Thanks to the good people at Fusion Shows, one of five of La Dispute’s “alternative” performances (in the middle of their current tour with The Hotelier and Title fight) made it to Detroit. The band’s intimate Detroit show happened inside the chapel of the iconic Masonic Temple. Real Feels got exclusive access to this gorgeous venue, while all other camera usage was prohibited. If you weren’t there, this is the best coverage you’re going to get.
La Dispute’s team and Fusion Shows were generous enough to give us the opportunity to capture the surreal vibes before the show, as well as La Dispute’s first song of the evening.
Despite the Masonic Temple’s long history of legendary concerts, the chapel has never been used for a concert before La Dispute. We caught venue workers and Fusion staff putting the finishing touches on temporarily converting the hall into a space fit for a rock show. When the doors opened to the eager fans waiting outside, every last face in the crowd was left wide-eyed and slack-jawed. The ancient rafters echoed with oohs and aahs.
Graphic artist & designer, Charlie Wagers, designed and printed a number of beautiful, limited edition posters available for only this show.
During an intermission in their set, La Dispute engaged the audience with a half hour Q&A, which is transcribed below.
Fan: After multiple splits, after multiple number one full lengths, you know I see you guys got a new guitar player, and he wouldn’t stick around if you guys weren’t planning on doing something. So, what is next for La Dispute?
Jordan: Have we had number one albums?
Fan: They’re number one to all of us.
Jordan: Sharp as a tack. Well done. What’s next for us? Well first off, you said we have a new guitar player. This is our friend Corey. Corey is from Providence, Rhode Island. He was playing in a band with some friends of ours called Defeater. When our long time guitar player Kevin decided to pursue other endeavors, Corey was the best dude in the entire world and agreed to come be a part of this, and put himself through hell and high water learning our songs and rehearsing them. Everybody give a round of applause for Corey. As for what’s next, I don’t have like a terribly concrete answer. We’re going to continue being a band for as long as we possibly can. We’re getting an immense amount of satisfaction from doing this, from writing with each other, and from performing. We have some tours in the near future: going to Europe, and hopefully maybe going to South America and some things. At some point we’re going to start writing another record, and at some point also trying to write another “Here, Hear” record. It’s hard to put a timeline on something like that because we do all live, well for the most part, in different places. A couple of us are still in Michigan, one on this side and two on the other, Corey is from Providence and one of us lives in Australia. We’ve gotta figure out how our schedules align in order to really get down to brass tacks with writing, but we have been tinkering with, and then sending some stuff back and forth. So there you go.
Fan: Could you tell us about Helen?
Jordan: It’s just a name. Just a name of a character.
Fan: I’m from Grand Rapids. What is your favorite spot in Grand Rapids to go write some music or just get inspired?
Jordan: Well, Grand Rapids is a remarkable city. There are a lot of fantastic people there. There are a lot of really good things going on so I take, I think all of us really take the bulk of our inspiration from the company we keep and the people that we know. So, I think surrounding yourself with loving people is important. If you’re gonna go to a place, I’d go to the art museum. I just think it’s a great place to empty your head and to just exist in the space. Chad’s got one too. Chad is going to answer this too.
Chad: A different way I once saw the city is to kayak down the Grand River, so I’d suggest that. It’s a side of the city that you will never see otherwise.
Fan: Can I give you a hug?
Jordan: Maybe later. Not right now. There are a lot of people in here.
Fan: I think a thing people agree upon about your band is that it’s very hard to categorize in terms of genre or influence. I’ve been listening to your band for quite a few years. Can you speak about your early years as a band and your influences, musical or not?
Jordan: You’re making me think a long ways back. I don’t have the memory that I used to have. I guess early on when we first started playing we liked bands like At The Drive In, Refused, and post hardcore bands that were prominent at the time. So that’s probably the only early musical influence I think we all shared from that time. We were all very different people. And if you go way, way back it was just the two of us *point to Brad*. I don’t know, what were we listening to? NPR? I don’t know if that answers your question.
