Making up the exquisite sound that is the Lovely Sand Dunes are Anthony Zelaya, Claire French, and Gavin Ortiz. While Zelaya and French previously released an EP, all three are getting ready to go into the studio later this fall to record their debut album. The album will release sometime in 2019. The trio currently has a luscious single out now titled “Luce,” displaying French’s delicate vocals, and their knack for writing mysterious and ethereal music.

Hailing from California, Lovely Sand Dunes is a group that should definitely be on your radar, as the music they create will definitely be buzzing in your ear long after you’ve heard their songs. We had a very good and laid-back chat with the trio about the upcoming recording of their debut album, songwriting, themes, instruments played, favorite concerts, and more.

From what I’ve seen you guys are going to be working on your new album, correct?

Anthony: Yes. That is correct.

Awesome. So what are some themes that you guys want to explore with it that you can share with us?

Anthony: Well the first EP was mostly just Claire and I in our personal life, which deprived off parents or just things like that, personal losses and I think the new one is just kind of the new experiences that we’re dealing with in every day and mostly about what’s going on in the world and what’s inspiring us. And what we hear going on, pretty much. That’s my side of it, pretty much.

Anthony Zelaya
Photography by Hannah Schooley

Yeah, with that being said, how do each of you approach songwriting?

Claire: We approach songwriting in, I guess, a classic form that everyone would. We start with an acoustic guitar and we just like the riff, and then just jam out, and then it’s like something comes out and then we’re like “Oh, let’s keep that.” That’s how it starts and then it kind of just morphs into whatever it morphs into.

Anthony: There’s so many different ways in the way I approach it, personally. I can go after what she [Claire] said. It sometimes starts off as a riff, or an idea or even a word or a bad day, but poetry can turn into lyrics and lyrics can turn into a structure, and that’s kind of how we just bounce ideas off of each other until we come up with something that we both agree upon, I would say.

Is Gavin going to be included more in songwriting?

Gavin: Yeah, I haven’t written any originals or anything yet, but it’s like they, Claire and Anthony will come to me and they’ll go ‘hey, we wrote lyrics for the song, what do you have for it?’ And we’ll generally play through it like once for me and then I try not to overthink it too much because I find that that kind of messes with me in my head. I just kind of play whatever feels natural and then generally from there I’ll make suggestions about what all we could do to change it and stuff like that, or I’ll add new parts. But generally, I would say Anthony and Claire are like a songwriting duo because they come up with the rough outline and then I help finish it off.

And I know that Anthony, you’re the main guitar player, and Claire sings, but Claire I’ve seen you play the guitar as well. Are you going to be doing more of that on the album?

Claire: I play guitar. I guess I started in like sixth grade because my dad’s a big blues guy. He actually is a guitar player and he was in the scene in the ’80s in LA and stuff. I was just very influenced by him, and the first thing he gave me for Christmas was a guitar. That’s when I picked it up, and then I kind of learned a little bit of piano, but not as much. I guess right now, I’m primarily a singer.

Claire French
Photography by Hannah Schooley

Are you going to pick it up when you guys perform and go out on tour and stuff?

Claire: Maybe sometimes on some songs, I would like to, yeah. That’d be fun.

Anthony: Good idea. She actually wrote, four or three of the songs on the first self-released EP. So she has a different way of thinking than I could ever think of.

Speaking of guitars and drums and all that good stuff and vocals, what gear do you guys all use? 

Anthony: I use a Fender, acoustic Fender DG60, I believe it’s called. And I actually play a Squire Bullet Fender; it’s like one of the super cheap versions of a real Strat, but I mean, it sounds beautiful. I wanted to save up for an expensive Strat, but this one is doing me justice, so I might just keep this one and maybe change the pickups and stuff. And as far as pedals go, I use a Holy Grail Reverb and a Sitters Overdrive. Those are the only two and that’s pretty much the two reverbs that I have.

Gavin: Drum-wise, I have a pretty simple setup. I use Pearl. I’ve got a Decade Maple Set. I sort of have a whole Frankenstein monster thing going on with my drum set right now where all my shifts are one brand, all my cymbals are another. But for the longest time, I actually was using my first ever drum set I ever had which was an old beat up silver Sonar set that I’d turned gold due to the use over the years. But a few months ago, I finally upgraded them, and it’s been nice being able to play with up-to-date hardware. But still looking to upgrade. Drums are a bit of an investment. It takes time to build up.

