There’s no way that the Toronto-based band Dilly Dally can go unnoticed. They have probably just released one of the best albums of 2015, so get ready to meet one of your favorite bands of this year and dive into their beautifully noisy and brave music. To know more about them and about their super intense debut album, Sore, we talked with the awesome Katie Monks.
You and Liz both met at school. What led you to start Dilly Dally?
Me and Liz met when we were 14 years old and I suppose the two of us were just very rebellious teenagers. We were just huge fans of rock music like Blur, Radiohead, Velvet Underground… We were still kind of learning how to play guitar, we taught each other how to play guitar and how to sing. We were still kind of figuring things out for a long time because I think girls are maybe a little more shy with music at the beginning. They’re not as confident as guys can be. They’re kind of more encouraged to understand the technical side of things. But we were mostly just fangirls who secretly wrote music by themselves for teenager years, and then once we moved out, we were roommates in Toronto. We’ve recently broken up with our boyfriends and we were just bored and we just enjoy being in college. We kind of looked at each other with this complete confidence and we were able to say “Ok, let’s actually be in a band and let’s make this our lifetime journey and let’s make a career out of it.”
When you started the band, did you know how you wanted Dilly Dally to sound when you wrote the first songs?
It was very natural. There’s something about the process that has never changed because that was six years ago at least, but what has never changed is that we don’t really speak much. It’s just kind of I show her a group of very simple chords and we just jam, where’s any other musician I’ve collaborated with it’s a lot more vocal that you kind of have to guide them like “I want this song to sound this way.” With Liz, I think because we grew up together and we understood each other’s influences so well that there was this trust.
Your music is an intense mix of pop and noise punk, the way you do it is refreshing. What were your main inspirations while creating your music and has it changed since the beginnings?
I find mostly the easiest way to talk about it is the difference between seeing a live show and listening to music when you are partying, because whenever we go to live shows the kind of shows that we want to go to are very aggressive. In Toronto there’s a lot of noise, punk, grunge, industrial, and drone… Those shows where you’re going, you don’t even understand how the artists are making this sound happen and the audience is losing their minds, you know? A band like Liars is like an experimental punk band that’s a live show for example that we would wanna go see. But then when we’re out and partying we want to listen to ASAP Rocky, we wanna do karaoke to Celine Dion and Spice Girls. It’s that kind of mix. We don’t have guilty pleasures. [laughs] What we don’t like though is pop punk. It’s funny because we love pop music and we love very rebellious noisy, grungy kind of music, but there’s something about pop punk like Blink-182 or Simple Plan that we’re not into. Or like hardcore. We’re not into that kind of stuff. I think that’s why we’ve kind of also got a lot of mid-tempo songs.
Before you played the very first Dilly Dally live show, you and Liz did tattoos of the band which is kind of wild. I’m curious, what did you tattooed back then?
It just says “Dilly Dally”. We just went in and tattooed our band name and the guy said like “I really don’t recommend that you do this because you haven’t even played a show yet or anything. What if you split up? What if this doesn’t work out?” and we were just appalled like “How dare you think that Dilly Dally is not going to make it?” We also said “Even if we break up, it’s our first band and that’s a good reason to get a tattoo.” It was funny and Liz was able to choose a font and I was there looking through it, and as a control freak I am, I drew it out for him, so my tattoo I drew out for myself. It was our first tattoos and our first band. It still is my only tattoo, but Liz has some others now.
It took a while for your band to get the attention that you clearly deserve. How are you dealing with all the praise you’re getting?
I feel great about it. I just feel so appreciated of all the support, it blows my mind. Before it was very much our own journey and now we’re kind of able to have conversations like this with you, you know? I’m still learning about our story and I’m still learning about where we fit into the whole world, what our strengths and weaknesses are… It’s really interesting, but I suppose part of it as well is worrisome. I feel almost like I haven’t faced inside myself yet, something that I have been in denial about that I need to start confronting, which is like I’m starting to become very interested in how we’re perceived and it feels a little detached through something. There’s something that does feel unnatural for an artist to be looking at themselves in the mirror all the time, seeing how they come across all the time when music is supposed to be this thing where you close your eyes and you shut out the whole world and you try to be as authentic as possible and not give a fuck about what anyone says.
“I’m still learning about our story and I’m still learning about where we fit into the whole world, what our strengths and weaknesses are…”
You recently released your debut album, Sore, and it’s been a long time since you formed this band. How does it feel now that you’ve released your very first full-length?
