Interview: Lone Kodiak, on their new direction, clearing hurdles and their searing rocker ‘Make It a Weapon’ (premiere)

Lone Kodiak

Lone Kodiak seemed well on their way to cutting a wide swath across L.A.’s indie-rock scene in 2018 after they released their second EP “Pt. 1.” Then they were faced with two crises — one physical and one of identity.

Singer-guitarist Dainéal Parker and bassist Daniel Alden had debuted Lone Kodiak in 2017 as they moved on from their Portland project Emberghost after singer-keyboardist Sarah Jennings died of brain cancer. But in November 2018, Alden sustained serious injuries in a motorcycle accident, putting him on the shelf for five months. And Parker, already questioning the musical direction Lone Kodiak were headed, used the break to take a head-clearing trip to Ireland, seeking, he says, “inspiration and clarity.”

This week, Lone Kodiak return with guitars blazing — “Make It a Weapon,” the new single from the trio (now including Josh Harris on drums), captures the atmospheric, surround-sound aspirations of their early songs but ratchets up the intensity. The fusillade of guitars (Robb Torres was brought in to help with them) is counterposed with a string interlude (Stephan Hovsepian plays violin and viola), and with Parker’s urgent vocals on top of it all, “Make It a Weapon” feels like waves crashing ashore.

“It’s not a complex song,” Parker says. “There’s literally only three chords save for the bridge, but its simplicity is the source of its power, I think.”

In advance of its release Friday, “Make It a Weapon” premieres here, along with a conversation with Parker about rethinking the band’s sound, clearing hurdles and their forthcoming six-song release “My Sympathies Are Yours.”

||| Stream: “Make It a Weapon”

Buzz Bands LA: So can you take me through the past year or so?

Dainéal Parker: In February 2019, we started songwriting and pre-production, and in April, Daniel (Alden) was cleared to play again. In August, we started working with Kyle Mangels as producer, and in October, Josh Harris was brought in on drums and Robb Torres was brought in as guitars supervisor. Full production began in January, but after the City of L.A. issued its stay-at-home order (March 19), the vocal production had to be done at my home studio, with remote supervision from Kyle, and that proved difficult. It wasn’t finished until July 9.

What were some of the things that inspired the new direction?

Dainéal Parker: I had gotten pretty musically insecure after a couple of disastrous shows we played with bands we’re friends with (Karmic, Underhill Family Orchestra) in which I didn’t perform well and we completely failed to connect with their (or our, for that matter) audiences. If you’ve seen either of those bands live, you know that their crowds absolutely love them, and I felt like, speaking for myself, I was completely incapable of generating that kind of excitement. But aside from insane musical talent, what these acts had that we didn’t was an unshakeable sense of self … an identity, not just in their branding but in their sound, their coordination and the way they carried themselves on stage. Again, I can’t speak for my current or former bandmates, but I never knew exactly what we were, who we were, or what exactly we were trying to do, and I certainly didn’t know who I was as a performer. I think that lack of confidence showed. It even shows in our second EP, where we’re essentially one band attempting three very different sounds, and it all stopped being fun for me.

What happened that got you out of that head space?

Dainéal Parker: So the February after Daniel’s motorcycle accident, the future was very gloomy and uncertain. Even the weather was gloomy — I think it rained that entire month. I had just come back from Ireland on a kind of soul-searching venture, and adopted a new (old) writing philosophy. I stopped considering what everyone would think of whatever I was writing, and just decided to evoke the 16-year old in the garage with their Peavey Patriot and Crate GX-10 with a tiny distortion button on it and just fucking go for it.

And how did your 16-year-old self feel?

Dainéal Parker: This new sound, which started with a song people won’t even hear until early next year, it felt free, it felt like me. It was big guitar lines and angry drums and belting choruses … It felt like motorcycles and protests and getting in trouble and it was FUN. And when Alden heard it, he insisted we fully commit to that sound. The only problem was that it wasn’t exactly Lone Kodiak; there were no synthetic sounds, no pop elements, no female vocals, etc., and so it began as an entirely separate project. It wasn’t until well into the process that our publicist convinced us to rebrand Lone Kodiak instead of starting something new. Still, it does feel like we’re starting from scratch.

What’s on the horizon in terms of a larger release?

Dainéal Parker: “My Sympathies Are Yours” is six songs, not including acoustic versions and remixes. We’re doing kind of an old-school radio campaign; we’ll release two singles (“Make It a Weapon,” “PDX ’97”), and then the collection will be available on vinyl/CD in October with the release of the third single (“Bones”). The whole thing won’t stream until the last single is out early next year.

||| Previously: “MNTNSD,” “Someone Else’s Future,” “Calm Down” “Leap Year,” “Disaster”