Dilly Dally’s Katie Monks

Our interview with Dilly Dally 2015

Dilly Dally has been kicking around Toronto for a while, but their moment to step under the bright spotlight has arrived. Comprised of Katie Monks on vocals and guitar, Liz Ball on guitar, and newer members Jimmy Tony on bass, and Benjamin Reinhartz on drums, Dilly Dally has found a perfect line up, one that can deliver their spot-on mix of urgent emotion and empowering risk taking. With their debut LP, Sore, coming out on Partisan Records in October, it’s beyond time for the rest of the world to get to know them. The first single off the album, “Desire”, unleashed a powerful sound combining anger and melody. Now the second single, “Purple Rage”, has come out to blast away any end of summer blues or regrets. The band’s been getting play and attention from a lot of different quarters, including Zane Lowe and Noisey. Not a surprise, when Katie Monks’ vocal delivery and fierce energy create an irresistible force field of defiance and frustration. Northern Transmissions wanted to hear more about the band. Alice Severin caught up with Katie Monks in New York City, where they talked about the album and the fight to find your own voice.

NT: How are you and where are you?

KM: I’m in New York. Just waking up and whatever. I’ve had a slow morning.

NT: That sounds perfect. What are you doing in New York?

KM: I’m just hanging with my brother.

NT: Nice. Anywhere in particular you’ve been going, or anything you like to do here?

KM: Honestly, this is my first time chilling here where I’m not like doing band stuff, so. Just been like kicking back, going to the beach today. Pretty minimal, to be honest. A pretty chill version of New York.

NT: That sounds ideal. It’s going to be a good beach day. Which beach?

KM: I think it’s called Rockaway. Apparently there’s water and stuff. (laughs)

NT: So you’ve been doing lots of interviews lately and the band has been getting a lot of attention, which is great. So what’s life been like for you and the band lately?

KM: Life has been chill. We’re just kind of antsy, I guess, because we’ve been working on this band for like six years now, had different members and stuff. It feels like we just have so much energy pent up inside us, and we just want to play shows all the time. Since we’re not on the road at the moment, I think everyone’s just kind of like feeling antsy, and I don’t know, just trying to keep busy with alcohol and working in restaurants and stuff.

NT: You’re going to be touring in the fall, you’ve got a big tour lined up to promote the album.

KM: Yeah, I’m so excited. It’s like our first real big trans-state, and we’re headlining, which is crazy.

NT: Have you got a tour bus? It looks like you will be out West a lot, then you’ll be back here in New York.

KM: Yeah, we’ve got like a crusty band van, that one of our friends will drive, do merch, pretty DIY tour situation. It’ll be a good adventure. But no tour bus yet.

NT: The band’s has been going for a long time, and you’ve got new members. But you’ve said that you feel like you’re all friends. You’ve known Liz for a really long time. Does that make the experience a lot more fun?

KM: Yeah, yeah. Totally. Literally everyone we work with on the band, it’s like if they’re not, if there isn’t like a real personal connection, we’re just not interested. And of course, that is super real with the band. We’re lucky we are all friends. Let’s see what happens in five years, but yeah. (laughs) Who knows? We haven’t been in a band with only each other for as long as we may be so we will see what happens. More to come.

NT: I’ve been listening a lot to the latest song and the video from the new album. What’s the writing and recording process been like? I’m excited to hear the entire album.

KM: Yeah, back in the winter, I quit my job at a restaurant, I was cooking breakfast, and I broke up with a friend I was dating, we mutually broke up. I went back to my parent’s house – I’m 26, it kinda sucks to go back, but just wanted to focus on literally writing as much material as I could before we got in the studio. I find that sometimes the newest songs are like just come out really good when you record them. Everyone’s still feeling it. So that was cool. Some of the songs are really new and we were still writing parts in the studio at a very fast pace, we had like 11 days. That was in March. It was just intense. The whole thing, the whole process has been really concentrated, certain steps. So intense writing, intense recording. Then we went to LA for three weeks and mixed with this guy Rob. The whole thing is a learning process, I guess, but definitely my life has been completely immersed. It’s been fun. There’s so many different aspects. Now it’s the part where I talk to everyone. (laughs)

NT: I wanted to ask you about the video. I love the shot of you sitting in the chair, with the white sweatshirt on. It looks like a throne, like you’re in charge of everything, it’s a really powerful image. Do you have a lot of input into the video? What was the thought behind it? It’s a great video.

