Being rooted in New Jersey has not stopped this on-the-rise, self-proclaimed “surf/garage rock” four-piece from going outside of their comfort zone on their monumental new EP.
What do Coldplay, R.E.M., and The Pixies have in common? They all started making great, multi-dimensional music while in college. We know that college is important for a number of reasons, but good friendships and even better experiences are some of the most highly regarded aspects of higher education. Like the others, Cheyenne Dan has worked hard to achieve just that, while writing, recording, and releasing their own music and passion projects along the way.
Ranging from only 21 to 23 years old, Jonah Malvey, Colin Lawn, Dylan Lembo, and Nicholas Theis make up the local DIY ensemble that is Cheyenne Dan. The epitome of creative freedom and an adoration for being artists, musical or otherwise, has helped them grow in and around the Jersey music scene. With Butterflies, their most mature and cohesive work to date out tomorrow, October 29, we thought it would be the perfect time to get them fully introduced to the world.
You’re a self-proclaimed Central Jersey band. That being said, where are all of you from?
Jonah: I’m originally from Sussex County.
Colin: I’m originally from Atlantic County and knew Nick from high school, but met these kids at The College of New Jersey.
Dylan: I’m from Monmouth County… Jersey Shore boy, baby!
Nicholas: I’ve lived in a handful of places from the Midwest to the East Coast, but I originally come from Gloucester County.
How did Cheyenne Dan come to be? When did you come together and decide to start this journey of becoming a Central Jersey DIY staple act?
Colin: I knew Dylan freshman year [of college] but I didn’t know Jonah. Jonah approached Dylan and they wanted to start a band. Dylan was my bestie and he knew I played drums, so that’s how things came to be. I didn’t ever meet Jonah until our first practice as a band. I didn’t like him… and still don’t.
Nicholas: I was lucky enough to even be considered for the open spot they had for a guitarist. Colin has been giving me headaches since highschool, so he called me and asked me if I wanted to play a show with Cheyenne Dan that was supposed to be a three-piece. Thank you, Colin, I guess.
Speaking of the early days of the band, is there any significance behind the name, “Cheyenne Dan,” and/or where did the name come from?
Jonah: It was the name of an old Soundcloud account that I posted beats on. I liked the name so much I had to bring it to the band. I really like how it sounds.
Colin: I think it sounds awesome. Kind of hard to spell, though.
What was the writing and recording process for the Butterflies EP like? It’s an interesting time to be an artist and working towards making anything creative, let alone such passionate and intricately made music like this.
Jonah: COVID made recording in a studio impossible, but it wasn’t a huge disappointment to me because I had been collecting gear for a home recording setup. The biggest difference was that all the tracks we recorded separately instead of all at the same time. It was something I was really excited about at the time, but after recording four to five songs like that, it became really tedious.
Nicholas: I couldn’t tell you how many emails of tracks I had to send to Jonah for Butterflies. Being so far away in South Jersey, on top of COVID, was largely difficult, but we finally had to make the decision to meet up to record. Jonah’s home recording equipment setup was perfect for what we needed, and I give him props for getting this all together and releasing such an awesome song through all the boundaries we’ve faced.
What are your favorite memories as a band thus far?
Jonah: Our first Ewing show felt really amazing.
Colin: One time we were really tired and in a bad mood on the car ride home from a show. We had to stop to get gas and some person came up to our car and said tgat they drive for Grubhub and someone had cancelled a huge Denny’s order. We got so many pancakes, eggs, and bacon for free from this random person. Best night ever.
Nicholas: There isn’t one specific memory, but my favorite moment playing live is watching Jonah shred the “I Hope You Cry” solo on the floor and around the staging area. Dude nails it every single time.
You’re very tight with your fan base and the people who support you. How have your listeners and the Jersey scene shaped you guys?
Colin: The friends who support us are so awesome. At our first house show in Ewing we had no idea what to expect, but we knew we wanted it to be fun. We just tried our best to get our friends to come. We even did rides to the house so people didn’t have to worry about driving. It ended up being an awesome show and set the tone of how the rest of our local shows would go. Our friends supporting us are the reason we were able to get Cheyenne Dan off the ground at all.
What are your goals for the future as a band, regardless of the uncertainty of the world and the music industry at the moment?
Jonah: My goals are to release the songs I have recorded and try to write as much as possible. There’s no definite answer to when shows will start happening again, so I’m going to try to be prepared for anything.
You’ve had some really cool and really off-the-wall album and single artwork over the course of your career. How does that part of making and releasing music come about?
Jonah: I’m not a visual artist, I’m always looking for talented artists who can help bring something interesting to the table. Cover art has always been an afterthought to me, it’s the last part of a release I put together before a deadline. Scrambling last minute has led to some interesting pieces, but with this EP I was a little more on top of things and able to have a consistent aesthetic for the EP and the singles that came with it.
What’s exciting to you about this era of Cheyenne Dan? Is it the mindset you’re in? The Butterflies release in itself?
Jonah: It’s definitely a different mindset than the previous material. It’s exciting to be a little more personal with the music, but it also feels a lot more intimidating.
Cheyenne Dan is as homegrown and DIY as it gets. How has that been an advantage to you guys and do you have any advice for other musicians trying to break into their local music scenes?
Jonah: Doing it yourself means you get to do whatever you want artistically. It’s awesome. It also means you have to have a lot of discipline and an insane work ethic if you want to gain traction. My advice to anyone getting into it is to do your research. There’s an extensive history and culture behind independent music in America. If you don’t learn about the ideas and practices that made your scene, you won’t know how to respect the spaces you’ll be walking into. If you put on an exciting live show and aren’t an asshole, people will book you.
“High In Bed,” your latest single, which came with some accompanied video clips released on Instagram, is so captivating. Lyrically, musically, everything. What’s the meaning behind it and why did you choose to have it as a single ahead of your upcoming EP?
Jonah: Every single we’ve released has had a different feel to it. I felt like this song fits in with our older material but adds some new ideas in the instrumentation and production.
Now I know that live shows are a big part of who you guys are as a band. Unfortunately, touring has been halted. On both sides of the coin, how has that affected you, as a band, and how has this time been for your behind-the-scenes creative process?
Jonah: It sucks. We’re together a lot less than normal because we’re trying to be safe. We’re not able to work on music together like we used to. I’m still working on mixes but practicing as a band and the writing process have come to a halt.
Nicholas: I go to school in Philadelphia, so the distance sometimes negatively impacts our ability to bring spontaneous ideas to the table. The best part about the distance is knowing that when we are together again, something new and awesome is going to come out of it, and that is what makes it all worth it.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard you before?
Jonah: It’s really fun – probably the most fun music out there.
Nicholas: Crazy energetic. I feel like I could run through a cement wall listening to our music.
If you could recommend three songs from your discography for a new fan to listen to and get involved with the signature Cheyenne Dan sound, what would they be and why?
Where can our readers find your music?
Jonah: We’re on every streaming platform and following us on Instagram @cheyennedan_nj is the best way to stay in the loop about releases and events.