An Interview with Dopapod’s Neal Evans and Rob Compa, playing Albany, Syracuse and Rochester this weekend

I first became aware of Dopapod when I downloaded a show of a band with the funny palindrome name. They had a good sound, a bit heavy for me at the time, but they also did a killer cover of Daft Punk’s “Robot Rock”, a band I have been a fan of since college in the mid-90s. While that cover hooked me, it was the originals and the improv that kept bringing me back. When plans for a book release party for PhanFood came together in the fall of 2010, Nectar’s in Burlington was the venue and Dopapod just happened to be the main act of the night. A couple of emails between band manager Jason Gibbs and myself and the band was happy to help promote the book release, and led to a packed house for both the release and the show. At every festival since and every opportunity throughout, I’ve seen Dopapod continue to grow at an exponential pace. Nearly a studio album a year, plus a heavy touring and festival schedule has made Dopapod a sought after act that is spreading quickly from their Northeastern base. Upon the release of their most recent album, Redivider, UpstateLIVE sat down with guitarist Rob Compa and drummer Neal ‘Fro’ Evans of Dopapod to talk about their roots, what lies ahead, and what’s up with the palindrome band name and album titles.

photo by Andy Hill
photo by Andy Hill

Pete Mason: How did the band first come together? Who knew each other and when and where was the first gig? Any memories of that first Dopapod moment?

Rob Compa: The band started with just Eli (Winderman) and our friend Michelangelo Carubba as a keys and drum duo. My first show was at a little sports bar in Boston called The Draft. I wasn’t in the band yet. I just came out and sat in because Eli and I knew each other from playing reggae gigs around town. The first moment when I really felt like we were on to something was at my first rehearsal in a basement in Allston. We had a jam and just trailed off harmonizing with each other and answering each other’s phrases. It was crazy, like we had the same musical vocabulary right off the bat. It took a while before we were comfortable enough to play off of each other like that on stage though.

Neal Evans: Before I was in the band, I asked Dopapod to play an after party that I was planning for my band Cashed Fools. The party never ended up happening, but Eli invited me to come to the festival that they were playing the next day (Heady Fest), and I asked if I could bring some percussion. Heady Fest was my first show with the band.

PM: You blend a wide degree of sounds among your catalog. What musicians have provided the major influences for each of you?

RC: I’ve been a huge Phish fan since I was a teenager. That’s the biggest one for me. I’m also really influenced by country guitarists, particularly Duke Levine and Jim Campilongo. And I studied a fair amount of jazz over the years; I don’t consider myself a jazz guitarist necessarily, but I learned enough of it to have some bebop vocabulary in my playing. I particularly love Django Reinhardt.

NE: I came from a heavy metal and progressive rock background; the first song I played on drums was Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls”. And Primus. Then I got into more funk and groovin’ stuff. I’ve always listened to a wide variety, but the heavy drums really got me started. 

PM: Are there any new artists that you are listening to that are having an influence on you, or simply ones that you enjoy listening to?

RC: The Fleet Foxes have been a big influence over the last couple years. And Fro recently turned me on to Megadeth. Also, Tim Palmieri’s (Kung Fu/The Breakfast) playing has really had an impact on me.

NE: Jaga Jazzist and Snarky Puppy are my favorite new bands. They are musically amazing and very forward thinking. I’ve never heard anything like those two bands. Also Dub Trio is just super bad ass.  

photo by Andy Hill

PM: What gear do you each use?

NE: I have a Yamaha Maple Custom drum kit, DW kick pedals, assorted hardware, cymbals from Sabain, Zildjian, Ufip, and Meinl, and Vater Fusion drumsticks. 

RC: I use a Paul Reed Smith Hollowbody II that I love the shit out of. I pretty much only use that live, although I used a Fender Strat and Tele on a lot of the new album. My amplifier is an old Fender Vibrolux that sounds great. For pedals, I use a maxon OD808 and an Analogman King of Tone for my overdriven sounds. I’ve also got a delay, phaser, and a octave pedal on my pedalboard

PM: How have you found the EDM and electronic environment to be, considering that the scene is becoming quite large and almost super-saturated with talent?

RC: I like bands that use computers and click tracks to do the electronic thing. And I think it’s cool that music is changing and evolving with the whole DJ thing, even though that way of making music doesn’t really resonate with me, personally.