Fan: What is the most memorable place you’ve ever performed?
Jordan: You’re in it. We’ve played in some bizarre places. We were talking about it earlier. I can’t even think straight. There are some pretty funny stories from shows we’ve played. We’ve played in an abandoned house with a generator and like 10 kids. That would probably be right up there. That’s probably number two. We’ve played a lot of basements, and a lot of living rooms, and a lot of kitchens; really anywhere with a PA and people, and sometimes places without a PA. One time I sang into the left channel of a headphone set. That was memorable. We’ve played in some really beautiful places too. But, we were all talking today and this is hands down the most incredible place that we’ve ever played, so thanks to everyone at the Masonic Temple.
Fan: I’ve been listening to your stuff for a couple years now and something I’ve noticed is that as you put out more and more stuff, there has been a shift from really in your face instrumentals and vocals to a more low key type of sound with more focus on the narrative. Is that an intentional shift or is that just something that happened?
Jordan: I think that a lot of our band’s evolution comes from the concepts we’ve approached for each record, and I guess each one has kind of led into the next one a little bit. We’ve never once sat down and been like, “We want to be a quieter band” or anything like that. It’s just kind of, we’ve all basically grown as musicians and artists inevitably, and you ingest different things and experience different things and it changes you and it changes the process. But for the most part, I think we’ve just kind of gone project to project and been like, “Hey, this is what we wanna do for Wildlife, so Wildlife has to be this. Then Rooms has to be this.”
Fan: I noticed that when you’re singing, you’re really in the moment. Your eyes are closed. You’ve got your hand going and everything. Do you lose everybody around here and get in a zone? You’re really physically, mentally, spiritually into what you’re doing. It’s easy to tell that from your nonverbals. I’m wondering what you’re feeling while you’re singing?
Jordan: Sheer terror. Honestly, honestly, honestly. I don’t mind you knowing. I enjoy this. I enjoy speaking to people and I’ve always had a good time being on stage. It doesn’t shake the sheer terror, unmitigated fear that I feel singing in front of all of you. It’s meant to be honest. I don’t mind people knowing that we’re spooked. I feel like I’m here with all of you, and it’s great.
Fan: I know that the name of your band comes from a French play called La Dispute. I was just wondering, since your writing style, your poetry and what not, has influenced a great deal of us, what stuff has influenced you? Books, literature, movies, that type of stuff?
Jordan: I kind of have to go record-to-record. “Somewhere” is very much reading Vladimir Nabokov. “Wildlife” was a little of that too. And the newest record is a lot of Don Delillo, who is at present my favorite author. I like Stanley Kubrick movies. I’ve felt all day like I’m in “The Shining”. Why don’t we broaden that to involve everybody to talk about something. Chad do you have anything that influences you as a songwriter?
Chad: Come back to me.
Jordan: Come back to Chad. It’s always come back to Chad.
Brad: Now, this is cool. We were at the cabin writing “Rooms”, and we all had different living zones. Chad was in a converted chicken coop, believe it or not. And yeah, it was cool. There was a lot of interesting sounds around the cabin and one of them was a bird. “Scenes From Highways”. That guitar riff, Chad stole from a bird. It’s true. We did some field recordings and if you go back and listen, there is a bird sample before the song starts and it’s that bird. So, fun fact. And that’s what Chad took influence from. It’s awesome.
Adam: So, I lived in Boston for the last four years. And I went with my friend Tom who played guitar in Hostage Calm. We went to his parents to have a barbecue in Connecticut. His parents had one of those clocks on the wall that every hour on the hour, a different bird’s call went off. And we were just in the kitchen prepping vegetables for the grill and I heard it go off and recognized the melody from the sound. The bird was a morning dove. That was it. And it was completely by chance that I happened to be at Tom’s parents at the right time, and the right bird went off on the clock. Cause nobody knew before, it was just a weird bird in the forest.