It feels good! You know what? I actually read this one thing the other day: some guy on Instagram said like there’s the time when there’s all this hype before a record, but after all goes away that’s the moment when the listener gets to hear the record and no one is telling them what songs are the best or what’s good about it and what’s bad about it or what they think it sounds like or anything. It’s just the listener and the record. It was just this person who was able to just say on his way “I heard the whole record and I was connected to it. I’m not a journalist, I’m not a person who works for a label or whatever.” That to me is the best. Or this teenager guy who messaged Dilly Dally saying “I just had my first kiss with a girl ever.” He said that he left the girl’s house, put on his headphones and he listened to the whole record. That kind of stuff makes me go “Fuck all the other bullshit!” These moments are what this is all about. I mean, not to say that the other things aren’t important – we need to do all this other stuff. We’re so appreciated to collaborate with other amazing writers, photographers and all of this stuff that helped to bring the record out there and I think that all the other stuff is a collaboration with other artists and I do enjoy a lot, but the thing that I do put the most work into is the album itself. It’s been written over the last 8 years. When you put out a single, people are gonna say the band sounds like this based on one song. To hear the whole record is completely different. I think there are many different references on the album. You can hear more influences on the whole record than you could on one song so I think there’s a lot of different things on there and it’s just really wonderful to be able to share the whole story with everyone.
Sore is just the perfect word to describe this album after a few listenings: you just feel sore and beaten up with such in-your-face music. Were those the feelings you wanted to convey with Sore?
The name of the album came at the very end and it was our drummer’s idea for that name. I knew I wanted to be one word, but it was him in one practice. I can’t exactly say all the stuff that happened before now, but we had a handful of managers, labels, other band members and all this stuff that never worked out. We’ve been doing it for a long time and we had an album that never came out. It just felt like a lot of things have fallen through on the past and it was a lot of work to get to the point of putting out this record. It all started out of complete naivety too when we were just like “Oh yeah! Let’s start a band! We believe in ourselves and we believe in the world so let’s do this” and we thought it was going to happen right away. You know when you’re like a little kid and you feel sore? Like that. We’re definitely not like totally screwed. [laughs] I’m a sensitive person, Liz is tough. She’s been through more stuff than I have and she’s had a harder life than me, but I’m a sensitive person. It’s hard to talk about the album as a whole. That word seemed best to describe this feeling I guess, but there’s definitely a lot of hope on the record too and I hope that people listen to it and go “This girl has been through some shit and she’s made sense of it all. She’s been able to turn it into something positive and she’s been able to grow from that and become stronger.” That’s the point of it. You felt sore after hearing the album, but maybe also there was some hope.
It feels like a cathartic process that leads in the end to better things and much better feelings.
Yeah! When I was 20 years old, my mom asked me “Katie, why do you write so many sad songs? Are you depressed?” and I said “Mom, I’m a happy person because I write sad songs.” It’s therapy.
You are very straightforward in your lyrics and your voice is so awesome, which makes your lyrics even more empowering. How is your approach while writing the lyrics and melodies?
Melodies always come first. It starts out with me on my room and I turn off as many lights as I can. Generally in my bedroom in Toronto would be very small. [laughs] I’ve been having really shitty jobs, and in this tiny room I turn off as many lights as possible and maybe light a candle and then I play four chords over and over again. The older songs would be on an acoustic guitar, the newer songs are always on an electric guitar. So, playing four chords over and over again and it’s almost like meditative. After that, I close my eyes and I just sing, kind of filled it out and I would mumble words. This is why a lot of the stuff sounds mumbled because the songs are began to be written in thatway. I would mumble like nonsense, I’m so good mumbling nonsense. [laughs] If I ever forget the words of a song on stage, no one would know. [laughs] I would mumble and the sounds that would come out of my mouth would be just the things sound best and it’s so weird like the shape of the words. Even if I would speak in a different language that I didn’t understand, to me it would still be saying something. Also the melody is very important. After I’ve done that and found the melody, and here’s what the words kind of sound like, you know? Sometimes it kind of sounds I’m saying a word, but it sounds I’m saying another word, like it kind of comes afterwards and then I start to go like “It looks like these new kind of themes with the words.” It kind of starts filling in the blanks and then eventually at the very end with a notebook I start to actually write the lyrics. After that I would bring it to Liz and Liz would write her guitar part. We would have some wine and maybe smoke some weed, and Liz would come up with her guitar part very naturally and then we would bring it to the band and then structure it. We kind of go like “How’s the song gonna end? How’s the song gonna start? Where should we put a bridge?” We kind of structure things and so that’s how it all comes together. This is probably the most detailed explanation I’ve ever gave to anyone. [laughs]
“It’s hard to talk about the album as a whole. That word seemed best to describe this feeling I guess, but there’s definitely a lot of hope on the record too and I hope that people listen to it…”
How did exactly the track “Burned By The Cold” – the slowest track on the record – come to be?
