After their debut EP release, Stories, Darwin based groove poppers, At the Dakota are gearing up for a national tour throughout October. We had a chat to them, reflecting on their debut release, how their band formed, influences and looking forward to their upcoming tour and what lies beyond it.
You’ve recently released your debut EP, Stories. Can you tell us a little about the writing and recording process for this EP?
It wasn’t too much of a process, moreso a “Hey, we need to get some songs together, let’s go into the studio and record some of our songs!” type situation. We picked our favourite and best sounding songs we felt we had at the time, and basically laid the tracks down. We did do them individually, with some members being available when others weren’t. But overall, we really enjoyed the experience and we’re keen to get back in to record some of our newer songs for our follow-up EP.
‘Stumptail,’ from the EP, is a great track that’s actually won an award. Can you tell us a little bit about this track? The lyrics seem to be somewhat personal.
Thank you! We’re still immensely proud and equal parts surprised that we took out the NT Song of the Year People’s Choice award for ‘Stumptail’, but we’re extremely grateful that people are getting behind us and enjoying the song. Indeed, the track has a general theme to it – one-sided friendships – but also our vocalist Dylan like to maintain a sense of ambiguity in his lyrics, so an element of self-interpretation remains for the listener.
I understand you’ve all been writing and playing music individually and with other groups previously. How did you all come together to become At the Dakota?
Our friend and the person who brought us all together, Steven “Steve-O” Lees pieced us together one by one. He was the original guitarist for the band (and has since departed to relocate to Melbourne), and his vision was a style of music that had a vintage feel with some good groove to it.
With the addition of Dylan – who’s style is quite modern and wanting to write music that made people dance – there was a foundation of compromise to actively create music that came naturally whilst keeping in mind the prediscussed ideals. Not to mention the majority of the band members being established songwriters in their own right & style. We feel we’ve really come together well.
You’ll be embarking on a national tour throughout October to support the EP release. What do you guys have planned for your fans during these shows?
Yeah, we’re really excited about it! We really just want to have a good time and play some fun shows, honestly. We’re keen to make people dance and have a fun night out with us. It’s such a buzz when you look out into the crowd and seeing people with their eyes closed and moving to the music with a big smile on their face. We hope to get lots of that.
Who are some of the key artists and bands that have shaped your sound and live performance style? What was it about them that influenced you?
We all have such different influences musically, and whilst we can’t attribute to our sound to any band specifically, we’ve been told we have elements hinting to lots of different artists, like Silversun Pickups, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Boy & Bear, Sticky Fingers. Bands like that. But we hope that it’s obvious that we’re doing our own thing.
Who was behind the artwork for Stories? How did you guys decide on that particular cover?
Our friends and general legends Markus Dixon and his wife Penny helped whip that one up. We had a few ideas of what we were looking for, and when we came by Markus’ studio and seen what he had created, we were instantly in love with what he had done. We felt the mountains represented our journey ahead as a new band really wanting to break out of Darwin, whilst the sand represented our roots, in terms of being a Northern Territory band.
I noticed an interesting exchange between your band page and another Twitter user. You handled some pretty unnecessary abuse with a pretty amusing and suave demeanour! How do you think social media presence is important for artists such as yourselves with steadily growing fanbases?
Haha! Thank you? Yeah, the guy was a bit unimpressed by us following him, but all we wanted was for him to be kind. We’re not sure if we should have let go on, but in all honesty – if someone has a bad attitude, it’s worth pulling the person up and telling them how you wish to be treated. As the saying goes, ‘You accept the love you think you deserve’, and in our case, we like to treat people with respect and care straight up, and there’s enough douchebags in the world to go around so why not bring light to the person that they’re being uncool with some love? Kill ‘em with kindness, you know?
But to answer your question, social media presence is very important. Creating connections is important. In the day and age where people judge you before they even talk to you, it’s best to beat them to the punch. Besides, it’s awesome to meet and reach out to all different types of people, and with the power of social media, you’re not restricted to your own country – and that’s exciting.
Outside of music, what do you guys like to do with your time? Do these things ever help you find inspiration for your writing?
We’re a divided team in that sense, some of us like footy (AFL, for clarification) and some of us like taking the mick out of sport. It’s amazing we’re friends at all outside of the band!
With Dylan being the lyricist, we’re pretty lucky to have someone who is naturally gifted like he is. The guy can have a song done and dusted in a matter of minutes, it’s freaky and maddening – especially to those of us in the band who are songwriters too. It’s always music first because we feel music has a hand in carving out what the song is about, to a degree.
It may be a bit early, but what can fans expect from you guys after this tour? Are you planning to take a break or keep writing music?
Well, when we get back home from the tour, we’ve got The Rubens coming up to play and we’ll be supporting them at Discovery Nightclub. After that, it’s back into the studio to get started on our next EP. ‘Stories’ was recorded close to a year ago now, and we’ve grown majorly as a unit since then, so we’re excited to start the process again with all the knowledge we have now and hopefully put out an even better record than ‘Stories’.
At the Dakota Stories National Tour Dates
Thursday, October 1
Darwin Railway Club, Darwin
Friday, October 2
Ric’s Bar, Brisbane
Saturday, October 3
Shamrock Hotel, Toowoomba
Friday, October 9
Grace Darling, Melbourne
Saturday, October 17
Hotel Metro, Adelaide
Friday, October 23
Four5Nine Bar, Perth
Saturday, October 24
Prince of Wales, Bunbury*
Saturday, October 31
Epilogue Lounge, Alice Springs