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Interview: I Don’t Know How But They Found Me’s Dallon Weekes on his upcoming album.

Interview: I Don’t Know How But They Found Me’s Dallon Weekes on his upcoming album.

On their debut single ‘Modern Day Cain’, Dallon Weekes sings that “the deepest of convictions are the darkest positions" - inspired by the priest character (played by Arthur Darvill) from The BBC’s TV show ‘Broadchurch’, with the song touching on religious iconography [Cain - i.e. the son of Adam and Eve], sin, and everything in between, on top of a song laden with retro-sounding synths.

This new project for Weekes - following on from his earlier musical pursuits The Brobecks, as well as being a member, and now touring member of Panic! At The Disco - saw him connect with his longtime friend Ryan Seaman (previously of Falling In Reverse, and The Brobecks) to complete what will be the I Don’t Know How But They Found Me debut album.

Working somewhat backwards to standard bands, I Don’t Know How But They Found Me have already played a slew of secret shows, and up until a few weeks ago, had denied all existence of the band online. Approaching things differently has not only led to more intrigue and excitement, but also anticipation for what is to come.

I don’t know how, but we recently managed to find Dallon Weekes on a sunny Los Angeles afternoon to talk about the upcoming IDK album, his creative processes, and the music industry…

COUP DE MAIN: What made you want this project to be an entirely new project, and not under Dallon Weekes as a solo endeavour?
DALLON WEEKES: I wanted to call it something other than my own name. I thought that 'IDK' and the concept behind it would be more interesting/fun.

CDM: I Don’t Know How But They Found Me is made up of you and Ryan Seaman. At what point in the process did he become a part of this project?
DALLON: As I got further into making the record, I knew i wanted to present it as a band. Ryan and I have been friends for nearly a decade, and we were coming from similar situations, so it felt right to have him be a part of IDK.

CDM: How involved in the album-process was Ryan?
DALLON: Ryan played drums on the record and he helps me bring IDK to life on-stage. I couldn't do it without him.

CDM: How have the few IDK shows been that you’ve played thus far?
DALLON: Each one has been different. We began playing around L.A. in secret a while ago. So it's been fun to see crowds grow and be excited to come see and be a part of this 'secret' band. I don't know how secret it is anymore, though. Which is fine. We don't want to be a secret forever.

 

Thank you for being a part of the best secret we never hope to keep. - @gigdias

A post shared by IDK HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME (@idkhow) on

CDM: The teasers for the album sound really rad. Do you have a set release date for the album yet?
DALLON: No, we’re still kind of working that out. It’s been done for a while and it has been kind of frustrating just living with it and sitting with it because I want it to get out. It is a matter of timing and doing it the right way, so that no-one's toes get stepped on.

CDM: The key change in ‘Choke’ sounds really cool - how do you experiment with different musical elements when you’re writing music?
DALLON: Experimentation when it comes to writing, is something that I always strive to do. I like to challenge myself and I like to challenge the listeners too - it can be a bad habit sometimes and things can get a little bit too weird. It’s nice to be able to reign that in too, but I enjoy trying different weird things - weird is always the key for me.

CDM: The synths in ‘Modern Day Cain’ sound quite different to stuff you’ve done before. Were there any inspirations in particular that inspired the sound of the album (not just musical ones)?
DALLON: While there are definitely artists that I admire and I look up to, I don’t always necessarily want to sound like those artists. I think mostly inspirations are subliminal, they come at you from everywhere, and the synths that you are talking about, I had an epiphany when we were making the record. I set up a few rules for myself and one was that I would stick to only two or three synths that were available to me and it occurred to me that I was chasing sounds from old PBS [Public Broadcasting Service] theme songs, stuff from ‘Sesame Street’... these vintage synth sounds were coming from there and it took me a minute… I think I was playing something and really liking it but I couldn’t figure out why, and then it sort of clicked to me that it was an old PBS synth. Inspirations can come from a lot of different places.

CDM: Do you have a favourite song, lyrically, on the new album?
DALLON: Probably ‘Choke’. I think that of the ones that are on this record, that was probably the most inspired one, the one that came the easiest. Everything sort of just poured out really quickly and I didn’t have to wrestle with that one.

CDM: Did the other ones take longer to complete?
DALLON: A little bit, because it had been so long since I’d written anything for myself that it took me a minute to find myself again, and find my voice again.

HOW I FEEL ABOUT THE IDK ALBUM…

CDM: How long have you been working on the new record? Has it been a long process?
DALLON: It took a long time. Actually, the only reason for that is because the budget for it was so non-existent. I wanted to still be a responsible father, so I didn’t want to go drop $15,000 making a record, so the record came together on the backs of a lot of friends giving favours and an hour of studio time here, and three or four hours there. So it got pieced together over a period of a long time because I was trying to be responsible with the budget.