When do you guys plan to release your next album? Have you gotten to the studio to record your upcoming album, or are you just in the beginning stages, or can you tell me about it a little bit more? 

Anthony: We’re thinking maybe recording this fall and then maybe releasing our first debut album early next year.

Nice! Are you guys going to release some singles in between now and then, to gear up for it?

Anthony: Yeah, definitely, and more videos! 

Who was your first concert? Who was each of you guys’ first concert and do you have an overall favorite, thus far?

Gavin: Mine’s fresh in my mind. The first concert I ever went to technically was Coachella in 2007. I was pretty young at the time. I had a family member who was dating somebody who worked at Coachella, so he got us all free tickets. It was the year that Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against the Machine were headlining. I only went one day, so my very first concert experience was seeing the Chili Peppers; and I remember Arcade Fire played, I didn’t know who they were at the time. It was a good experience though.

As for most memorable, yeah, I saw Roger Waters, which was amazing as a big Pink Floyd fan. I saw Van Halen which was awesome also. It’s just like for me, the most memorable ones are the ones that you never thought you would even get the chance to see, but you finally do.

Gavin Ortiz
Photography by Hannah Schooley

Claire: All I can tell you is that I think, yeah, okay, when I was little I would always go to my dad’s shows he would always have in LA and stuff.

Anthony: And for me, I can’t really think of my first concert, but my most memorable definitely was when I saw Soundgarden. I sat all the way in the back, but it was amazing.

Claire: It was more memorable to me to actually watch Robby Krieger that open up for him. Because it was like we were very influenced by The Doors, and we went to Death Valley and that’s how we got into him. And all of this stuff. It was really surreal to see Robby because we really look up to him. 

Anthony: Yeah, Robby was just as Claire said it, he kind of fulfilled a lot of expectations in music, for sure. He was just a beautiful soul to me and to see him perform.

What are your top five albums on CD, cassette, or vinyl?

Gavin: Oh, that’s a great question.

Anthony: That IS a great question.

Gavin: Top five albums. Give me a minute on this one.

Anthony: Well, I feel like for me I can answer it quickly, I mean because the albums I listen to are the reason I play music in the first place. It’s a little easier for me.

Gavin: I know my number one, but I couldn’t say two through five.

Anthony: Yeah, top five albums are hard but one of the albums is Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik by the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers, 1992. It’s when John Frusciante, the guitar player, kind of broke through that thing that the Chilis were doing in the ’80s, that whole rock rap, and he showed his musical influences which are like Velvet Underground and Jimi Hendrix, and he made the Chilis what they were and that album by showing his diversity. That guitar playing resonates with me a lot. That’s one of the albums for me at least. And that’s the one I can think of right now. So many.

Gavin: That’s a tough question. There’s so many great ones.

Claire: I would say one of my favorite albums is The Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties RequestIt’s very nostalgic for me because my dad would always play it in the car and stuff.

Gavin: I’m almost there, I feel like I want to be the one who actually comes up with five. Because I know I can, it’s just I’m trying to think of like one or two more. I know my number one. My favorite album ever is Animals by Pink Floyd because my favorite song is “Dogs,” which is like the first big song on that album. Animals for sure, Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin, because I mean, Led Zeppelin! John Bonham is the reason I play the drums and Physical Graffiti is my favorite Zeppelin album. That’s a for sure. Dipping into my heavy metal look here a little bit, Powerslave by Iron Maiden is in my top for sure. Thinking of two more is hard, because yeah, I can just throw out some albums I like, but I feel like I should really need to earn it, you know.

Anthony: I have another one. Ten from Pearl Jam.

Gavin: Oh that’s a good one. Ten’s a good one.

Anthony: Ten, Pearl Jam. That definitely is one of my top five for sure. It just had young Eddie, young ambitious, creative Eddie. I mean, so much power in that voice and all the others, like Mike McCready the guitarist and Stone Gossard. They all were so perfect together. Ten by Pearl Jam that’s definitely number two

Gavin: Oh, one more. Ride the Lightning by Metallica. That’s up there for me. That was a big album up, that was a big one in my youth.

Catch Lovely Sand Dunes on Instagram.

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