LUNDEN REIGN: The Love Affair & Collaboration that Spawned
By Ray Shasho
Interviewed on January 7th 2015
It’s a rare phenomenon that I write and boast about a new rock band, but L.A. based newcomers, , packed such a punch with its debut album … an extraordinary- high-energy- esoteric rock gem, integrated with profound lyrical content, that I felt compelled to applause this exciting new progressive-rock powerhouse.
nucleus is ... guitarist/songwriter/keyboardist …
(Espinoza-Lunden) and lead singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist … .
But and are not just bandmates; they are also engaged to become married. It’s a fascinating love affair that began when Lora received an unanticipated kiss from Nikki while she performed with her band onstage at a popular club in Tarzana (San Fernando Valley region of the city of L.A.) called Petie’s Place. Nikki was hosting a jam session there with some local musicians. Lora G. lives a transgender lifestyle, which is certainly nothing new in the world of rock and roll. But Nikki and Lora’s inspiring musical association, unified by a genuine respect and love for one another is exclusive.
(Espinoza-Lunden): is Mexican-American. She began performing with her band at age 16 on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. Lora’s drummer in high school was (Velvet Revolver, Guns N’ Roses, The Cult). Lora left music and developed an amazing Emmy winning career in television and radio including working for Disney over 14 years. and joined forces in the spring of 2013, and now she begins a new chapter in her life as lead guitarist and songwriter for Lunden Reign. Lora defines the band’s sound as “Big Beat Progressive Rock.”
grew up in Iowa City, Iowa and became lead singer & songwriter for a band called The Trollies, before becoming an acoustic artist. Lunden enjoyed a 15 year career of performing for live audiences before moving to Los Angeles in September of 2012. After arriving in L.A. she immediately entered the Musician’s Institute where she graduated in 2013. Nikki says one of her most gratifying professional experiences so far has been to record at Abbey Road Studios in London.
is the incredible debut album from Lunden Reign. The album was recorded at Capitol Records in Hollywood, Abbey Road (Studio 2) in London and Stagg Street Studios. produced, played guitar and co-wrote with Lora G. on various tracks. Maldonado is a platinum-selling songwriter & recording artist who has collaborated with John Waite, Patrick Monahan (Train), Lisa Marie Presley, Glen Hughes, Michael Schenker, UFO, and with his own band, 'Into the Presence.' Other album credits include mix engineer (Linda Perry), on drums, (bassist for Train) and Cellist (Queens of the Stone Age, The Eels).
The album's concept is a complete story from end to end. It was designed to be a sort of 'rock opera' about intolerance and those willing to stand up to it as well as those it's destroying. Lunden Reign has also signed a distribution deal for American Stranger with Cleopatra Records in Los Angeles.
You can Lunden Reign's debut CD at
or -Watch for the official release
is a magnificent and seasoned debut production … every track is commanding while emphatically seductive …the album has it all, but also entices the listener to cry out for more … Lunden Reign validates musical fortitude and secures the elements needed to develop into a colossal rock group Stars!
Lunden Reign’s music is now playing on over 50 radio/internet stations through Europe, the U.S., Australia and Japan.
I had the great pleasure of chatting with and about the band’s new release …
Their musical collaboration ... How they fell in love … My infamous ‘Field of Dreams’ wish question … And much-much more!
Here’s my interview with /lead guitarist/songwriter/keyboardist/ and lead singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/ of …
“I thought we had to do something to preserve the memory of those guys, and that’s where we came up with that concept of “Savage Line”. My dad was a marine and used to tell me how lonely and cold it was in Korea, and he went over there twice, I can’t even imagine anyone going over there once. So I just wrote from what he told me and from what I read about ‘The Chosen Company’. This happened in the Nuristan Province of Afghanistan, I read about the description online, about what some of the people wrote about, how alone they felt and how they missed their families. The description of the battle is in the song, and is very specific to that battle. But I kept it somewhat vague so any soldier could relate to it, but the specifics were about that particular battle in Wanat. There’s a little bit of commentary in the beginning where … this wasn’t against our soldiers but against our government …because even though I am so pro- U.S.A., I felt horrible that we sent our troops to war without the support they needed. I’m not pro-war just pro-soldiers. There’s a line in the song that says … “Is it war or is it crime” and that’s my one commentary in the song.”
“We hear a lot of music today that is angry but not directed at anything, we wanted to not be angry but issue based and directed. That’s what we wanted to do, it’s nothing new, but it’s kind of been forgotten, and we’re trying to bring that back.”
Nikki Lunden: “The music you hear on radio today sounds like the same thing repeated over and over again but with different singers and we’re a little burned-out over the Top 40 stuff. We’re just trying to make a change in the music and trying to get people to start thinking again.”