NE:  There are some that I like and some that I don’t care for. As long as its originality is clear, I’m usually into it. I love hearing sounds and grooves that I have never heard before. 

photo by Andy Hill

PM: What do music festivals provide to bands as they are growing, and how do the fans benefit from acts like Dopapod playing festivals on a regular basis?

RC: Festivals are awesome because it gives bands a chance to to be heard by tons of new people who might not have ordinarily gone out of their way to take the chance on the band.  And, it gives people the chance to discover new bands.

NE: Festivals are great for helping a band gain a following in the greater area of the festival. Most festivals have a large local attendance, so when we come back to the area, there will be a lot of people who first saw us at the fest. There is definitely a large growth of electronic music at festivals, and a lot of fans express their gratitude for keeping the live band element strong at festivals. And we like to do fun special things at festivals, because they feel like special gigs. Our festival sets usually have some fun surprises that may not happen at a club or venue. 

PM: Branching out from the Northeast, you have recently dipped into the Southeast and Midwest. How have you found the experience entering new markets, with only word of mouth to precede you?

RC: It feels great to play a market for the first time and already have people there excited for the show. It’s encouraging. At the same time, going to different parts of the country and playing for smaller crowds is very humbling. It’s important for us to remember that we still have a lot of work to do.

NE: It’s always fun to go to a place you have never been before for the sake of playing music. Some new markets do well, some not so well, but we will just keep at it. We have seen steady growth just about everywhere, which is a great feeling.

PM: How has the reception been from fans in these parts of the country?

NE: So far so good! Gaining many fans and street teamers all the time, and getting a lot of support from people in the new areas.

RC: It’s been awesome, all around. Even if a show isn’t necessarily packed, people always seem to have a great time. Crowd size matters not.  

photo by Andy Hill

PM: Was there a moment for each of you where you were playing a show or on the road, and the thought crossed your mind, “Wow, I can totally see myself doing this for a living!”

NE: I think that happened for me when the first time I played a drum set.

RC: I think we’ve all felt that way the whole time. None of us really have any doubt that this is what we want to do.

PM: One burning question that I’ve had is the use of palindromes, both the band’s name and each album title: I saw live Dopapod evil was I, Drawn Onward, Radar, and the latest, Redivider. Did the band name come first, then palindrome album titles, or was that sort of the plan all along? Can that well ever run dry?

NE & RC: ?yrd nur reve llew taht naC  ?gnola lla nalp eht fo tros taht saw ro ,seltit mubla emordnilap neht ,tsrif emoc enam dnab eht diD  .redivideR ,tsetal eht ,radaR , drawnO nwarD ,I saw livE dopapoD eviL waS I :eltit mubla hcae dna eman s’dnab eht htob , semordnilap fo esu eht si dah ev’I taht niotseuq gninrub enO

PM: Regarding Redivider, the album is a fantastic mark of growth in the band and your best album to date. “Braindead” has a hint of Oysterhead, while “Bubble Brain” gives off a hip-hop feel, “Trapper Keeper” has one of your catchiest lyrics – they make for a powerful start to the album. What was the process behind each of these songs?

NE: Each song came together differently. “Bubble Brain” and “Trapper Keeper” were ideas that Eli had, and “Braindead” was written completely off of a guitar riff that Rob wrote.

RC: They were all different. “Braindead” seriously took like a year to write. It started with just the intro riff, which I brought to the band to jam over in rehearsal. And it became a finished piece very slowly. Eli wrote Bubble Brain on his computer, and we all learned our parts on our own, then rehearsed it and made some arranging changes. We started working on “Trapper” right before the Redivider sessions, and basically finished it in the studio, which was a cool new method for us. 

PM: One song of note, “Vol. 3, #86” is not only a stand out, Nintendo-esque track, but also one of the more unique titles. Where did this one come from and how were the pieces of the song composed and melded into one final tune?

RC: Eli wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics after the music was written. I’ll give 5 bucks to the first person who can figure out where the title comes from.

PM: You’ve played all over New England and Upstate New York. What stands out for you when you go through New York and hit off Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, Ithaca and all points in between?

RC: Oneonta, NY is a standout. Some of our first shows were there, so we’ve got a lot of fans from there who’ve been with us from the beginning. That’s a really special place for us. Also I’m from Rochester, so I always enjoy playing there.

PM: Did growing up in Rochester influence your music playing in any way, either through school or the local music scene?