Fan: Do you guys have plans to repress “Vancouver” to vinyl?
Jordan: No. No, I’m sorry. It’s a weird thing because like I said previously, well, one, it’s a weird thing because that record came out when I was 17 years old and that’s a long time ago, but the other thing is, it was really only Brad and I in the band. So, it’s kind of strange to have it exist as a part of your back catalog when you didn’t really feel like you were a fully formed entity until Chad and Vass joined. So as of now, I guess I can’t really say, but I don’t know. Now we’re along enough, that doesn’t contain our band, but maybe someday we’ll change our minds and repress it.
Fan: Do you write the instrumentals or vocals first, or together?
Jordan: It depends on the song. It depends on the album. “Wildlife” was mapped out pretty much in its entirety, save for a few exceptions, conceptually. So, that one I had an idea of what I wanted to talk about in each song, how it was structured, and we built songs around that and then I added vocals. And “Rooms Of The House” was pretty much the opposite. I had a loose concept for what I wanted to talk about, but most of the music came first and I wrote to what they were producing and it kind of pushed me in different directions, so it depends really on the project.
Fan: You were saying you have some people in the band that are from Michigan, one from Australia, Are you guys still intertwined with your local music scenes, being that some of you are from different places?
Jordan: Chad, Brad, and I all grew up in Grand Rapids. Adam grew up in Indiana, so not too far, and Corey grew up in Connecticut and lives in Providence now. Yeah, this actually a really good time to talk about if any of you want to come to Grand Rapids in a few days, we’re doing a show like this at a University, a college in Grands Rapids. We’re going to donate all of the proceeds from the show, all the money that we make at the door and what not, to an organization called The DAAC. The Division Avenue Arts Collective. Yeah, so its been for many years our home: hole in the wall that was an all inclusive versatile space for art, for showings, for film viewings, for yoga, whatever. It was open to anyone to be able to use, and we’ve played a lot of our first shows at The DAAC. A couple years ago now, it did get shut down one time because we were over capacity and the fire marshall showed up. And we played a benefit show, and anyway it closed down 1 or 2 years ago. Somebody decided they wanted to turn that space into a more profitable business venture. and the landlord kicked out all his tenants. So, they’ve been looking for a space ever since that and doing some things to try and reopen it. So yeah, we’re doing a thing in Grand Rapids for them and hopefully we’ll get them enough starting capital to find a new place to do that in Grand Rapids, because it’s an incredibly powerful resource.
Fan: So I was in a band with this guy and he bought a brown ampeg from somebody in La Dispute. Who of you was it?
Jordan: He’s not here right now.
Fan: So on all of your albums, what is your absolute favorite one to play live and your favorite song?
Jordan: My favorite song to play live is “Hudsonville, MI 1956”.
Chad: One of my favorites which we don’t get to play as often, that we’re playing later tonight is “Broken Jar”.
Adam: I was thinking about it the other day when we were asked this question and I said “You and I in Unison”. But. having played it last night, I mean we play it every night, but first reaction is “Falling Through the Ice” is also a top contender.
Brad: Yeah, well, Vass and I agreed the other night that it was “You and I” because we get to do some cool drum and bass stuff on that one. Another one that Vass and I get to groove pretty hard, is “Safer In The Forest”.
Corey: My two favorites to play live are “You And I in Unison” and “Hudsonville”.
Fan: From my understanding, some of your lyrics are based on true stories, and your characters based on real people. I wondered if any of those people know they’re subjects of your art?
Jordan: The answer is yes. Some of them do, and then I don’t know past that. But there are people who were in situations that were close to me with people who I still see often, still value, still love. And they’re aware, and then there are people who don’t.
Fan: You guys are, like myself, from the bible belt of Michigan and I feel very, very connected to all your lyrics and everything you guys talk about. So I just wonder how being from west Michigan and the bible belt conservative area of Michigan, how does that influence what you’re talking about in your lyrics?
