Berklee College of Music is a breeding ground for exceptional bands and musicians. John “Jerry Garcia” Mayer was a product of the school. The Grammy Award-winning band Imagine Dragons attended Berklee. And the Boston jam kings, Dopapod, got their start on that sacred campus. For the past 10 years the band currently comprised of Eli Winderman (keys), Rob Compa (guitar), Chuck Jones (bass) and Neal “Fro” Evans (drums) has performed hundreds of shows, released several live and studio albums, and has accumulated a loyal following of jam enthusiasts from across the globe.
For those not in the know, the name “Dopapod” is a palindrome, and each and every one of their album titles is a palindrome as well (Drawn Onward, Never Odd or Even, Redivider). Their latest palindromic record, II Saw Live Dopapod Evil Was II, was released in late March of this year and features 14 pristine, live recordings from the band’s extensive 2016 tour. With songs from cities like Iowa City, Stroudsburg, and Frisco, the new live compilation not only shows off their improvisational prowess but also their intense dedication to performing quality shows for fans in every state.
Next weekend on Friday July 28th and Saturday July 29th Dopapod is performing a two-night Baker’s Dozen run at the storied Gramercy Theatre in Manhattan. Both shows kick off after Phish performs at MSG, with doors opening at 11:30 each night. Ahead of these anticipated Big Apple concerts I caught up with band leader and keys virtuoso Eli Winderman to discuss Dopapod’s new album, New York City, and their upcoming Gramercy Theatre concerts. Tickets for both shows can be purchased in advance here.
Sound Fix: Hey Eli – thanks for taking some time to answer a few questions here. To kick things off, Dopapod has a big two-night run at New York City’s Gramercy Theatre on Friday, July 28 and Saturday, July 29 during Phish’s inaugural Baker’s Dozen music marathon. Your band is no stranger to Phish After-Parties, so if you would, tell us a bit about your history performing post-Phish. Is their one specific Phish After-Party that stands out as your personal favorite to date?
Eli Winderman: We’ve always enjoyed playing Phish After-Parties. At this point we’ve done them in NYC, Miami, Minneapolis, Chicago, Worcester, Saratoga, and maybe some others I’m forgetting? It’s a great way to connect with people who have maybe never heard of us and basically get dragged along by their friends to the show. One specific moment that stands out was at our Worcester After-Party. The venue had a door behind the stage that led to the back alley. The place was totally packed and a bunch of people couldn’t get in. Then all of a sudden, I look down and see one of our fans crawling on his hands and knees through Rob and Chuck’s amps. We all just laughed and let him in, he earned it.
SF: Looking ahead, what’s in store for Dopapod’s two upcoming Phish After-Parties? What’s it like performing in a monstrous music market like New York City?
EW: We plan on having a grand old time playing for our friends and fans in the city that never sleeps! NYC is always kind of a pain to get in and set up, but once it’s built we love to let loose and have a good time.
SF: Your most recent album was the live record, II Saw Live Dopapod Evil Was II, which was released this year on March 31st. The album features a compilation of live tracks from your 2016 Fall and 2017 Winter Tours. How does the band go about selecting the songs for its live albums?
EW: We basically just pick the songs we know we’d like to feature, then we get digging through the recordings to find the very best versions we can. For this album, we wanted to put together a good representation of our material for the last couple of years so we had a nice launching point to the future.
SF: Apart from your recent live record, what can you share about new original material Dopapod’s currently working on together?
EW: We are getting together the new studio record, I can tell you that!
SF: Is there a particular process or methodology the band puts in place when creating new original music?
EW: We usually start with a demo that I make. Then Rob, Chuck, and Neal all add their own personal touch to the song. Rob and Chuck have helped me with lyrics a lot in the past as well. Other songs have started with riffs that Rob and Chuck come up with, or interesting rhythmic ideas and demos that Neal puts together. Rob has really been becoming an excellent songwriter over the years as well. Once we have it under our fingers, we then start playing it live where it either makes the cut or it doesn’t.
SF: In the month of June alone Dopapod played a remarkable 14 different shows, including an extensive West Coast Tour. How does the band manage to find energy and inspiration to put on so many high-energy, well executed performances from city-to-city in such a condensed period of time?
EW: It’s what we do! We’ve been touring pretty heavily like this since 2009 or 2010. We’ve been taking more time off in the recent past though. We all just do everything we can do to balance our lives outside the band. We also just try to have fun and connect with each other on stage as much as possible. Fun is the name of the game for us.