Members: Rob Compa, Eli Winderman, Chuck Jones, Neal “Fro” Evans
Interviewees: Eli Winderman, Rob Compa
Occupations: Keyboardist, vocalist (Eli Winderman), guitarist, vocalist (Rob Compa), bassist (Chuck Jones), drummer (Neal “Fro” Evans)
Current release: Dopapod's new single "Black Holes" is out now. The band's self-titled full-length is slated for release on 5.27.2022. The latter will come in a variety of merch bundles, some including a board game.
Rob: I haven't read it in forever but a book that meant a lot to me, that I feel like everybody should read is Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. It’s not very committal, it’s pretty short. It just gives you some perspective on what happiness and contentment really is. It almost feels like real happiness isn't necessarily being “happy,” it's being happy with however you feel or whatever it is you're going through. It's not all the time.
An album that should be one of the best albums ever, but isn't widely known to be is Quebec by Ween. I feel like that's a really important piece of musical art. Ween don't even like that album that much. They think it's too depressing. Quebec sort of starts as a joke. And it ends up being very serious. The last couple of tracks on that album are heavy. It is a total emotional spectrum from the most irreverent shit you've ever heard, to being very funny, back to being contemplative and very serious.
If you enjoyed this interview with Dopapod and would like to know more about the band, visit their official website. They're also on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Eli: I started playing piano at the age of 6, because my mom’s friend was a piano teacher. It was an unexplainable attraction, but I just knew I loved it. My teachers would tell me I had a knack for it and a good ear, so I continued playing, but quickly got interested in other instruments like guitar, bass, and drums. I remember seeing a rock band play in my elementary school one time and remember it being extremely attractive and interesting to me.
Nirvana got me super obsessed with music. I was really into them, I was also into System of a Down, Slipknot, and I was really obsessed with Tool. My friend had a Tool album, and at first I tried to listen to it and I wanted to like it, but I just didn't at all. I got a little older and then it kind of struck a chord with me eventually.
My mom actually bought me Nirvana’s Nevermind CD, and I don't know what made her do that. Even now when I listen to that, it’s amazing songwriting, almost a continuation of the Beatles. It’s incredible, and simple but so rich. The harmony and melodies are very Beatles-like. You can feel the pain and the hurt, I think I was definitely hurting at that time of my life. I think having a voice for me to agree with was a powerful thing.
Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?
Eli: I love being pleasantly surprised by music. The moments that make me go “oooo what is THAT?!” – that’s always the thing that strikes the dopamine spot in my brain. I feel like I’m equally stricken by the groove and the melodic / harmonic content. Lyrics are usually way later on but if they’re interesting and make me think then I’m doubly sold on a piece of music.
I think that, being at this point in my life, I’ve over-analyzed everything three times over. I’m back now where I have to try to turn on the part of my brain where I’m just a fan. Where I’m just listening. I have a hard time because I feel like I’ve trained my ears to the point where I can pretty much identify any chord. If I hear a chord, I say “ooo what’s that?” And I’m figuring out how to tap out of that way of thinking. It’s a skill in its own right, to be able to forget everything and accept what the music is doing, and just be a fan.
That's why I like modern trap music and modern electronic hip hop music. The choices made in the music, the sounds, it’s crazy. Making stuff without knowing the rules. I think I'm getting better at tapping into how music is making me feel. I'm my worst critic, by far, but you just have to get out of your own opinions, and just let your body and your mind feel it. And don't overanalyze, don’t overthink it.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
Eli: I’ve always been interested in trying to make something that is completely unique to me and my band, but at the same time balancing that with music that people can enjoy and actually want to listen to. Finding the balance of something “new / different” but generally accepted by people is what I’m striving for. With that I think I consciously combine elements of music I like with each other looking for special concoctions that end up coming out as some unique sound, hopefully.
When we started, I was young and crazy. I feel like the stuff that I wrote was me trying to be like, “look how good I am. Look at how fast this is. Look how crazy this is.” The older I get, I focus more on having the motivation to work hard. You have to just keep working hard through distractions, and not worry about if these people like or dislike it.
I think the priorities now for me, more than anything, are keeping everyone in my band satisfied as much as possible, and really hearing everyone, and what they want. And to try to make new music that we're all genuinely pumped about. When that happens, it's the biggest log on the fire.