Jordan: I think the first thing to say is that it goes back to the question previous. It’s about the people around me, so there are definitely specific sensibilities that are unique to the midwest, and to West Michigan, and to Grand Rapids. So, I think some of that shows through in how the characters react to certain situations. “Rooms Of The House” is meant very much to be a home somewhere in the midwest, so it’s definitely something you can’t avoid to think about. From a lyrical standpoint, for all the globe trotting we’ve been able to do, the thing I know best, is the place where I was raised, the people that I know, and the place that I still live. So, a lot of things on “Wildlife” are about the recession and the collapse of the housing market, and there are references to places in Michigan, and Detroit, and elsewhere. So, I think it’s pretty heavily pervaded what I put in on my end. Is there a way to put that into musical terms? Motown. Seriously. Best era of music.
Fan: My question is, what’s the real story behind “King Park”?
Jordan: What is the real story behind “King Park”? That is more or less the real story behind King Park.
Fan: In more than a phrase, can you elaborate on the story a little bit?
Jordan: I can elaborate, I guess, to a degree. It’s, I guess, fairly well known by now because of the song, what had happened. It’s something that happened in close proximity to Brad and I and our parents. Brad and I are cousins, and our family owns a small hardware store in Grand Rapids. It happened when we were working, and it was in the community in which *unintelligible* still exists. So, it was immediately impactful to just kind of watch it make waves through the people in the neighborhood and people that we knew. And some of the people that we worked with at the time were very close to people involved in the story. A lot of that song is about the community reaction, but also about the broader reaction from the community that happened in a predominantly african american neighborhood. It was very discouraging, and frustrating, and maddening to hear the news media coverage of the situation, and hear how a largely white suburban area painted with this stereo based on one instance. So, a lot of it is about race issues, and it’s a thing I don’t think people grasp onto enough. Maybe I didn’t articulate that well enough, but thats really the only elaborating that I can do. There are some that say it’s the full story, but I blended some details to combine other things. And that was the other thing that the song was about. It was about approaching a topic like that in song, so it’s kind of self reflexive.
Fan: What are your least favorite songs to perform live?
Jordan: “Such Small Hands”. Across the board we’d all say “Such Small Hands”.
Fan: You said before this tour that you’d probably never play “The Last Lost Continent” again live but I noticed that you guys have played it a few times. Is it as tiring as you expected it to be?
Jordan: Tiring? Is it tiring for everyone? The thing about the song “Last Lost Continent” is that it’s like 142 minutes long. Like, 141 too many. There are a lot breaks. For me, I’m probably the one who gets affected the most by fatigue. The hard ones are the fast ones with a lot of words, with too many words, like “Harder Harmonies” and “Stay Happy” and songs like that. And that one is long. It’s long enough that you can take a nap during it.
Fan: First of all, I love you. But, will I ever hear anything from “Vancouver Live” again? It’s not gonna be disappointing if you say no.
Jordan: No. It’s nothing against anyone who likes that record. It’s not that we don’t. It’s a part of our history. It’s really, it was only two of us, so it seems kind of disingenuous to perform those songs to a degree.
Fan: What inspired the “Here, Hear” records?
Jordan: Years ago, we were putting out a 7” and we pressed 500 copies, and we wanted to do something with the first 100 preorders to supplement and to encourage people to go out and buy it. And we kind of brainstormed for a while and bounced some ideas back and forth and settled on what became “Here, Hear”. We decided that we’d have each instrumentalist would write and record a song and then I would put something over top of it that was influencing me at the time. So, the first one we did on a mini CDR, we spray painted the cover and the stencils, and we folded all the packages ourself, and we were talking about this the other day. I think Brad is the only one who still has a copy of it in our band. I don’t know where mine went. Yeah that’s how it started and we decided that we’d do another one, and a third, and eventually a fourth. The only thing that has really changed is the first two were ones in which I put other writers over top of the songs and we decided after doing that they were better suited to have actual original material. There was this unfortunate fallout from a lack of foresight. You print in the lyrics credit, and you decide that you want other people to read these things because they’ve benefited you or inspired you in a way, so it’s like “Hey, let’s put this on there and say who it is and maybe someone will go read Still Life With Woodpecker or read these comics or whatever” but then those things exist physically and then they get downloaded onto the internet and distributed widely and there is this weird unintended consequence of people believing that we were trying to pawn those off as my own writing, because you don’t think of those kind of things. The internet! What’s that? So yeah, I think in the future it will continue to be like “Here, Hear” 3, and maybe switch the process up a little bit and collaborate or something. We’ll see.