CDM: I really respect people that manage that type of thing, it’s so hard.
DALLON: It’s difficult, but it was good in the way that it provided a great learning experience for me. I started to learn how to record more things on my own, just for the sake of saving money and saving time and saving myself from driving all over Hollywood to friend's studios. A good portion, maybe 70% of the record was put together on my kitchen table. I’m very limited as to how far my recording knowledge goes, so I would do what I can at home and then I would take those things to a friend's studio and finish it off.

CDM: Breezy tweeted about “that unreleased IDK song of yours” back in 2010 - when did the idea/concept of IDK first come about?
DALLON:
I think in 2009. The Brobecks had been on this career plateau for so long. I felt like doing something new as IDK. I was also on the verge of giving up on music entirely. Then I got the job with Panic! and things took a different course. All of my time and efforts were focused there, and my own projects got put on the back-burner. They never left me though. I guess it’s all just timing.

CDM: Matt Glass produced/recorded the ‘Quiet Title’ EP - did you work with him again at all on the new record?
DALLON: Matt is always helping me out on pretty much every project, like he is a really technically gifted person as well as an artist, so anytime that I have technical questions I’ll go to him and he’ll help me out. I’ve made a little album teaser short-film that is going to come out and he helped me direct that, but for the songs on the record, no.

CDM: How does your songwriting process work?
DALLON: I don’t really know that I have a set process. It can come to you and can hit you at anytime. It can be at three in the morning, it can hit you in bed, or driving in your car and something might hit, so I’ll put it in my phone and I won’t go back to listen to it later, because I want to see if that idea sticks with me - if I’m still thinking about it three or four days later, then it is probably worth your memory.

CDM: You’re really open about the business-side of working in the music industry - telling fans when you were able to eventually work full-time from music etc. Is it important to you to be candid about this? Especially as it’s something many of your fans might be wanting to pursue.
DALLON: I think it has value because the nature of the music business is very polished. The face that you slap on the advertisements and the face on the cover of your record, that is your product, but there is a lot of work and hard work and sacrifice and politics and things that you would never expect in order to make those things a reality. People don’t think about that side of it, not that they should necessarily have to focus on it, but if it’s something that you want to do, it should be taken into account that it's not all parties and millions of dollars thrown at you.

CDM: Will the new music be released under None You Jerk Records? Is this your own record label?
DALLON: That is the plan for now. So far there is no record labels or anything that have said they want to put it out, but we were talking to a few people to see if that changes. If it doesn’t, I’m not going to be upset because you don’t necessarily need those things anymore.

CDM: You released ‘Violent Things’ at a time where you said you were struggling with money to finish it, so you didn’t get it mixed/mastered. Has that been why this new music has been such a long time coming, so that you’ve had time to get it right?
DALLON: It was similar in the process, but I really wanted to finish this record properly. When I went to do ‘Violent Things’, I think I tried to do too much. I went in with 15 songs and I think I only had a week-and-a-half to go from nothing on record to a finished product. With this one I really wanted to keep it succinct and focused and not try to over-reach, so that I could get it mixed and mastered properly, and be happy with the finished product. I took a lesson from ‘Violent Things’ and I really wanted this to have a little punctuation at the end of it.

CDM: You went on to say to fans that there are some very early Brobecks songs that you’d like to give another go. Is this something you’ve tried at all?
DALLON: I haven’t tried it. It’s still something that is in the back of my mind. When we started to do The Brobecks we didn’t know anything about songwriting or lyrics or how to be band - nothing. I grew up in a very rural area so there was no-one to look to see how to be a musician or how to be in a band. We had to learn as we went. There was definitely some potential on some of those early Brobecks songs, there is maybe two or three that if I had the chance to go back and visit, I could give them a proper try.

CDM: You’ve been in the music business/scene for a long time - how do you think it has changed over this time?
DALLON: There is a lot more power that has been handed over to the artist within the past 10 years. Attitudes have changed regarding things like using tracks when you play a show. When I started that was very frowned upon, but there is now less of a stigma regarding stuff like that. A lot more musicians are willing to stick it out with the DIY mentality and not have getting a record deal and a record label be the end-all be-all - that is no longer a focus for a lot of artists and I think that is great. It’s nice to see artists realising that, ‘Oh, I don’t need you! I can do this on my own.'

