Interview: Lonely Dakota

with Guest Writer: Riley Johnson

UK based, Southern Rock Band LONELY DAKOTA has released the official music video for "End of Days," the title track off of their hotly anticipated, debut EP, due out June 28th.

Riley Johnson: Talk about how music has influenced you each individually in your daily living.

Paul ‘PJ’ Jackson: Music is everything to me, whether it be a playlist of 80s rock to wake me up on the drive to work, or chilling in the evening listening to Lord Huron or something. There's always music in our house. It’s a source of constant inspiration. I play guitar for at least a couple of hours each day and even if it’s just playing along to something I’m listening to, music fills the silence! The TV doesn't get a look in.

Craig ‘Sepala’: As with everyone, our lives are full of stresses and tension. Music can be a way to alleviate this and work through some hard times. Music has been such a big part of my life and a go-to for all aspects. It wakes me up in the morning and helps me go to sleep at night. From working out to driving, music is always present.

Terry ‘Tez’ Jenvey: Music is like life, it has its up and downs, highs & lows, whatever you want to call them. If it’s taught me anything, it’s that unlike life, music lets you create anything you want without boundaries. It lets you tell stories without needing words, give you a voice when you’re voiceless and comforts you without needing anything in return. We can all take a lesson from music. It’s deep stuff.

Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell: For me its therapy, whether I’m writing music or listening to it I’m either letting something go or something in. I write songs to express myself and listen to the songs of others to connect with them. I’ve always had music in my life; my dad and brother play guitar; my mum is a drummer so the house had always been full of music.

Riley Johnson: Where do you find yourselves listening to music most often?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell: I think collectively, as a band, we all listen to music where ever we are. In the car and in the gym seem to be the main places outside of the studio and rehearsal rooms. Every time we get together you can guarantee that we’ve all got a set of headphones on us or music blaring out of the car stereo.

Riley Johnson: What are your favorite brands to use when it comes to the instruments, mics, amps, pedals and so on? Why do you favor them?

Paul ‘PJ’ Jackson: I’ve been around the block with guitars, for me, it comes down to what I can play live night after night and have a reliable guitar that stays in tune! I’m a child of the 80’s and I love Floyd Rose trems, but our varied tunings make them hard work. I’ve found the perfect guitar in the EVH Wolfgang. I have two the same and they’re solid! Perfect guitars for touring! I use EVH amps too... it’s my sound through and through.

Terry ‘Tez’ Jenvey: Axe wise I’m currently using a Schecter ATX Blackjack running Seymour Duncan Blackout pickups, these things are hot! They give me the exact tone needed to give me the driven sound I want regardless of pedals, amps, etc. Backup wise I carry an ESP FB204. For the noisy part I’m running a gen 1 Orange Terror 500 bass head. After a couple of years lugging a heavy stack around, the whole lunchbox amp stole my heart and also saved my spine. It just does what I need, warm Orange sound and dirty as f*** if I want to crank up the gain. But I never really need to as the Blackouts in the Schecter cover that. I’ve coupled the TB500 with an Orange OBC212 with the back-to-back speakers. I previously played with 410s but could never get the fuzz/drive sound that I wanted. It’s not the biggest or prettiest, but it sure packs a punch when needed and the 410 can always be added to the mix if I want to move more air.

Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell – I’m terrible for constantly changing my gear… I must have owned over 50 guitars since I’ve been in LD! My current go-to is a Gibson Les Paul High Performance in Hot Pink Fade, which is an absolute beast! I’ve also got a Limited Gibson Flying V and a Dean ’79 V which give me a pretty similar sound! (Gibson’s lawyers will love that one). I’ve also got a Schecter Dan Donegan Signature as well as a Shaun Morgan signature which has been custom pained in purple with white go-faster stripes. My studio guitars also include an EBMM SUB1 and a John 5 Triple Deluxe Tele. I have a lot of love for a lot of different guitars, but I always imagined if I ever had a signature it would be a Schecter PT or Ultra variation. For amplifiers, I recently switched from a Mesa Dual Rec to a PRS MT15 and I’m loving it!

