Interview: Dakota Jones

Gemma Cockrell

With the release of their debut album ‘Black Light’ this Friday, New York City four-piece Dakota Jones are delivering a feisty, modern blues rock masterclass. Gemma Cockrell spoke to the band’s frontwoman, Tristan Carter-Jones, about the inspiration behind the album, the backstory of the band, and their touring plans for the future.

What is the story behind your upcoming debut album ‘Black Light’?

It feels like this album has been in the making since our first EP, you can look back to our old music and track our growth, both personally and musically. ‘Black Light’ really dives into a place of funk soul and everything that comes with it. There’s joy and dancing, sleek guitar licks and funky bass slaps. There’s pain and longing, and there’s the feeling of relief when you come out of that place and find your joy and purpose again. ‘Black Light’ is my story. The pain of where I’ve been, and the joy of where I’m going. It’s a celebration of every side of life. There was such joy and love in the room while we were making this record, and I think you can feel it all when you listen.

My identity bleeds into everything that I make

How does your identity as a black, queer woman influence your music and your song-writing? 

My identity bleeds into everything that I make, and I feel it’s very important to tell my story in a genuine way for that reason. I’m writing about the ups and downs of my experience, my love and longing, and my joys and pains. I hope that, in being so honest about my life, I’m allowing other people who have been through similar things to connect in a deeper way with the music, no matter where they’re coming from.

What is your favourite track from the album and why?

My favourite track on the album is a song called We Playin Bad Games. I think it effortlessly captures the soul and sexiness of the record, and it came together so seamlessly. That’s my favourite part of creating and collaborating – when it’s all so effortless that you know you’re purely being guided by the muse, by something bigger.

Being in [New York] makes us want to work harder, go harder, and be better as artists, but also as people in general

How has being from Brooklyn in New York City influenced you as a band? 

Being from New York is being in the epicentre of so many different movements, culturally, artistically, spiritually, and you get exposed to so many different things on a daily basis. All of that gets wrapped up into whatever we’re creating, in my experience. New York is also a very competitive place, which can be great but also exhausting. But mainly I think being in this city makes us want to work harder, go harder, and be better as artists, but also as people in general.

How and when did the band meet? 

I’ve known our drummer, Steve [Ross], since 1999 actually, we were in elementary school together. In 2016, Steve and our former guitarist started jamming for fun. They asked me to come around and sing with them some time, and I said absolutely not. I was terrified of singing in public, even just in front of the two of them. Eventually, Steve convinced me to come along, and we would just play covers of songs. It was a nerve-wracking process for me, but I kept showing up. Scott [Kramp], our bassist, was a friend of our guitarist and was pulled in to round out the sound and make a proper four-piece. One day, just messing around, we ended up writing a song, a song called Leave Me Alone from our first EP. We knew pretty immediately after that that this was what we should be doing, and we haven’t stopped since.

I think the sound of Dakota Jones is an amalgamation of our influences, with a modern edge to it

Are there any other bands or artists who have influenced your sound?

Definitely, I think the sound of Dakota Jones is an amalgamation of our influences, with a modern edge to it. We’re rock, soul, the blues, R&B, sometimes hip hop. Most people find it hard to put us in a box. I grew up on Marvin Gaye, Led Zeppelin, Chaka Khan, Rakim – classic soul and rock, and a lot of old school rap. Scott, our bassist, grew up on rock and roll and soul music, you can’t get him in a room without mentioning Stevie Wonder at least once. And Steve, our drummer, is an alternative rock and rap kind of guy. Our music blends what we love, and we all come from different musical backgrounds and tastes. So, I think we know we have a solid song when we can all get equally excited about it.

Following the album’s release, what does the future hold? Do you have any touring planned?

We have a few more music videos in the pipeline to support the new album, which I’m so excited about. We’re also so thrilled and grateful to be able to get out and perform again! We’ve got a few shows planned in New York this summer and fall. Then we plan to make our way over to the UK as soon as we’re allowed, to play some shows in and around London – that’s what we’re looking forward to most of all.

Gemma Cockrell

Featured image courtesy of Benjamin Stone Creative Services. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @dakotajonesband via instagram.com. No changes were made to these images.

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