“I’m very fortunate that Lora and I found each other, and in what I thought was a very huge city, turns out to be kind of a small town.”
I was hosting a jam session in Tarzana (Los Angeles) and Lora had brought in a couple of the singers that she had been working with at the time. We talked a little but I was pretty busy that night and wasn’t really able to sit down and chat with her. So a couple of days later I found her on ReverbNation, left her a message, and she called me. We were on the phone for probably two hours talking about music and what I was doing out here in Los Angeles. I had just moved here from Iowa City, Iowa and she invited me to one of the bands rehearsals, and the rest is history after that.”
“Mary” and “The Light” were recorded with ‘The Lora G Band’ and I wasn’t completely happy with them, but when we recorded the new album, and working with Luis Maldonado, we were able to remodify the tracks to fit the Lunden Reign sound. So several songs were reworked from previous periods when we were in other bands, and other tracks are brand new like “Hush and Whispers,” “American Stranger” etc. Once we nailed the sound we wanted for Lunden Reign, we realized we could go back and get some of our other material, and that has worked out really well for us.”
“We’ve been getting a lot of good responses on “Love in Free Fall,” when we were putting together the track order and we kept coming back to that one …then decided to use it as the opening track of ‘American Stranger,’ and I think it’s a perfect fit because everyone’s been going crazy about that song, so we decided to shoot it straight out of the gate and not holding back anything, and just gets right to the point right away.”
“That one really shows a lot of Luis Maldonado’s chunky guitar styles. I’m more of an open note kind of dreamy player. Dreamy notes and sort of things like that, the melodic chords, and I create the riff, but that really chunky heavy stuff is Luis. He’s a world class guitarist. He performed with John Waite for years, also Glenn Hughes, Michael Schenker, and he just finished a tour with Lisa Marie Presley and Bigelf. He’s also a demonstrator for the Rivera Amplifier Company and we got lucky because Hiwatt endorsed me, which was fantastic! When we found out that Hiwatt was going to endorse us … we were shocked and we quickly looked on their webpage and it had all these legendary acts from Nirvana to The Who. Then there was Lunden Reign and it was sort of like …Who? (All laughing)”
“That song is geared towards the artists that we lost at the age of 27 … Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Richey Edwards … written mostly about Richey Edwards of the band Manic Street Preachers. Every time I get onstage I really enjoy singing it.”
“Every one! I think the toughest to perform live was “American Stranger.” We finally nailed it when I went to the twelve-six string double neck and that’s how we pulled it off. I switched to the twelve-string much like Jimmy Page did in “Stairway to Heaven” and it allowed the song to come through. Then I do six strings in combo with it on my guitar. It took us awhile to get that one ready for stage but now we can do them all onstage.”
“It’s basically a heartbreak song, somebody I was with for about seven or eight years and then we broke up … the seven year itch kind of thing, but going on and learning to forgive that person and that I could emotionally move on from that relationship. But it didn’t mean that it didn’t hurt and the concept was that I thought we were in love and I realized that love can lie. It was exactly what the title says … “When Love Lies.””
“About standing up to intolerance. It was actually one of the songs that we had gone back and forth about making it the opening track. I really love the beginning of that song. In the end we thought that “Love in Free Fall” was more of a powerhouse with cleaner vocals, we get a little bit more gritty on “Hush and Whispers,” it’s a little darker, having two faces, knowing who this person is one minute and not the next.”
“Oh my gosh, it’s hard to say, it depends on what mood I’m in really … “Love in Free Fall” is extremely fun to sing, I love the part going into the bridge. “The Savage Line” is another favorite, drawing a lot of emotion inside, and sometimes I’ll cry while I’m singing it because the story that I’m telling is just so intense. “American Stranger” does the same thing. And sometimes on “It’s About Time” because that’s my story. It’s about leaving home and coming to California, it’s my moving away song, and so that one can get pretty emotional too. So to pick one is an impossible task, but I guess “American Stranger” will take the number one spot today.”
Nikki can tell you … when I write a song, I’ll rewrite it like four hundred times because it’s in my edit nature from working in Television. I’ll edit and edit until I like the song. For “28If” it originally had over 42 verses … I’m not kidding you. But I finally cut it down and finished writing it.”
