Dope Lemon talks about his latest single Stingray Pete, exploring other worlds through his music and enjoying life on his fully-fledged cattle ranch with friends and good whisky.
Dope Lemon’s upcoming single Stingray Pete is an immersive exploration into darker tones and Western vibes that paints a vivid picture of wild west saloons and cowboy escapades.
Happy had the chance to speak with him about the story behind his latest single, upcoming music, how he found that immaculate pink Cadillac and potentially releasing his own whisky.
DOPE LEMON: Hey Alex. How are you?
HAPPY: Good, how are you?
DOPE LEMON: Yeah. Good. Just getting through the day. I had a late night recording, so yeah, just getting stuck in.
HAPPY: Very nice, and how has it been recording lately, especially during this lockdown situation? You in Sydney?
DOPE LEMON: I’m on my ranch up in Byron. But yeah, it’s been good. I got this sort of cool loft sort of area where my studio is. It’s nice. There’s a fireplace and we kind of just kick back and have some whiskeys and record, you know?
DOPE LEMON: It’s good. Lockdown’s good.
HAPPY: So you’ve got like a good group of people up on the ranch with you and just vibing out?
DOPE LEMON: Yeah, it’s cool. There’s a bunch of different little shacks on the property, and we’re a good little team.
HAPPY: Very nice. Sounds like a dream.
DOPE LEMON: Yeah, it is. It’s nice.
HAPPY: So you have previously mentioned that you write and record on this ranch of yours. How important is it to be, I guess, out amongst nature when you’re getting creative, and when you’re getting in that writing and recording mindset?
DOPE LEMON: Yeah, I think sometimes your surroundings have… they either have a lot to do with what you’re writing about or they don’t. I think it can come down to just creating your own adventures with the way that you explore being creative and the worlds that you dive into lyrically. But you know, at the same time, it is pretty nice to walk out and hang with the horses and have that sort of open field to watch the sun go down and kick back with some beers.
HAPPY: Yeah, it would be amazing to just have that atmosphere around you. So it would definitely put your mind at ease. And I feel, yeah, it would be awesome to be around that – some horses and paddocks and all that kind of stuff. So what kind of animals do you have on the ranch? Is it mainly horses or other farm animals?
DOPE LEMON: Yeah, we got 50 head of cattle.
DOPE LEMON: Some horses. Yeah, it’s a proper working farm. There are a bunch of dogs. At one stage, we were thinking about getting some llamas or alpacas.
HAPPY: That’d be amazing.
DOPE LEMON: One of my mates that live here, she’s like in love with llamas. She’s got like this thing with them. And I was like, ‘Let’s just get some. Let’s go to the farm’, you know? And we went out there and it was a good trip. She’s getting excited. So I think we’re going to have to do that next.
HAPPY: Yeah. You can’t go out there, have a look at the llamas, then not bring any back!
DOPE LEMON: It was hard not to bring one back. But, you know, responsibilities and all that stuff.
HAPPY: They’re very inquisitive. But they can spit, because I went to see them once and the lady was like, ‘Just be wary because sometimes they do spit or they bite’, and I was like, ‘Okay, just respect their boundaries,’ I guess. Wait till they get comfortable with you.
DOPE LEMON: Yeah, yeah, that’s true. They’re cool when you put sunnies on them.
HAPPY: *laughs* Dress them up. Make them all flamboyant.
DOPE LEMON: Yeah *laughs*.
HAPPY: So I wanted to talk about your upcoming record Rose Pink Cadillac. You have had three single releases already, Kids Falling in Love, Every Day’s a Holiday, and Rose Pink Cadillac, and they’ve got a really psychedelic and carefree vibe about them. Lots of summery sort of vibes that I get when I listen to them. Your next single, which is going to be released on the 17th of September, Stingray Pete, it sort of it still has that, psychedelic vibe about it, but sonically it is darker compared to your other releases. So would you be able to tell me why that is?
