Published Apr 03, 2014For their third long-player, Michigan melodic hardcore band La Dispute spent over a month in a wilderness cabin together, coming up with the guts that would become Rooms of the House. Recorded by Will Yip (Title Fight, Circa Survive) and released March 18 on the band's own new imprint (Better Living, in partnership with Staple Records), the landmark release for the five-piece is a fictional account of a relationship between two people who live in a very particular house. As Exclaim! recently found out from vocalist Jordan Dreyer, Rooms of the House was a learning experience for him and the whole band, finding the emotional connection in everyday situations and applying it to their discordant, ebbing and flowing brand of melody/fury.
Tell me about the cabin that you guys used while writing this album.
Well we're all scattered around the globe at present, so we can't just get together a couple times a week like we used to. When we had the impulse to make another record we had to find a way to all be together for a period of time so it could happen. Going to a cabin up north has always been something we wanted to do and never had the means to, and this time it was a necessity. So we rented this really cool, former tree farm in the Upper Peninsula, which you probably have a better understanding of than most people, living in Canada. It's more rural Ontario than it is Michigan; it's very secluded and in the wilderness. So we holed for five weeks in this really eccentric cabin and wrote and fished and chopped wood and did woodsy stuff and it was great. It was a lot of fun.
Is the house in the album title a real house, or something you made up?
It's made up. I had a pretty specific image in my head about what I wanted the house to be, very much like the houses in this part of the country in Michigan. During the writing process a friend of mine came over and we rearranged my folks' living room to look a bit like it, to try and get me out of a writer's block. So there are specific rooms in the house that I grew up in that I thought about, just because they were familiar to me. And then the cabin ended up being very similar to the image I had in my head, which facilitated the process creatively.
Where did the idea of the couple and their relationship that you talk about in a lot of the songs come from?
Well, it was kind a means to explore the themes we picked. Part of the process was taking a snapshot at this period of time in my life, and the people around me, and I saw a lot of people going through similar instances, so it was culled from a lot of different sources, but mostly it was just to give a foundation to the record.
It seems like your sound has matured on this album. How do you feel about that?
I think words like "maturation" or "evolution" or "progression" in some ways dismisses the past work of artists. Each album is just taking a snapshot of a certain period in your life and in way I think it was, thematically, an inevitability that we would change. Every month that we keep doing this I think we progress and find our own little individual talents and niches. So, I guess it's a maturation in the sense that it's three years after our previous record.
What did you get personally out of making this record?
The longer we've been a band, the more I find my talent and what I enjoy: telling stories. This time around I wanted to step away from the overly dramatic stuff of the last record and dial down and try to focus on a more specific relationship, and the smaller catastrophes, and see how that played out over the length of a record. I felt this time around that I have settled into a groove as a lyricist. It was fun and challenging to translate these quieter, ordinary fallouts, instead of shootings and mental illness and that kind of thing. It was a difficult and rewarding experience from the day we started until I finally finished tracking, which was a bit of a process.
What was it like starting your own record label?
A bit daunting. We've wanted to do that for some time, so we started talking about the idea and realized how immense a task it is, logistically. So it was exciting at first and then a bit of a "oh, shit" moment, but it's been awesome. I haven't really settled into how I feel because the record has been all-consuming. And we partnered with Staple Records because we realized without the support system it would perhaps be too daunting, given the fact that we're all scattered about. So Staple facilitated it and gave us a great opportunity. They've been fantastic.
You have some pretty hardcore fans. Did you think about their expectations at all when you were making the new album?
It's pretty important to us to keep that off the table when we're writing and just focus on fulfilling our own impulses artistically and see the project realized. What people think is just kind of an added bonus. Obviously you want people to enjoy what you do, especially the people who have supported you over the years, and it feels like, so far, people are still with us, which is great. It feels, as corny as this is to say, like a big, extended family.