In intense anticipation of the 11/11 release of their album, Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Altair and Vega [UTG James' album of the year!], La Dispute is being kind enough to grant UTG an in depth interview with the boys that will quite soon be taking over the scene. This is only part one of the two part interview we’ve been working on, so stay tuned for more to come. The band has new songs posted on their Myspace as well, so when you finish here, go there!
UTG: Is there any significance of the 11/11 release date for the album? I know it was announced quit some time ago so I was wondering if this was part of a grand scheme of things.
Jordan: No significance at all, my friend. Truth be told, choosing that particular date for the release was made out of concern for time. Which is to say, it was one of the latest possible dates available, and when we had to pick a final date we had quite a bit of work to do with the album.
UTG: Could you tell us a bit about the story behind the title “Somewhere At The Bottom of the River between Vega and Altair?”
Jordan: Essentially, the myth follows the life of a princess who brings notoriety to her father’s kingdom by weaving beautiful and elaborate garments. In spending so much time at the loom, she has no time to explore the aspects of life that most youths enjoy (i.e. falling in love). When she realizes this, she is heartbroken. Seeing her anguish—and feeling partly responsible for it—her father introduces her to a shepherd’s boy and the two fall deeply in love. So much in love, however, that she completely neglects her work at the loom, and the kingdom suffers accordingly. As a result, the king becomes very angry. So, he separates the princess and the shepherd’s boy by placing them on opposite sides of a great river. Only once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th month, are they allowed to meet. On that day, a ferryman brings them to each other. However, if the king is not satisfied with the princess’s work, he floods the river, and the two cannot meet. In old folklore, the stars Vega and Altair represent the princess and the boy, and the river is the Milky Way, which lies directly between the two. On the 7th day of the 7th month, the moon (the ferryman) crosses it. If it is cloudy however, the king has flooded the river.
UTG: Why did you initially choose to draw from this piece of work?
Jordan: At the very outset, long prior to beginning the record, the appeal of the story and the idea of the title were based in a long relationship that I’d had. Certain circumstances in my own relationship were paralleled somewhat by circumstances in the myth, particularly the unselected distance between them and the obstacle (the river) that kept them from being together, so it seemed to fit together well; give it a greater context. As time passed and I kept bouncing the idea around I became increasingly aware that, in a multitude of different relationships (families, friendships, communities, marriages, etc), these obstacles—these rivers—exist, and in many different shapes, sizes, and incarnations. So it served as a fitting symbol of those stumbling blocks.
UTG:The artwork is quite intriguing. I gather that it follows the story, but who actually designed it and who had the initial concept?
Jordan: The artwork was done by an incredibly talented gentleman from Illinois named Nick Satinover. The artistic direction and the execution of the themes on the album visually stemmed from a load of information we sent to him, and he took it from there. It’s essentially his own direction and interpretation of all the themes on the album, and we couldn’t be happier. He did a fine job.
UTG: I notice the number 7 is scrawled into the boat on the cover. How does that figure into the scheme of things?
Jordan: The number 7 appears in various forms musically throughout the album, as well as in the general structure of the album. I’ll leave it at that. Revealing too much would take the fun out of it.
UTG: Moving from the world of EPs which are generally long enough to fill a set to a full length album must be a daunting task. Was there any change in how you approached writing the full length as compared to the EP [other than the different members of course]?
Jordan: Absolutely. From the outset of writing we wanted to make a complete fluent product as opposed to just putting together a collection of songs. Basically, we wanted it to be an album, in the truest sense, so a lot of thinking went into it structure-wise beforehand and while we were writing. That wasn’t the case with “Vancouver.” On top of that, being a band for three years has had a profound effect on our level of professionalism and musicianship. When we wrote “Vancouver” it was our first crack at it. We’d never really done anything as a “real” band before. This time around we had the experience, so we approached it from a much more precise, methodical, and mature manner.
