If you've been in a line of work that requires international phone calls, you tend to know calling codes quite well. Imagine the surprise, then, when a +61 is on the other end when you're expecting a +1. Yes, La Dispute were born and raised in Grand Rapids, a city in the west of Michigan. These days, however, one of its members calls Australia home.
“I actually live on the Sunshine Coast,” explains Brad Vander Lugt, the band's drummer and co-founder alongside his cousin, vocalist Jordan Dreyer. “My wife is Australian, so when we got married we had to make a decision to either live in Michigan or live here – so we ended up choosing here, and it's been quite nice.”
This explains, in part, why things have been so quiet in the La Dispute camp in recent years. Following the end of an extensive tour in support of 2014's Rooms of the House, the band entered hibernation and only poked their heads out on special occasions. As we speak, however, album number four is being put together. Vander Lugt is the first to admit there's been some stumbling blocks hit along the way as the band factor in both a long-distance relationship and the introduction of a new guitarist, Corey Stroffolino, who toured with the band on the back of Rooms of the House but did not play on the record.
“The whole thing has been a real learning curve for us,” says Vander Lugt. “When we made Rooms of the House, we were all living in the same city. That's not the case now – not just me in Australia, but everyone is living in different places. Everything that we do now has to come with a great deal of preparation – and that's just to do with playing shows. As you can imagine, doing something like making an album has proven to be very difficult. We had to be pretty deliberate about our scheduling and when we'd get together.”
Work on the new album began as early as 2016, when the band convened in their native Grand Rapids and wrote for three months in a rented-out rehearsal studio. They ended up with enough material to complete a new album then and there, but the majority of songs were scrapped as the songwriting process found a second wind.
“It's so weird to think that the end is in sight,” says Vander Lugt, regarding the album's completion. “We had a lot of lofty ideas for this record at the start, but there was this moment where we were all uncertain as to [whether] what we were doing was working. Starting over was a tough call to make, but it felt like the right thing to do. We had to figure out how to be a band again.”
By means of contrast, 2018 has also seen La Dispute reflecting on where they've come from in order to ascertain where they're headed. To commemorate the tenth anniversary of their debut LP, Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair, the band did a run of shows in which they played the album in its entirety. “For a few years there, we had kind of a weird attitude towards that record,” says Vander Lugt. “I suppose a lot of bands do with their debuts as they get older. You don't want to be pigeonholed by the first thing you put out into the world.
“Once we all got past that, we embraced it for what it is. We'd never write those songs again, but they were a big part of our lives – and other people's lives, too. It's nice to be able to celebrate that.” Although you won't hear Vega and Altair in full on the band's upcoming tour. “It's way too long for a festival set,” reasons Vander Lugt. There are definitely plans to bring some older songs into the setlist. As for new stuff? We'll just have to wait.
“There's always a weird disconnect when you're playing songs that aren't out yet,” says Vander Lugt. “It makes sense – no-one knows what you're playing except you. It's not something that works for our band.”
La Dispute will perform as part of the Good Things Festival next month. The reissue of Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair is out Friday November 9 via No Sleep Records.