DOPE LEMON: Yeah, I mean it’s kind of like an old shoot out of the Western and the tale of Stingray Pete. He’s a local legend that seems to find himself on epic adventures. Over time, when he hits the town for a beer… it’s kind of diving into the epic vastness that lies beyond, the unknown, Stingray Pete on one of his adventures. I don’t know… his character, I love diving into it and this tune, it’s like every time I listen to it, it’s just drops you in that zone with him on this adventure, and the feeling of the music itself, I think it’s a good next step. It’s sort of gone down the lovers lane with the last three singles, and this one’s going to put a silver bullet back out there with the way that I write with the genres – just being adventurous, you know? And this was fun.
HAPPY: Well, I definitely noticed like the sampling of the cowboy shoot out in the background. So that was cool. It did give me that sort of movie soundtrack kind of vibe, bit of Quentin Tarantino vibe there, and I liked that. I thought it was cool. I love when, musicians implement that sort of storytelling element into it and they sort of fuse different art forms – I think that’s really cool. Where did Stingray Pete come from? Was he a character that you came up with? What inspired him as well?
DOPE LEMON: Yeah, I guess he’s kind of like that guy you see down the bar, you know? You see him sitting there and he’s been through a lot. But he’s also very light-hearted and… he himself is kind of like a *inaudible* but a local legend, you know? This one is cool, it’s kind of only one of two that I wrote… that I co-wrote with my long-time bass player, Brad Hill. He played with the Vines for a good portion of his life, and he’s definitely been around the traps with touring with them. It was fun sort of exploring with Tim on this journey. Usually I write alone a lot of the time, and this was kind of fun to delve into… to co-write with him, it was cool.
HAPPY: That’s mad. Well, I did notice that with this record, you’ve got two sides, so you’ve got the one side that represents daytime and then the other side that represents nighttime. So, co-writing with someone else, was that a way for you to explore other musical elements? Did that open up that idea of opposing themes on this record?
DOPE LEMON: For sure. Yeah, there’s this… there’s a point when you’re writing a record, it’s like you’ll get three quarters of the way in and I sort of just hit him up and I was like, ‘Oh, you know…’. I love Brad’s style, and he’s such a beautiful dude as a human being, and it was a nice leaf out of his book and just a good refresher on a writing perspective for where we’re at.
HAPPY: That would’ve been cool. What was the biggest advice that he gave you when you were working together, or what was one thing that you picked up that he does that you would continue in your own song-making practice?
DOPE LEMON: Well, Brad, he’s a bassist, so writing with Brad when he drops into… he’s just got a really cool, slinky energy and that sort of that gave the track a lot of cool vibes, and yeah, it’s fun.
HAPPY: Cool. So with this this record, you did mention there were a lot of tireless nights involved and lots of bottles of delicious whiskey and treats, which is nice to hear. So what was your go-to whisky when you were writing and recording?
DOPE LEMON: Ooh! Um, I usually dive into the Japanese whiskies and then obviously the Scottish whiskies. You’ve got a good one called Pure Scott. It’s pretty young, and then, you know, Japanese ones you’ve got like your Nikka Whiskey, pure malt. I don’t know… Laphroaig. I don’t know, I sort of just…
HAPPY: There’s a lot.
DOPE LEMON: Yeah, I like to sort of move around on them. But yeah, it was cool, you know, sitting by the fire and just… I’ve built this really beautiful Riverstone stone rock wall behind the fireplace and it pretty much is the studio. So yeah, staring into the flames and thinking about adventures you can go on with your songs. It’s cool. It’s fun.
HAPPY: And with the whiskey, it would definitely be like a nice, relaxing and like warming moodset. I could definitely picture that. It’d be sick.
DOPE LEMON: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
HAPPY: Would you ever think about releasing our own whiskey brand?
DOPE LEMON: Hmm. Yeah, maybe with one of the Scottish companies, for sure that’d be cool. Yeah, I got some good times.
HAPPY: Another way to be creative as well. It’d be sick.
