They’re not from Dakota, they’re from Hampshire…
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell – We are all from Hampshire, England. Although we have spread out a bit the closest major cities to us, and our ‘hometowns’ are Southampton and Portsmouth. So, this is where we play a lot of our gigs. We also play in London often, which is around an hour and a half’s drive from us.
How did you meet?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell – I answered an ad for a frontman on Gumtree and that’s when I met PJ and a group of other musicians in a semi dilapidated studio out in the sticks. PJ asked me to join after that first practice, so I’ve been with LD since January 2016. After a lineup change, we found ourselves needing a new bassist and struck gold when we found Tez on ‘Join my band’, he’s been providing basslines since the Summer of 2017. Sepala then joined on drums in January of this year, PJ and Sepala had played together on other projects in the past and he answered the call when we were in need!
How long have you been playing as a band?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell – PJ and I started playing guitar and songwriting together in January 2016. I think we’ve been really lucky because our style and vision for great rock songs are very similar. It’s a partnership that’s really worked. Medication was the first song that we wrote together! We’ve had a few band members come and go for various reasons but Tez and Sepala are now a solid line up. So, LD has been around for around 3 and a half years!
Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?
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! We played under the name The Lost & Divided for a little while whilst we gelled and worked on our sound. We had to keep it LD though because I have that tattooed on my arm on the truss rod cover of a Gibson headstock!
What are your influences?
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.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell: – I think I’d describe us 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.
As for what makes us unique, I think one thing I’d definitely say is our dual vocal track! Overdrive! The fans always love it but is something bands in the Southern/Heavy rock scene just aren’t doing. Being a call and response song, it gives them the opportunity to learn the song and sing back to us and that happens at most gigs with Overdrive. We have a few more dual vocal songs as well that will start to appear in our set list fairly soon.
Do you have any particular lyrical themes?
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. Chord progressions and riffs are written by me or PJ and then Tez and Sepala help to fill the song out as well as work out structures.
“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…
“End of Days” is about letting go and embracing the moment… If you’re not sure what the morning will bring, you’re going to make damn sure that you leave your mark on this world so that you’re not forgotten. It’s about not going quietly into the night. The whole song has this constant drive, a feeling of urgency… then around 3 minutes later it’s over… I think that speaks for itself!?
Other songs focus on all the topics you might expect from a rock band I guess sex, drink, anguish, lust, having a good time…
What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?
PJ: We have had to adopt a quality over quantity ethos to make the gigs work. We might play in our home town once every few months, but in between that we’ll go wherever we can. It’s festival season here and we have a couple of festival shows this summer. We’ve started to push London shows now and we have a few of those this summer as well. During a live show VonDee has normally walked off to play guitar in the crowd, Sepala is twirling sticks in the air, Tez is bouncing around all over the stage and I’ve been known to play some of the guitar solos behind my head. It’s all about energy!
What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell:- We headlined the Saturday night of a festival last weekend and, whilst we were propped up against the stage barriers having a beer, the Stage Manager asked us if we’d mind meeting a new fan and whether or not Sepala would talk to him about drums, as he was an aspiring drummer himself. So, we did one better, we took him backstage and gave him some free merch. We then got the kid on stage and he jammed out with us on stage for about 5 minutes at the start of the set, he was good as well! The kid definitely has a future in music. We’re not normally ones for turning our instruments over to anyone, but the look of excitement on his face was priceless.
What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?
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 80s 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 painted in purple with white go faster stripes. My studio guitars also include a 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.
What, if anything, are you plugging/promoting at the moment?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell – At the moment we are plugging our debut EP and their music videos. 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 a song that always goes down well at our live shows!
What are your plans for the rest of 2019/2020?
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.
If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell – If we could support anyone, I think I’d choose someone like Black Stone Cherry, Shinedown or Seether. All great bands that inspire what we do and the way we play, we’d be a great fit for that… and it also means we can steal some of their fans! As for someone to open maybe a band like Saints of Sin, they’ve got a great sound! We met their guitarist at the studio when we recorded our EP, I think they were working on their current single.
What is your dream venue to play?
Luke ‘VonDee’ Varndell – That depends… would it be full? I wouldn’t want to play to an empty Wembley Stadium! I think Wembley would be the ultimate show for any British band to aspire to! But even though it sounds corny, I think we’d pick any venue that was heaving with fans and people that want to have a good time. It’s not the venue that makes a decent gig it’s the people that are in it!