RC: Absolutely. While I was in high school, I did a bunch of musical extra-curricular things that challenged me as a musician, like pit bands and even an Irish band. I also played in a local cover band called the Earthtones, which taught me a lot about gigging and having a good attitude about playing with other people. After high school, I got really into an amazing local band called the Niche. Eventually, they sort of took me under their wing and let me sit in with them at shows. That was a huge influence for me and I still love their music to this day. Also, an early jazz based influence was a great local group called Doja. Their guitarist, Paul McCardle, is an amazing player and had a big impact on my playing early on.

PM: Got any favorite places to stop for food while in Upstate New York?

NE: Dinosaur BBQ, Alto Cinco in Syracuse and anything around Ithaca is great for hiking and chilling.

RC: Garbage Plates.

Dopapod plays Albany at Red Square on February 28th with special guest Big Something, March 1st at The Westcott Theater in Syracuse with special guests The Manhattan Project and The Greys, and March 2nd at Water Street Music Hall in Rochester with special guest Haewa. There will be Garbage Plates late night.

Exclusive Interview with 17 year-old EDM Sensation, DJ Danny Avila, playing The Westcott Monday February 4th

by Gauraa Shekhar and Mary Morgan Craig

It the midst of a cold Thursday night in the Windy City, the 17-year-old EDM sensation Danny Avila hops off his plane and into an interview with Morgan and Gauraa from UpstateLIVE to dish on his US tour, Fedde le Grand and his new haircut!

Mary Morgan Craig: When did you fall in love with house music and was there a first track that got you enamored with the genre?

Danny Avila: Um, I don’t know, I was probably like 12 years old, and I was still listening to other music genres like R&B and stuff and probably the track I heard for the first time that made me go like, “Wow, what kind of music is this?” was Put Your Hands Up For Detroit by Fedde le Grand.

Gauraa Shekhar: That’s a great track! What was it like to have Pete Tong open his essential selection with Breaking Your Fall?


DA: Wow, that was crazy! I had no idea at all. I was just checking my Twitter and I was just getting messages from people saying, “Wow, Pete Tong played your track” and I just called my manager and he was like, “Pete Tong just played it–it’s massive”. I couldn’t believe it, it was crazy.

MMC: I bet, I would have the chills, too. It’s amazing that you have already had three residencies. Did you have a favorite residency? And why was it your favorite?

DA: I would say the residency at Pacha, Ibiza. Probably because I have been following Tiestö since I was 13 years old. You know, for me, it has always been a dream to perform with him and get the chance to share food with him and be part of his family. It was incredible.

GS: That’s so cool. Is it Amba Shepherd who does the vocals on “Breaking Your Fall”?

DA: (Laughs) No, no, it’s not her. She’s a vocalist from Holland but you know, she’s working on different projects right now and she didn’t want to appear in the title.

MMC: How do you choose the tracks for your set?

DA: That’s a really good question! You know, I have so many tracks. I mean, my library is huge. I always arrive at the venue a little bit earlier…about half an hour earlier so I can feel the vibe a little bit. I see how it goes. I don’t usually come in prepared with the titles that I will play that night.

MMC:  Does that make you nervous?

DA: I’m never nervous, I’m always excited!

MMC: So you’re just a natural born DJ then, ha.

GS: Is there a DJ that you would love to get the chance to meet that you haven’t met yet?

DA: I have met a lot of artists but one person that I really, really, really want to meet is probably Skrillex because, you know, he’s so talented. His music is just awesome and   he’s been a big influence on me.

MMC: That’s great. I would have assumed that you’d already met him because he’s so popular. Do you have a favorite music blog? How do you find new music?

DA: The website that I regularly access is Billboard. I check it everyday to see what’s going on but also, I get a lot of promos…a lot of friends who are producers also send me tracks that are not released yet. Then I have a couple of blogs like Bacau House Mafia. They’re pretty cool.

GS: Do you have any advice for aspiring DJs?

DA: Yes, of course. There is so much going on right now. Especially in the States, it’s crazy, there are so many parties and usually about five DJs on a Friday night in New York City. There are also a lot of producers out there so my advice is to be unique and have your own personality. Just try to do what they want and not be what they want you to be.

MMC: When did you get your first equipment and what did you get?

