Lonely Dakota is a southern rock band from the UK. Their live shows are laden with 'behind the head' solo's, chest pounding bass, raspy and haunting dual vocals and earth-shattering drums.
Please list all of your band members and their roles in the band:
VonDee – Vocals/Second Guitar
PJ – Lead Guitar/Vocals
Tez – Bass
Sepala - Drums
For starters, what bands were you guys a part of prior to? How long has the band been around?
Paul 'PJ' Jackson: We have been in all sorts of bands! Prior to Lonely Dakota, Von Dee was performing as a singer-songwriter doing acoustic shows. I was in a post-punk band playing bass! Craig is a session musician and is always playing anything from soul to metal. Terry had some time off the music before being called into Lonely Dakota. It works well, it’s such an ever-evolving creative band.
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell – I guess this current version of LD started when I and PJ met… which I think was January 2017. We’ve been kicking around as a band since then. Tez joined on bass in the Summer of 2018 and Sepala took over drums early 2019.
What’s the origin of that name and have you changed the band’s name before?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell – Who Dakota is and why she’s lonely is a closely guarded secret, we won’t even tell Tez who the inspiration for the band name is. As for changing the band name, we considered it at one point after the band went under a restructure but just ended up playing under another name whilst we gelled. We played under the name ‘The Lost & Divided’, kind of a nod to the fact the band had lost members but also showing the determination to find our feet and keep going. We had to keep it LD though because I have that tattooed on my arm on the truss rod cover of a Gibson headstock.
Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs and do you think these topics will change over time?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell – For the most part, the lyrics are written by me and are usually inspired by events that have even happened or are happening in my life, with a bit of creative flair and embellishment. Chord progressions and riffs are written by me or PJ and then Tez and Sepala help to fill the song out.
Medication, for example, is about dealing with the consequences of your actions and that doesn’t necessarily mean asking for forgiveness. 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, hating the day job, questions about morality… Moving forward, I think the topics will change as life changes… new experiences, whether good or bad, will always fuel my songwriting.
What bands are currently inspiring the music that you’re making?
Paul ‘PJ’ Jackson: Our influences as individuals run far and wide! Von Dee is a fan of Shaun Morgan from Seether, I have a bit of an obsession with Richie Sambora and Eddie Van Halen. Craig has a John Bonham vibe going on, and Tez loves Paul McCartney (but will claim Steve Harris if you ask him). It's a real melting pot of influences. We stick all that together and get our ever-evolving, ever-changing sound. As a band, we've been compared to a British Blacktop Mojo! I'll take that!
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell – As for current inspiration, I think bands like Black Stone Cherry and Monster Truck are really pushing the sound and stage show that we aspire to.
Was there a particular band/artist or concert that inspired you to start a band?
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.
What do you do to prepare for a show? Any flexing, exercises, etc
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell: Aside from the usual warm-up routines of playing through riffs backstage, tuning and warm up vocals we are normally standing around having a beer and ripping the s**t out of each other. Sounds like an odd ritual but having that ability to laugh at ourselves and each other really grounds us all. We take the time to listen to the other bands as well, see what others on the scene are doing! PJ and I then being massive guitar nerds will normally then start to dissect their guitars/pedals/gear from afar. Just before we go on stage, although we are ‘all business’ and getting in the zone we take a second to remember to enjoy it and that’s why we keep doing it!
Oh! There is also an interesting video kicking around on our Instagram somewhere of me doing star jumps and break-dancing backstage…
What has been the biggest highlight of the band’s career so far?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell – For me it was playing with SOiL and Sons of Texas at the Engine Rooms in Southampton. It was an awesome gig, great atmosphere and a heaving crowd for a Monday night! It was awesome to play with a band that I remember watching on Scuzz! Plus, the crowd were really reactive with what we were doing, they really enjoyed it! We gained a decent number of fans that night and we played really well, and the other bands watched us from the side of the stage.
If you could tour with any bands, past or present, who would they be and why?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell – Ah man that is a difficult one! I think if we were saying that money was no object and we could have whatever venues we wanted I’d love to see a tour of Seether, Black Stone Cherry, Shinedown and us! I even think with that line up we’d be happy to be the opening act…on maybe one or two nights at least… a rotation order would probably be fair! Those 3 bands have and continue to, inspire us as a band. Plus people would go nuts for it! Could you imagine that bill… it’d break the internet!
Before we get to that stage though I’d like to tour with a band like Blacktop Mojo, they have a great sound! And from all the content they release, and the quality of it, they’ve got a serious work ethic.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell – Just to watch this space, we are just getting started! We’ve got enough songs pre-written to fill a couple of albums, the band’s gigging all over the place and we’ve got big plans! Check out our social media and Spotify, become part of the fan base now so that when we’re playing arenas you can turn to your friends and say… ‘I used to listen to these guys when they were just starting out…’ and they can sigh and not believe you