CDM: Obviously streaming has created a whole new way to consume/discover music, but it’s also altered the way the charts and everything work - do you think this is a good/bad thing?
DALLON: It’s a double-edged sword, for sure. Artists as a whole sell a lot less of their music now. There is definitely more potential to be in a band and to be a musician - like we said, you don’t need to have a record label and you can do it on your own, but it is a landscape that changes everyday. What is true about it now may not be true in a year, so it’s really hard to say. It is nice to know that you can get out there and if you can work hard and if you treat it like a job, it can be just that.

CDM: ‘Heartbreak Or Death’, ‘Aeroplanes’, and ‘I’ll Be Fine’ are the only three Brobecks songs that you sang but didn’t write - did it feel strange to sing words that you didn’t write yourself? Do you find you prefer/better connect to the words/songs that you write yourself?
DALLON: There is always a little bit of a disconnect when you perform someone else’s song because it is someone else’s art, and if you are going to perform it, you have to find things inside of it that you connect with if you want your performance to come across as genuine. It is challenging in that way, but it is not uncomfortable and it’s not impossible. I always prefer to sing and perform stuff that I have contributed to or things that I have written, but it’s always fun no matter what you’re doing. Even if you don’t connect with the thing that you’re performing, there is that foundation at least of, ‘Hey this is fun!’ So start from there.

CDM: You’ve said: “Don't show/share your art until it's finished. It will be appreciated more when it is a completed work.” Do you think that technology, and the Internet, has changed the way we interact with art / the way that artists have the ability to share art before it is properly released?
DALLON: I think Instagram-- I find a lot of really awesome art that way, it is my favourite reason for having that app on my phone - discovering artists and artwork. It’s really awesome that it exists for that reason but there is a culture that exists around social media, you know the sort of narcissistic ‘look at me’ sort of thing that is easy to fall into. I think that when artists share their art, you do it because you want other people to like this thing too, so I think it is easy to sort of fall into a hole of sharing stuff before it is not done because you’re excited about it so you put it out there. I don’t necessarily think it’s bad, but it just works best that way for me, I like to sort of keep a lid on it until it is completely finished.

ONE THING ON MY BUCKET LIST…

CDM: Do you have plans to tour the new album at all?
DALLON: Yeah, we’ve got some show dates here and there - nothing massive. I have to make myself available for Panic! in case I’m needed there. Since we are taking a break--
CDM: Brendon is busy with ‘Kinky Boots’!
DALLON: Yeah he’s busy doing that! Until I hear word, I’ve got free time to work on IDK and make that my focus. So I want to play as many shows as I can and have some fun.

CDM: Hopefully you can make it down to New Zealand!
DALLON: I was thinking about the last time that we were there - the show was great, I loved wandering around, I didn’t get to see a lot of New Zealand.

CDM: I saw your tweet saying you were in a deli and there was someone picking their nose...
DALLON: The thing I remember most about New Zealand was the food. We ended up going to a few different places, and good food was just everywhere. The deli I went to was great, I had a BLT there and it was amazing, but yeah there was this guy across the room, I hate to say ‘Hobbit’-like because I’m sure you get the ‘Lord Of The Rings’ references all the time, but he was definitely in that neighbourhood, and he was just picking his nose and eating it, it was just awful. Even that experience had value - entertainment value! I had a good laugh about it.

IF I HAD A DAY OFF IN NEW ZEALAND…

CDM: Was that your first time in New Zealand?
DALLON: I think it was actually. We have definitely been to Australia more than once in the eight years that I have been doing Panic!, but that was the first time to New Zealand. I enjoyed it, I really did.

CDM: You often tweet Song Of The Day recommendations - including our friends, The Aces. What other new music/artists are you listening to at the moment?
DALLON: The Regrettes. They did a cover recently of Sweet’s ‘Fox On The Run’ - so good! I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for all that 70s glam stuff and they nailed it. Who else? Starcrawler is great, another 70s glam sort of rock vibe. Their singer is this girl, she has got such great stage presence, and they all do! She’ll go up in a straitjacket and she’ll spit blood out, the whole vibe is… she is a crazy person and I love seeing that sort of stuff, I love seeing people put on personas and put on a show.

CDM: You revealed once that you did crew-work on a Michael Bublé music video! What was the video / what were you doing?
DALLON: Oh man, what was that song? I don’t know a lot of his catalogue. It was three or four years ago and I know that there was an actress in it, a blonde actress, Jaime Pressly, she was in that show ‘My Name Is Earl’? I can’t remember the name of the song - ['It's A Beautiful Day'] - but I was a director's assistant or something, unloading trucks and getting them coffee and things like that. It was an interesting day.

Watch the 'Modern Day Cain' music video below...

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