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Dopapod mounts a memorable “Funkadelic” return

After an almost four year hiatus, prog rock jam band Dopapod is back with what might be their most accomplished record to date. The self-titled album is just one part of a return that includes touring with funk legend George Clinton and launching a board game. Goldmine columnist Ray Chelstowski got to talk to them about it all.
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By: Ray Chelstowski

Dopapod has always set itself apart within the world of jam. They bring a progressive rock edge to their music that at times channels Pink Floyd and in others brings forward an intensity you might hear from Mike Stern. Their music is big and bold, with muscle, bottom, and proper amounts of polish.

They came together at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA and have since created a body of work that has evolved over time, most recently bringing forward elements of funk and hip hop. The band took a two-year hiatus in 2017. Then just as they were ready for their return the pandemic arrived and pushed “pause” on their plans for re-entry. Now they’re back with a new record and it’s already receiving wide-spread praise for its great groove, its seamless jams, and its fluid, slinky guitar parts. From the self-titled record now comes the third  single “Black Holes”. It’s a song that begins with an infectious guitar hook and quickly explodes into a funk focused video arcade like ride. The beat pushes the song forward like a march while all of these percussive sounds dance about on top, driving things forward to the chorus where the harmonies are launched high into the air, soaring with confidence and color. It’s one memorable way to make your return something no one misses.

If that’s not enough, the band has also upped their marketing game, literally, by integrating a board game into the gatefold vinyl packaging of the album. It’s called Building a Time Machine and the gameplay is similar to Monopoly and The Game of Life. To accompany the game the band is offering multiple merchandise bundles that include game accessories such as Meeple Pawns, Dice, Game Piece Baggies, and Dopapod themed pads and pencils for keeping score. It’s another expression of the kind of creativity the band brings to their entire platform.

Dopapod - Eli Winderman (keys/vocals), Rob Compa (guitar/vocals), Chuck Jones (bass), and Neal “For” Evans (drums) - is headed back out on the road in support of the new record at festivals and at select summer dates supporting the father of funk, George Clinton of Parliament and Funkadelic fame. It’s the kind of full-throttle return only a band like Dopapod could quarterback. Goldmine’s Natural Funk Projekt had the opportunity to catch up with founding member Eli Winderman about the record, touring with George Clinton, and the band’s longstanding love of palindromes.

Goldmine: It’s interesting to see how big an influence the Berklee College of Music has had on the jam band scene (Lettuce, Marco Benevento, etc.). What is it about the school that inspires the creation of this kind of music?

Eli Winderman: Well by the time I was 15 or 16 years old I had already gone to a few festivals like Bonnaroo. So I was already introduced to Soulive, Medeski Martin & Wood, and the Benevento Russo duo. Berklee is just a really cool network of people where the big fish from all of the small ponds meet. When I was there I was able to start doing some gigs in Boston with some older guys. That was my real education. It was an awesome time. I really loved it.

GM: Is the material on this record new or have some of these songs been with you for a while?

EW: Some of it is actually older. It’s been in the arsenal for a long time and for some reason or another never made it on another album. The newer material is actually from 2019. We did this one camping trip in Colorado. Our bass player Chuck is super into outdoor activities and suggested that we do a band camping trip after this run of shows in Denver. So we get out there and it got down to like 20 degrees at night. It was so cold. We would sit around the camp fire and a lot of the new songs on the album are from little seeds that came out of those moments. Rob had an acoustic guitar and started playing the intro riff for “Fannie” and I thought that it was cool and decided to record it. We fleshed out a demo weeks after that. It was the same case with the guitar riff in “Think”. That kind of came from Rob randomly playing across the room and me going “whoa! What is that?!” From there we just kind of expanded on things. We started to do this recording in 2019 and when the pandemic happened everyone became really scared to meet up and do mixing and over dubs. It really extended the process. But it did give us extra time to work on the mixing and allowed us to really fine tune everything.

GM: Was there any benefit that came out of the pandemic for you?

EW: It really allowed everyone way more time than ever before to work on new stuff and practice. I know that for all of us we made some real personal strides with our playing because there was just so much time.

Photo credit: Michael Weintrob

Photo credit: Michael Weintrob

GM: Rob’s guitar work on the song “Fannie” really makes the influence that Pink Floyd has had on this band abundantly clear.

