Smile Politely

The return of Dopapod

In a time when recorded music has become as free as the air we breathe, studio musicians have emerged from the shadows to find themselves squinting into stage lights as a primary and unfamiliar way of making a living. This is exactly where and why Dopapod has thrived.

You know a band takes their live performance seriously when the light and sound guy gets a spot in the band’s member description. Tonight, they’ll once again descend upon The Canopy Club to throw down some fearsome jams.

Back in October, I was one of the lucky few who made it out the Urbana venue to catch this powerhouse in action. Halfway through my first Dopapod set, I shook free from a tune-induced daze and tried to make sense of a conflict between the stage and setting. Before me stood a band of might — one with a commanding presence across the grand spectrum of musical genre that could bring a tyrant to tears and sing a saint into battle. Behind me stood only a handful of hypnotized believers, some occasionally stepping out of their trance to ponder the very paradox I was noticing. The seamless transition between expressive improvisation and mind-melting instrumental choreography was a sight to be seen by all, and the fact that I managed to make it to the front without spilling any of my drink was distressing.

Luckily, Dopapod is making its way back to remind us of what live music is all about. Power, intensity, and on the spot decision making will take tonight’s audience on a sound-seeing tour through the lands of jazz, metal, funk and much more. With a deep proficiency in a number of different genres, the task of pinpointing the right words to describe their sound is difficult. I had a chance to interview Dopapod’s bassist Chuck Jones and gain a little insight into how he would describe the band’s work:

It’s hard for anyone to describe their sound I think. We just play what we want to hear most often. I can’t really describe it, but at the heart of everything, it’s a rock band. Even if we’re playing something a little more funky we’re still a rock band playing all of that.

While it is true that the instruments making up Dopapod are what you would find in any conventional rock band, the musicians behind them have reimagined their capabilities, how they should interact, and like any music worth listening to, have created a sound which is impossible to sum up with the name of a single style of music. Even more impressive is the fact that Dopapod has managed to create this new sound without the help of backing tracks or sampling. According to Jones, their style of live improvisation doesn’t match up with the rigidity and planned execution that a pre recorded track would require:

A lot of bands will take advantage of computers and backing tracks. You can’t just plug into someone’s computer and play along. You have to have all your stuff specific and timed out. With all of us we have real instruments going into real pedals going into amps. We’re never gonna play along to a pre recorded track. We would still be creating everything live every night.

What makes watching this band so interesting is the fact that none of their songs are played exactly the same as their studio recording. You may only get a whiff of a familiar song before the collective mind of Dopapod steers it in a new direction. Jones explained to me how they leave their songs open to new interpretations when recording in the studio:

When we’re recording we look at it like its a blueprint. We say this is the idea of the song and this is how it goes. These are all the parts in a specific order now but we might switch them live. In a live setting it’s more in the moment, there are people responding.

Constant consideration for the live performance is what has made Dopapod a living, breathing, touring party. In the interview, Jones emphasised the importance of the non musical aspects of the performance and fellow band member Luke Stratton, who does lights and sound for every show:

He is arguably the most talented touring member of Dopapod in most of our thinking. Color can just vary your mood in an incredible way. If you’ve ever read the Andromeda Strain, they have a facility where they study some germ that came to earth and each level has a different color that has to do with evoking different emotions. That’s a perfect example of that. Luke’s very aware of that and knows how different colors can have an effect on what we do.

Unlike other mostly instrumental bands, which tend to drone on with self indulgent solos that can turn an amped up crowd into a room full of toddlers at nap time, Dopapod’s style of melodic complexity and hard hitting rhythm jolt the audience into a dance frenzy with every beat.

Check out Dopapod at the Canopy Club tonight with the Coop. Show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

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