I was a little confused when around when the time I was meant to hear from Brad Vander Lugt, I received a call from right here in Australia instead of the usual overseas number or no-caller ID conferences. Turns out, the La Dispute drummer actually lives in Australia, up on the Sunshine Coast. With his wife being an Aussie, he moved here permanently and got residence a few years back. When it comes to La Dispute and Australia, that relationship, at one point, was a yearly tour from the alternative/post-hardcore heroes. 2012, 2013, and 2014 all saw La Dispute hitting major cities around the country for consecutive tours. However, the band’s run on Good Things later this December marks their first Australian live appearance in four years, and the wait has been fuckin’ excruciating. A lot’s changed since then too. The ‘Rooms of the House’ album cycle has since long ended and a new record is about to be ushered in. On top of that, the group are also planning a remixed/remasted ten-year re-issue of the album that put them on the map: 2008’s ‘Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair’. So, in short, there was plenty for Brad and I to discuss in this interview!
When it comes to La Dispute, Brad, there are three things that I’ve always felt made the band’s music stick out. One was Jordan’s lyrical story-telling abilities, another is Chad’s great ear for guitar melodies and licks, and the third was your drumming. Just how it tows this great line between playing in the pocket and maintaining the momentum of the songs, while also having a great lively dynamic and human quality to it. As a drummer myself, I’ve always noticed and appreciated that, as well as how it conflates with how your records are mixed and the drum rooms that you yourself record in. This is all me just having one big gushing opening statement, though [laughs].
Aw thanks man, that’s a really nice compliment! That’s very kind of you, it means a lot. I definitely don’t consider myself to be some incredible drummer by any means, but I’ve always made a point to push myself. I do think that comes through in some of my playing over the years, though maybe not all of it. I think it’s also that when you play together as a band as long as we have, we really start to sync-up in how I might push or pull back on certain parts. We all do that really well now and I’m proud of that aspect.
I think that the chemistry of La Dispute is what also makes the music so enthralling. So, with this new record coming next year, what art, ideas or music inspires you to create when you sit down behind the kit to write new songs?
That’s a really good question! It’s changed over the years, for sure. When I was younger, I was trying to do a lot of things and maybe not executing them all as well. Now that I’m older and hopefully wiser, I’m definitely playing to my strengths more now. I also pushed myself on some of these new songs where I’m not falling into all of my usual tendencies. There were even a few years where I was over drumming. Not that I didn’t still enjoy drumming, just that it wasn’t as engaging to my interests anymore. I was getting more into other musical things like composition and synthesizers. I’m really into that stuff now. A lot of those production things were at the forefront of my mind for this new record. Even with the drumming on this new album, there’s some programming that’s mixed in with the live acoustic drums to make a bit of a hybrid thing. I’m also just trying to be more mindful of leaving space for the other instruments. In the past, I have not always been good at that. But in general, we all did a good job on leaving space for one another here.
That idea of leaving space for the other instruments, is that something that you guys would agree was perhaps an issue with the ‘Vancouver’ and the ‘Somewhere at the Bottom of the River…’ material? That it’s all very urgent and full-on?
Yeah, some of that. We don’t all have to be playing a million notes a minute – that’s ridiculous. It’s not even about the parts we’re playing though. It’s more like me being mindful of something that Chad’s doing in the song that’s prevalent or important to that piece’s puzzle, and so I’m not then playing something complex under his part. These are things that when we were younger we didn’t think so much about. We really tried to be careful with these things on this album. That’s not to say that it’s a bare record or anything like that. If anything, it’s a lot thicker sounding than ‘Rooms…’ ever was. It’s smart thick. That probably makes zero sense to anyone else other than me though… [laughs].
Well, when I hear the new album, I’ll be sure to let you know whether it sounds “thick smart” or not! I can’t wait until I get the Haulix promo stream in my email. Y’know, I’ve watched that teaser video you guys dropped many times now. Am really keen to see what pieces fit where and from what songs.
Oh, it’s all there, man. It’s gonna be so cool. I think it’s going to really surprise people!
I really wanted to talk with you about ‘Somewhere at the Bottom of the River’. How do you view that record ten years later? What’s your vibe on it all now, Brad?
This is actually a really good point to bring up. That album has gone in a lot of different ways for us. We toured on that record A LOT. But you do get disenchanted with it, and you start to feel like, “Oh, that’s just the old us“. And there have definitely been moments like that for us. But over the last few years, we’ve really come to a nice reckoning with it. Just embracing it for what it is and what it was; what it was for that piece of time for our band. When it came to this remix and remaster, that’s how we approached it. Obviously, we wanted it to sound great and it does – it sounds a million times better than the first time around – but also just having fun with these songs. It was fun re-listening to it all again with Chad. He and I would never write some of that material again. Yet for that piece of time, it was good material. Us playing some of these older songs that we haven’t played live in SO long has been great now. We’re just taking it a little less seriously than how we used to and are now having a positive connection and relationship with that record. Rather than just being like “we never wanna play Such Small Hands because blah blah blah“. Cause we have been playing it and it has been fun. That’s what I’ll leave you with, man
That’s great to hear! I think some bands don’t like revisiting old material as they see it as a mere trend or that they only ever wanna be moving forward. Obviously, Jordan’s never gonna scream like he did on that record and Chad probably isn’t going to want to write riffs like ‘The Castle Builders’ or ‘Damaged Goods’ again. But you also can’t just ignore your older self and not acknowledge that growth and those past time periods. So it’s great to see you and the band making peace with that and embracing ‘Somewhere’ whilst also looking ahead as well.
