So, I want to talk to you about Dunes.

Dunes Live at The Think Tank, May 2018. Photo by Graeme J Baty

Dunes Live at The Think Tank, May 2018. Photo by Graeme J Baty

In Newcastle currently, you cannot get moved without bands trying to grab your attention.  You have the Jesus Lizard influenced Ballpeen, a stunning combination of noise and terror.  There is Swine Tax, the latest Indie darlings and Ghost//Signal who combine the sounds of The Cure and Pulp.  The NX have picked up the Metal crown after the sad demise of ArciteShy Talk and Pit Pony are starting to make big waves, with the mighty Fret! and Waheela continuing to make walls rumble.  Hell, even Sam Fender (who recently won a Brit award) is from North Shields!  So, it’s a great time for the North East of England.

And then, we have Dunes…..

Dunes are a band I have an awful lot of time for, some would say an unnatural amount of time.  Whilst I’d heard a lot about them and heard a few demos, the first time I got to see them was supporting Idles at the Think Tank in Newcastle in 2017.  They might have been first on the bill, but they were spot on that night.  It was one of their last gigs as a four-piece, but it was a brilliant night.  Playing songs such as “Love from Below”, they brought the sound of the California desert to the Toon.  It was a great gig and I’ve followed them ever since.

A few weeks ago, I sent Dunes a few questions to answer. They were gracious enough to answer them!


B.G.M.: So, what was the impetus for starting Dunes and which bands had you been in beforehand?

Ade Lebowski: For me personally, it’s the classic rock and roll story.  Well, probably the exact opposite of that actually. For me it started around the middle of 2016, I was due to have a baby later that year.  Being the sensible guy I am, I wanted to make sure I was in a band before the baby arrived. I think the two experiences of being in a band and having a newborn child have a lot more in common than you first think.

Dealing with vomit, shit, crying, noise, being up all hours of the day and a general sense of impending chaos.  This goes hand in hand with having a baby. I was discussing this over a pint with a good mate, 2 minutes later he looked up from his phone.  He told me he’d signed me up to a ‘musicians seeking musicians/bands’ website.  A week later, I met 4 other guys also looking to start a band.  Although none of them were expecting a child at that time as far as they knew.

We actually started out as a 5 piece, the original aim was to do something in the vein of Electric Wizard and Conan.

But when we started playing together a few of us gravitated to a more ‘hook led’, less heavy style.  We went in that direction and eventually the 5 became 4.  Further on down the line that 4 became 3. We’ve all been in bands before and we seemed to gel pretty well.  Very early on we hit it off not only musically, but also in terms of attitude.  We all came into it ready to work hard, put ourselves out there and try to make things happen.

Old bands include Supercharger, Dead Hearts, Deltasound, Flamin’ Eights, and Like A Wookie.

 

B.G.M.: I think it’s fair to say that your style is Stoner Rock.  But with a healthy dose of punk attitude and grooves as well. But how do you guys perceive your sound?

Dunes live at The Think Tank, photo credit – Gordon Armstrong.

John Davies: Yeah, I think that’s a good description of the style. It’s a funny one with the term ‘stoner’ because it covers everything from Sleep to QOTSA and it seems to get slapped on loads of bands nowadays. A lot of the slower ‘stoner’ bands don’t really do anything for me musically and I find the music boring. Don’t get me wrong, the musicianship and talent are right up there, it just doesn’t float my boat.

I prefer writing and playing music which has a bit of a spring in its step and something you can move to with a good melody and hooks.

Ade: Yes, it’s stonerish.  We basically try and write songs that we’d like to hear, our the main influences are pretty obvious I feel.

B.G.M.: On that note: what influences do you bring to the table?

Ade: Loads really, some it’s probably quite obvious. Some not so much, but we all love loads of acts.  Bands include Torche, Queens Of The Stone Age, Clutch, BRMC, Bossk, Whores, Death From Above, and Red Fang.

JD: I prefer writing music and melodies, with hooks and something which grabs your ear.  So I’m guessing my writing style is influenced by the punk/metal bands I grew up in the 90s.  With bands such as Therapy? and The Wildhearts.

B.G.M.: You’ve been able to tour around the UK for a few shows at a time, how has it been on the road compared to Newcastle?

JD: I’m not sure if I would class our gigs away as a ‘tour’.  But we have definitely been busy since the band started.  We’ve played a few different cities with some great bands. It’s great playing Newcastle, but too many bands get stuck in the rut of just playing locally.  This can breed frustration, which can be unhealthy.

Luckily we are all friends in DUNES and enjoy spending time in each other’s company.

It’s a given when you are in a band together if you ask me. You spend so many hours together in each other’s company; it’ll be a pretty miserable experience if you don’t get along outside of playing music together

Ade: We’ve done OK with the ‘out of town’ gigs.  We’ve tried to book them with bands from wherever we’re playing and for the most part it’s gone really well. We’ve been back to most of the places we’ve played and aim to do more of the same during 2019.  In 2019, we’ve just been confirmed to play a number of gigs  in Huddersfield, Barnsley, London, Sheffield, and Liverpool.

