Q&A with NEAL “FRO” EVANS (DRUMMER FOR DOPAPOD, ELEPHANT WRECKING BALL, MOM AND DAD)
Building a band can take more effort than most people could ever imagine. Growing a fanbase demands constant flow of creative content that is increasing in value as the ever expanding multitude of musicians and bands compete for the attention of music lovers.
The Art of The Side Project:
It’s hard to imagine being able to successfully develop multiple bands when the demands of one group are so high. For Neal Evans of Dopapod, not only has he successfully launched his side project, Elephant Wrecking Ball, he also finds himself in a year where he recently released an album with Dopapod and has another album on the way with Elephant Wrecking Ball, and another album from MOM AND DAD.
I sat down with Evans to discuss how he has been able to artfully put his creative energy into multiple projects at the same time during a year that has him releasing multiple albums with multiple bands.
Q: Releasing an album is quite daunting. Releasing three albums in the same year seems like an impossible feat. What have some of the challenges been for you throughout this process?
A: Time management actually ends up being fairly easy to juggle, id say its more about attention from outlets or any publications who can get the word out. It must be similar to being a booking agent. If I have three albums to put out, and only have a few connections in the publicity world, they probably aren’t going to be able to squeeze in all three. The other difficulty is the different genre reach. Elephant Wrecking Ball vs Dopapod vs MOM AND DAD all can have some very different styles of fanbase. I like to think that people who just love music will dig all three, but I haven’t yet found that magazine who caters to people who JUST LOVE MUSIC. If anyone out there has just such a platform, holler back! All of this just makes my contact list long and arduous for when I’m reaching out to spread the word. But all the same, I love doing the work and being in touch with all the different fans of all the different types of music.
Q: From your perspective, what are the creative benefits of having multiple bands?
A: My favorite part about jumping around between several bands is the immediate influence that can be brought from one to another. So many aspects and ideas can be shared, and I also think that for drums in particular this benefit is ten-fold. Maybe a groove that wasn’t working in band A is the perfect groove for a new song in band B. Or maybe something that happened during a performance of band B can lead to a new idea for band C. Not only can the influence be fun and different and malleable to any degree, it can also happen over any period of time, from a day to a year.
Q: In process of cultivating your side project are there any things you have learned about how to make use of your time and creativity so each band gets the attention it needs?
A: For me it’s mostly about going with the flow. I compose on my computer when I get a chance, usually on long car rides or while flying. Then I have stockpiles of tunes and ideas ready to go. When any of the bands get together for a writing session, I may present some stuff and see if it sticks. Several times I have written tunes with a specific group in mind, and ended up using it in another. Fortunately, each group has sort of leveled out to a schedule that can permit dedicated time between them all, for writing, touring and recording.
Q: Have there been challenges or successes that have applied to one band that has not applied to the other? If so, what do you think creates that discrepancy?
A: 100% to both. I think the most broad concept that can be addressed here is improvisation. Improvising, or “jamming” has always been a huge part of my creating music. Many of my bands have started from just me and one other person sitting in a room and just going for it. Maybe we recorded it and turned it into songs later, or started with a riff and made a form around it. But between the different bands, improvisation gets treated quite differently. I’d say that in Elephant Wrecking Ball, these moments are the most intentional out of all three bands. That is to say that this group really focuses on things in what I would call a jazz sense. It’s hard to describe but it means using more motifs and themes related to the piece rather than Dopapod for example where we are more likely to go on a complete sonic journey before making the return, if at all. So to return to the question, I think that currently EWB and Dopapod are crossing those lines. EWB is getting more adventurous, and some Dopapod stuff has been a little more focused on the content of the piece. It’s always flowing and changing, and again that is the most fun part of being in multiple projects. The only thing that creates any discrepancy between which band is doing what, is how we are feeling that day, month, or year.
Q: If a friend of yours was about to launch a side project and wanted advice on how to do it successfully, what advice would you offer?
A: Creating new music is the lifeblood of any musician or band, in my opinion. One of the joys of the “side project”, which by the way I’m not a fan of that term, is that it allows musicians to explore other parts of their creativity that may not get a chance to shine in their “main” project. So my biggest advice is to always create, and have zero expectations. If your “main” band is successful, that’s AMAZING and lucky and fortunate. And its important to know that just because one band was “successful”, it does not guarantee that any other projects you are involved in will be. Successful bands rise on a wave of culture and luck. It’s a lot of right place and right time. And as such, it’s important to be able to separate the reasons that people come to see either the music of the “main” band, vs the musicians of that band. It is increasingly harder and harder to get any band on the radar of music fans, so try not to feel down if your new project doesn’t get a big following, despite the main band having maybe thousands of fans. Just remember it’s not a competition, and have fun and experience the joy of making music with friends. There’s nothing more important than that regarding all this stuff we are so lucky to be able to do.
Whether touring with Dopapod or putting out albums with Elephant Wrecking Ball, Evans is always pushing the boundaries of music. Be sure to check out his new album with Elephant Wrecking Ball titled “Joy Front” to be released this fall. The album successfully blends elements of electronica with jazz, funk, dub and sounds from outer space.
Elephant Wrecking Ball – https://www.elephantwreckingball.com
Dopapod – www.dopapod.com