Behind the Music: Interview with Dohny Jep

‘All our songs have something that we are feeling, or want to say to the world within them – even if it’s not immediately clear.’

With their new single ‘Looking In’ arriving 29th Jan, and an explosive EP in the form of ‘Smile, It Might Never Happen’ out 26th Feb, we chatted to alternative-rock band Dohny Jep to discover more about them, their sound, and what they have planned for future gigs.

Firstly, how did the name Dohny Jep come about? Like all bands, when we formed we spent some time testing out names and as we were only a duo – consisting of myself (Stuart) and Pete – we were after something that represented our personalities, and had the quirky vibe we were aiming at sonically. The name ‘Dohny Jep’ had actually been in my back pocket for a few years, with me waiting for the right project to attach it to. So, after going through a few different spellings, we settled on the current form. We were all super happy with it, and hopefully it’s memorable enough for people to remember us!

Who is involved in the band and what do each of you bring to the sound? Both Pete and myself sing, with us playing bass and guitar respectively. This means our vocals can be split-lead, utilising our differing tones as well as opening up options when forming a track. It also means we can have harmonies over pretty much all of our songs resulting in a sound that’s HUGE live – we love to pile on the layers! Then just before the release of our debut album ‘L.U.S.T’ (July 2020), we brought drummer Rowan and guitarist Wayne on board.

Having worked with them in other bands many times, I trusted them fully and knew they would be perfect for the job. And once they joined, and we started writing for ‘Smile, It Might Never Happen’ the benefits were instantly noticeable. Not only are they top class musicians – two of the best I’ve seen – but they fit perfectly into the writing style already created, while putting their individual personalities into the parts they write.

So with there being 4 of you, how do you make final decisions on what goes into a track and what doesn’t? We definitely have a democracy within the band. All ideas start from one person, and then branch out with everyone adding to and improving on them. Every part has to have majority approval for us to move forward with it! We are lucky that we can easily send ideas back and forth, and with us all have recording capabilities can demo stuff to a really high quality. With us taking this approach, there is always the possibility one of us will be disappointed, but fortunately this hasn’t happened much with the music being released this year. We went over the songs so much that we’ve ensured we’re all happy, and putting out the best music we can. 

‘It’s hard to feel like an outcast when standing next to hundreds of other like-minded people singing to their favourite songs.’

‘Smile, It Might Never Happen’ definitely packs a punch! For those who haven’t heard you before, why should it be their introduction to you? For completely new listeners, I’d always suggest starting with our new material because every release we do – be it a single, an EP or an album – will in our opinion be ‘our best work to date.’ Obviously it’s for the listeners to decide, but with ‘Smile, It Might Never Happen’, we believe it to be true. This will also be the first release with the new guys on board and it has certainly enhanced our sound! It comes out Feb 26th, so give it a listen or bad things might happen to you…….. OK hopefully not, but we would all appreciate it if you gave it a spin as we worked pretty hard on it.

I understand that the EP happened because of your album tour being cancelled due to COVID. To what extent do you think the lack of touring has affected the reach of your music? Like all artists, we have been negatively affected by what is going on, and with no way to tour our album, it’s really hard to reach potential new fans. However, we are lucky enough to be able to record all of our songs in our respective home studios and work with an amazing producer (Rhys May) who mixes and masters our songs from home too. This also means we can pretty much have a constant stream of music. We know others aren’t as lucky, so naturally we are making the most of this and not taking it for granted! In fact, putting out an EP only seven months after our album was a way for us to make the best of a bad situation! Our hopes are that we can eventually tour by the end of the year, maybe sooner, but in the meantime, we will be writing, recording and releasing music in the hope to make some kind of impact and get our songs into the ears of new fans!

So did the current circumstances influence the sound of your new release in any other ways? We were certainly careful to not write a ‘pandemic themed album’. Not that there is anything wrong with that – I’m sure there will be hundreds of lockdown themed songs out in the near future – but for us, it didn’t really fit with what we had addressed in L.U.S.T. That album was aimed towards the issues many people have with their mental health, so it didn’t seem right to only focus on current events. We understand that being stuck indoors, as well as financial worries, can only worsen mental health, but when we’re past this madness, we would like to look back and remember the good from this rather than solely the bad.

‘There’s definitely a democracy within the band – every part has to have majority approval for us to move forward with it!