We just went through this in the past week, writing as a group, and creating something new. When you play it in front of all these people that are already your fans, they have expectations of who you are. You don’t want to care about it, but you also want to give people a good show. They paid money to be there. They made plans with the babysitters, and figured out travel. You don’t want to disappoint people, but our true fans really do want to see us be in that uncomfortable position of playing something new. It's exciting for them.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
Eli: On the last point, I generally enjoy / have more respect for music that is hard to compare to many other things. When I hear music that sounds like no one else, but it strikes the nerve of music I already love, it instantly turns my head and piqures my interest. I definitely have different listening habits for different moods though. My range goes from jazz to metal to bluegrass to electronic and all over from there. I think groove is my most important factor with music then a close second would be melodic / harmonic content.
I’ve noticed that I can get bored as shit at a concert, if it's the same thing over and over. A lot of concerts can be like that. I've always just really been into the range that is possible within one band, and being able to have multiple different aspects of your game, like a basketball player who can shoot the three, who can drive and also pass. It's so impressive, and it fills me with this feeling that anything’s possible. It inspires me to develop other parts of my game.
The band is like a Megazord analogy. Based on our influences and where we all come from, there should be no reason that we’re in a band together. If it was up to Neal and Chuck, they would be in a heavy band doing heavy rock shit. If it was up to Rob, he’s more of a songwriter and guitar player, first and foremost. He writes music that is very thought provoking singer-songwriter material, like what we all went through in the span of growing up. I think we’ve had similar experiences that were painful. And through that, music was our way of processing things, and using it in a positive way, to uplift us.
We improvise a lot. No matter what you improvise, you're going to be up on a tightrope in front of people watching, there's going to be moments where you say, “what are we doing?” But then through that, you work through that uncomfortable feeling. And you get to this place, this moment that would never exist otherwise if we had never pushed through that area of uncertainty.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Eli: To be one of one, for better or worse. And to try and make people feel good by trying to make myself feel good.
For us, we're not really writing love songs for the most part. There's a lot of themes of being in the present moment, I think that’s a main theme for everyone. It’s almost like self-help work in a way, being present.
Look at Buddhism or other religions, if you’re thinking about the future or the past, either way you are harming yourself. All you can really do is be in the present. I think the whole idea of time travel, being in the present moment, its own kind of symmetry, a binary pair. The middle is where you want to be.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
Eli: I’m definitely more interested in music of the future, but with more than a dash of inspiration from musical traditions. If we never tried to change or make something new, we’d just be repeating the same thing over and over.
Sometimes you need to experience something from another time to spark something in your brain. Even if it’s something super old, like from the 1800s. You think in different terms with different chords, different modes. That change is inevitable, nobody can stop it. It’s like a snowball rolling down the hill, it will pick up speed and size, and just continue to happen and grow. There’s always going to be a five year old child prodigy that blows everyone’s minds. It’s like with the Olympics, the records just keep getting pushed further and further. All it takes is for someone to believe that it’s possible.
Something like what Anderson.Paak and Bruno Mars did last year.
That has a classic sound, but with some more modern harmonic choices or arrangement choices, and a hip hop swagger. They made something classic but sprinkled some new into it. That’s cool, I like that a lot. You want the music to be accepted, if it’s too weird it’s going to confuse people. You need the whole range.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
Eli: Probably my laptop / phone funny enough, it’s how I generally flesh out ideas and make progress on my music/career. Other than that, all my keyboards I’ve assembled over the years. I use my computer to slow down solos and learn new vocabulary. Also to analyze music and “borrow” ideas for my music.
Rob: I have a few guitars at this point. I’ve played this guitar, a Paul Reed Smith Hollowbody 2. I was 19 years old when I went to college with it. I got it new in 2005, and when Dopapod started, it was the only guitar I used for a long time. A lot of our music, mostly the older stuff, has guitar parts that are kind of heavier.
I feel like I used sustain to my advantage. There’s also this little amp I use, it’s just a simple Fender amp. As the years have gone on I’ve gravitated towards Stratocaster style guitars, not necessarily Fender. Lately I’ve been playing a guitar by this company called Suhr, but it’s essentially their take on a Fender strat. And I’ve found it to be super inspiring.
With a lot of guitar parts, I don’t know which way it comes first if I have parts in my head or if I’m coming up with parts because I’m holding a guitar that sounds like this. It’s very sharp and rhythmic, very tight sounding. It really forces you to think about every little rhythm on the grid, and come up with more rhythmically minded parts, and less sustain-y parts. I feel like it sits in the mix in a way where I am more inclined to hang with the band, and groove further than I want to. I don’t want to be the center of attention quite as much.