Parking Lot Party

Parking Lot Party band members Jack Dobson (left), Carson Dettmer, Vinh Le, Jacob Pilker and Canyon Skare pose for a portrait in the 18th and R parking garage on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

With groovy bass lines, catchy choruses, funky guitar licks and an overwhelming sense of pure, unadulterated fun, Lincoln-based indie pop band Parking Lot Party is bursting at the seams with fiery vitality. 

The quintet comprises four University of Nebraska-Lincoln students: vocalist Jack Dobson, guitarists Carson Dettmer and Jacob Pilker and drummer Canyon Skare, as well as one Nebraska Wesleyan Student, bassist Vinh Le. The group has already been making a name for itself with a multitude of concert performances and the recent EP, “Drive Thru.”

The Daily Nebraskan had the opportunity to speak with the group on a variety of topics, from the band’s high school beginnings, the addition of new band members, striving to attain musical evolution and more.

The Daily Nebraskan: What is Parking Lot Party’s origin story?

Carson Dettmer: We were all on the same cross-country team, so we were already close friends. Night of Knights was coming up, which was [Lincoln Southeast’s] talent show. It was Jack’s idea to get us together to play a song since he knew we all played instruments. He told us the idea and we were all like, “Might as well.” 

DN: So, what’s the significance of the name?

Jack Dobson: We were on a random band name generator website and going through random stuff and “party” was one of the names. We were all chilling in the parking lot and Avery said, “What about Parking Lot Party?” so it just stuck.

DN: You said you started in high school, so how long have you been a group?

Dobson: I think it’s four years now.

Jacob Pilker: Oh my god, I thought it was three.

DN: So, with the group going strong for four years, it’s unlike a lot of high school pet projects that eventually fizzle out. Yet, even with university you’ve stuck together. Why do you think that’s the case?

Dettmer: I think it’s because we all are super close friends. We all like to hang out with each other. For example, we’ll do band practice and then hang out for the next three hours. Just to be so close to your bandmates is sick because we don’t have to be playing music all the time, and we understand that. We know we can get burnt out, and we need to take breaks.

Canyon Skare: I would second that because there are times when we hang out and not write a single thing. But that friendship between all of us really keeps us going.

DN: That blend between friendship and musicianship seems pretty integral to your brand. So, with you hanging out all the time, how does the writing process begin?

Dobson: First, Carson usually will come up with some type of guitar riff. He’ll send that to our group chat, and then Vinh will get a bass part set up, Jacob will get his part set up, then I feel like Canyon and I go from there.

Dettmer: Everything usually starts small, like even if it’s just a little riff I came up with that’s 10 seconds long. Then we’ll have a show or something that’s in a month and say, “O.K., we have to actually sit down and piece something together,” so that’s where the group chat comes into play where we send videos back and forth. After that we get together and iron out the details of the song structure.

DN: What are some of your favorite venues to perform at?

Dettmer: We’ve played at The Bay a lot. We played at The Mez, which was honestly one of our favorite shows. It was full and it was so hot, but it was fun. We’ve played at the Bands Against Bullying for Lincoln High, which was a ton of fun. Then we had a bunch more planned, but then COVID-19 came along. We were supposed to be at the Bourbon. Besides that, we performed for Checkerfest, which was so fun, and we can’t wait to do that next year.

DN: You mentioned some of your favorite shows — what are the elements for a great show?

Dobson: Crowd; 100% it’s the crowd.

Skare: I can give two examples of that. One of the first shows we played [was] at The Bay, and it was awesome because there were so many people there, but then we played there again a little over a year ago and there were a lot less people there. It was weird, we were the smallest band at the show, but it still was odd. But even with that small crowd, they were so into it and it gives off the energy so we can feed back and forth with the audience and us.

DN: You mentioned how the Boy Pablo song “Everytime” spawned the beginning of the group, what are some of your other musical influences?

Skare: [Holds up Tame Impala’s “Currents” on vinyl] This is the one.

Vinh Le: My inspirations are the group’s inspirations. We do have a lot of Hippo Campus influence. I grab a lot of inspiration from funk bass and a lot of jazz-style bass. I really like digging into classic jazz and trying to use the rhythms they use.

DN: After you did the Night of Knights performance and officially became a group, how was the process of making your first song?

Skare: This is a cherished memory of mine. It was months and months and months and just out of the blue I think I got a text from Jack saying, “Come over to Carson’s house, we’ve been working on something and we want to see how it sounds with drums.” I went over and, no offense to Carson’s brother, but the drum set was terrible. We just started messing around then Carson pulled out his acoustic guitar and played the first notes to this wild song. Jack started singing and harmonizing with the guitar and there I am sitting back thinking, “Damn, this is actually really really good.” That instrumental turned into the instrumental for our song on our EP, “Uncertainty.”

DN: What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned in your four years as a group?

Dettmer: One thing we learned was to have fun and connect as a group because if you don’t connect as a group, then you’re not going to connect your music to your audience. We talked with The Bay’s founder Mike Smith, and he said he loved seeing us hang out with each other and play music rather than just playing a show to become famous. Another thing is the best feedback we get is from our friends. People that we know who have gone to multiple shows from us then compare show to show is really important. I remember one of my friends told me that we should have more than one person sing, so that led to the amount of harmonies on our EP.

DN: It seems like there have been benefits to being in a band and working on school at the same time. You mentioned your friends being a vital resource for feedback. But on the flip side, what are the challenges with working on both school and music?

Dettmer: Right now it’s been especially difficult trying to do online school, which is tough. We also took a significant break after releasing our EP because we were burnt out from practicing and working on the project for six months. Now we haven’t been able to see each other for a while because of that.

DN: With all these trials and tribulations you’ve gone through, do you think that, as you make projects in the future, they will be more streamlined?

Pilker: One hundred percent. Like with everything we do, it’s an evolutionary thing. We just keep getting better and better. When we put out new music it will definitely be easier.

Skare: These are a little vague, but in the future we want to take a more active role in recording our music. With that control, we can have a lot more creative freedom. We can change the studio space from a place we go to record in, to a space where we can just sit and create.

Dobson: Before this year ends we will be putting out at least one single. I will say, there’s things Vinh has sent in our group chat that sound different than anything we’ve done before. It’s not our traditional sound, so I’m excited to explore that.

This article was modified at 1:57 on Sept. 6, 2020, to correct the spelling of Vinh Le’s name in the photo caption.