jazz based students were doing every year. We’re on one of those compilation albums. We were a bit more jazzy back then in some ways, but really more funk than anything else I guess. I remember feeling as if some of the more serious jazz kids at the school were scratching their heads a little bit about how we ended up on the thing. And since we’ve been out of school for a good 7 or 8 years now, I think we’re disqualified at this point, hahaha.
TMV: One element of your live performances that really stands out is your improvisations- how do these come about? Where do you draw inspiration for your impromptu solos?
RC: Improvising is just my favorite way to make music, period. I think we all feel that way. It’s just really fun and natural for us. We don’t really practice doing it together much. We just get up there and go for it. I think we draw a lot of inspiration from whatever we’re listening to on any given day. I also definitely try to open my ears to what the rest of the band is playing whenever I’m in a solo and I am feeling like I don’t have any ideas.
TMV: How do you guys communicate on stage? Do you use signing?
RC: Yeah sort of. It’s pretty organic, though. We don’t talk about it much. We just use signals that we know the other guys will understand. For example, we’ll hold up 3 fingers if we want to change to a III chord in a jam. Or if we’re in a major key and want to switch minor, someone will make a frowny face. Some of the best cues are just in what you’re playing, though. If one of us wants to take something somewhere, there are some good ways to allude to where you’re trying to make it do to set it up for everyone else and make it apparent to them what you’re trying to make happen without it sounding forced.
TMV: What are some of your favorite songs to perform live at this time?
RC: I really like this new one of ours called “Weedie.” We named it after Weedie, the percussionist of the band the Nth Power. It’s just a short, three or four minute song that’s really fun to play.
TMV: How did starting the year off sharing the stage with Turkuaz and Kung Fu feel?
RC: It felt great! They’re some of our best friends in the world.
TMV: What have been some of your favorite on stage collaborations?
RC: I really love when any of the guys from Aqueous have sat in with us. They’re great players. We’ve had some really great collaborations with Russ Lawton and Ray Pacskowzki from Soul Monde and the Trey Anastasio Band, too. They’re amazing players and really nice dudes.
TMV: Did you jam while touring with the Nth Power? I understand that they have a strong belief in the power of music for making the world a better place . . . How has music enhanced your own lives and what impact do you hope your music has on your audiences?
RC: Yeah, we did a ton of sit-ins. Some of the funniest stuff just happened backstage, with all of them showing us cool stuff on our instruments. One night in Denver, I got up at an open jam to play with Nikki Glaspie and some other people, and I had basically no clue how to play the song they called out. That was a little scary! It was good for me, though.
TMV: How do you prefer to travel and do you write while on the road?
RC: I would prefer to travel in a nice comfy tour bus like lots of our friends are able to…. If there are any rich investors out there that wanna hook it up… 😉 No really though… we travel in a crappy, smelly Chevy Van, and we all hate it, but if we’re gonna get a tour bus we all want to get it through good, honest hard work.
RC: I don’t write much on the road, but Eli writes all the time. He usually does it on his laptop.
TMV: Do you have any funny road stories you want to share? What are some of the wildest things you have experienced while on the road?
RC: Ya know, there’s a ton of great stories, but every time someone asks me to share one I completely blank.
TMV: Where did you get the idea for the Dopapod logo?
RC: Luke, our lighting/sound guy made it.
TMV: Do you have any other favorite palindromes?
RC: Na. Eli’s all about the palindromes. I just kinda go with it.
TMV: Any token Philly memories?
RC: One time, right after we had all moved out of Boston and left school/quit our jobs, we all lived at Eli’s parents’ house for about 3 months and just wrote songs and hibernated, basically. We booked a show at a tiny place in Philly towards the end to debut the new songs. I just remember being afraid that people had forgotten about us while we’d been off the road, and being totally relieved when people still showed up.
TMV: Is there anything you consider special or distinctive about your Philly fan base? Anything that stands out about East Coast fans?
RC: East coast fans, particularly the northeast ones, are really just in it for the long haul. They’re there for you, rain or shine. It’s great. Philly’s been an interesting town because a lot of kids seem to really love the electronic thing. With a few exceptions, we mostly don’t really do that, as much as people tend to bill us as jamtronica (which baffles us a little bit). Because of that, I think it took a little longer for us to develop a following in Philly. Like anything else, though, the things that you acquire with the most difficulty are usually the things that are most precious to you, and we really feel that with our Philly fans.