EW: Yeah he loves David Gilmour. He can sound more like David Gilmour than anyone else I’ve heard play. But he does his own thing with it. It’s not a rip off. Since he was a little kid he has been obsessed with Pink Floyd. It was a big inspiration for him and for all of us as a band. We learned Echos, “One of these Days”, some of the ones off Meddle, and we’ve done “Young Lust “a bunch. Recently at our Boulder show we played “Shine On”. We kind of threw it together at the last minute. It wasn’t as perfect as I’d eventually want but we did it because our former lighting guy would say that when we headline Red Rocks we would have to play it because he wanted to do the lights. He ended up leaving the band because he started doing visual art for board games and it blew up. He actually designed the artwork for the board game that comes with the album. That was all him.

GM: You close the album with the song “Time is Funny”. It’s an explosive rocker that ends with a sonic boom that’s the equivalent of a door slamming. It’s a terrific way to wrap the record. Did you always know that this was the song to do that?

EW: The whole process involves recording as many songs as you can then picking as many as you can fit. I think people only have so much of an attention span when it comes to listening to an album. And if you want to put it on vinyl then you have to make it fit within a certain amount of time. For that song I just felt like it sounded like something that would come at the end of an album. I look at an album kind of like a play. There are certain moments where the character in the play says their monologue under a single light and share with the audience what they have learned after travelling through time, wrapping things up in a positive way. So it just felt like the appropriate choice for us to do that with the record.

Photo credit: Michael Weintrob

Photo credit: Michael Weintrob

GM: The band’s name is a palindrome as has been the title of every album you’ve released. How did this begin and why did you choose the band’s name for this particular release?

EW: So the band name is a palindrome, and there are seven letters in the name. This is our seventh album and the connection just felt kind cool. There’s also something about the number seven that’s special and with this album I felt like we made a lot of strides forward in finding our identity and sound. And many of the themes on the album are about being ok with where you are, like the idea that “I am enough. I do enough. I have enough”. They are all themes of self-acceptance.

In terms of why we committed to using palindromes in naming our albums, it began when I was trying to come up with a name for the band which is the hardest thing to do. I took the word “dope” and I turned it around on itself and it became “dopepod”. I switched out the “e” for and “a” because I liked that that would give it a “dopamine” significance. Eight hours later it occurred to me that it was a palindrome. That was before we made the first album. Then we were like “what if we made the album name a palindrome too?” From there it was like we needed to make every album name a palindrome.

GM: How as a group to you come to an agreement on what the balance between prog and funk should sound like?

EW: That’s kind of the challenge for all of us. I think we all have some form of ADD (attention deficit disorder) and if we do one thing too much we get bored. Within the band there are so many different influences, so in order to make everyone feel good about what we’re doing we kind of have to do a little bit of everything. I noticed that about Phish too. I saw them once in Atlantic City and during the progressive stuff all the dudes would be spinning around, freaking out and the girls would just be standing there. Then when they played one of their more straight ahead songs the girls would be jumping around. I know that it’s not cut cleanly down the middle like that based on gender. But the point of switching up what you’re doing in a way that makes things non-repetitive is appealing to us all.

GM: You’re joining George Clinton on a number of tour dates. I’m hoping that you both will have the opportunity to share the stage for a few songs.

EW: Yeah, me too. Apparently his manager reached out and asked us to send over what we are working on to see if there might be a fit. I’ve been listening to a lot of Funkadelic and Parliament, doing a deep dive on it and there is so much cool stuff that he has been a part of throughout his career. I especially love the weird stuff from the 1980’s that some people don’t like. He’s a true artist. We have a bunch of dates with him, fifteen in total. It’s going to be amazing

TOUR DATES

05/13/2022 - 05/14/2-22 / Hookahville / Newark, OH

05/27/2022 - 05/29/2022 / Summer Camp Music Festival / Chillicothe, IL

06/15/2022 / SummerStage in Central Park / New York, NY**

06/17/2022 Beardfest / Hammonton, NJ

06/18/2022 / College Street Music Hall / New Haven, CT**

06/19/2022 / The Palladium / Worcester, MA**

06/30/2022 / Salvage Station / Asheville, NC**

07/02/2022 / The Caverns / Pelham, TN**

08/11/2022 / Mesa Amphitheater / Phoenix, AZ**

08/17/2022 / YouTube Theater / Inglewood, CA**

08/19/2022 / Mountain Winery / Saratoga, CA**

08/20/2022 / Blue Lake Casino / Blue Lake, CA**

08/21/2022 / Charles Krug Winery / Napa, CA**

** supporting George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic

  

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