I wrote “Burned By The Cold” on piano. It was around Christmas time last year and I kind of fell in love with someone who I shouldn’t have. She had recently died and they were gone home for Christmas and I wanted to write them a song that kind of said “Hey! I’m with you, even though I’m not there with you.” They lived far away from me. It was just a song that I wrote for them and I recorded it as a demo just on my laptop and I sent it to them. They said it was really good and I sent it to the label, Partisan Records, and to the band. We kind of went like “Let’s record it and see how it goes.”
Let’s talk about the video for “Purple Rage” which is so awesome. What was the idea behind the monster covered in purple goop?
I think anger is a very grotesque emotion. You’re kind of showing someone your dark side and your ugly side in order to repel them from you like “This relationship is hurting me. This conversation is hurting me and now I’m going to show you my dark side.” It’s almost like you’re turning inside out and showing them all of your that and your of slime and I think the monster embodies that. But then, it’s purple, which is kind of fun and pretty, and the moster is also kind of sparkly [laughs] maybe from out of space, who knows? [laughs] So there’s something kind of fantastical about it and that to me is the power behind the anger. Anger is really a healthy emotion and it’s just self-defense. You need to have it, you need to express it to protect yourself. That to me was what the monster was. Now I’ve only thought about the reason later because again these things come very instinctual. I used to read so many books and I used to write poetry, journal entries and all that stuff all the time, I was much more intellectual when I was younger. [laughs] I’ve stopped reading books and I’ve stopped caring about having an education, because I find that it’s a strange expectation that society has that we all need to communicate on this high level with one another, use logic and huge vocabulary all the time and that’s quite inaccessible to a lot of people. I find that in music you want to be universal and as I pulled away from reading books than things like these like going to school. I found my intuition is leading me to true human connections and more real places.
How was it like to shoot that video in the streets of Toronto?
Filming that video was terrible. [laughs] I hated being the monster for a whole day. You know, I’m not a very feminine person and I don’t wear as much makeup or dress the way a lot of other girls do, but still I don’t want to look that ugly. [laughs] I don’t want people to be scared of me and I actually have a lot of love for people and trust in people who I haven’t met yet. I’m actually friendly most of the time. [laughs]
You worked with producers Josh Korody and Leon Taheny on Sore. What did they bring to the record and how was the experience?
We recorded an album with them before and it just never came out, so this time it was like “Ok, we know each other’s strengths and we know each other’s weaknesses.” They’ve come to so many of our shows, they were just very closed to the project. We were able to record the whole record in 11 days, which is crazy, and we still managed to play a lot of video games while we were in the studio. [laughs] It was very fast pace and there was a lot of trust. It was a collaboration and Josh really helped with a lot of the guitar sounds. He’s so nerdy about that stuff. As I said, I’m a more feeling-based as an artist and he’s able to help translate that stuff, but the two of them are. In terms of mixing the record, I went down to L.A. and worked with Rob Schnapf who’s mixed Elliot Smith and things like that. He’s really able to pull out the vocals and mix the vocals in this lovely layer kind of way and allow the melodies and Liz’s guitar parts to come out. He was able to soften the album a little bit more.
I just love the album’s cover art! Can you tell me what was the inspiration behind that image?
It was just a vision that I had when I was in bed and I was in the midst of breaking up with somebody who was an amazing visual artist and she mixes jewelry as well, and I had this kind of vision. To me, what I inspired to do as an artist is just make something that’s simple and iconic that someone can see it and take so many different meanings from it. And the cover art is meant to do that, but essentially we wanted it to look like a makeup commercial that has gone wrong or something. The juxtaposition of the very polish and very pretty with something very disgusting, and then also something very mystical which is the jewels. It just seems to be a little like this wonderful balance to me of all these things that a woman is faced with or a woman is kind of always trying to balance those different aspects of herself and of who she is meant to be. I’m even cringing at hearing myself say these things because to me it’s just a powerful image and it can mean so many different things that for me to sum it up in one sentence is just impossible.