I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME’s Dallon Weekes talks us through the making of their sophomore album 'GLOOM DIVISION’, featuring the new single ‘WHAT LOVE?’.
From co-writers and collaborators to satirical lyrics and 1970s influences, this is the inside story behind the return of iDKHOW.
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“After sitting with a record for a while and playing it live and seeing what the reaction is with people, it alters your perspective on it a little bit. You start to hear things or see things or think about things that you didn’t while you were making it. So I wanted to approach a new record with all of that stuff in mind and be a little bit more objective about this subjective art that I’m making.”
As he sits on the precipice of a new era, Dallon Weekes is anything but gloomy. Having built up a devoted cult following for his once-secret musical project, I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME, he now invites that same audience to take a left turn and join him on a musical tour through the smooth soundscapes and off-kilter influences of their sophomore album, the often surprising and always eclectic ‘GLOOM DIVISION’. With a refreshed outlook and better understanding of his own creative process, Dallon guides us through the many twists and turns behind the long-awaited return of iDKHOW.
First single ‘WHAT LOVE?’ brings a retro-fuelled, falsetto-laden, ‘adult contemporary’ vibe to the record, acting as a natural successor to their cover of Beck’s ‘Debra’. Given that it is in such direct contrast to the material heard on ‘Razzmatazz’, did it always feel like the obvious choice of lead single?
“It was obvious for me, especially when the recording process was finished and we were mixing it” explains Dallon. “There was something about that song that would not leave my brain and I thought that maybe there’s a reason for that. All of my favorite records, all of my favorite songs that I’ve ever heard, the first time that I ever listened to them the reaction is always the same – ‘what is that?’. And then you listen to it a second time and you go ‘this is weird, but I like this’ and then by the third time you hear it, it is my new favorite thing. That was the reaction the first time I heard The Ramones or Weezer’s ‘Pinkerton’.”
As the album unfolds, the listener is quickly walked through all manner of styles that now fall under the umbrella of iDKHOW. Opener ‘DOWNSIDE’ perfectly captures the band’s live energy while ‘GLOOMTOWN BRATS’ features jerky synths and a ‘Vogue’ style rap section. The glam rock of Bowie, Slade and T-Rex are also present in the likes of ‘SPKOTHDVL’ and ‘SATANIC PANIC’. As it swings between these vibrant eras and influences, ‘GLOOM DIVISION’ provides what could be described as the perfect soundtrack for a 1970s cocktail party by the pool, with a sound that has matured and refuses to stand still.
“When the last record came out, I kept hearing 80s all the time” says Dallon of his influences and comparisons. “Nothing against that particular era but I hadn’t thought that I was really living in that space when I was making ‘Razzmatazz’. Because music from the 70s, all that stuff that you’re talking about, was much more of an influence to me. With the new music, I wanted to take more of an intentional step towards the things that I like – Sparks and Elvis Costello and also a little bit more of the music that I was listening to when I was a teenager, and in my early 20s. Ben Folds Five, Phantom Planet and The White Stripes.”
“‘INFATUATION’ is actually my favorite song from the record” he continues. “To me, that song is like Hall & Oates, like joining a cult on a yacht that’s led by Michael McDonald. I’m in love with that one. It’s yacht rock, injected into the indie rock world, and hopefully done in a way that’s a little bit more contemporary and with more of my musical sensibilities.”
If nothing else, Dallon hopes that by wearing his influences on his sleeve, he may help a new generation fall in love with those artists in the same way he did.
“I’m hoping that’s the case, because that’s what all of my favorite artists always did. I mentioned Phantom Planet before, I got into them in the early 2000s, a fantastic band. And the reason that I discovered Elvis Costello is because they did an interview much like we’re doing now. If nothing else, I hope that my career can at least be a window or a doorway, that leads you to your new favorite thing.”
One additional track that will already be familiar to longtime fans is ‘A LETTER’, the reworked version of The Brobecks track that has migrated into the iDKHOW live set in recent years.
