A Conversation with Dopapod’s Eli Winderman
Prog Rock Is Alive And Well
Words and photography by Kurt Anno
A band born out of the Berklee College Of Music in Boston, Dopapod is a very hard-working band that tours incessantly. This crafty group of songwriters provides a complex and thought-provoking style of music with live shows accented by a stellar light display. A regular on the festival circuit, Dopapod has gained a loyal following that continues to grow exponentially with each passing show.
I recently had an opportunity to sit down and chat with keyboardist extraordinaire, Eli Winderman.
OnStage: Eli, I have to say that I wasn’t familiar with Dopapod until about 2 weeks ago. When I listened to the band’s music, I felt transported back to my youth and the Prog Rock bands of that time such as Yes, Genesis and Gentle Giant. I’m not going to ask you what type or genre of music this is because it could be called many things and has been called many things. How do you describe Dopapod’s music?
Eli Winderman: It’s kind of hard to describe because we don’t like to generalize ourselves as just a jam band. Although we definitely live by those set of rules or lack of rules, really. Every show is a two set show and we do this song into that song and back into another song. Similar to Phish, The Dead and bands like that.
OS: Cream was considered a jam band. That’s not bad company to be keeping.
EW: I’ve been in a bunch of bands where it is like the same set every night and I find that really boring. I just wasn’t in to that. Seems so boring to me. It easy for people who know the jam scene to be like yeah, they’re a jam band. And honestly a lot of people don’t really know how that’s defined.
OS: I look at what you guys do as being true musicians. Not only the creative process but how you create on the fly during a live performance.
EW: We love to improvise. The songs are a good vehicle for the improv. We really love doing that.
OS: I’ve read several interviews and really haven’t found where you’ve been asked what your influences are. I consider it very cerebral music. Who shaped you as a musician?
EW: For me it was Martin Medesky Wood, Soulive and Lettuce. I’ve been playing piano since I was a really young kid, but when I heard those bands that was when I realized that you can be a keyboard player in a band. I played many different instruments, but I was like hey, I can play an organ, a Rhodes and synthesizer stuff. I also got into Herbie Hancock.
OS: That makes sense because I hear a lot of jazz in your playing. There’s also metal, prog rock and funk. That mixture really seems to lend itself to Dopapod’s creative style.
EW: That is done by design. Kind of like we can do anything. We have some songs that are straight up country and bluegrass. Rob, our guitar player, is really into that stuff. Okay. Let’s do that. It makes the show a cooler show. It’s not just the same song over and over. It’s like whatever we feel like doing.
OS: I want to ask you about the festival scene. You guys have obviously been on the road a lot. What do you gather from these festivals? Do you feel a connection with the audiences? What do you think you gain from playing the festivals?
EW: Festivals are awesome because the crowd size is usually much larger than at our own shows. There are all of the other bands drawing in their fans to these shows. While there is some overlap with the audiences, there are a lot of people attending that are really there because of their favorite band. So from that, there is some great exposure to fans that maybe haven’t seen us before. It’s just a great thing that people can go into a field with their friends and camp and listen to great music. We get booked at a lot of these things and it’s great for us because we get to do what we love and that’s play music.
OS: I want to talk about the visual aspect of your show. That’s obviously a big part of the show. The lighting in particular.
EW: We all went to the Berklee College of Music. That’s where we all met. Luke Stratton, our light designer went to Berklee too and that’s where we met him. He had his own band and we had ours and his kind of ended. He said that he loved playing music, but he felt he was better at the tech side of things. So he wasn’t even a light guy we he first approached us about it. He wanted to join the band and we were okay, well we’re all set here. We asked him if he ever thought about doing lights. I had bought a really cheap set of used lights. They sat in my garage for almost a year. Luke and I set up the lights in his apartment in Boston and just fooled around with them. Neither one of us knew what we were doing really. Now, he is one the best light guys out there. He teaches a lot of people on lighting now. He does a lot of programming for everyone.
OS: Well he does an amazing job. The visual of the live shows is mind-blowing. Last question Eli. Where do you see Dopapod going in the future? What are the band’s goals?
EW: Well, I kind of have this weird thing of eight albums. Not that I want to end this at eight albums, but some of the greatest music ever for instance, Dark Side of the Moon was Pink Floyd’s eighth album. Brothers by the Black Keys was their eighth album. We are on our fourth. The next one will be number five. Every album that we have made has been drastically different than the one before. It’s not that we wanted to do that, it’s that we needed to do that. The creative side of me needs to have that creativity and that need to evolve. I write a lot. And it seems that my tastes are always changing. I honestly think that this band could end up be something insanely huge. It’s possible. Anything’s possible. I think with that mindset we’re writing stuff that I feel is our best music yet. I feel that way about every album we do. I’m very optimistic on where this thing could go. I want to be able to look back someday and be super proud of what we‘ve left behind.
See full photo gallery below-
Dopapod will be playing a special show on New Year’s Eve at the Palladium in Worcester, MA. For ticket information, check out Dopapod’s website.
Check out Dopapod’s upcoming schedule at: www.dopapod.com/tour/.
For any and all information visit www.dopapod.com
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