There aren’t that many palindromic bands in the progressive rock world. There’s Kayak, and few others (before the emails start flowing, there’s a band called Palindrome. There are bound to be others, but….). The band Dopapod have taken it once step further though. The group’s album titles are palindromic too – Radar, Drawn Onward, Redivider, Never Odd Or Even, Megagem, Emit Time, and now Dopapod. Only time will tell how far they can take that, but there’s infinite options.
The band formed at Berklee Music College in 2007, performing as a duo with Eli Winderman on keyboards and vocals and drummer Michelangelo Carubba in the New England area for about a year before inviting Rob Compa, on guitar and vocals, to join. He was a fellow Berklee student. After remaining for a year as a trio, the line-up changed with Chuck Jones coming in on bass. He was also playing at the time with Winderman in a group called The Actual Proof and Neal Evans on percussion. In 2010, Carubba became the full-time drummer for Turkuaz and Evans took over drums for Dopapod. Evans left Dopapod in 2013, being replaced by Scotty Zwang for a while until Evans returned in 2016.
The symmetry of a palindrome is important to Dopapod. It is the balance that it creates which helps to energise the band. The group casually is categorised as a jam-band, but that sells them a little short really. There’s nothing wrong in being a jam-band in any shape or form, but Dopapod draws on a much broader field of influence than that. There’s a strong portion of heavy rock in the band’s music, jazz, blues, bluegrass and electronica also loom large, with Funk playing a healthy and prominent role. But the band members all have impressive and creative improvisational skills so the music can go wherever it likes.
In normal times, the band has a busy and widespread concert schedule, clocking up hundreds of shows per year in the US. That has been curtailed somewhat in recent Covid-pandemic years, but as that begins to wane just a little the band are preparing to take up live performance once again with dates already continuing from the end of April.
Dopapod don’t really sound like anyone else, but while you’re listening you might just find other bands artistes coming to mind from across a wide spectrum. Frank Zappa and Phish are in there, maybe a little bit of Brand X or Bruford raises its head briefly, Umphrey’s McGee maybe once in a while, as with The Aristocrats and Pink Floyd. Even a tad of King Crimson or Yes. But this band has its own distinctive sound. No one instrument dominates, the music is neither guitar nor keyboard led, although Eli Winderman and Rob Compa are both accomplished and excellent players. Chuck Jones on bass is a nimble and dexterous player combining well with Neal Evans’s always inventive and agile drumming. They make an interesting and courageous rhythm section that compliments rather than just plainly supporting the other two musicians. It is always a multi-colourful and vivid listen, brilliantly paced and often quite humorous.
Despite having all this musical prowess to hand, Dopapod doesn’t let itself get too carried away and the songs themselves are relatively contained. Most of the tunes on this album are in the four-to-six-minute bracket, sometimes shorter, sometimes just a little longer. But the emphasis is on collective playing. There’s very little of the grandstand soloing you might expect. There are solos but they are arranged within the broader musical atmosphere. The band members actually sound like they are enjoying the experience, and it shows in the music. It has an infectious, joyful edge to it. The funkiness of the sound really stands out on Grow, a jam that retains an easy-going atmosphere while the music shifts and grooves. Black Holes is another always moving reflective piece with some clever lyrics and stylised vocals. Building A Time Machine is a playful instrumental that balances a heavy rock edge with some tasteful keyboards and piano. There’s a lot of variety throughout all the songs. The album packaging also incorporates a boardgame.
This is an entertaining and diverting album, that shows great musicality without showboating. The vocals suit the music without being outstanding, but the musicianship is superlative throughout from all the players. It is genre busting – more than that it doesn’t recognise the concept in the first place. There’s a lack of bombast, rather, the essence of balance is central to the band’s vision. Allowing them to use dark tones but to have humour and light-heartedness, a broad sideboard of tastes to select, and to introduce reflection to furore. Take care when listening though, this stuff could become addictive.
2 Building A Time Machine
3 Black Holes
8 Ebb And Flow
9 Made A Design
10 Happy Accident
11 Timels Funny
Eli Winderman – keyboards and vocals
Rob Compa – on guitar and vocals
Chuck Jones – bass
Neal Evans – drums
Release date: 27th May, 2022
Pre-order the album here: https://linktr.ee/dopapod