The Dunes Christmas photo, you can tell as it has nothing to do with Christmas. Taken by John on his mobile.

B.G.M.: As well as touring the country, you’ve managed to bag some great home support slots.  With opening turns for the likes of Mutation (the Ginger Wildheart extreme metal project), Idles, Monster Magnet, Eureka Machines to name a few.  What’s been your favourite one so far and how do those shows differ from your own?

JD: I think maybe supporting Monster Magnet was my favourite. We lost a key member of the band a few weeks before the gig and instead of cancelling; we put the graft in and wrote a bunch of new songs for the gig which was a great success. Regardless of what happens with the band in the future, I’ll always be very proud of the three of us for working so hard and having the confidence in our ability as a band to do the gig and write great new songs while the clock was ticking.

It was definitely a ‘make or break’ moment for DUNES.

Ade:  My favourite has to be playing with Red Fang in Middlesbrough in December 2017. It was amazing and a bit surreal,  as I never thought we’d be playing a gig in a social club in Middlesbrough where members of Red Fang were all watching.

The Picturebooks, from Germany, was another stand out gig, really nice guys who put on a great show.

They’re incredibly hard working, so it was great to play with them and see them do their thing.  The day we played with them they’d just gotten confirmation that they were going to be the main support for Clutch’s European tour.  It’s really inspiring to see bands that put so much graft, getting the pay-off for it.  It really makes you look at what you’re doing, and focus on how you can improve it.

JD: Sometimes support slots can be great.  As you get to play to a decent crowd, come off stage for a beer while the night is young and watch the headliners. Other times, these gigs can be a nightmare.  But this is usually due to rudeness/arrogance of the headlining band/venue/staff opposed to the crowd.

Taken during the recording of their Attention Please Takeover special on NE1FM. Photo by Eddie Carter

Ade: Yeah, the bigger supports are funny, on one hand there’s not as much pressure on you.  People generally aren’t there to see you, they’re there for the headline band.  So, you just get up do your thing and hope people are into it. But on the on the other hand there is a lot of pressure to be as good as you possibly can be on stage.  You’re fortunate enough to be in front of a ready-made audience, one that otherwise might not know anything about you.

I think the other stuff involved in a support gig is really important as well.

You want to make sure you’re easy to work with for the sound crew, the headlining band, the promoters, and venue staff.  It’s a privilege to play such gigs so you don’t want to be “that” band.  The band that turns up late, or messes around for ages in sound-check.  Otherwise, you won’t get such opportunities again. We’re very lucky in the support slots we’ve been able to do, but hope that we’ve earned that.   We work hard at what we do and I think that comes across. When we get on stage we know the songs inside out, we know how things should sound because we’ve rehearsed so much.  So, we’re generally pretty easy to work with, I hope!

B.G.M.: You’ve released two EP’s (Dunes EP1 (in Brown with a Black D) and Dunes EP2 (colours reversed)).  Both are full of fantastic numbers such as “Love from Below”, “Seapig”, “Illegitimate Hulk” and “Riverside Bruise”.  After these two (as well as the Seapig single with a great cover of “Fool” by Nadine Shah), what is the plan on the recording front?  Also – will it be called 3?

Ade:  We’ve recorded our debut album and that is going to be released late Summer 2019.

It’s going to be called TAKE ME TO THE NASTIES.

We’re even going to branch out aesthetically so you expect a swanky front cover that looks nothing like what we’ve done before. We’re going to be releasing three singles/videos in the run-up to the album release starting in the New Year, so keep an eye out for them.

 

B.G.M.: Final question, if you were going to try to describe the North-East rock scene, who (apart from your good selves) would you recommend for people to check out?

Ade: There are loads of great bands and lots of people doing to great stuff, Creature, Waheela,  Ten Eighty Trees, Eigengrau, Go Go Midgets, Ballpeen, Kraken Waker, and Ashes Of Iron to name a few.


Dunes are a band who (if they were from America), would be taking the world by storm.

I don’t say that lightly, but since that’s the feeling I’ve had since I first saw them supporting Idles.  Dunes are a band that can make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.  They can do this with just with the first notes of an intro.  They may only be two EP’s into their career, but they don’t seem to be letting that head of steam stop any time soon.  Each time I’ve seen them live, they’ve been the best band on the bill.  Although, in the name of fairness (and I know that they would say the same), Ten Eighty Trees were a close second a few weeks ago.

But that aside, I can honestly say that you would struggle to find a band with this much charm.  Not only are they fantastic craic, they just rock.  They also possess the ability to cut a groove so thick, you need a bridge to get to the other side.  I truly hope that 2019 is another great year for them.  I look forward to TAKE ME TO THE NASTIES, and you should too!  Check out Dunes before you have to lie about seeing them.