New York City 4-piece Dakota Jones have delivered a modern blues rock masterclass on their feisty debut album 'Black Light', harnessing timeless groove and magisterial queer black power.
In an age where artistic merit is awarded to those who shout the loudest,Dakota Jones pride themselves on an unwavering ability to leave a lasting impression. Spearheaded by Tristan Carter-Jones fierce and unashamedly uncensored songwriting, the band’s fast-growing reputation as formidable live act has stamped Dakota Jones with the hell-hath-no-fury power of Chaka Khan, the wild spontaneity of Janis Joplin, and the honey-dripping sensuality of Marvin Gaye. Their debut album’s message of proud black heritage and triumphant queerness manifests itself in Carter-Jones’ ability to challenge norms of adulthood and femininity as she takes a deep dive into some of life’s most visceral emotions.
We had a chat with them to take a deeper dive into the album release...
Introduce yourselves and tell us a little about the band!
"We’re Dakota Jones, a rock band from New York City. We’ve been playing together since 2015, I’ve known our drummer, Steve, 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, 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." You’ve just released your debut album ‘Black Light’! Tell us a little about it! "We definitely bring a lot of funk on 'Black Light', and 'I Did It To Myself' gets the whole vibe kicked off. 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. We were honored to have some incredible musicians join us on this record, Randy Jacobs and Michael Toles on guitar, Jon Gilutin on keys, Kudisan Kai on backing vocals. These are powerhouses that have worked with everyone and their mother, and I can’t believe we got to collaborate. 'Black Light' is 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." How did you decide on the album name? "Black Light represents everything that the album is about: funk, soul, love, sex, joy and pain. The image of the black light represents digging for something deeper, and in a less literal sense being a beacon of light for anyone that is listening." What was the writing and recording process like? "My muse is pretty fickle. I write alone, partly because the songs are so personal to me, but also because I’m usually alone when the thoughts come to me. On a bus or train, sitting alone in a room, walking down the street. I never sit down with the intention of writing, I just get hit with something and I have to follow it. Usually the songs come to me in one whole piece, melody included. So I never spend more than 5-10 minutes writing a song. If I have to toil over the lyrics, it just doesn’t feel genuine. So it’s great to have a song done in 5 minutes, but the flip side of that is that I can’t control when the muse comes. Recording was an amazing process. We began working on the album over a year ago, and finally got into the studio in November of 2020. I think the combination of coming out of lockdown to record and being able to record our debut album led to a great deal of excitement around its creation. There was so much fun and love in the room, and you can really hear that when you listen to the album." Are there any key themes, stories or inspirations that run throughout? "The whole album is a throwback to a different time, and is very centered in funk and soul sensibilities. We’ve always had a blues rock, soul lean to us, but this album, '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." Do you have a favourite lyric or whole track? If so, which one and why? "My personal favourite track on the album is a song called 'We Playin Bad Games'. For me, it perfectly captures the sexy, funky, bluesy vibe of where I was at while we were creating this album. It was also the most seamless to make from end to end." How have you found making an album and trying to be creative over the past year which has been really difficult for artists?
"We created and recorded the album essentially during lockdown. Scott and Steve, our bassist and drummer, were pretty consistently creative during that time, but I had a harder time gathering my thoughts. Sometimes songs would come, sometimes they wouldn’t. I tried not to put too much pressure on myself to create during the pandemic, and to use that time to be as reflective as possible, and to try to be at peace with where I was as best I could during such a tumultuous time." What can we expect next from you guys?
"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."
The Lowdown is an online blog & print entertainment platform for music discovery featuring the very best in both established and upcoming talent. Find the latest news, reviews, interviews with your favourite artists and grab tickets to upcoming gigs & tours.