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La Dispute is a post-hardcore band from Grand Rapids, Michigan who formed in 2004. The current line-up is lead vocalist Jordan Dreyer, drummer Brad Vander Lugt, guitarist Chad Sterenberg and bass guitarist Adam Vass.
The band released their debut EP, Vancouver, in 2006 on Friction Records and then temporarily signed to Forest Life records where they released Here, Hear. and Untitled 7" in May 2008. Their debut album Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair was released in conjunction with Here, Hear II. on No Sleep Records in November 2008. Here, Hear III. (2009), The Worth of the World (2010) and Never Come Undone (2011) then followed before releasing their second studio album, Wildlife (2011). Their third studio album, Rooms of the House, was released on March 18, 2014.
Formation, early years and Vancouver (2004–2007)
La Dispute was formed in Grand Rapids, Michigan in late 2004 by cousins Jordan Dreyer and Brad Vander Lugt, Kevin Whittemore, Derek Sterenberg and Adam Kool; Dreyer was never a singer and did not write any music prior to joining the band but was a writer, primarily writing poetry and short fiction. During this time the band mainly played house shows or at the Division Avenue Arts Collective (a volunteer run DIY music venue, community center, and art gallery) in Downtown Grand Rapids. Chad Sterenberg replaced his older brother Derek in 2006 the day after the release of their debut EP, Vancouver (released April 14, 2006), which was the only release the band produced while on the Friction Records roster. Indiana based friend of the band Adam Vass later joined in 2007. It wasn't until the loss of Derek Sterenberg and Adam Kool that they took the project seriously.
Here, Hear. I, II & III and Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair (2008–2009)
La Dispute signed to Southern California-based record label No Sleep Records in early 2008. Jordan Dreyer describes this move to the label as sharing a similar perspective on music, stating: "The primary attraction with No Sleep for us was that it was obvious through talking to Chris [Hansen] that his intentions with the label were in line with ours as a band." To fill in the gap between their debut release Vancouver and their upcoming album the band released an exclusive vinyl record, Untitled 7", consisting of two tracks which were extra songs from the writing sessions of their debut album. Also in May, the EP Here, Hear. was released, which would soon follow sequels, with Dreyer stating: "Here Hear we did as a challenge to ourselves creatively as a way to expand our horizons and also broaden the context for anyone else who is interested in checking who we are as a band". On November 11, 2008 La Dispute released their debut album Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair through No Sleep Records. La Dispute recorded the album at StudiOtte in Grand Rapids with Joel and Troy Otte. The album's lyrical themes base around an Asian folk tale regarding the plight of a prince and a princess who are separated after marriage by a river they are not allowed to cross. The album doesn't use this concept strictly and uses it as more of a "jumping off point for similar struggles that people face." It was well received by critics, with positive reviews from AbsolutePunk, Alternative Press, Punknews.org, and Sputnikmusic. They did three release shows to support the album in their home state of Michigan: on November 8 at Skelletones, November 14 at the UAW Retirees Hall in Traverse City, and November 22 at the Howell Opera House in Howell. Their debut album was released simultaneously with the second extended play in their "Here, Hear experiment": Here, Hear II. The EP also accompanied the first 300 sales of the album.
On December 25, 2009 La Dispute Released Here, Hear III. The EP was self-released via digital download off their Bandcamp page. Released as well on Bandcamp were Hear, Hear., Hear, Hear II., Untitled 7" and a two track Christmas EP titled Winter Tour Holiday CD-R, which featured two Christmas songs: a cover of "'Twas The Night Before Christmas" and an original song, "First Snow in Silent Grand Rapids". Although they became free to download, it was possible to donate money; all donations went to benefit the Well House Community Living of Grand Rapids, a non-profit outreach program in Grand Rapids that provides emergency shelter and permanent housing for homeless families. The period of donation ended on January 17, 2010 and $1715 was raised for Well House. All subsequent donations after the period have gone towards covering recording expenses for the band.
The Worth of the World, Never Come Undone and Wildlife (2010–2012)
Throughout April and May 2010 La Dispute supported Alexisonfire across the United States alongside Trash Talk and Therefore I Am. La Dispute and Touché Amoré released a 7" extended play titled Searching for a Pulse/The Worth of the World on September 14, 2010, which was co written by all members of both bands and features vocal cross-overs from the lead vocalists. Progress on the recording of La Dispute's second studio album began as early as November 2010. The album was recorded in pieces to wrap around their intense tour schedule, starting with the recording of instrumentation for six tracks in Drasik Studios in Chicago. In April, they revealed that the album would be 14 tracks long, and revealed that they had been progressively modifying the music over the length of the tour. La Dispute accompanied Alexisonfire again on a Canadian leg of a tour in November and December 2010. On this tour, they played alongside Norma Jean and Four Year Strong.
