I was kind of late to the party on Dopapod, despite seeing them play with my husband’s band a million years ago. It was a few months before the release of their album MEGAGEM that I was really delving into their catalog and getting into the unique songwriting that they were mastering. When MEGAGEM was about to drop, I got an advance copy and sat down to digest it for a review. That album blew my damn mind. Everything I thought I knew about the band (and a lot of the music I was listening to at the time in general) went right out the window and I was reminded WHY I was getting so into them. As songwriters, they are stellar. The creativity is unmatched. In that mix is guitarist/vocalist and super nice guy on the scene, Rob Compa. Now Rob has a solo album called Same Damn Thing and believe me when I tell you, no title could be further from the truth as a descriptive.
The album is a fantastic departure from everything you know of Dopapod outside of that fantastic guitar work, and even that sounds very much it’s own thing on this record. It’s no secret in the scene that Rob is an incredible player. He tours as half of the Compa Gantzer due with Aqueous ax man Mike Gantzer, he sits in with pretty much everyone on festivals he plays, there are numerous videos of guest spots and sit ins that pop up whenever Rob is out on the road for any reason, not to mention he does instructional videos on Instagram for fans and guitar heads alike. His role in the songwriting of Dopapod makes it obvious that it’s a strongpoint, but listening to what he puts out as a solo effort really makes that stand out all the more. Rob Compa is a fantastic songwriter.
One of the reasons for this is that in between the great guitar work and serious groove is a mix of thought provoking musings and tongue in cheek jabbings, vocalized and strung delicately through the mixes. I was already a fan of what Rob does, but after this, my respect for him as a musician skyrocketed. The songs are fun and well put together with interesting plays on style and genre. The first track, Better Late Than Never, has a heavy strumming groove laced with slide steel guitar sounds that give a bluesy vibe with a light country western flavor dusting. Rob plays with that bluesy feel in several places on the album, like Garbage Man. I love the lyrics on this song as well. It has the storytelling element, which Rob has a great voice for as he makes it easy to pay attention to the lyrics. The track Hi Doggie has a dirty rock edge with Rob’s particular brand of shredding throughout. It’s a great song with a great vocal flair. The album all together is strong as hell, and changes up as you go from track to track. There is a strong versatility to the way the songs are put together that leaves you guessing as to what you will hear next as the song comes to an end. That is INCREDIBLY refreshing among stacks of albums that sound like one regurgitated song over and over.
Still, listening through, I had some questions that no one would be better to answer than Rob himself, so being the annoying little thing that I am, I asked!
APM: So first off, I love how much of a departure from Dopapod that this album is. How long have you been sitting on a solo album concept? Was this something you were working on during the band’s hiatus?
RC: “When the band wasn’t playing, I sort of had a realization. I had spent twenty years basically just being focused on being as of a good of a guitar player as I could be. I still think of myself as a guitar player first, and still kind of a beginner as far as writing music, but I sort of started to feel like good guitar playing is kind of futile if it can’t exist in good songs.
One kind of important moment for me happened when I went to a straight ahead jazz jam at a bar in Philadelphia, just a month or two after the band had started the hiatus. I love playing and listening to bebop, but I don’t have any illusions about what kind of a guitar player I am. I’m a jam band kid who loves studying jazz, but I’m far from being a first call straight ahead guitarist.
Anyway, I went to this jam, and I had a pretty lousy experience. I went home telling myself I would shed whatever song I had played with the house band and come back the following week and be that much better and prove that I could “hang” as as the jazz dudes say.
The next morning I woke up, and I thought to myself “why am I going to sit around and practice songs that were written seventy years ago? Go make something of your own.” That was the day I started writing the song “Hi Doggie.” “
APM: Any special recognition you would like to highlight for fellow players on the record?
RC: “Well, firstly, Jocko Randall at More Sound Studios is absolutely the biggest reason this was able to happen. He was unbelievably generous with his time and guidance, and was an amazing teacher through the whole experience.
Also Russ Lawton (Trey Anastasio Band, Soule Monde), who played drums on every song except for one, was a super encouraging and positive soul through the whole process, not to mention having one of the deepest grooves I’ve ever gotten the pleasure to experience.
Michelangelo Carubba from Turkuaz even went so far as to route his flights to Turkuaz gigs just so he could swing through Syracuse and play on one song. Mikey was Dopapod’s original drummer, and we’ve known each other since we were kids going to Berklee. It meant a lot for me to be able to make music with him again.