UTG: The album flows like one solid piece of music that is just gets cut into tracks. Was this always the goal or simply how the album came out in the end?
Jordan: Ha ha. See the question above.
UTG: Why did you choose to stick to Studiotte Studios to record the album as opposed to traveling somewhere foreign and working with a more well known team?
Jordan: it was important to us to work somewhere in our hometown because this area has been such an instrumental factor in the life of our band. Additionally, Troy and Joel do an incredible job and know us well, both as musicians and as people, It wouldn’t have made sense to go somewhere else for a similar product when we’d have to rebuild that level of comfort from the ground up. On top of that, we wouldn’t ever want to work with someone just to stick their name on the record in hopes that it’ll garner attention. We’d much rather you hear our music for our own accomplishments and hard work, and for the hard work of anyone else involved, whether it be Nick Satinover, No Sleep, or Troy and Joel. It’s about working with people who have your best interests in mind; who can and will do anything to make the end product something you’re proud of.
UTG: What is the recording process like for La Dispute? With so many drastic changes in both music style and time it’s a bit hard to comprehend how a song of yours.
Jordan: Comes together? All the songs are pre-written at our practice space. For the most part, It’s a communal effort. I suppose the diversity of our music comes from our diversity as a group. We all enjoy different things, play a different way, and act a little different, but it’s a mutual respect for all sorts of art that allows us to roll with different ideas. As far as recording goes, it’s a pretty standard process.
One of my favorite moments on the entire album takes place on, “Fall Down, Never Get Back Up,” when the handclaps take the place of rain. It seems like, as a band, you always find ways to make the music fit or showcase moods and emotion as strongly as the lyrics. Does this develop with the song, or is it more of a spur of the moment kind of thing?
Jordan: The bulk of the time, the lyrics are written after the music, so it’s more the lyrics matching the emotional tones of the music than the other way around. To answer your question, I think it’s a bit of both. The tone definitely develops as the song evolves, but sometimes the development of the song is purely spur of the moment. So, a little from column A, and a little from column B.
UTG: Guitar wise, the sound on the record is much more rock driven on this record than the spastic, near punk/hardcore tones we found on the EP. Why the change?
Jordan: Putting aside that I’m not certain I’d agree with that statement, I’d say that any difference in the guitar work stems most obviously from two member changes since “Vancouver”, but also from our natural progression as artists over the last three years. Any changes were certainly not intentional, but instead the natural reaction to three years of time elapsing.
UTG: What would you say you learned the most while recording the new album?
Jordan: Plan ahead.
UTG: I know the album follows the story in some aspects, but I must ask, are all these songs about one girl, multiple girls, or just tales woven for our entertainment?
Jordan: Well, not every song is about a girl. Some of them are drawn directly from my own relationships (friendly and romantic), three of them are fictionalized accounts of interactions in an actual relationship, and others are just fictionalized altogether.
UTG: “The Last Lost Continent” is a song that is simply epic. Could you tell us a little about the development of it and the message your seeking to convey?
Brad: I think we all wanted something that wrapped up the album in a sense, a song that pulled everything else together. The song relies heavily on the band as a single piece, everyone working together to capture that final thought. Musically, we wanted to write something that really makes the listener pay attention, feel, and think. It’s a bit easier to get those things across with words, but with music, it can be more involved. I think after one listens to this song, they can go back and catch some of the other themes woven in the album, as well as better understand us as a group of musicians. It’s pretty unreal to listen to a song I wrote with my best friends and smile because so much of our personalities are captured there.
Jordan: The message is in the text, and I think it, like any piece of artwork, is to an extent open to interpretation. I have a few specific ideas about what it means, but I’m sure it will vary from person to person. The message I think I’d like people to leave with is that, no matter what tragedy befalls you, no matter if you can cross your personal river or not, there will always be others involved in a similar struggle. There is a hope in that connection.
PART 2 Will be posted NEXT FRIDAY!
*Written By: James Shotwell*