Nate Dorough: Are the Tigers going to win the world series?
Jordan: That’s a heavy hitting question. I sure hope so because that window is closing. It’s dependent on some things. We’ll talk after this.
Fan: Do any of you ever go back and listen to the old records? And if you do, how does it make you feel? And if you don’t, is there a reason you don’t?
Jordan: I have to whenever we go on tour because I have to remember the 9 million words that I wrote for some reason. I don’t really ever go back, honestly. As for why? I’ve heard them. Let’s pass it around. This is a group dialogue.
Chad: Definitely, it’s a thing going through the recording process when you hear things hundreds and hundreds, and possibly thousands of times. I think sometimes going through that process which is fun and also can be pretty agonizing, and you hear things over and over and over is sometimes really gratifying to just let it go. But I also think its really nice after that period to just sit down and listen to it. I can’t say the last time I’ve done it. But even like after we recorded “Rooms Of The House” I was going to wait until I could the actual pressing on vinyl, put it on my player, listen to the record how I listen to a record and for the most part that happened. And I hadn’t heard one of the songs until that point. But thats the way that I wanted to hear it. Yeah, I recorded the song but I hadn’t heard it with any vocals on it until we played for a show about a year ago in Kingston where I played that song and I had to remember it.
Adam: Every once in a while I’ll go and listen to one of our records just so I remember all the things that we did in the studio that we don’t replicate live, like little keyboard parts and the little treats that are scattered across the records. And I have a different appreciation for those moments from having played them live a hundred thousand times. So, I can find things that I enjoy listening to that I kind of forget about and then am reminded when I listen. And I’ve also found myself, on this tour especially, but in the last few months going back and listening to a lot of songs that got cut, or got rearranged, or demos that never became anything, and I totally forgot we ever wrote. I’ll listen to and be like, “That riff is sick. I wonder now if I can do anything with that riff for something in the future to repurpose that.”
Brad: I think going back and using it as a blueprint, kind of checking yourself as musicians to where the song needs to be is important. It’s usually before tour, I’ll listen through the songs were gonna do and kind of check the tempos out and maybe we’re playing the song way too fast lately. So, I’ll try to be conscious of just pulling it back. Just things like that; just as a self check system. But, as far as when we’re doing the record. Will and I sent mixes back and forth for like a month, and after that was finished, I probably didn’t listen to it for a long, long time because i’d heard every song way more times than I would’ve liked to.
Corey: I obviously didn’t write any of the records or record them, but as far the older material, I remember meeting these guys probably really briefly at either Fest or South By, maybe in like 2009, and when I was playing in Defeater. Then we ended up touring with them, so I had to learn a ton of songs to get ready to play with this band. But listening to those where I am now, I would say I like “Wildlife” and “Rooms”. I prefer them over the old stuff. But that record holds such a place in my heard because that’s when I met these guys and when they became my great friends. So those songs kind of encapsulated that time for me, and I think when I get to listen to them sometimes I think, “Ugh, I have to learn this riff.” But then I hear the song and I’m like, “Man”. Also from an outsider perspective, being able to see how far they’ve come as musicians and that I get to be a part of that, but also knowing how far we actually go back as people and as friends, the first record holds that special place for me. So, I mean, I didn’t write any of that, but it is cool the rare times I go back and listen to it because I get to have that experience with it in which none of these guys do.