KM: That’s awesome, thanks so much. I certainly had a different vision in my head of how I wanted the video to be. But yeah, a shot like that…yeah, actually, this is what it is. I love… with a song I have a couple of different images of what I want to do. Then when I work with the director, I fill in the gaps. I remember that that one part, where I am sitting in the chair, my hoody, that for some reason reminds me of like 2001, in the suburbs, dance revolution was a thing. That hoodie, I don’t know, just feels like it’s from such a strange place culturally. I thought it was really cool. And then, whatever. I just wanted to try and have a glamorous video. It ended up just being like just sloppy and Dilly Dally feeling in the end, but…that happens.

NT: And the theme of the single, the idea of desire and want. People always talk about hidden desires, like it’s a shameful sort of thing.

KM: Exactly. And it’s about just exploring it and being like maybe these feelings are wrong. Totally. There’s like a shame in it. And it’s just about embracing what it is that everybody wants. And I don’t mean that in like a superficial sense or anything. I mean that in like a when you strip down all the bullshit and what everyone expects you to want in your life. And to strip all that away and just go – who the fuck are you and what do you want? And that’s art and that’s real love and that’s living and being yourself.

NT: There’s a freedom to it, encouragement, because people are ok with wanting superficial things, like you said, but when it gets to the real stuff, they get scared.

KM: Totally. They don’t even explore it. They don’t even try. And that’s the thing. You’ve got to try.

NT: Do you think that’s a theme in some of the album too? Does that come out in some of the new songs?

KM: The theme of the album, I mean, I can only say that overall it has this feeling of like, rebirth, or this…I don’t know. I guess I feel like when people hear it, where they might just kind of be like, oh, I think this girl’s interesting shit, she’s making sense of it. She’s just, you know, working it out and moving forward and growing from it. I just hope that other people find that inspiring. Definitely trying like, as much anger and stuff as there is on the record, it’s supposed to be really empowering.

NT: In the sound of your songs, you’ve got this aggressive angry part, but then there are also these very melodic parts too, that stick in your head in the best possible way. So you’ve got that contrast, which is interesting.

KM: Yeah. Well, we love pop music, and we also love going to see like noise drone industrial heavy shit all the time. Well, whenever we can. And definitely, those are my favorite shows to go to, when you just show up and you look at all this gear that you don’t understand, and people just screaming and you don’t even know what they’re screaming about. In some weird basement, or something. And when those shows aren’t happening, we just go to karaoke and sing Celine Dion and shit. So I guess it’s a weird mix of those things.

NT: I’m glad you brought that up, because I saw somewhere that you like late night karaoke. Why karaoke and why late night in particular?

KM: What about it do I like? Well, what I love about karaoke is, number one thing, is that my best friend Liz, who’s in the band, she’s like a pretty introverted, quiet person a lot of the time. And she, like, even when we’re playing on stage, you know, has head down. She doesn’t like throw herself out there all the time, you know? When we do karaoke, she, it’s like one of the most beautiful things like I’ve ever seen. She just loses it. She picks the best songs. Everyone’s like, how did you make that song cool? Anyway, she knows all the words to every song. I don’t know what it is. Her relationship with music is really different than mine, and fascinating. That she would like memorize lyrics for all these, so many different genres, just whatever. Pop music, 80s ballads, R n B from the 90s, just everything. And that’s my favorite part. It’s kind of become like a hobby of the band where we just like crash in on any karaoke. If there’s karaoke, we’re there. I love even just looking through the book, with all the songs. It’s just like, you get to go, oh what’s my song today? 99 Problems, or is it Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely by The Backstreet Boys, because I’m feeling emo. It’s just fun, I don’t know. (laughs)

NT: That sounds amazing…karaoke is so much fun.

KM: Yeah. It’s just all about your friends and like, whatever, music. We take it seriously. And we get real pissed off when karaoke guys, you know, cheat us. And when there’s a nice karaoke person we’re very grateful and when there’s a good crowd, we’re grateful. It’s just fun. It makes me want to do it right now. (laughs) But it’s only a late night thing.

NT: That sounds brilliant.

KM: Yeah, we should do it some time. We’ll be down any time.

NT: Seriously. You guys have like the perfect attitude to karaoke. It’s very hard to find people that approach it in the right way.

KM: Yeah, well some people just have their one song, you know? For us, we’re like, no, you have to switch it up. Like what’s your song today? What are you feeling? Because that’s the one that’s going to be the best when you go up there. You can’t think about what song it is. You’ve got to just go for it.

NT: The feeling is what counts.

KM: That’s why the business, all the money, and all that shit, it doesn’t matter, because people are going to make music. People are still making music. Me and my friends, we’re making music for six years. And like, it cost us money to play music, but we did it. And now, I mean, whatever. We’ll see what happens. It would be nice to not be in the hole, playing music, anymore, but. (laughs) It doesn’t matter at the end of the day. I feel like, it’s instinctual, it’s part of our nature, it’s just you have to do it.