DA: It was ridiculous, ha. It was a super cheap small consoler which cost me about $45-50. I don’t remember the name but it was like Erklos NK2 or something. It was nothing, really. At that point, I didn’t even know how to mix tracks with that but I was so happy and I enjoyed it so much. I spent so many hours trying to improve a little bit. I used to teach tennis when I was 12 or 13 so I could earn enough money to buy Pioneer C800 on eBay. That was basically how I improved my skills. I practiced for hours and hours.

GS: Have you ever changed a song in a set based on how the audience was reacting?

DA: Yeah, well, I kind of have my own style of playing. I mean, every DJ has their own way of playing. If the audience wants commercial shit, I will play commercial music with my own sound in the sense of dropping more vocals or whatever.

MMC: That’s very cool. What do you think is the craziest/weirdest fan experience you’ve ever had?

DA: (Laughs). I was kind of trapped in Spain last year and two girls went to the booth totally drunk and crazy. They jumped to the booth and broke the mixer. It was crazy. The staff had to go get a new mixer.

GS: Yeah, I’d be pissed, too! So how does it feel to be playing Ultra this year?

DA: I can tell you a quick story, actually. When I started DJing, Fedde Le Grand was one of my biggest inspirations. He even has a ten minute documentary on YouTube about Ultra and I was like, “Man, the day that I play a main stage or whatever, I’ll be the happiest guy in the world” and then I didn’t now I was playing ultra and my manager hadn’t told me yet and he had no idea. I was checking my Twitter and I got so many mentions and I was like, “no way”. I was almost crying. I was so happy.

MMC: I’m glad! That’s so insane. So who are your biggest musical influences? Was it always house music or did your parents bring you up on something else?

DA: I listen to and love so many different music genres. I play a bit of electro but I also listen to Maja Jean who is a big House music producer. She is amazing. Also, Solo Moon is a house producer whom I love.

MMC: I love listening to your sets because they have a lot of the popular songs and also a lot of the deep cuts and now other people can pull that off really well.

GS: Do you ever get nervous in front of so many people at festivals?

DA: Um, not really nervous…but sometimes I get butterflies in my stomach and you know, sometimes I get really really excited. The five minutes before my set, I go nuts. It’s like getting really excited.

MMC: Where you see EDM as a genre going?

DA: That’s a very hard question because in the last year and a half, it blew up and now it’s blowing up even more. It’s changing a lot and there are so many producers coming up as well. I hope it continues to grow bigger.

GS: What are your plans for the rest of the year?

DA: I have a remix for Skylar Gray coming up in six days. I did a remix with my friend and it’s dub step. I also have new original Danny Avila track coming out and then I have this crazy tour this month in the States. Also, Coachella with Tiesto and my Ibiza season tour this year. I don’t know, I guess just working on music and playing!

GS: That sounds great! Have you ever been to Upstate New York before or would this be your first time?

DA: This would be my first time! I’m so excited!

MMC: Well welcome! Bring a jacket!

DA: Thank you, it’s gonna be a lot of fun.

MMC: Well what do you think of the touring life? Traveling all the time?

DA: Well, you don’t start traveling every single day in the beginning. I started with a few gigs maybe once a week, then twice a week and you go out of the state. It’s a process, you know. Then you get used to it. I mean, it’s crazy right now because I’m touring every single day. If I had started doing this every single day of the week in the beginning, this would have been exhausting. It is still exhausting but you get a bit used to it.

GS: How is the EDM club scene different now than it was when you were 12?

DA: It is crazy, ha! Four years ago, it was like a house music scene…a bit more tech-house…a more vocal sound but now everything is really electro and dub step. You know, people just go crazy. It has changed a lot but that’s what I mean…in five years, it’s gonna change even more.

MMC: I’m excited to see what happens.

DA: Me, too. I can’t wait!

GS: We love your show Ready to Jump–could you t

The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, February 1st-10th

The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival will take place February 1st-10th, 2013. Back in 1897, The first “Mid-Winter Carnival” began as a way to enjoy outdoor recreational activities such as skiing, sledding, and skating in the coldest days of winter. That inaugural  2 day event featured skating races, a parade and an ice tower. The following year, the first Ice Palace was constructed from blocks of ice from Lake Flower’s Pontiac Bay. Today, the The Ice Palace stands as both the centerpiece and symbol for the Winter Carnival.


Another long standing tradition at Winter Carnival is the Waterhole‘s live music series. Each night of Carnival, Waterhole features the region’s top bands and/or local favorites. This year’s lineup is top notch, check out the flier below and hopefully we’ll see you there!