With putting a message across key to your tracks, what is your method for constructing lyrics? For the most part, a song is almost fully complete musically before we approach lyrics, which is probably true for a lot of bands. As he is very good at crafting lyrics and the stories behind them, Pete will usually have a few lines or even whole passages written down. This will start us off, with us both sitting in the studio with a verse or chorus on loop while we jot down words or vocal melodies that might work. We’ll then compare notes, taking the best bit of each, and forming the song from there. For me personally, some of the most frustrating moments of the writing process is when I’m sat in our small studio, basically banging my head on a desk, trying to think of good rhymes for words like ‘orange’! OK that hasn’t happened yet, but it has posed some awkward rhyming challenges!

As mentioned above, we also address a huge chunk of mental health issues in our songs, something that we have experienced from time to time. Sometimes the message is super obvious, like calling out someone who has made your life harder, at others it’s more metaphorical and used to mask a sensitive topic. Each one of our songs says something that we are feeling or want to say to the world, even if it’s not immediately clear.

With the EP being such a strong release, what made you choose ‘Looking In’ as the pre-release track? Choosing the lead single was tricky as we all liked each of the four tracks equally. I guess it’s a good problem to have though! One track in particular contained expletives, so wouldn’t have made an appropriate or radio friendly song, so we had three left. It was a close decision, but when the final mix for ‘Looking In’ came back all four of us were so blown away it seemed like an obvious choice. That being said, we are super proud of all the songs on this EP and urge everyone to make their own choice about which one is their favourite!

Turning to recording, was it always part of the plan to have a home studio, and do you have any advice for other artists who may want to do the same? Fortunately for us we created the studio about a year before we all went into lockdown. It really worked in our favour, and as me and Pete are house mates, this really sped up the writing and recording process. It also meant that we could send music to our producer really easily. I engineer our songs from home – which he prefers as I do a lot of the boring jobs and leave him with the mixing! I would advise everyone who is serious about making music to set up some sort of home studio. It doesn’t have to be of professional quality for you to get really great demos down, or even to just play around with ideas, but anything to help make the creative process easier is a God send!

So how has having direct access to a recording facility affected the process of your new release? Truth be told, we have never been a band to write in practise rooms. We have a lot of pro stuff – be it samples or synths – which really bring our songs to life, use click tracks live, are really strict with timing, and have an exact vision when it comes to tones and sounds. Having access to a studio makes the whole process possible and we definitely wouldn’t sound like we do if we didn’t have the home studio. It’s as essential to our sound as guitars or vocals at this point and in a world where rock bands need to compete with mainstream pop, having extra additions to our sound gives us an edge.

Briefly returning to tours and live music, what has been the biggest thing you have missed about not being able to perform? The sense of community. The best feeling is being on the road with your best friends, playing music that you all created, performing to fans across the country, and hopefully gaining new fans along the way. There is a real sense of family within the rock community around the world, and if you like a genre or sub-genre of rock, then you have thousands of other people who can relate to you and share your experience. It’s hard to feel like an outcast or that you don’t belong when standing next to hundreds of other like-minded people all singing along to their favourite songs. That’s one thing I really hope we can get back after we have tackled this virus.

After months of social distancing and being afraid of human contact, I hope, when all this has passed, that fans won’t be afraid to stand shoulder to shoulder again and that we all get closer to our friends and family. Live music is the perfect way to do that and we need to support it at both local and national levels.

Linked with this, the EP is crying out for a fully staged performance. Do you have any ideas – however crazy – for what it would involve? Funnily enough we had a full stage and light show planned! As we play to backing and click tracks, and have in-ear monitors, it’s really easy to trigger lights on certain sections of songs. Also, because we use dynamics in our music, we wanted to emulate that with more than just the sound. Hopefully by next year we’ll have the light show as smooth as possible, after all, we want to give a great performance every time and a huge part of that is keeping people visually entertained!

And finally, what has music enabled you to do that you would have never imagined possible? At the very least it lets us drive around the country meeting new and interesting people! We also get to see all the finest service stations that the motorways have to offer! Jokes aside, we get to have a voice no matter how big or small, and we get to stand up and show the people who are willing to listen to us that “We are Dohny Jep and have come to play music, and drink some beers, and fortunately, we have plenty of both so we will be seeing you real soon!”

Thanks Dohny Jep for chatting with Listen to Discover

Find out more about Dohny Jep at:
EP Review: Dohny Jep: Smile, It Might Never Happen

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