La Dispute Won't Be Changing Their 'Experimental' Style For Anyone

4 September 2019 | 9:01 am | Rod Whitfield

Jordan Dreyer of La Dispute talks to Rod Whitfield about "embrac[ing] the adventure" of playing music for people and about the band's long-standing spirit of experimentation.

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According to frontman Jordan Dreyer, La Dispute toured Australia before the band ever set foot on European soil – a fact which is very rare for an American act. Dreyer has many memories of his times touring Down Under since the American post-hardcore outfit formed in 2004, but one stands head and shoulders above the rest. 

“Once we played in an abandoned house in Australia, with a generator," Dreyer recalls. "There were like 15 people there, but we had so much fun. If we’d have stopped playing music the day after that, I would have had those memories and cherished them and appreciated what it meant to be a part of the community. So much so that it alters your view on humanity.

“But now, I still get to do it, I still get to travel and play music. So long as this is something that we can find a place for in our lives, I think we will always embrace those aspects of it, embrace the adventure, embrace the relationships we’ve made.” 

The word ‘experimental’ is not often used to describe hardcore bands, however it crops up time and time again in relation to La Dispute, and the term actually sits easily with Dreyer. 

“I think we’ve always put a strong emphasis on challenging ourselves, sonically, lyrically,” Dreyer muses. “I think in the most literal sense, we’ve always emphasised experimenting. I don’t know if we consciously set out to accomplish that tag, to be classified as such. I think partly the sound of our band is an accident that comes from five very different people contributing to one thing. [It's] a foundational principle of our band, and something that still dictates in large part the way we operate creatively is to push our boundaries. If we stopped experimenting, it would be something very different.” 

So ultimately, it’s more of a philosophy and an attitude than a classification? “Definitely. It’s part of our DNA.”

Dreyer freely admits that his band would probably sell more records and have broader appeal if they made their songwriting more accessible, but that doesn't bother him at all. In fact, he feels it would come across as contrived and a little dishonest if they attempted to make their music more commercially friendly, and it would ultimately be detrimental to the band. 

“It’s complicated, making music work for everyone involved,” he says. “Any artistic endeavour is challenging in this climate, especially with the way the industry has changed. But if we really started to pay attention to things like that, if we forced ourselves into avenues of expression that didn’t inspire us, I think creatively we would stagnate, and it just wouldn’t feel real.

"If we stopped caring about what we create, I think people would know, and I think they would stop coming to our shows and paying for our albums.”

“I think there’s always that part of you that wishes things were just a little more comfortable financially. But if we stopped caring about what we create, I think people would know, and I think they would stop coming to our shows and paying for our albums, so it’s not really an option.” 

Dreyer pauses to reflect on the fact that his band has carved out an enduring career creating music that is so far divorced from the mainstream. "It makes me proud. It may be hyper-idealistic or maybe vaguely conceited to think so, but it’s a testament to how people view us, because our music is definitely, as you say, far from the mainstream. [That's] what’s made it sustainable for us for so long, it’s made people loyal to us, and invest in us. I hope it’s obvious to them that we care about what we do. We’re passionate about music as a means to challenge and to build a community.”