The band went into StadiumRed studio in New York City in March 2011 to record the remainder of the album. Andrew Everding, the keyboardist of Thursday and producer Joe Pedulla served as recording engineers at both studios. On May 3, 2011, La Dispute released a split EP with American acoustic singer-songwriter Andrew Koji Shiraki (Koji), titled Never Come Undone. The split featured La Dispute performing an acoustic rendition of "Last Blues For Bloody Knuckles," a song from their debut album. Their second contribution was an original song titled "Sunday Morning, at a Funeral." On July 5, La Dispute started a Canadian tour with Make Do and Mend and No Sleep Records associates Balance and Composure. The focus of this tour was to promote the release of Never Come Undone.
La Dispute, Touché Amoré and Norwegian hardcore punk band Death Is Not Glamourous completed a European tour, which started July 27, 2011 and finished August 12, to coincide with both La Dispute's and Touché Amoré's appearances at Hevy Festival in the United Kingdom and Ieperfest in Belgium in 2011. On August 23, La Dispute announced the title of their second album, and revealed the track listing and album art. The album, titled Wildlife, was released on October 4, 2011. Lyrically, Jordan Dreyer has described the album as being "...set-up as a collection of sort of stories/poems annotated by the author and split into thematic sections by four monologues." Vocalist Jordan Dreyer considers the album a lyrical experiment with elements they intended to use in the first album. The announcement of the new album was accompanied by a complete re-design of their website, themed around the album's "Wildlife" design. Two singles were released digitally prior to its release, "The Most Beautiful Bitter Fruit" and "Harder Harmonies". On September 30, La Dispute joined Thrice, Moving Mountains, and O'Brother on a tour around the United States, which finished November 11.
Throughout 2012, La Dispute embarked on a series of headlining tours, which acted as promotion for Wildlife, with tour legs in Europe, Australia and North America respectively. La Dispute's European tour took place in January and early February, with support from Former Thieves. Their Australian tour started four days after their European tour, and instead of having a permanent support band they had a different line-up every night that was composed of local bands. The North American leg of the tour started in late March and lasted until the beginning of May. This tour had support from Balance And Composure, Sainthood Reps, and All Get Out. They made several festival appearances in the summer of 2012 including Download Festival Greenfield Festival, Hurricane Festival and Southside Festival. After their Wildlife tour the band spent 2012 on a vacation of sorts. On April 13 and 14 respectively the band recorded two different live studio sessions, with "Audio Tree" and "Violitionist Sessions," making their last tour appearances in September and October on a European tour with Title Fight and Make Do And Mend.
Rooms of the House and departure from No Sleep Records (2013–present)
In 2013 the band made their first tour appearance in supporting Hot Water Music across the United States in January and February. La Dispute's performance on the tour was met with positive reception, with comparison to the other bands on the line up, they were considered "more on the hardcore side of the spectrum." Before the tour started on January 12, the band performed at The Crofoot to headline a two-stage show with bands Into it. Over it., Koji, The Swellers, Cheap Girls, Mixtapes, Pity Sex, Tiger! Tiger!, and Pentimento In June 2013 the band toured Australia for the fourth time being supported by Pianos Become the Teeth. The idea of Pianos Become the Teeth supporting La Dispute came about as the members of both bands are close friends and had wished to tour together, however their touring schedules have always clashed. On the band's website a countdown timer was added that hinted at a new album announcement on December 16, 2013. On December 16, along with a completely revamped website, La Dispute announced that their new album Rooms of the House will be released on March 18, 2014 and will be co-produced by Will Yip. They also announced that they left No Sleep Records and started their own label, Better Living. The album was released via Big Scary Monsters in the UK and Europe.
In April 2014, founding member and guitarist Kevin Whittemore departed from the band. He played his final show with the band on April 14, 2014, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Logo and band name
The band has always used a band logo similar to what they do now, however for the first six years of their existence it was a hand-drawn design. La Dispute started to use a redrawn, computer generated version of their logo as of October 2010. The band's name is from the Pierre de Marivaux work from 1774 of the same name, it was a play Dreyer watched whilst in high school and felt parallels between the work and the music he was writing at the time.
Jordan Dreyer, the band's lead singer, has commented on the use of tags to describe the band's style, saying: "In general, I think boxing art into categories only serves as a way to exclude people from exploring different variations of the same thing. I think the only real definition between artists exists in their intentions for creating art..." But despite this La Dispute is described as playing jazz, blues and spoken word influenced post-hardcore which incorporates elements which range through screamo, progressive rock, post-rock and hardcore punk. Well recognized elements of La Dispute's music are incorporating spoken word style passages into intense songs, the use of highly complex lyrics and Jordan Dreyer's versatile control of his voice; able to swap between singing and screaming to correspond and compliment to the emotion of the music and the lyrics. The band's instrumentation is seen as "near-shoegaze guitar drones that complemented the distorted bass" and this couples with their music being like "confessional diary entries; spoken and shouted-word lyrics accompanied by minor-chord harmonies".
