In the time since the band released their debut album, Black Light, back in the summer of 2021, New York retro-funk and R&B outfit Dakota Jones have been touring, creating new music, and looking ahead to what the future might hold for them. They’ve laid claim to a corner of music easily emulated but rarely understood — there are echoes of Chaka Khan, Anita Baker, and the swirling complexities of Parliament, but they possess an innate awareness of their place in these musical histories and a way of seeing beyond the familiar rhythms and getting to the heart of what made these artists so vital and necessary.
Together almost a decade now, singer Tristan Carter-Jones, bassist Scott Jet Kramp, guitarist Eddy Marshall, and drummer Steve Ross have used the band as an avenue to explore their common musical affections: the raw thump of funk, the sultry sway of old-school R&B, and the exquisite balladry of Motown. And they’ve managed to illuminate these sounds without resorting to base mimicry, opting to adapt and revise rather than ride the shifting waves of irregular imitation.
And for our latest glimpse into their world, they’ve given us “Sugar Pie”, a standalone (for the moment) single that continues their divination of funk and R&B, creating a gorgeously affectionate look at love and the joys of companionship. “It’s the effortless cool of a gang of two, walking in step through streets paved with sugar under a plush pink sky,” says the band. “Don’t know where you’re going and you don’t care. It’s rose-coloured glasses on the tip of your nose, and kisses like cotton candy.“
When the track starts, the bass is moody and aqueous before an organ joins in and Carter-Jones’ voice carries us aloft on the strength of its convictions. A slight psychedelic vibe coils through the music, impressing with both its attention to detail and the way it plays around with various facets of the genre. Regardless of the relationship in question, there is a warmth and vitality and something almost mischievous about the way we’re invited in to explore these sounds and words. The accompanying video finds the band goofing around, just being themselves, and luxuriating in the grooves of the music.
“‘Sugar Pie’ came together so organically,” explains Carter-Jones. “Our keyboardist, Merell Burkett, was just messing around and randomly playing that slick piano riff. Once I heard that I perked up immediately, and asked him to just keep looping it. I started writing and, about 4 minutes later, the lyrics were done. The rest of the band hopped in to jam, and ‘Sugar Pie’ just appeared out of thin air.“
She continues: “We wanted the video to reflect that organic feel, and to capture us in a way that was just as natural. I think it’s a glimpse of us in our element – just a bunch of friends playing and having fun together, making each other laugh. All feeling, no thinking. That’s my favorite thing about it.“