A Q&A with Dexter Nelson of Sky Lion

Story by Taylor Kuether

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Taylor Kuether: When and how did Sky Lion form?

Dexter Nelson: Sky Lion was formed in spring 2009,  my senior year at Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden
Valley, Minn.

I had a surplus of songs written after the prior band I was in had broken up during the previous autumn.

I asked Jordan (Morantez), whom I had played with in numerous ensembles before Sky Lion at Perpich, to accompany me on a tune I had written in a composition class. Around that time I was also playing with our to-be drummer, Charlie Garetz.

The summer after graduating we started playing and writing a lot. And through a friend, we started talking to Ross Nueske about the possibility of recording. I had a huge urge to create and record something of my own, given that I had always shared the lead song-writing duty in past bands.

TK: Where did you get
the name?

DN: Naming a band is always a delicate process. It’s actually really weird to think back on it now, the lists and lists of names and words that I liked. But the moment I remember creating the name was during the summer of 2009, and I was at the Witches Tower in Prospect Park, which has maybe the best view of Minneapolis.

The name came to me one evening while I was at the tower. There are numerous personal significances that it holds for me, but I want people to find their own way of interpreting it.

TK: How would you describe your sound?

DN: Describing our sound is something that I always struggle with because I don’t like just comparing Sky Lion to other artists.

I know who my influences are, but I always feel unworthy to tell people that our sound is similar to that of a band like Wilco. A) Because we are nowhere near as good as Wilco is, and B) I don’t think we actually sound like Wilco, but we definitely have used elements of their
creative processes.

The reason I use Wilco as an example is because I identify with Jeff Tweedy’s method of songwriting. Sky Lion is definitely a rock n’ roll band to me. However, the songs almost never begin as rock n’ roll.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the electric guitar, but it is once a blue moon that I write a song on my electric. There is a certain purity of connection I feel to the acoustic guitar and that is how I write almost all of my songs.

I think our sound is acoustic-pop at its core, but through the medium of the band, it becomes rock ‘n roll music.

TK: What was the process behind creating the EP? 

DN: The songs on the EP are actually quite old now. And maybe I shouldn’t be saying this, but it can actually be a little frustrating for me to listen to it now. It’s not that I’m not proud of it, because I am.

But Sky Lion has changed quite a bit since then. The EP is as old as 2008, which is when I wrote the first song on the EP, “In the Fall.” I was seventeen then, which is just so weird for me. Not that I’m that much older now, but I do feel I am in such a different stage of my life. I still feel a very strong connection to that song, especially right now, in the fall.

When Jordan, Charlie and I really started working on the music during the summer, that’s when the band burgeoned for me.

It was difficult at first to develop the songs because we were discovering our creative process the whole time; I had never before solely led a band.

A lot of the writing ended up happening in the studio though. We tracked every song, except “In the Fall,” live — guitar, bass and drums. And then we went back and got in to all of the overdubs and vocals. It took us three days to record basically everything.

But a week later, Jordan and I were like, “it’s still missing … something.” So we went back for a day and just had fun and screwed around creating soundscapes: we started looping and re-looping, recording Ross’s laundry in the drier, running up and down the basement stairs, “playing” a reverb tank, and banging on stuff.

We then listened to all of the madness and picked out our favorite parts and superimposed them over key sections of the songs.

TK: Why did you wait to release the EP until now?

DN: The EP is being released so late because of several reasons.

It took us until the summer of last year to actually press the CDs and have them mastered; we just didn’t have the money before.

But after we pressed the CDs, things with Charlie fell through — that was fall 2010. There was time when Jordan and I thought the EP might never be released.

Then I studied in Spain this past spring, so the band was completely out of commission for five months, though that is when Kevin and Jordan and I started talking about starting a completely new band.

When I got back from Spain this summer, we all started playing and roughly wrote a few songs. Jordan and I were super bummed that Sky Lion might be totally done for.

Kevin told us a long time ago, at Perpich actually, that if he could be in any one band, it would be ours. So we decided to just give it a shot and ask if he would be interested in playing Sky Lion tunes. He loved the idea. So this past summer we re-learned and re-worked a lot of Sky Lion’s songs and wrote a ton of new ones.

We are so ready to put this out; it literally has been around  two years since we’ve had this stuff recorded.

TK: What are the band’s plans for the future?

DN: Since Kevin joined the band this past summer, it’s honestly better than ever, and we have so much new material after a year-long break.

Kevin’s a very disciplined drummer. He will really drill us in practice and has great compositional ideas.

Our plans are to record a full-length album this January in Minneapolis. Jordan is now contributing some of his owns songs to the band which he will be singing, something I have been nagging him about for a while now.

It’s a pretty ambitious goal, and may very well not be realized, but I would like to put out a full-length record at the end of this school year.

Much of that depends on whether or not we can finance it. The way I see it, we will have a new record at least tracked by this January.

Sky Lion will be playing at 8 p.m. this Saturday at The Cabin.


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