While cutting through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado last month, we had a chance to sit down with Dopapod drummer, Scotty Zwang, before hitting the stage at The Barkley Ballroom in Frisco, CO.
What does music mean to you?
Scotty Zwang: It’s funny, I was watching one of my favorite movies, Almost Famous, and I thought if anyone ever asked me this question I would have to quote the movie. “To begin with, everything.” It really means everything to me at this point. It’s my passion, it’s my career, and it’s my life. It’s everything. It’s something that takes up most of my entire year. It’s nice to be so passionate about something; living on the road and playing all the shows, practicing and writing more music, it’s a lot. When I’m not with Dopapod I am occasionally doing work with other projects as well. But the payoff is so rewarding that it makes every minute of it so worth it.
(A group of guys walk into the green room and Scotty yells, “Guys, if you’re going to be in here YOU CAN’T FUCKING TALK!” Jokingly, looking back at me with a big smile and thumbs up. He takes the interview process VERY seriously!)
How’s Tour been?
SZ: It’s been great, it’s been interesting because I guess the last couple weekends we have been playing a lot of club shows in comparison to festival shows. It’s nice to get back into a smaller setting where the fans are there more specifically for you. Don’t get me wrong festivals are great; you get to play to a bigger crowd in these beautiful locations all over the country. But it’s simply a different vibe when the show is centered on you.
What kind of side projects do you work on?
SZ: I have a few things going on. I hosted a residency where every Tuesday for a month I had different guests. One of the people I had started a group with was Todd Stoops called ‘Bang Bang’ which inspired the name of another project, that kind of started out as a joke, called ‘Zwang Bang” where I would DJ and play silent discos at festivals, It’s nice to play with other musicians outside of just Dopapod. It really helps you grow as a musician; and for me, it’s nice to take a step back and not do something musical for even just a week. This creates a longing for my instrument, and when I get back on the kit it encourages me to try new things. The side projects are nothing too serious though, it’s more being asked or invited to do something when I have time off from Dopapod.
Dopapod seems to be very friendly with a lot of different bands; like Papdosio, The Werks, and other bands. I know at the last ‘Werk Out’ Festival the 3 bands joined forces for a cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. How does your bands friendship with other bands benefit the group?
SZ: Like any friendship it has it’s benefits. You have people around you that care about you and help you through tough times, but with different bands and band members there is a slight difference. It’s hard for someone to understand what we do. I can go home and talk to any of my hometown friends and tell them about the road, but it’s hard explain what it’s like to be on the road or play these major events, or even when you play a show and it’s a flop. [The show didn’t go well] With your band friends you can fully have those conversations and completely understand it. Then on another side, musically, it’s super rewarding being friends with the Dosio crew, Kung Fu, and TURKUAZ. There are so many more, but those are the ones that immediately come to mind. It’s the best part about festivals; you get to see all your “work friends.”
Compared to recent years, I feel a funkier vibe coming from your sound. Would you agree?
SZ: I think in a way certain aspects of our music have become a little quirkier. Songs like “Nerds” or “Picture in Picture” that really sit in a groove, that I think is very funky, but the story behind it as well as lyrically I wouldn’t say is necessarily funkier. I think the band has been experimenting with other things, where as back in the day I feel like there were a lot more stronger funk songs and a lot of progressive stuff. I feel like whatever Eli [Dopapod’s keyboardist] is really into at the time will spark whatever songs he is writing at that moment.
What is the song writing process like for you guys?
SZ: Most of the time Eli is always writing music, and he will bring us a portion of a song that he presents to us. I would say 85% of the time he brings us songs that are 85% finished, and other times he will just have one idea and we will all work together. Occasionally, we start from scratch and write something together, like we did with “Nerds.”
What is the band’s largest inspiration?
SZ: I think the big thing is that we all listen to very different styles of music, so I think that what influences our sound as a whole. We can play a set and have one song with a country vibe, then the next second it gets more heavy prog, then funk, then an electronic song in there. So I think all of that is what really inspires the whole band. Another big thing that inspired us was my studying of jazz and music in high school and the guys meeting at Berkley. The study of jazz, theory, and all the things connected with it between fusion and funk; it all come together to create our sound.
If you could describe Dopapod as a food dish, what would it be?
SZ: A food dish?
Yea, if you ordered Dopapod at a restaurant. What would you be getting?
SZ: I guess, it’s kind of a cheesy answer (no pun intended), but I feel like we are a gumbo. You just take all these different ingredients and you mix them together to make that specific dish. Just like the last question, we are all different ingredients mixed up to create our sound. Or maybe we are a stir fry, I don’t know, something with a lot of ingredients.
Is there a difference coming out to play in Colorado? Is there inspiration by the natural scenery or the music scene here in general?
SZ: I can’t answer for the whole band, I say holding a joint in my hand, but there is a difference here in Colorado. Honestly, I can’t really explain what it is that we have this huge following here in Colorado and the shows always seem to be great. It’s fortunately extended to the point where this summer we got to play at Red Rocks Amphitheatre and in a few days we get to play The Ogden in Denver. I think it has to do with the extensive history of music out here in general.
New Years Eve is coming up, and you are playing with TUKUAZ and Kung Fu. What can fans expect from spending the holiday with you?
SZ: It’s going to be a BIG show. I’m sure something crazy is going to happen. When ever the three of us get together, something incredible happens. I don’t know to the full extent, and I also do not want to reveal anything; but you do not want to miss new years!
What does 2016 hold for Dopapod?
SZ: 2016 should hopefully have a lot of new music, and potentially a new album. I know we are taking some of the beginning of the year to write a lot of music and take somewhat of a break. Touring in the winter is hard, and it’s scary. Driving through mountains with snow on the ground and 10,000 lbs. of gear can get sketchy. We want to take some time and write as much new music as possible, to make for the biggest year the band has ever had.