Inspiring through the power of Wine & Music.  Pairing wine + music + artists’ stories.

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Forming in Gainesville, Florida in December 2010, Dikembe swiftly made their mark with a compelling blend of emo and indie rock influences. After signing with Tiny Engines in 2012, they released their debut album “Broad Shoulders,” which garnered attention for its emotive lyrics and dynamic compositions. In 2014, Dikembe released their sophomore album “Mediumship,” showcasing their evolution with introspective themes and intricate melodies. As a trio, they independently released “Hail Something” on their Death Protector Collective label, further solidifying their presence in the indie rock scene.

Adding Andy Anaya of Pool Kids on guitar in 2017 infused new energy into their acclaimed fourth LP, “Muck,” in 2020, released under the label Skeletal Lightning. With each album, Dikembe continues to captivate audiences with their sincere storytelling and evolving musical prowess, cementing their reputation as influential figures in modern indie rock.

We sat down with lead singer & guitarist Steven Gray on the final date of their June West Coast tour with Tiny Stills & Aren’t We Amphibians to hear about his own musical journey, the formation of Dikembe, & Steven’s advice for new artists.

Interview with Steven Gray (Vocals & Guitar)

Q: Tell us about your early experiences in music that lit the spark!

A: My mom actually had a karaoke business that she would go and do parties, and things like that. She sort of used me as the “ice breaker.” Like, if nobody was signing up she would have me go up and sing Boys II Men or something. I don’t know. I enjoyed it, and I was kinda good at it. I just did it, so yeah – Karaoke!


Q: How did you get started in your first band? How old were you and what instrument did you play?

A: My first band was in like 9th grade. It was just dudes that I skated with, and they started playing guitar. I could sing because I still did the karaoke thing at that point with my mom, so we started what was essentially a blink-182 cover band. I think it was called “Satan Stole My Lunchbox” which we thought was fucking hilarious. But I didn’t play guitar in that band. The band I played guitar in was like a Blood Brothers worship band in high school, I think. I started writing my own songs in my first year of college, so I’d say that when it really kind of started. It was like, “I like writing songs. This is the fun part.”


Q: So, how did Dikembe come to be?

A: So, with Dikembe, I had been in a band previously called Wavelets. Everybody in that band had moved to different cities, and it was really hard to play shows. So, Ryan, who played bass in Wavelets, and I started Dikembe because we both lived in Gainesville and wanted to play shows. I worked at Dominos, and David also worked at Dominos. I found out that he played drums, and I just pestered the shit out them until he agreed to practice. The first thing we ever did was write Scotty Spliffen. And then that was it. We just started playing shows like we wanted to. Now we get to do cool shit like this!


Q: Wow, I didn’t know Scotty Spliffen was the first song. That’s like when blink-182 wrote Carousel the first time they practiced.

A: It was a really cool! I had brought the riff to Wavelets, and they didn’t want it. And so, when we were jamming with David, it was just like this natural thing because it was on my mind. Instantly he did, like, the “bounce” to the verse, and I was like, “Oh. Yeah we should keep doing this band.”


Q: Dikembe has been around for a long time. Give me an example of a challenge you faced, whether it was van troubles or something bigger.

A: I guess the early tours where we were doing everything ourselves were kind of tough just in that we weren’t a huge band or anything like that, so we were playing house shows, crashing on floors, things like that. But, we’re very lucky that we’ve never really run into anything that is insurmountable or spirit-killing.


Q: What keeps the spirit alive?

A: I think the thing with keeping the spirit alive through tough things is like, we’re friends first. I guess that’s a big thing. That’s always been huge with us. There’s nothing that we’re not going to talk to about and discuss until everyone feels good about it, because we’re all homies. The second it becomes not fun, I’m 90% certain it’s going to be, “we should just go hang out instead of tour.” But it’s still super fun to tour all the time because they’re my best friends. Any tough shit that comes up? We handle it. Which is awesome.


Q: Dikembe has been a band for how long?

A: 13 years. 13 years we’ve been a band. It’s still fun after 13 years! That’s because you gotta put friends first. That’s the trick.


Q: Your guys’ last tour was with Laura Jane Grace, who is a big Gainesville local hero. Tell us about that!

A: It was insane because we’re from Gainesville. We all cut our teeth on Against Me! They were like the band that we all looked up to and tried to see every time they came through. Against Me was this sort of glue between all of our friends. So, when we got the message from Laura to open the tour, it was mind boggling. It was sort of this dream come true type shit. To get to see her play every night, and to get that experience of a big tour where you have and agenda and an itinerary to be certain places every day, it was amazing. We would just go up, we would play, do our thing, and then we’d get to see Laura Jane every single night playing her songs, which are incredible, and Against Me! songs, which are incredible. Everything about it was perfect. There wasn’t a bad time on that tour.


Q: What kind of advice do you have for bands that are just starting out, and want to tour with their hometown heroes some day and be a band for 13 years?

A: I think in order for a band to have any sort of longevity, or even any fun, the friends thing is super, super important. That’s #1. If you just want to play shows, you just want to book shows for your hometown and things like that, being friends is extremely important because then you have people who have your back, who have the same values that you do. Theoretically they would like music that you also like, or they would put you on to bands. I think being friends in a scene is super, super important.

I think secondly, though, a new lesson that we’ve learned is you’ve got to stand up for yourself as a band. Like, if you want more shit in your monitor, don’t be afraid to say it. If there’s something weird on stage, or if there’s something weird with your merch set up, or something like that, don’t be afraid to say, “Hey. We drove all the way here. This doesn’t work for us. Is there anything we can do?” Because most of the time, everybody at the venue just wants the show to go over well anyway. So as long as you tell everybody exactly what you want, then tour gets a lot easier. So, don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself. Especially to promoters.