Pat Markley is an amazing bass player that I started running into at jam sessions up in Vermont, where I live, and he played most of the bass you hear on the record. We did everything through e-mail, with me sending him tracks and just giving him a general gist of what I was looking for for each song, and he knocked it out of the park.
And lastly, for the song Garbage Man, I was hanging with Jocko at the studio and said how badly I wished I could have upright bass on the song. He said “let me some calls,” and a couple hours later he opened an email with this gorgeous upright bass track on top of Garbage Man, played by Joey Arcuri of Driftwood. I actually still haven’t even met Joey in person, but WOW did that song get a whole new dimension from his playing. “
APM: We have bumped into you a few times at festivals and you are one of the nicest people out there doing music. It’s something that I can say is so appreciated. I follow you on Instagram and love how much you interact with your fans there. (the videos are the best) Is that connection with the people who dig your music something that is important to you as a player?
RC: “I’m actually a pretty private person overall, and I have some pretty substantial social anxiety. (Who doesn’t?) That being said, I love playing guitar more than anything, and how cool is it to have people care about something that you really just do because it’s fun? Am I really gonna complain when someone wants to say hello because they love a record I made, or guitar solo I played, or a lesson video I posted? Nah.
That being said, there’s a time and a place for stuff like that. Last night I went out to a concert with my girlfriend, and a lot of people came up to talk to me. I don’t mind it as long as they don’t mind that I actually am pretty quiet and don’t have a whole lot to say. In particular when the show’s happening I have a hard time interacting with people, simply because I get stressed because I can’t hear what they’re saying, and I wanna hear the music! “
APM: You do a TON of sit ins and solo work out on the live music scene, and to me, it shows how much you deeply love what you do. What has been your favorite sit in that you have done? Is there someone you aspire to work with live or in studio that you haven’t been able to yet?
RC: “I’ve done a lot of gigs with Mike Gantzer from Aqueous, but we’ve yet to be able to write any music together. I’d love to do that with him.
As far as sit ins, I got to play with Dweezil Zappa a couple years ago at Catskill Chill, which was just the coolest thing ever. Sadly, there’s no documentation of it anywhere.
Also, right when I moved to Burlington last year, I was walking around the downtown area and I ran into Vinnie and Al from Moe. They were playing an acoustic set a store called Tailfeather, and they invited me to sit in at it, and then again at their show that night at Higher Ground. That sit in was amazing and really important because it led to some really surprising and wonderful things for me that don’t even have anything to do with music. “
APM: I have this vague recollection of you teasing the song Same Damn Thing a while back. It was a post on Facebook where you specifically called out the gimmick concept in the scene. I was REALLY hoping it was released because you hit the nail on the head with a lot of thoughts I tend to have about the scene for the last bunch of years. What was it that inspired this song?
RC: “I was really angry when I wrote that song. I had spent ten years pouring everything I had into my band, and by that point I was back to square one. No band, not really doing anything, feeling pretty low. Meanwhile, all my friends in other bands seemed to be on top of the world, and I had to just sit and see all these posts about sold out shows, tour buses, festivals, etc. All this fun amazing stuff that I missed. Anyhow, I realized that I could either make a vitriolic, useless Facebook post where I complained, or I could make something artistic with the way that I felt. Sometimes I regret writing it. In fact, Dopapod played it at a show recently, and I felt kind of funny singing it; I just don’t feel that angry anymore. But it was honest and pure (albeit uber cynical) at the time that I wrote it, and I feel good about using the way I felt to be creative and proactive.”
APM: Any upcoming dates we can pencil in our calendars to check out some live music goodness?
RC: “I’m gonna do some acoustic shows in October with my friend Haley Jane so keep your eyes peeled! And I’m also playing a few trio shows. One with Chris and Adrian from Kung Fu at Heady Vermont in Brattleboro on September 28th, and another on October 10th with Pat Markley and Dan Ryan at Higher Ground in Burlington VT, opening for West End Blend.”
Do yourself a favor and grab a listen of Same Damn Thing. It’s a fantastic record that will keep you guessing from track to track, while giving you a whole new look at what makes Rob Compa one of the best guitarists and songwriters in the scene. It’s 100% A Perfect Mess approved, and highly recommended! Get out and check out Rob’s upcoming dates!
See you out there!