Six years after forming the Baltimore rock quartet Dope Body, its members still lose money every time they tour. The reality is enough to make singer Andrew Laumann question how much time and effort the band will dedicate to its future.
"We're going to see how it goes but it's hard to promise that we're going to be like, 'Yeah, we're going to tour for six months straight and go for it!'" Laumann said recently. "I don't know if we can do that. We tried before and it just didn't work out."
On this day, at least, the uncertainty can wait. Laumann calls from the band's van as it heads toward New York's The Studio at Webster Hall for opening night of yet another multiday trek. (The band returns home to Metro Gallery on Friday). It is five days until Dope Body releases "Lifer," its third full-length album, and the 27-year-old frontman from Waverly believes this record finally captures the band's live reputation — unhinged, restless and captivating — to tape.
"We've always prided ourselves on being a live band, so the point of this record was to be able to represent that clearly, and so the people who actually like us and get to see us know that's why they like us," Laumann said. "The room is really small that we recorded in, so we were really close to each other. It was really sweaty and really intimate, so I feel like that also adds to the energy."
Recorded at the Serious Business studio in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood, "Lifer" was hammered out over four snowy days in January with producer Travis Harrison. Instead of each member individually recording his parts, the band - which also includes guitarist Zachary Utz, drummer David Jacober and bassist John Jones - played live and kept the best full-band takes.
"Lifer" lacks the typical studio wizardry many acts employ to enhance their sound or gloss over mistakes, Laumann said, because Dope Body wanted to be able to recreate the songs live. Not that they definitely will, though.
"We don't really play our songs the same way every time," he said. "We never [know] what the perfect vision of any song is. We're still rewriting songs we wrote six years ago."
Dope Body's off-the-cuff unpredictability is present on the new album, but the 11-track effort is the band's most confident and sure-handed release yet. "Repo Man" is the first single because it best represents the direction Dope Body is headed, according to the singer.
"It has a range of dynamics and spaziness, like punk and classic rock," Laumann said. "It has all of the elements of things we're trying to mix."
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Dope Body is often described as intense and ear-splittingly loud, but the band remains impossible to confine to genre boundaries. Many local acts could fit such a description, but Dope Body stays impressively unclassifiable in a city filled with strange talent. With "Lifer," the surprises keep coming. Longtime fans will hear a new track like the relatively quiet standout "Rare Air" and be surprised who made it.
One less obvious influence on Dope Body is Baltimore Club, the city's beloved strain of infectious dance music. Laumann particularly appreciates Club's repetitive nature and minimalism. A regular listener of local station 92Q, he said it is impossible not to feel inspired by the way Club is woven into the city's everyday fabric.
"I think it influences all of the underground, from Dan Deacon to Beach House to us," Laumann said. "We're all inspired by it, but not necessarily consciously trying to add it to the music. It just comes through."
While Baltimore sounds inspire Dope Body, Laumann does not romanticize his home. The band, he said, continues not out of a sense of responsibility to its celebrated music scene, but because Dope Body knows only one direction: Forward. The end of Dope Body will come one day, but it is not today.
"You don't want to just let things fade away. That's not the point of this band. ... It's going to go out like a fireball," he said. "It felt like it could burn out, but I feel like we need to at least make an effort to bring the fireball back up and see what happens with it."