NT: That’s what makes music good, I think, when you feel like you have to do it.

KM: Yeah. You know what I was thinking? It’s crazy how sometimes I feel like I’m fighting so hard to have a voice at all. And then, someone asks me, or an interviewer will ask me, “what is this statement of the album?” or like “What is the message?” And I’m like, fuck, what is it that you’re trying to say, or what do you want to say? It’s kind of crazy, because I feel like I’ve been fighting for so long for anyone to even hear my voice. And especially because I’m a girl. And then you’re like, aaah, people are listening, and then you’re like, shit, I’ve got to figure out, now. That’s why people do second records, they’re trying to save the world.

NT: That’s really true. And it’s hard to have a voice as a woman, in any business, especially in the music business. It must be strange being asked for the sound bite – ok, define everything in ten words, go.

KM: Yeah. I mean, it would be so easy if I could go, yeah, this record is about when I went to the zoo last week. (laughs) Whatever. Yeah. Definitely that hit me, the fact that I even feel like that anyone has to fight so hard to be heard. And still. So many won’t give me the time of day, some people don’t care what I have to say. For whatever reason. And all I want, and all anybody wants, is just to fucking be heard at all. And a lot of people are in privileged situations. They have their whole life to think about what it is they want to say, they’re trained about everything going on in the world. And me, I don’t know what’s going on. Still trying to just get a voice at all, that feels like it’s really me, that I’m not like speaking someone else’s language or imitating what other people are saying just so they’ll pay attention. To me, the act of that, and the feeling of being like, fucking listen to me. The bare minimum shit. That struggle is fascinating to me. A lot of people, a lot of women, are not in privileged situations. It makes me angry. And then it comes across as like, this girl’s too emotional. It’s like, yeah, I’m fucking emotional about people treating me like shit. Or treating each other like shit. I feel frantic.

NT: I hate when people say, oh you’re emotional, like it’s a bad thing.

KM: Oh my god. It’s super problematic. And super sexist. Because like there’s some days where I’m on my period, and it’s not my fucking fault that I communicate through emotions. I was always raised in a highly emotional house, and it was beautiful. And my parents were really smart, but we live and breathe our feelings. I really think, when I look back on it, intellectualize, I think that feelings are so insightful. They’re so insightful. They tell you so much about you, about everyone. And I think it’s time for people to start respecting that. But we’ll see what happens.

NT: I think you’re totally right. I think emotions, and feeling things are the ways into thinking, not the other way around. What’s that line – “Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious”. That idea of what you feel, even if you’re only half aware of it, is what leads you, leads you to the good stuff.

KM: Yeah, totally. Absolutely. Oh my god, yeah. It’s so hard to for me to turn off my brain sometimes, for everyone to do it. But it’s the only way to grow.

NT: I’m looking forward to seeing you live when you swing back around. I think it’s going to be great. I have a feeling.

KM: Oh god, it is. Shit, I can’t wait. Keep that tour on the mind.

NT: It sounds like you’ve got all this energy ready to burst out. And that’s a good sign.

KM: So much. So much energy. I’m so excited.

NT: And five albums that inspire you, or that you go back to.

KM: Five albums that inspire me now, or that inspired me in the past?

NT: Could be anything. Just off the top of your head. And it’s one of those questions too – today you think those five albums, then tomorrow you go, oh no, there’s that one.

KM: Yeah, I’m definitely not ready to be like these are my top five albums, period, right now in full, because I’d have to put a lot of thought into it. But. I’ve been listening to lately, and really enjoying the first Sinéad O’Connor record – The Lion and The Cobra. There’s weird instruments on it. I don’t even understand. And she’s just so fierce and awesome. And I really love singing her songs. So that’s one.

Kendrick. I love his new record, but Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City to me is still like some of the best. I mean I think he’s like the best songwriter, whatever, there is right now. I want to do a cover of something of his. Obviously I wouldn’t dare try and rap. But just sing one of his songs.

I guess like I still listen to Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo. Or whatever. That record is like a best friend for me. I just put it on if I’m feeling really shitty and I feel like my best friend who I’ve known my whole life just came and sat beside me and like sparked up a joint. Didn’t talk that much, but we’re just hanging out. That’s what that record is for me.

NT: That’s what music should be, you hear it, and you feel like you’re accompanied, somehow.

KM: Yeah, totally. Because it’s more human than humans, a lot of the time. So it’s necessary.

Interview by Alice Severin