XS ROCK: Tell me about the latest band news? Any new projects coming out, live shows or announcements?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell: So the EP has just dropped and it really is the end 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. We have some heavy, driven tracks, like End of Days, but we also have softer and more ballad-like tracks with huge choruses you can sing along to, like Medication and Victoria. We also have a dual vocal track, Overdrive, which is something the fans always love but is something bands in the Southern/Heavy rock scene just aren’t doing and will become a feature of ours in future releases.
Other than that, we have just been added to the line up for the Equinox Fire festival in the UK this summer.
XS ROCK: So how long has the band been together?
Paul ‘PJ’ Jackson: I started this project about three years ago now. I’ve always known in my mind the sort of band I wanted to create, the struggle was finding the right people to be involved. Thank God for the internet!
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for originally starting or being in a band?
PJ Paul ‘PJ’ Jackson:: I remember it well. It was the summer break of 1995 and I had just bought Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet on cassette. I saw Bon Jovi play live on tv and after watching Richie using the talk box, I knew I wanted to scratch the itch I had and learn to play guitar. I remember having my first guitar lesson soon after in the MM Music guitar shop in Southampton from Richard Barrett (guitarist for Tony Hadley). They had a Richie Sambora Stratocaster for sale in the shop, which I lusted for and had to spend all summer working to save for. The rest is history, I’ve been playing ever since. Still, love Richie Sambora! I never did get the Sambora Strat, I still look for them on eBay from time to time.
XS ROCK: What is your music background?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell: I don’t really have a background in music. I started playing guitar because my dad plays guitar. He bought me my first strat copy when I was young, but I soon lost interest. He then bought me a sparkly pink Epiphone Les Paul when I was 16 and I really took to it. I was really into The Darkness at the time and that Les Paul was the perfect guitar to play ‘I believe in a thing called love’ on! He showed me a few chords and then I started learning through tablature. Songwriting came a few years after and now I’ve found my place in LD!
XS ROCK: What image do you think your music conveys?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell: – I think I’d describe it as definitely falling into that New Wave of Classic Rock (NWOCR) category but with some heavier riffs at times. We’ve been compared to Black Stone Cherry, Monster Truck, Blacktop Mojo and even Nickelback (but I’m assuming in a good way?). I think the best way to describe our songs as a whole can be to look at each band member… you’ll find lead guitar licks inspired by EVH and Richie Sambora; Bass lines inspired by ‘classic’ metal bands like Metallica and Iron Maiden; technical and driving drums that just show the real breadth of Sepala’s abilities as a seasoned session musician and songwriting influenced by Rock, Grunge and even some Nu-Metal bands from the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s. Put all that together on a stage, add beer and whiskey, throw in the weight of the world as well as a few near-death experiences and you get Lonely Dakota.
XS ROCK: What are your current music career goals?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell: For the moment self-release is working for us. (But we’ve still partnered with a great agency in TAG Publicity to let the world know who we are!) Short of getting a video to go viral you’ve really got to work to bring people to your music, to network and build connections. You can put music out there, but you will always need help to bring people to the music in the first place! I have met bands that think they are going to release a single and become an overnight sensation. It just doesn’t work like that. If you want success you’ve got to go after it, grab hold of it and then wrestle it to the ground kicking and screaming so it can’t escape! So we are going to keep writing and recording tracks, pushing our sound and our shows. Ideally, we’d like to get picked up by a big label, but a lot of bands seems to stay independent for longer now, it’s probably the easiest it’s ever been to get music out into the world now.
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?
Paul ‘PJ’ Jackson: For me, it’s 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 megamix. 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.
XS ROCK: What are your songs’ lyrics about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell – For the most part, the lyrics are written by me and are usually inspired by events that have either happened or are happening in my life, with a bit of creative flair and embellishment.
Medication, for example, is about dealing with the consequences of your actions. When I was 20 I was involved in a pretty horrendous motorcycle accident, I almost died, and to top it all off I injured my left hand really badly and was told I might not be able to play guitar again. I did some pretty stupid things after that, taking some really big risks because I gained an ‘immortality complex’ for a while. I also had to adapt how I played guitar because I have plates in my left hand, but no one tells me I can’t do something…
Other songs focus on all the topics you might expect from a rock band I guess sex, drink, anguish, lust, having a good time…
XS ROCK: What is the single most important thing to you as a musician?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell: making music that someone can relate to hopefully to the point that they can sing your lyrics back at you. That’s when you know you’ve done one of two things, either written a ridiculously catchy song or written one that really resonates and connects with the listener. Both of those are huge accomplishments. So I guess the single most important thing for me is to connect with the listener, allowing the songs to become personal to them.
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road? If so, please fill us in.
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell: Nice try! If you want embarrassing tour stories from us, you’ll have to join us out on the road someday… otherwise what happens on tour stays on tour!
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
Paul ‘PJ’ Jackson: Just this past weekend we played a festival show in Winchester and a fan asked to meet Sepala. We brought him backstage and gave him a load of free merch. There are no soundchecks at festivals, you just line check and off you go, so…to take the fan experience one step further we let him play the drums to Von Dee riffing it out to the audience. After his drum solo, we broke into our first song with Sepala taking over. Hopefully, that’s something he’ll always remember!
XS ROCK: Are your friends and family supportive of your choice to play in a rock band?
Paul ‘PJ’ Jackson: To a certain extent! It’s important to follow your dreams and do what you think you’re here to do – but I think it’s important not to be a dreamer. I’m not expecting to be on the front of Rolling Stone, headlining festivals and flying around on private jets – but if we can make a living from music then that’s all that matters. People support that – they don’t appreciate a house full of guitars and amps though!
XS ROCK: What advice do you have for new bands trying to get started?
Paul ‘PJ’ Jackson: I’d say choose your instrument and make it your life. Growing up I had Paul Stanley in my ear singing: ‘If you wanna be a singer or play guitar, Man you’ve got to sweat, or you won’t get far ‘Cause it’s never too late to work nine to five’. It’s there if you want it, but in a game that’s half talent half luck, you just have to be yourself and work hard. You need to stay humble too, there’s no place for divas. Turn up and be the nice guys – people will remember you
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play live?
Paul ‘PJ’ Jackson: For me, it’s always Overdrive. It’s a call and receive song and you can hear people singing along. I think we’re going to write more songs like that, they go down really well! No matter how the show is going, that song is usually the turning point where things go up a gear.
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?
Paul ‘PJ’ Jackson: For me really, its Eddie Van Halen. I know that sounds cliche, but we all need someone to ensure us and light that fuse of inspiration. I had 5150 on cassette and I loved it, playing it until it wore out. I never thought I would be able to play like the guy and ha, nobody really can. Sometimes we play a part of Hot for Teacher live – Sepala can nail the drum solo on the intro so why not! Actually, Eddie liked one of my Instagram posts the other day. I’ve been star struck ever since!