Imagine a little garage around 3 a.m. Drab lighting and some leftover fast food. There’s a pot of coffee in the corner, cold beer in the fridge and a guy wearing a stained Denny’s apron tapping on the drums. It’s humble beginnings like these that created one of San Diego’s most buzzworthy bands. The Donkeys emit cozy drumbeats, peaceful keyboard tones and soothing harmonies in a comforting and classic garage-fi, indie fashion. It’s fun for the whole carpool. —Travis Ferré
SURFING Magazine: Take us back to the beginning.
Anthony Lukens: We all met in Dana Point, California, at Dana Hills High School. We all played together when a band I was in at the time had a show scheduled in San Francisco but couldn’t make it. We had been jamming so we rallied together and did the show. Things clicked and we started going from there.
When did the name “The Donkeys” stick?
Our singing drummer, Sam, was working the graveyard shift at a Denny’s in San Clemente, so he would show up late or early in the morning. And since we were all sort of night zombies, we’d just hang out, drink beer and play music until 4 or 5 in the morning. “Donkeys” was our code name for getting drunk and playing music all night.
Have things changed since those days?
Not really. We’ve spent so much time playing music together, it’s pretty natural now. Sam is pretty good about coming up with lyrics quickly, so he sings the most. We all bring bits and pieces or full songs to practice and if everybody likes it we keep playing it, and if we don’t, we don’t. We’ve never had a shortage of material; it’s more about editing down what we have.
What do you sound like?
There are keyboards and guitar solos and lots of harmony. It’s just rock and roll music. That’s what I always call it. We’ve gotten, like, people saying it’s very Grateful Dead-like, or other old references — which is cool because we all like that stuff — but I don’t know if I agree with them. My favorite description was when a guy said we sounded like four men that sang together in a band. I’d say that’s pretty accurate.
Are you guys working folk or is music full time?
We are definitely all working men. We all have jobs at bars and restaurants, and Jesse is a substitute teacher — he has the most dignified job of all. We’d all love to try to tour and do that and put all our energy into that but we’re not quite there yet.
What’s hitting the road like for you guys?
It’s a good time. We go out, eat weird food, hang out at weird bars and make friends in all kinds of towns. It seems like everyone wants to party with us, which is good, but tiring. When we’re out, nobody is sleeping, nobody is eating well and everyone is drunk most of the time. It’s rad, though, when you come home and you’re so spun out that you can’t even have a normal conversation with anyone.