“There is no obvious next step for this band” — La Dispute talks the future and their new documentary

La Dispute
photo: Joanna Bongard

Watching La Dispute’s new documentary Tiny Dots will truly open your eyes to the authenticity this band brings to the table. Each member gives their input on each other as well as their latest album, Rooms Of The House, where there is a developed sense of wholeness. In essence, each member is a room that makes up this symbolism of a house, where each fan is harbored and welcomed by artistry and solidarity. Substream sat down with bassist Adam Vass (who also served as a cameraman and graphic designer for the documentary), who enlightened us on the intimate behind-the-scenes look Tiny Dots provides.

What can you tell me about the creation of this documentary? Was there a goal in mind?
ADAM VASS: At first it was going to be a performance piece and of course, plans change over time. I think we ended up with something cool anyway that opens up that window to fans of our band to see a different side that they haven’t seen before. I wasn’t seeking to accomplish anything, except for capturing what it was we were doing every day. We had a couple of GoPros and handheld cameras. That kind of won itself to the aesthetic of giving that behind-the-scenes visual. It was pre-planned that way, but because the cameras were so small, people would forget that they were even there, so we ended up with a very real result.

I noticed fans interviewed for the documentary continuously repeating that La Dispute’s music is “real.” What was it like to see this mesh together in the band’s personal moments on film?
It is gratifying, and you definitely feel rewarded like your mission is accomplished. That is what we have always sought out to do, and it is weird to say that, because to be deliberate about being real is almost a paradox in itself. Bands are really transparent between Twitter [and other social media]… We are very out in the open to retain who we are and not how we want people to perceive who we are. I think we do a pretty good job of that, and I am glad that we were able to see our fans acknowledge that in the film.

Vocalist Jordan Dreyer mentions in the film that he feels guilty by performing “Andria” live, as he does not suffer under the weight of those emotions anymore. Looking back on the older songs, would you agree?
I think so… I would say that time era of the band or maybe even before that, it all seems dated to us. We play those songs when we tour, but it is more out of obligation than a proper emotional response. I think when you write something at 18 years old and you go out onstage at 28 years old, you are a different person. No one feels the same way 10 years later about anything; you grow up and your perception of the world changes. I don’t know if I would consider them disingenuous at all, but I think the rest of the guys would agree on a detachment from some of those experiences that led to those songs.

The title Tiny Dots is a reference to the song “Woman (In Mirror).” Dots are seen as symbols of the sun and moon which make up the infinite lifeline of the world. Was this intentional to say that this documentary is but a glance at memories that make up La Dispute’s infinite timeline?
I would say that latter more than the dots symbolism, although that is very interesting to hear. It was more directly a reference to that song and the ideas present in that song. There are shared events across multiple lifelines; one example would be the tornado in “Hudsonville, MI 1956” where people’s lives intersect, because they all share this moment. All these moments in our band’s history brought not only the four of us together, but all the people who have worked with us or listened to us, anything pertaining to sharing these shared experiences that could potentially shape the way we perceive the world around us. I think some of the fans who speak during the course of the film can attest to that we are all are changed by this whole experience.

This film almost came off as a farewell or a tribute. Was this documentary a closing on the chapter that is Rooms Of The House, or the novel that is La Dispute?
I think that ending was left intentionally ambiguous, because we ourselves aren’t sure of that future and no one else knows. I think it was meant to be the enclosure of Rooms Of The House, or the way that we can kind of document the whole experience. It was a cathartic happening, as no one was sure that we were going to do it, or even us. We did record the album, the film is a celebration of that, but at the same time there is no obvious next step for the band. We don’t know if this is the end of the novel, but we figure then that this documentary is a fitting way to close it. S

A version of this piece was published in Substream #49.