DILLY DALLY | Katie Monks Unplugged
Toronto based rock band, Dilly Dally performed their new album, “Heaven” at the Hollywood Palladium this Saturday. Three years after their last album, “Sore,” Dilly Dally was rumored to never appear together again. However, a classic case of rock intra-band strife and drug addiction didn’t paralyze the quartet for good. Lead singer and guitarist Katie Monks developed a nomad lifestyle over those three years, keeping to herself after the band’s first glimpse of fame nearly destroyed them. While writing the standout album that “Heaven” has become, Monks discovered how to really be alone.
“Heaven” is hopeful, not angry like “Sore.” It’s grungy while keeping the signature howling voice of Monks somehow pristine. She throws her vocals into every chorus, emoting the turmoil of the band and her own journey through a David and Goliath-esque battle of vocals and chords.
I sat down with Monks a few weeks ago to talk about the band’s new campaign and to better understand the anxiety and depression that challenged Dilly Dally. Read below to see how an innocent conversation that started with Monks’ favorite movie turned into a full dissection of our fucked-up modern world.
So, what’s your favorite movie?
It’s not cool at all, but I love the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. I also really like “Stranger Than Paradise.” It’s a Jim Jarmusch movie with only three characters in it, and one song throughout the whole movie.
What I recommend to people is that they just fast forward through all the Frodo and Gollum stuff. What I find more interesting is on a grand level; the story and the fantasy—I like fantasy.
Let’s talk about your music. Your second album, “Heaven” just came out last month. What has the response been so far and what do you think?
It’s funny, the second time we put out an album, there is something a little less spectacular about every single thing that happens. When we put out the first album it was all new. There was something very exciting, but also not as grounding because it was like, “Oh my god I’m so famous.” And now I’m like, “O.K. this is really cool.” I don’t let it get to my head anymore, I try not to. I stay grounded and try not to be as engaged with the response as I used to be, and not hold as much weight as I used to. We wrote this album even more so for ourselves. It was almost like pushing away the whole world and people ask me what our influences are for this album like, ‘Damned if I know, I have no idea!’ It was leaving social media, really minimalizing my social life, and buying a white flying V which was the least trendy guitar you could have in Toronto at the time. It was about creating our own space where we could heal and reimagine what Dilly Dally was so it could remain fresh.
Now that you went through the whole process of getting away from social media and being minimalistic, do you think you’re going to keep to yourself with the new album out?
Not exactly. Now it’s time to be more extroverted. For example, on stage I’m singing these songs that are more introverted but it’s kind of this interesting juxtaposition with here I am performing these songs and sharing this really intimate moment with all these people, opposed to the first album that was a lot more shouting and anger at the world around me. It was easier back then to get up on stage and shout at everybody. This time it’s asking people to come in here with us, and come into this space as a part of who we are.
To examine their own mental state in a way?
Yeah, it’s meant to be an intrinsic album, but it’s translating really well live, and people are even moshing to the slow songs. It’s really beautiful. But there’s something about this album that I always pictured someone listening to in their room, tiding up by themselves in an introspective way. Those are my favorite albums.
Would you say you’re more of an introverted person or extroverted?
No, no, I had to intentionally become an introverted person to write this album. Being an artist is a really lonely thing.
You have to do your work alone and it’s a lot to kind of carry on your shoulders as well. There’s not many people who understand how much energy that process requires, and time and discipline. It’s lonely in the sense that some people think my life is all fun and games when really it feels like I have all these children that are my songs and I have to take care of them all. But since the release, it feels like they’re all flying and I’m starting to let go. I was writing in my journal today that this is the part where it starts to become really fun. I’m more comfortable having conversations like this, and the live show feels like it’s taken on a life of it’s own and we’ve toured a little bit now so the songs feel really flushed out. Now it’s happening and now I have to enjoy it. We gave this gift to ourselves.
Do you think you are enjoying it so far?
Today I am.
What kind of factors play in that?
Honestly, just physical comfort. I love the elbow grease of tour. I love throwing all my pedals in the pedal case, or whatever it’s called. I like wrapping up my cables really fast or loading into a venue, and I like when it’s this well-oiled machine. It’s important to still check in with yourself, though, and remember the kind of artist side of view and not get too caught up in the hype, even though I’m appreciative of it and I do love it sometimes. No, I love it all the time, but with social media, it can be become so addictive. A part of my job is to engage with our fans through social media, and at the end of the day it’s a way to present our art the way I think it’s intended to be. It’s really satisfying and it’s really fun. I find Instagram to be artistic, piecing things together like a little online art gallery for our fantasy world. But, to really write music I have to put it all away so now I have a love, hate relationship with it.
