Interview: Checking In With Dopapod’s Eli Winderman & Rob Compa

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Words by: Kelley Lauginiger

The fourth annual Brooklyn Comes Alive released their full schedule and it’s jam-packed (pun intended). In the spirit of David Bowie, the gist of this event is basically this: we can be band mates, just for one day.

Curated with a huge love for all things collaborative music, this yearly event will include over 50 artists at three venues in one day in Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn dressed up as New Orleans. Pairings new, old and unexpected from the jam and improvisational music world come together to offer a dream experience for not only music lovers who have seen every show, but the freshest-faced noob looking to see what it’s all about. It’s a day for everyone. One performance that’s sure to be hot is the reunion of an early Dopapod lineup featuring guitarist Rob Compa, keyboardist Eli Winderman and drummer Michelangelo (Mikey) Carubba. Amidst a one-year Dopapod hiatus that started January 1, fans are excited to see (at least some of) their guys again.

Formed in 2007 after meeting at Berklee, Eli said he met Mikey the first day of school. Mikey was hanging out, outside the dorm.

“I honestly think he bought us beer,” Eli said laughing. “He was a little older, and we were 18. He’s still in my phone as ‘Mikey Deuce,’ cuz he introduced himself that way back then. He was super into poker, so I think that was his nickname.”

Eli reminisced that Dopapod started as a duo of just he and Mikey for about two years before they brought in Rob.

“Once we added Rob, we were in that formation for about a year,” Eli said. “We have a bunch of songs from that time period, and have just been going over them together again. We’re seeing where we can add special things in to make it new and fresh, while it’s also our old songs we love. It should be a special show.”

Both Eli and Rob credit their recent trio performance at The Ardmore Music Hall when they opened for Everyone Orchestra as the springboard for this upcoming Brooklyn Comes Alive slot.

“I think that’s the reason we have this gig. It was almost like a tryout for this in a way,” Eli said, laughing a little. He said they didn’t know going in, but that the right people saw the tape and invited them to perform at Brooklyn Comes Alive. Rob agreed and said the show was a blast.

Eli and Rob both also expressed that there is no beef among the cast of Dopapod and Turkuaz characters, that there never was, and that they are all still friends. The bands have been intertwined since the beginning, connected through Berklee. Eli noted that he, Mikey, and Neal “Fro” Evans were all in Dopapod and Turkuaz at the same time, for two to three years. When asked what the exact circumstances were that led to Mikey going to Turkuaz, and Rob and Eli staying with Dopapod, Rob shared:

It might still be a tender subject even after all these years, I don’t know. I did just see Mikey yesterday, he recorded on my solo record up in Syracuse. It started that Fro was there playing percussion, and so was Mikey. I should preface this by saying that Mikey is, I think, one of the best drummers on the planet right now. And Neil is too. But, basically Mikey had a gig he couldn’t make, and Neal played with us. He hadn’t rehearsed with us or anything, and we were setting up at one of those renegade festival sets where you’re just kind of on the grounds, not really on the bill or anything, but you just kinda set up on the campground, you know? [laughs] And I don’t know, it just was something magical. Something clicked with Neal.

So from there, we made the difficult decision that we wanted Neal to be on drums. Honestly, after going through so many drummer changes in our career, I’d probably never fucking do that again! You know? Just doing the lineup change thing … I don’t know.

But at the same time, I feel like Dopapod became the band I know it to be, when Neal was on drums. That’s when it started to become this pretty unique thing. And also it’s the same thing with Turkuaz. Once Mikey was playing with them, I feel like both bands were better for it.

While many fans are missing Dopapod, does Dopapod miss being Dopapod?

“We have been talking, but nothing is set in stone,” Eli said. “We’re still working out our exact plan of when, so unfortunately I can’t say yet. I just want to to reiterated that it was never a beef between members of the band, but more of a beef with the lifestyle of touring 100 or more shows a year.”

When they announced their hiatus, the band stated that they wanted to reset their goals and priorities this year to gain balance for when they return to touring. As we enter the fourth quarter of this break, do they feel they’ve accomplished these goals?

“Absolutely,” said Eli. “Well, I think I mean I’m absolutely working on it and have learned a lot. I’m learning things I can take on the road with me so I can tour sustainably. Yoga, meditation, eating better, and also just having a life outside of the band, to come home to. My girlfriend and I got a dog! It’s important to have that stuff so that when you come back from the road you don’t feel … empty or something? You know?”

“Some days I feel that way,” Rob said. “But other days, I’m just like, FUCK! Ya know? I think I just realized that life isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being OK with it when it’s not perfect.”

Eli shared that he was working with Octave Cat for the first six months of the year or so, but when it ended, he had a blank space where his tour should be.

“Now, I’m kind of just looking at it like I’m a pro athlete,” Eli said, “where people come to see me for a form of entertainment, as an escape or release for them from their lives, and they’re watching you on stage, and if you’re not having a good time on stage, it’s just a bummer! I feel like my life’s purpose feels like it’s not just to entertain people, but to inspire people to be the best person they can be with whatever they’re doing. I guess I’m trying to tap into that.”

Rob’s stayed busy recording his solo work, playing with an African band called Barika, and performing at festivals as an artist-at-large including The Werk Out and this weekend’s Resonance.

“It’s fun, because it doesn’t involve a ton of homework,” Rob said. “Like, I sometimes learn a few songs and stuff, but it’s all just fun. At Werk Out, I just got up there and used my ears, which is my favorite way to play. I wasn’t up there trying to remember a million parts. If you don’t know what’s going on, I can just stay out of the way, too, ya know? If I don’t play a note, they sound just like they always do. But I usually can at least fake it til I make it.”

Brooklyn Comes Alive takes place September 29 at Brooklyn Bowl, Music Hall Of Williamsburg and Rough Trade NYC. The Carubba Compa Winderman set takes place at Rough Trade at 6:30 p.m. ET. Tickets are available here.