“I was driving with Ana Lenchantin who wanted to meet Terri Nunn, the lead singer of Berlin in person; we were going over to her house for lunch. They had played together at a show a long time ago but never formally met. During the drive, I was telling her about the concept, the most bizarre thing; the concept came from Grace Slick, who I had met during the time I had lived in Santa Rosa. On the drive, I was chatting with her and she looked at me really shocked. I thought you don’t like the concept? She said no, do you know about my Brother Luciano? I said I know about your sister Paz who was the bassist for Perfect Circle, and then said, what about your brother? She said my brother died at age 27, he committed suicide. I had no idea. Because of that I had to rewrite the lyrics over again, because I couldn’t write a song that she could potentially be playing on and take a risk of hurting her feelings or insulting her. So I rewrote the entire bridge. I wrote it as if I was her talking to her brother, and that’s what that bridge is about. So the bridge is my tribute to her little brother. When I played it for her, I was so nervous, and she liked it. Later she came back and did that amazing cello on the bridge of it. Isn’t that a crazy story? So that’s how I write, it’s more inspirational.”
“I’m more of a lightning bolt type writer, I’ll get one little short lyric line in my head and it’s …Go! If it’s not written down … melody thought out and chords pretty much figured out in about half an hour. A lot of times I don’t even come back to it, it’s too much of a struggle. It’s got to come out like water in a faucet … if it comes out clean and clear that’s good … if it’s brown and icky, not going to do it. (All laughing) I’ve has some times when I’ve woken in the middle of the night and written out a song right then and there. And I’ve lost a few things … oh I don’t want to get up and get out of bed! But you have too. So Lora and I have completely different writing styles and we’ve been learning how to co-write together. She always comes up with the riffs first and the concept of what she wants the song to be about. Where I’m wham bam thank you ma’am, write and get out of there. But Lora is a peach to work with and I love her to death.”
“We’re almost opposite in everything we do musically, but we complement each other, the things I can’t do, she can do. And a lot of the same … what she can’t do, I can do.”
“I’m pretty blessed to have Lora as co-writer, teammate, bandmate, business partner and life partner … she pushes me harder than anyone ever has. In the past two years or so that I’ve been in Los Angeles, I’ve worked harder than I’ve ever had, become more disciplined than I ever had, I have a better understanding of how to communicate with people, and without that I don’t know what would have happened to me. I’d only been here for a few months when I first met Lora and I don’t know what would have happened if she hadn’t come into my life, I might have been working at the local hardware store in Iowa City for all I know. (All laughing) I doubt that, but she definitely keeps that fire lit in me. I learn constantly from her every day.”
“I do, I play acoustic, bass, a little bit of percussion … I was more of a singer/songwriter growing up and Sheryl Crow was my biggest idol, so I sort of have a tendency to write in that style …Ani DiFranco, Brandi Carlile … those kinds of female icons in the music industry. So it’s been a transition for me as well …going from cute little singer-songwriter … to get right in your face with a wireless microphone, wearing high heeled boots and black eyeliner. (All laughing) My perfect description of how I turned from little Iowa rocker to L.A. woman is … I took my guitar away and put a wireless microphone in my hand … which unleashed a person that I did not know existed inside of me.”
“It would easily be Jimmy Page or George Harrison for me. I got to meet Jimmy Page about a month ago for a book signing here. He doesn’t really sign but he stamped my book for me. He was very cordial and such a gentleman, I couldn’t believe what a nice guy he was. He shook my hand and chatted with me. He took my download card and he said he’d try and download it. I heard that he loves to hear music from unknown artists.”
“I’d love to work with Sheryl Crow, and in a full band it would definitely be Radiohead. I met Sheryl Crow in 2011 and actually have her autograph tattooed on my arm… I’m that big of a fan. She also gave me a necklace that I keep in my lockbox for fear of losing it. I take it out once in awhile and rub it for good luck. I would love to get a vocal track with myself, Sheryl Crow and Stevie Nicks doing some backup harmonies … the three of our voices together would be like heaven.”
“We’re already really more than half way through with songs for a second album. The new one will have more ballads on it, kind of like Zeppelin did ballads on steroids. So they’ll be like that.”
“Nikki was opening for my band in a club in Hollywood and I went onstage while she was performing to adjust the volume on my amps so we could come out and play right away, I don’t like people to wait. While she was performing, I was behind her doing some adjustments with my amp, and she came over while she was performing and kissed me in front of everyone. I had no idea and never even knew she had an interest.”
“It was kind of an out of body experience and it wasn’t in my character to do something like that. I’m usually shy when it comes to that sort of thing. Something just came over me and drew me to her. Definitely a moment I’ll never forget.”
“Well the show must go on so I finished my set, and then the Lora G. Band finished their set, then I hung over at her house and never went back to my place again.”
“We have a recording studio at my house and we started hanging out …and I never forgot the kiss.”
“Thank you Ray!”
You can pre-order Lunden Reign's debut CD at or
– Watch for the official release on
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