What is your favorite song on this album or a favorite lyric?
Well, my favorite song is Believe because I think I had to write it to finish the whole thing. It’s a song that has this blanket of doom-y guitars in it and a repetitive bass line and it’s very minimal, nothing like what we’ve done before. There’s actually no screaming in it at all which was really hard for me. For this album I really wanted to explore this feminine part of my voice, and there’s still screaming and screeching involved with that. For Believe I loved the imagery of having to swim across this whole ocean and you’re so tired you feel like you could drown but you just hear these goth mermaids singing “believe in yourself” over and over again.
Did you feel like you had to say that to yourself?
It was absolutely manifesting me believing in myself. I had to do the beginning process of putting together this album alone and I told you that being an artist can be very lonely. It was my burden and my burden alone, just like fucking Frodo, to write these songs and melodies and chords; to gather the concept and message of what I had to say to a world that seemed to fucked up and so distraught and so angry. I just didn’t want to add anymore fuel to the fire so I think that was the mountain I had to climb.
When you approached your other bandmates with the new album and songs you had written, how did they react?
It was pretty unspoken that everybody was down. At first my bandmates we’re a bit confused. We had to relearn how to communicate with each other, and they had to remember again that sometimes I come in with this idea for a song and it’s just one part here and one part there but it’s not structurally there. All I think about is the feeling, like what it’s saying and the vibes and the sounds. Then the band has to work with me on how to take it past a minute long and turn it into something that is a bit more of a landscape that is more dynamic and feeds you along a bit more, hence the epic outro of Believe or Marijuana or Sober Motel. Liz pretty much wrote all the guitars in that song.
Sober Motel has to do with Tony’s sobriety, correct?
I was inspired to write it when I was saddened by the environment of being on tour and working in the music industry that was really an unhealthy one for my best friend. One day after having this really good shower, I was in this dreamy space and I often play acoustic guitar in bathrooms because there’s no carpet’s or anything to soak up the sound. I was celebrating water and sobriety and there’s definitely some spiritualness and sexiness in that song.
Where do you see the future of Dilly Dally? Do you see a third album?
Well, what I’m aiming for next year is to really carve out time for ourselves where we can take a week or a couple weeks off here and there in this touring cycle. Take some time off to turn on the artist switch and I feel like I’m so in touch with my process now because we had to make that album. It was the first time we had to make an album in a short period of time so I feel like now I really don’t want to let those muscles weaken again and just stay in touch with myself and that creative fuel. In the future, another album sooner rather than later would be pretty ideal, so we don’t have to take an epic hiatus again.
How would you personally describe “Heaven” different than “Sore?”
It’s not as angry but it’s darker while also being more hopeful. To me it’s more multi-faceted than “Sore.” To me it’s a complete album and sonically more unique. I like it more, but I’m not the journalist. I’m proud of “Sore” too, it was really angsty and I was angry and there’s a lot of feminist undertones, it was really relevant to say that at that time.
What do you think is the most relevant thing right now?
Well there’s so much shit going on so it’s hard to know what is more important and that’s where the anxiety, that feeling of being defeated and that feeling that the world’s going to end, comes from. I guess what this album is trying to say is that even though the world is fucked up, it doesn’t mean that you can’t find happiness within that. I somehow found happiness within everything so I’m trying to offer some advice for people who think there’s no way out of feeling depressed.
Have people ever reached out to you who’ve felt that way?
People say to us a lot that our music helps them through really dark times. It’s pretty incredible. I wouldn’t be here if that wasn’t the case, if I didn’t know how much music has helped me get through things; that’s what drives me. The feeling of sadness is so beautiful. It’s so much more relevant to talk about it than pretend it’s not there. That just seems absurd to me. There is a beauty to it because it means you care, it means that you’re human, that you’re fragile even though so many people pretend not to be. We’re all so fragile. If you can acknowledge that, you can move past it and be able to help other people too.
Headlining at the Hollywood Palladium was LA based punk rockers FIDLAR, led by Zac Carper on lead vocals and guitar. Their newest single, titled Can’t You See, was released on Oct. 11 of this year in preparation for their 2019 album drop. You can pre-order “Almost Free” (release date: Jan. 25, 2019) now.
Photographed by Nicole Busch