DOPE LEMON: Yeah, that’d be bad, I like it.
HAPPY: So the pink Cadillac giveaway idea, that was such a cool way to give back to your fans. Where did you find this pink Cadillac? It’s a very interesting giveaway idea.
DOPE LEMON: Yeah. Well, I wrote this song obviously, Rose Pink, and we gotta find a caddy, so we got this beautiful one from down the coast and we shot the clip and it was all great. Then later on we were sort of thinking, how to engage with the fans and like you said, give back something really special to sort of salute the energy and time and magic that the record is – you know, to really give it weight. I think Heath Johns from BMG came up with the idea. He’s like, ‘we should just buy a fucking caddy and give it away with the record.’ And at first I was like, ‘Oh shit.’ Like, damn, how much is this caddy? And we ended up being like, ‘fuck it, let’s just do it.’ And we found it… it was down in Victoria and we shipped it up to Sydney and it’s sitting at the headquarters there.
HAPPY: That’s awesome. It’s so beautiful as well. It’s absolutely gorgeous. So whoever gets that is one lucky chook.
DOPE LEMON: Oh man, it’s like the coolest. Like, I’ve never seen anything like it. I was very impressed.
HAPPY: It’s like a work of art.
DOPE LEMON: It is. Someone really stoked is going to be sitting in that beautiful quip.
HAPPY: Yeah, I’d be too scared to drive it personally, but it would… I’d just admire it and sit in it.
DOPE LEMON: Yeah, yeah.
HAPPY: I know we’ve only got so much time, but I did want to ask you one more question. So you previously mentioned that when you’re writing a new album, it reflects a chapter of your life and freezes it in time. So what chapter of your life have you frozen or are you freezing in Rose Pink Cadillac?
DOPE LEMON: I think as a writer, just being my trade, I feel I’m constantly learning, but I’m in a place now where… I feel really proud of all the hard work and for not shying away or turning my back on my art form. At times it gets tough, like any sort of career you choose in life. You definitely get to hit certain points where it’s like, ‘Oh man.’ It takes a lot of energy and a lot of your heart and your soul, and you go through so much stuff during the making of the record, you know? Along the way, the loss and the love and everything that is going on, it’s all being put into what I do. Whether I’m actually… I think me, myself, when I listen back to the songs and what it is, I can hear all those things. I think that when people hear the tune they feel something. They might not know what it is, but it’s definitely something real and I’m really proud of that – the fact that that’s there now and once it’s there, it’s out in the world and that in itself – I feel complete.
HAPPY: That’s beautiful. It’s like all those doubts that you may have had along the way, it’s like, ‘Well, here’s this amazing body of work that I’ve done.’ – it’s a culmination of the good, the bad, the ugly, but it’s beautiful because, it’s not perfect and it was a huge learning lesson. I guess that would be quite a therapeutic experience to go through.
DOPE LEMON: Absolutely.
HAPPY: I think that’s awesome, that’s amazing.
DOPE LEMON: Yeah.
HAPPY: So cool. I think that’s all the questions I had for you. Is there anything that I missed that you wanted to bring up or…
DOPE LEMON: No, that’s cool. You’ve got all the dates and all that stuff that’s coming out?
HAPPY: Yeah, I got the press release and the release date for Stingray Pete as well.
DOPE LEMON: Yeah. Cool. Well, we’ll have to flick you some vinyl and get you in that caddy.
HAPPY: Yes, I’m entering that competition. There’s no way about it.
DOPE LEMON: Yeah, yeah. Get involved. Get involved.
HAPPY: I will. Well, thank you so much for your time. Angus, it’s been a real pleasure talking to you and good luck with everything in the future. I’m excited to hear the full album!
DOPE LEMON: Thanks, Alex, thanks for your time.
HAPPY: No worries, thank you. Bye.
DOPE LEMON: Bye.
Stingray Pete will be available tomorrow on all streaming services / Rose Pink Cadillac will arrive on 12 November!
Interview by Alex Stefanovic.