TMV: While on the road, what are your favorite food stops?
RC: There’s a really great cajun restaurant in Lexington, KY called Bourbon and Toulouse that I absolutely have to go to whenever we’re in town.
TMV: Any favorite restaurants in Philadelphia? If you have time you should check out the Front Street Cafe in Fishtown- they have all vegetarian and vegan options and delicious smoothies!
RC: Will do! I like North Bowl. The vegetarian chicken wings are great.
TMV: If you could record a soundtrack to any video game- which would you choose?
TMV: What inspired you to begin adding more vocals to your music? Here’s a classical question…What comes first, the lyrics or the music? How do the two aspects inspire one another and connect?
RC: We just got bored with our formula and wanted to challenge ourselves a little more. Usually the music comes first, but sometimes writing the lyrics first yields some really interesting stuff.
TMV: You’ve spoken very positively about your time spent with Jason “Jocko” Randall, who both engineered and produced Never Odd or Even. Can we expect further involvement?
RC: Absolutely! We’re scheduled to start the next album with Jocko in early May. We can’t wait!
TMV: Do you guys have a typical process you go through in composing your music?
RC: Na, it can go any number of ways. I think it’s good to write as much stuff as you can before you get into rehearsal, so that way you have a ton of Legos lying around that you can build cool shit with. I like it when one or two of us brainstorm and work on stuff, and then we all get into rehearsal together and make something with all the pieces.
TMV: Can you give us a sneak peak or any insider information on any new music you will be working on after your spring tour? Do you have anything in mind yet?
RC: It’s looking like it’ll be a bit more conceptual this time. How much or how little, we don’t know yet. But it’s shaping up pretty well so far. That’s all I wanna say.
TMV: What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
RC: Just go for it and don’t have a back up plan. Put everything you have into it. And be okay with making crazy decisions that won’t make you much money. Just go out there and have fun, play it smart, be strategic, and don’t ever give up. And most importantly, don’t be a dick. Be nice. To everybody.
TMV: What are some of the things you guys are looking forward to in 2016? Any New Year’s resolutions?
RC: I just want to have fun, be happy and enjoy having my dream job. I don’t want to be jaded or ungrateful for what we get to do for a living, because it’s pretty incredible.
So there you heard it – not only do we have the upcoming east coast performances to look forward to, but also Dopapod’s new album with a more conceptual spin. Just throwing this out there- if anyone has any connections to someone in the tour bus industry- let’s help our musicians out! Even if we might not be able to hook them up with a fancy tour bus quite yet, we can be sure to support some of our favorite musicians by joining them for their upcoming concerts on the east coast! Dopapod throws one heck of a thrilling musical bash and this performance will be no exception. So be sure to join The Music Vibes for some dancing and good times at the Theatre of Living Arts on April 22rd and 23th !
For the complete list of Dopapod’s Spring 2016 Tour stops, see below . . .
Interview by Rebecca Wolfe
Article by Rebecca Wolfe
Dopapod Spring Tour 2016
- MAR 31 – APR 2 DENVER, CO BLUEBIRD THEATER
- APR 5 MILWAUKEE, WI MIRIMAR THEATRE
- APR 6 LOUIS, MO THE OLD ROCK HOUSE
- APR 7 BLOOMINGTON, IN THE BLUEBIRD
- APR 8 – APR 9 COLUMBUS, OH PARK STREET SALOON
- APR 12 CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA SOUTHERN MUSIC HALL
- APR 13 CHARLOTTE, NC THE RABBIT HOLE
- APR 14 CHARLESTON SC CHARLESTON POURHOUSE
- APR 15 – APR 16 ASHEVILLE, NC NEW MOUNTAIN THEATRE
- APR 17 RALEIGH, NC LINCOLN THEATRE
- APR 20 BUFFALO, NY BUFFALO IRON WORKS
- APR 21 PITTSBURGH, PA REX THEATER
- APR 22 – APR 23 PHILADELPHIA, PA THEATER OF LIVING ARTS
- APR 26 SYRACUSE, NY THE WESCOTT THEATER
- APR 27 KINGSTON, NY BSP KINGSTON
- APR 28 – APR 30 CAMBRIDGE, MA THE SINCLAIR
For more information on Dopapod, check out their. . .
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