Craig ‘Sepala’ – I use a Mapex Saturn 3 electric berry burst 3-piece kit with DW 9000 double kick pedals; 14” Sabian AAX stage hi-hats; 18” Sabian AAXplosion crash; 20” custom Zildjian crash; 22” Sabian raw bell ride; 14” Black panther snare and Vic Firth Rock sticks.

Riley Johnson: Talk about your current project. Its conception. How it evolved. The storyline behind its development or any anecdotes that may have occurred during the writing/recording process? 

Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell - Our new EP really is the end of a process of years of hard work. It’s taken a long time for us to get to a point that we are happy completing the songs and releasing them to the world because once that song is recorded you can’t really make a change to it. It’s not the same as a song that you only play live that might change in length or have the lyrics changed over and over. Once it’s recorded that’s it. I think listeners will find a little something for everyone, at least if you like rock music.

End of Days was actually only finished as a song about 4 weeks before we recorded! But once it was finished, we all agreed it had to go on the EP. The riff actually started life as a warm-up routine for me to stretch out my hand and fingers before we play. If you watch the video of me playing the riff on our Instagram you’ll see why! It involves stretching across the 3rd and 7th frets, which isn’t easy with metal plates in your hand! PJ told me I had to turn it into a song after hearing it. I put some lyrics together and showed the others and next thing we know we’ve got something special!

Riley Johnson: Were there any conflicts during the recording process? If so, how did you as a band overcome them, if not what do you think is your formula as a band to gel so well?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell: Nope, no conflicts. By the time we take a song to record we’ve already worked out our parts and how the song is going to sound as a whole. Some parts are added or adjusted on the fly, but it never causes conflict. I think we are all too laid back for that. The only person that tends to get stressed is me, but the guys just give me some space or tell me to sort myself out, it never becomes a problem. We did definitely suffer from cabin fever though! 5 guys in a room for 5 days… we were all hearing the ‘click’ still every day after we left, it definitely makes you a little bit crazy!

Riley Johnson: Is there a particular part you enjoy more than another in the process of a project?
Paul ‘PJ’ Jackson: For me, its playing to the audience. I love bringing the live show to people and letting them see that guitar music isn't dead. The passion and belief we have for what we do seems to be transmitted to the crowd and I hope people find something in our music they can take away. We always end the show on our track 15 Years and extend the ending into a super jam. Von Dee has usually disappeared into the crowd and I usually play the guitar behind my head and we'll break into a Sweet Child o' Mine / Foxy Lady mega mix. People love it...I feel a bit like I’m in Kiss sometimes but nobody wants to see the guy next door on stage, they want to see a rock star.

We had a show this past weekend where the crowd wanted 2 encores - we had run out of sings completely so the only song we knew as a band was Cochise by Audioslave. VonDee had to read the lyrics off his phone - it was that spontaneous. Still, we gave the people what they wanted.

Riley Johnson: How do you know when a song is done and ready to be taken to the recording studio and produced?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell - Being an unsigned band everything we do is self-funded which means we have to work within time limits. It’s a different experience to a band with a massive budget, we can’t just sit in a studio and keep going and going until we find perfection. The ‘End of Days’ EP was recorded in 5 days, back to back, and then Kurt (our producer) spent an extra day mixing and mastering it. 5 tracks in 5 days is a big ask for any band! And I’m really proud of what we’ve done, some of the songs certainly evolved in the studio. We were really well-rehearsed by the time we went in but the whole dark, multi-layered vocals in the drop of End of Days were written literally minutes before we went into the vocal booth. Then with some great direction from Kurt, involving a lot of vocal layers, we ended up with this really cool vocal effect. You do get a sense of accomplishment when the first board mix comes back, then it’s all about fine-tuning the mix before release!

Riley Johnson: Looking towards the short and long term of where you might be currently- where do you see yourself (yourselves) as an artist/band in 2019 and beyond?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell – For the rest of the year we intend to keep plugging our new EP and gig as much as we can. We’ve got some great gigs booked at some decent venues in London and in our hometowns. We’ve also been booked to play a prime slot at a festival towards the end of the summer, as well as a few other appearances. I think we’ll be heading back into the studio for another single after and then potentially a second EP. The songs are already written and ready to go! It’s just a matter of finding the balance between studio and stage for us moving forward.