Dopapod Interview by Michael J. Fioretti, Photography by Steven Philips
Dopapod is quickly on the rise within the music scene. Consisting of Eli Winderman (keyboards), Rob Compa (guitar), Chuck Jones (bass guitar), and Scotty Zwang (drums), the Berkeley School of Music born quartet continues to impress listeners with its unique and thoughtful brand of progressive improvisational music, mixing rock, funky livetronica, and tight jazz-fusion style composition. One of the hardest working acts in the biz, the band makes a one-night stop on its extensive fall tour in Philadelphia on November 21st at the Theater of Living Arts. Aside from playing approximately 150 dates a year, the group has continued to gain national recognition following highly acclaimed sets played this summer at Bonnaroo and Peach Festival. You can expect incredibly tight musicianship combined with a hefty sprinkling of incredible energy and danceability every time Dopapod comes to town. Opening for them are soul music mavens The Nth Power who are promoting their recently released album, “Abundance”.
I had the pleasure to speak with Dopapod keyboardist Eli Winderman to discuss the recent tour, his rig, and what’s to come in the not so distant future:
TSI: How are you guys?
EW: Doing great. Doing awesome. How are you?
TSI: Great thanks for asking. In the middle of another forty date fall tour. How has life been on the road for you guys this time around?
EW: It’s been really good. We were on the road for about six weeks. We went all over the country, and then we had some time off, and now we’re back in the Northeast, hitting all of our favorite towns. Overall, it’s been really great. Awesome tour.
TSI: Can you guys tend to feel the difference in the energy when you come up to the Northeast since that’s where you guys have sort of your “homebase”?
EW: Oh yeah. It’s awesome. I mean we do pretty well now in a lot of the parts of the country, but there’s nothing like the energy for us in the Northeast. It’s definitely where we have our most, ah, “extreme” fans and just, the energy of the shows is just, always the best. I love it.
TSI: Well you can put me in that group as well Eli.
EW: (Laughs) Nice. Awesome.
TSI: After the Philly show, you have a nice little break until December 2nd, do you have any plans for that time?
EW: Going out to spend time with my family in Arizona. My parents live in Arizona now cause it’s warm. So I’m going out there for Thanksgiving, and just gonna do that. Then come back for, we have like a little two-week run down south and then . . . New Year’s.
TSI: Going to feel good to get off the bus for a little bit?
EW: (laughs) Yeah. Definitely.
TSI: You’re on tour with the Nth Power this time around. Most of your dates are with them. How did the idea come about to join forces?
EW: Well, we were really good friends with Nate Edgar, the bass player, and we would always be crossing paths with them here and there. Then, we ended up, our booking agent is also their booking agent. So, it was kind of like, “Do you guys want to go on tour together?” and were like, “Sure. Sounds awesome.” So that’s kind of how it happened.
TSI: That’s great. I’m sure with all of the festival circuits you guys run in you were certainly exposed to them quite a bit.
EW: Yeah. Yeah. We’re on a lot of the same events and we’re all friends. Now that we’ve been on tour together for a while, we’re all really close with all of them. They’re awesome people and amazing musicians, and, it’s really been awesome.
TSI: They are very special people. How is it working, are you each playing a set each night?
EW: They open and then, we play, usually we do two sets.
TSI: Oh nice, you’re doing two sets after?
TSI: Any collaborations or sit-in’s between the two bands during the tour?
EW: Yeah, they have all, well I think almost all of them, maybe not all of them yet, but almost all of them have sat in with us during the tour, and that is always awesome. And, we are actually about to two this thing in Asheville, in the next run, where they’re gonna film, like, it’s going to be both bands playing a few songs each and then it’s going to be a collaborative kind of thing at this place called Echo Mountain Studio, I think it’s called, in Asheville. It’s going to be pro-shot and it’s in an amazing studio. It should be pretty cool. All high quality footage of some collaborations with them.
TSI: That sounds like it’s going to be excellent. Everyone can look forward to that release. Is Luke (Stratton) lighting you guys up on this tour?
EW: Yep. Luke Stratton, he does our lights and our sound. He does a great job. We’ve been together now for like five or six years, five years, and Luke has been with us the whole time.
TSI: I’ve seen the Palladium footage from the New Year’s show a couple years ago, it was absolutely unbelievable the lighting job he did.
EW: Yeah man. He does an amazing job. When we have to do those big shows, you know, those special shows, we rent even more lights than we already have, and it’s definitely a spectacle.
TSI: Totally. It’s like a big spaceship is behind you. It’s unbelievable.
EW: (Laughs) Exactly. It’s awesome.
TSI: Let’s get nerdy for a minute. Is the same Moog Prodigy you’re using the one you bought a couple years back after the original one you used since high school broke?
EW: Yeah, I had to get a new one. Now I have two of them in case one breaks, which, they tend to do that, especially at the most important shows. (laughs) So now I have two of them. As of now, they’re both working well, but, sometimes they break. . . cause they’re old.
TSI: I hear you. Any new gear coming out this tour?
EW: Yeah. I got a new Rhodes a couple months ago. I found it on Craigslist for really cheap and it’s a really nice Rhodes. It has the speaker built in. Sounds more like the Herbie Handcock kind of sound from a Rhodes, which is like my favorite sound. And it has the built in tremolo, with, like, stereo, so it goes left to right on the mains and sounds really, really, good. . . much better than the one I was using before.
TSI: That was the one some fan sold you right?
EW: Yeah, exactly. Somebody sold that to me for like $500. I mean, it worked, it was fine, but it definitely had some weird quirks about it. But this one I have now is really nice. I love it.
TSI: So obviously you’re bringing the full organ set up along with you on this tour?
EW: Yeah. I’ve got the organ, the Clav, the Rhodes, my Moog, and the Juno.
TSI: The chopped down Hammond?
EW: Yeah, the chopped down Hammond C-3.
TSI: Nice. That would be it.
TSI: Any new songs in the works?
EW: Yeah. We are already doing a few new songs on this tour. I have a lot of new stuff that I’ve been writing over the last like two years. We put out a new album last November, but we’re going to start a new album probably early next year. Hopefully, we will have that out as soon as possible.
TSI: Great. So you’re getting some road play on the new stuff during this tour?
EW: Yeah. We have some new ones that we’ve been playing.
TSI: So after your run down South, you guys are making your triumphant return to the Palladium in Worcester for New Year’s Eve?
EW: Yes. We are excited about that.
TSI: This time around, you’re combining forces with Turkuaz and Kung Fu as well. Can we expect some more Studio 54esque tunes to come out that night?
EW: I think we’re trying to . . . ah. . . do something special. For sure. You know, we’re definitely going to do something special.
TSI: That’s something that we wouldn’t doubt. That Castskill Chill set was a pleasure for all of us.
EW: Right on.
TSI: Thank you for your time Eli. Go crush Buffalo and we will see you on Saturday in Philly.
EW: Thanks a lot.
Special thanks to Eli Winderman for generously providing his time.
If you enjoy watching supremely talented musicians giving the crowd all they have, and/or to get down on the dance floor, Saturday night at the TLA is not a show to miss. I’d highly recommend catching these acts in this smaller, intimate setting while you can.
WHO: Dopapod, with The Nth Power
WHEN: Saturday, November 21 Doors 7:00 P.M., Show 9:00 P.M.
WHERE: Theater of Living Arts, 334 South St., Philadelphia, PA