The music on their first album Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair is seen as blending elements of punk, progressive rock, emo and metalcore.
The band's second album, Wildlife showed a lighter approach to music, compared to both their debut album and mini album, combining elements from both the split albums they wrote with Touché Amoré and Koji respectively. Wildlife was written differently in comparison to the band's previous work, as the lyrics and concept were written before the music. Wildlife's lyrics follow a loosely thematic collection of "short stories" examining the life struggles that shape and define us as individuals. The band drew inspiration from real issues and true stories that they themselves had confronted or heard of in their home town of Grand Rapids. A primary example of this is the track King Park which focuses on the story of an inner city drive-by shooting. The band was noted for combining the energetic dynamics of hardcore punk with the introspective elements of emo and focusing on simpler, melodic chord changes.
The band is said to be influenced by a broad range of music and as individuals they possess different influences. Post-hardcore bands like Thursday, Refused, At the Drive-In and Glassjaw are just some examples of commonalities amongst the band. Drummer Brad Vander Lugt has said that the band with each record takes influences from other artists and musicians who are "pushing the envelope and challenging themselves." Vander Lugt personally cites his influences from blues and jazz musicians. Dreyer has stated his lyrical influences are derived from fiction writers rather than from poetry, as he likes to approach writing through stories and different characters. Particularly citing Kurt Vonnegut, Vladimir Nabokov as literary influences, and cites books from Nabokov like Pale Fire and Lolita as some of his favorites. The band credits now defunct Michigan based rock bands Ivan and Coal Black Horse as having a significant influence on La Dispute. Jacob Fricke of The Badger Herald commented on how Black Flag's third album combination of spoken word on its A-side and their typical "hard-and-fast punk" on the B-side acted as an influence on La Dispute's style.
La Dispute has been said to be a part of a self-proclaimed group of post-hardcore bands called The New Wave of Post-hardcore or shortened to The Wave, with fellow post-hardcore artists Defeater, Make Do and Mend, Pianos Become the Teeth and Touché Amoré. The term "The Wave" was initially coined as an inside joke between the bands. However, Vander Lugt has comment on how the term has been interpreted with more serious attitude from people, saying: "people just ran with it and some kids took it really seriously, like we were trying to create some kind of collective, which it wasn't at all. But we are really good friends with all of those bands. They're like brothers to us and I think, in that way, it is a collective." A "self-defined movement" which The Guardian described in their article "The A-Z of pop in 2012" as having heavy lyrical emphasis and are reminiscent of the "90s emo scene." "The Wave" is believed to have a 'sphere of influence' that stretches beyond the initial artists and they believe other bands are included, including: All Teeth, Balance and Composure, Comadre, Former Thieves, Into It. Over It., Living With Lions, Seahaven, Tigers Jaw and Title Fight. La Dispute have been noted as being a part of screamo revival. The immediate legacy of Wildlife has been noted as there has been a "huge influx" of 'melodic post hardcore' bands, particularly in the United States.
The Here, Hear "experiment"
La Dispute have an ongoing series of EPs called "Here, Hear" which they refer to as "the Here, Hear. experiment". The music on the EPs has been described as primarily spoken word and experimental. When asked about the series Jordan Dreyer said: "For as long as we make music we'll make Here, Hear stuff". The first two Here, Hear EPs both added instrumentation to pre-existing material from poets and novelists such as Tom Robbins' Still Life with Woodpecker and Edgar Allan Poe's poem Annabel Lee and Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. This work was written by different band members, excluding singer and lyricist Jordan Dreyer. The style of each song has been described as the band was writing whatever they felt the moment they heard the lyrics. However, for the third installment in the series the band took Jordan Dreyer's own poetry and added instrumentation which fit the stories. The first instalment foreshadowed many of the themes found on their debut album, Somewhere at the Bottom of the River. The band stated that Here, Hear III. would reflect influences on the following album; "Wildlife". Here, Hear IV has been put on hold by the band for them to concentrate on their third studio album.
Jordan Dreyer – lead vocals, percussion (2004–present)
Chad Sterenberg – guitar (2006–present)
Adam Vass – bass (2007–present)
Brad Vander Lugt – drums, percussion, keyboards (2004–present)
Derek Sterenberg – guitar (2004–2006)
Adam Kool – bass (2004–2007)
Kevin Whittemore – guitar (2004–2014)