Yeah, and look, I think it’s important to always look forward, of course. And that’s what we’re doing, we’re finishing off this new record. I actually had that negative attitude you mentioned just a few years ago myself, but I think you’re right. To work on a new record and re-release an old album was really nice. We were working on them both in tandem. As we were doing mix recalls for ‘Somewhere’, we were working on the new songs. It was a very strange but also a very cool juxtaposition.
It’s rare to have that reference point of your band’s past and future happening at the same time. Regarding revisiting ‘Somewhere’ is also this aspect of remembering the older material. Do you ever need to put on earlier La Dispute records to help jump-start your memory on how certain songs went or parts were played? Did that happen with re-doing this record for the November re-issue?
Oh, dude, for sure. It was funny, doing the remixes of ‘Somewhere’, there were songs that my brain didn’t even fully remember. That shorter song towards the end, ‘Then Again, Maybe You Were Right’? It was like listening to a new-old song! I’ve definitely had to do that fairly recently. It’s never major stuff. It’s more like where does the kick drum land here or what was the voicing of this part? For songs we play fairly often, I’m all good. But a track we haven’t done in years, like ‘St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church Blues‘, that’s one I had to re-listen to remember how to play recently. Which is a really weird thing too, that your brain cannot properly contain all of your own information.
I think most people are like that for a lot of things in their lives. Like, I can’t remember every single review or interview I’ve ever written up!
Yeah, it’s a really bizarre thing. For all of us in the band, when we pull out an old song, there’s dust on it that needs to be brushed off.
Well, for me, I’m just really happy that now ‘New Storms For Older Lovers’ will get some love again. That’s one of my favourite La Dispute tracks in general. Was actually the first song from your band I ever heard too!
Oh wow, I’ll remember that! That’s a song that we have been pretty consistent with in terms of how often we play it. I’ll remember that though, I’ll bring it to the guys for this Good Things festival tour. No promises though! [Laughs].
Man, I really do hope to hear that song’s riff and bell intro at Good Things! Speaking of that festival lineup, it’s pretty diverse. You’ve got The Offspring playing ‘Smash’, then Babymetal, then Dropkick Murphy’s, then Emmure, than Scxrlord, then you guys, as well as a tonne of other bands.
It’s pretty wild, right? The Offspring playing ‘Smash’ is crazy. I’m very excited to see The Smith Street Band. I love them to bits.
It’s a sick lineup. When I think about yourselves in La Dispute as people, your inclusion doesn’t seem that odd as I feel like you all have different listening tastes; that you all just don’t listen to the same old alternative/emo/indie stuff. I’ve always gotten that vibe of your supposed broad tastes.
You’re right, we all listen to a lot of different stuff. I think it really helps out our band in the long run. As far as festivals go, this feels like a good one. We’re amongst really cool bands. We’ve been lucky that we get to work with Cooking Vinyl as they’re apart of the Epitaph team out here. Stu Harvey, Chris, Cat – they’re all amazing to work with. It’s been so awesome for us lately. We’re so stoked.
That’s good to hear, dude. I look at this festival too and see it as maybe the last time we see some of those deeper ‘Wildlife’ and ‘Rooms…’ songs before new material comes in and takes their place.
Totally, I agree with you. With these last few tours, we’ve been trying to do a really good job of splitting between our three records. Which we haven’t really done before either. We’re playing just as many ‘Rooms…’ songs as we are ‘Somewhere…’ songs as we are ‘Wildlife’ songs. Even a couple of the split songs too. It’s a very diverse set which I think people will dig. I’m not sure if the older songs will just go away, though, we’ll play them when we can. But I get your point, for sure. As far as fans hearing what they wanna hear, I think it’ll make them happy.
Well, I’m keen either way! So Brad, this is kind of a weird question, but have you seen that joke Tweet going around of La Dispute lately? Where it says: “La Dispute sounds like a guy trying to order in a drive-thru from the passenger’s seat”?
[Laughs] no, I haven’t seen it but I like it! That’s funny. I can actually kinda see that, yeah.
Do you mind if I ask about the whole ‘darling’ meme that gets attached to you guys because of ‘Such Small Hands’? Did that whole overdramatic joke that you guys get hit with due to the older lyrics and material ever bother?
Dude, for a long time, it did. But now, we’re just having fun with it. Not that we’re going to make a joke out of everything, though. People do tend to pick out certain things – and I don’t know why – and that’s maybe why we didn’t play songs like ‘Such Smalls Hands’ for a long time. Us feeling like people missed the point of it and make it a joke. Now we embrace it. I should clarify though that that wasn’t the ONLY reason some songs like that didn’t get played for a while. But to be honest, it doesn’t get to me now – it doesn’t phase me. It just flies right past me. I can’t speak for everyone in the band, but I don’t take anything personally anymore. We get it on a very small scale compared to what other people and bands do. So I just never give it any thought. I always feel you should put your energy into bigger things and not the small stuff that doesn’t really matter. I know that the good intentions are there and that we’re passionate about our records, so if people miss the point, then that’s fine. Again, it’s to enjoy it and be proud of it!