Dakota Jones

Dakota Jones

Artist / Band

Dakota Jones is a New York based band that's been stomping around and making noise for nearly 8 years now. Featuring Tristan Carter-Jones on vocals, Scott Jet Kramp on bass, Steve Ross on the drums, and Eddy Marshall on the guitar, Dakota Jones have molded their sound into something at once commanding and vulnerable, spontaneous and deliberate, familiar and refreshing. The groove erupted in 2015, and they haven't looked back since, following that gritty funky sound wherever it would take them - through some of NYC's most respected venues, on tours exploring America's coasts, and well beyond. Press play on Dakota Jones, and let your curiosity guide you through all that they have to offer.

Digging into the creative process, Byta speaks with artists, musicians, producers, DJs and anyone involved with music creation. A conversation about how they create, collaborate and share music. From studio setups to routines, and the first person to hear about the next 'big' work.

Where are you based?

Brooklyn, NY.

How, when and where did you start making music? Are you primarily a musician or a producer, or do something else?

This is Tristan Carter-Jones and I don’t remember the exact impetus, I’ve just been writing and singing for as long as I can remember. I know I can speak for all of us when I say that music has just always been… a part of us. A part of our lives. It’s always been around us and within us. As far as the band, I’ve known Steve, our drummer, since we were 8. We were in elementary school together. In 2015, Steve and our former guitarist started jamming for fun. They asked me to come around and sing with them sometime, 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 play covers of songs. It was nerve-wracking 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. We knew pretty immediately after that that this was what we should be doing, and we haven’t stopped since.

Who would you consider some of your biggest influences when it comes to your “sound”?

When it comes to singers, I gravitate towards folks that just let it rip. I like singers that sound unabashedly like themselves. Janis, Chaka, Robert Plant, Marvin Gaye. Frank Ocean, Tank Ball. These people, to me, don’t seem concerned about emulating others, they just let their voices fly free, imperfections be damned. As far as the music, especially with Heartbreakers Space Club, we have to mention D’Angelo, David Bowie, Prince. Stevie Wonder always.

Explain your creative process. Do you have a routine?

For the most part, the music comes first. The boys will just be jamming, or Scott will be working on an entire piece on his own in the studio. They’ll share that music with me, and when it’s right, the words just start flowing. My lyrics always come pre-packaged with melodies, they come at the same time. As far as schedule, my muse is very, very fickle. I always want to be that person that just sits and writes for hours every single day. But when I try to do that, nothing comes out. I’m struck with inspiration at the most random times, and I just have to chase it down as it’s happening. Which means a lot of dry spells sometimes. But I try not to overthink those moments, and not put a crazy amount of pressure on myself.

What is your “studio” setup?

Dakota Jones has taken over our drummer’s basement. It’s a cute, functional, at-home setup. Lots of twinkly lights. It feels warm and homey. We have a ton of equipment that is ever-growing. At this point, we have all of the mics, stands, amps, monitors, keys, and guitars that we need. But the collection is definitely going to keep growing and growing. Eddy, our guitarist, just got a pedal steel so that’s the newest baby. And, of course, we’re in a Brooklyn basement so we have to keep the noise at a decent level. Steve uses a Roland V-Drum kit so that we can still get a true drum sound and feel without an insane amount of noise.

Dakota Jones studio

What is your process when working with other people? How is collaboration different in the studio vs working remotely? 

It’s a mix of in-studio and remote work for us. When we’re making an album, we like to get together and all be in the same room and just feel it out as we go. Sometimes we’re just creating on the spot, sometimes we are fleshing out previous ideas. Scott is always making music, so there is a massive backlog of projects to work on. Which can be a nice place to start. For this album, we brought in a couple of session players that we worked with remotely. And, while I’d love for all of us to just be jamming in a room together, the remote aspect really allows us to work with anyone from anywhere. Which then allows us to make a network of musicians outside of New York, too. For session players, we usually let folks know where we want the part to be, but as far as specifics – we like to allow open space for the musicians to do their thing so that it truly feels collaborative. We don’t often say “play this here, exactly like this, and that’s it”. We want it to be a fun, spontaneous, and free-flowing experience for everyone. We’ve gotten really lucky with the artists that we’ve been able to collaborate with, too, so that makes it easier to just trust each other, and let things fly and see what happens.

At what point(s) are you comfortable letting other people hear what you are working on?

For me, as the singer and the lyricist, I don’t sing the words or melodies for new tracks until I’ve figured it all out in my head. Like, I will not share my process with the band. It makes me too nervous, I feel so vulnerable in those early stages. But, it usually doesn’t take me very long to figure out, and that’s how I know that I’m really feeling it. When I have to toil over the words or melodies, that usually means that I’m forcing it and I scrap it. Once we have things recorded, we like to share in-process and finished songs with the people that we’re close to. Just because we get so excited about the new songs, and it’s impossible to wait until the actual release dates to share. We also like to play new songs live and see how people feel them. But we save surprises, too. Like, there are certain songs on Heartbreakers Space Club that you need to just hear in the context of the larger piece of work. But it’s really, really, hard to keep everything a secret.

Do you share your work in progress (streams or downloads)? Any technical frustrations?

See the above question, haha. And fortunately, I don’t think we’ve run into many technical frustrations. I guess the only thing, in the case of certain songs, is that they involve so much instrumentation that we physically can’t play them live yet. But we’re always open to expanding the band for live shows to get things as close to album version as possible.

Byta delivers fast and secure audio sharing

With Byta you are in control of your music.

Read More

How do you know when a track/album is finished?

When it sounds exactly like the thing that we’ve dreamed up in our heads. Like, usually when I’m working on a song, I hear the finished product in my head before it’s ever recorded. So it’s a game of trying to get those things to match up.

How do you listen to the final mixes/mastered work?

For this project, the mixes and masters were sent to us, and we’d play them in our studio so that we could hear them in the highest quality possible. But we also definitely walk around listening in headphones and play in the car if we can. You want to hear it as many ways as possible and see how it compares. Hopefully, everything sounds consistent.

How important is pre-release security when sharing new work?

Knock on wood, no horror stories to share! We like to keep things under wraps for the most part, but like I mentioned we also play unreleased songs live from time to time. The live version is always going to be different from the studio version, though, and we do like the studio versions to remain secret until the release. It makes for a special moment that way.

Who on your team gets to hear the final versions first and why, what formats do they each need?

We love to share the finished, unreleased songs with people that we’re very close with. Parents, best friends, our manager. Usually, our manager Nati hears it first. But she’s also with us in the studio a lot, so it’s not a huge surprise. With family and friends, we don’t send the files around, but we play the music when we’re physically together. With the rest of the team, it’s usually .wavs.

Outside of your inner circle who are the people that will need to hear the new tracks next?

After the inner circle, it’s basically the press team that we work with. The folks that help us build the hype. Sometimes downloads, but SoundCloud is really helpful as well.

Anything you are working on, anyone you are working with and want to share?

Heartbreakers Space Club dropped on Friday, June 2! We’re doing an album release party at Rubulad in Brooklyn, with a few amazing independent bands: THEMME, SPACE CADE7S, and Blue Mena.