Grand Rapids, Michigan-based post-hardcore band La Dispute has taken many sharp turns over an artist evolution spanning years. The five-piece moved from dissonant blasts with poetic lyrics during their earliest days into material that has incorporated a deeper breadth of musical influences. Interested from the beginning in a lyrical delivery style that sometimes veered into spoken word, the band experimented with jazz, prog, and dynamic shifts as they went on. This growth could be seen most strikingly on a series of 7" singles issued between albums that focused on more experimental work, as well as the narrative storytelling and musical shifting of the band's meticulously constructed third album, 2014's Rooms of the House.
La Dispute got together in 2004, made up of cousins Jordan Dreyer and Brad Vander Lugt (on vocals and drums, respectively) with friends Kevin Whittemore and Derek Sterenberg on guitars and Adam Kool on bass. Prior to forming La Dispute, Dreyer was a writer and had never sung with a band. His lyrics and vocal style were a signature of the group from the beginning, often leaning toward the spoken-word style of his written poetry and prose. The band played locally before releasing debut EP Vancouver in 2006. Shortly afterward, Sterenberg was replaced by his brother Chad; Adam Vass joined the band in 2007, replacing Kool on bass. In these early years, none of the members really took the band very seriously, but around the time of their debut album Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair, their sound began to take shape. Preceding the album, La Dispute had issued several 7" releases that same year, beginning with an untitled record and the first two volumes of a series called Hear, Here. These short-form releases focused on more experimental and boundary-pushing material, an expansion of their sound that continued on their proceeding albums. Following various lesser releases and lots of touring, second album Wildlife materialized in 2011. The band went through a series of label changes for the next several years. The more introspective and complex songs on their 2014 album Rooms of the House were the result of an involved writing and recording process. That album was released on the band's own label Better Living, subsidized by the more prominent label Vagrant. This partnership lasted for just one record, and they signed with Epitaph for fourth album Panorama, which saw release in late 2018. The album returned the band to heavier sonic impulses, as Dreyer looked to the town where he grew up for lyrical inspiration, crafting fictional lyrics sparked by real-life tragedies and local lore connected to the history of his hometown. ~ Fred Thomas