“I had always imagined this bit where the audience harmonizes and does this sort of choir bit. And when I was playing with The Brobecks, we were never performing for that many people to do it properly. So when the iDKHOW shows that we were playing began to have enough people, I thought that maybe this idea that I’ve had for 10 plus years can finally come to be. So we started doing it and it worked. It was beautiful. And whatever the song had been written about beforehand became less important. The song became more about sharing this moment with the audience. Now, a roomful of strangers, regardless of whatever kind of differences you may have, at least for this moment, right now, we’re going to share this and we’re going to harmonize together and we’re going to work together. And to me, that’s a really beautiful thing. So that’s what I love about it. That’s why we play it, and that’s why I wanted to put it on the record – to give it a proper chance.”
As he revealed in a recent social media post to fans, Dallon is now, officially, a solo artist, having parted ways with former drummer Ryan Seaman after what Weekes described as “a series of broken trusts.”
“I’ve spent pretty much my whole life trying to avoid being a solo artist because I think that maybe, psychologically, I always felt like you’re a lot more exposed that way” Dallon reflects. “What if your stuff isn’t received well? Or if it is received well, you get to share that experience with the other people that you’re making this music with. Doing it all alone is something that I was always really adamant about wanting to avoid. So even at the beginning, when I was making these iDKHOW songs by myself, I knew that when I presented it to the world, I wanted it to be a band. I always wanted that to be the case. But as time has gone on, I think I just got to a point where I had to bite the bullet and just not rely on anyone anymore after being…I guess hurt is probably the softest way to put it. The best way to protect yourself sometimes is to go this route. It’s not something that I ever had on my list of goals for my life. But if this is how I want to take care of my family, and I want to proceed with it, then doing it on my own is really the only way that it’s going to work from now on. I don’t believe in bands anymore and I’ve got to soldier on the best way that I can I guess.”
Yet while iDKHOW continues to follow it’s frontman’s sole creative vision, Dallon was determined with ‘GLOOM DIVISION’ to collaborate with friends old and new, recruiting the likes of William Joseph Cook, Charlie Brand and members of Louis XIV to share their skills and expertise.
“It actually reminded me of making music as a teenager. It was very fun. You get together with your friends and you make music and it’s just a good time. It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had making music since I was like 15.”
“I think I have a tendency to write about dark things but there’s one song in particular where I purposefully wanted to be a little more bright and shiny” he continues. “The ‘SUNNYSIDE’ song that I wrote with Will Joseph Cook. He’s got a wonderful knack for writing songs that are very upbeat and happy sounding, which is why I wanted to collaborate with him.”
Also appearing on that track is a new talent, a young twenty-something named Noah from New Jersey who Dallon discovered in the most unlikely of places – TikTok
“He only had like a dozen or so TikToks of him playing this bossa nova, samba-type music on these little Casio keyboards that he would either manipulate or take apart. And he’s just doing it for himself and that comes across very clearly. I was so fascinated with this kid’s little 30-second pieces that he was doing. So I emailed him and said, ‘everything you’re doing on this TikTok page is incredible, do you want to write a song?’ So the three of us, together, ended up writing at least one song on the record that is a little more bright and shiny, hence the title.”
Then sat on the other side of the production desk was a personal hero of Dallon’s – Dave Fridmann, known for his work with The Flaming Lips, MGMT, Spoon and Carly Rae Jepsen to name just a few.
“I’ve been a fan of his work since 1998 and of the top 10 records that I have on my list today, he’s probably made like five of them.”
“I made ‘A LETTER’ originally with my friends as a real Dave Fridmann-sounding song and we tried our best in my garage” he reveals. “But down the road, I find I finally got to actually record this song with Dave Fridmann. So it became fully realised and everything that I had imagined it to be on record, which was a pretty special experience.”
Like most of us, Dallon learned a great deal about himself during the pandemic months spent at home. A period of reflection for the whole planet, it led him to truly contemplate and question his own journey to this point, both on a musical and personal level. Then, as he fell through the social media algorithm, something hit a nerve as videos centered around autism and ADHD related to him on a level he had never noticed before.
“I didn’t get a diagnosis from an app, you know, but it gave me the questions that I took to my doctor and they gave me the answer” he clarifies. “So I found out that I do have ADHD, and I’m on the autism spectrum and knowing that about myself really helps with accessing the subject material that I write about, being a little bit more honest and maybe writing about things that I hadn’t written about before. It’s definitely the most autobiographical work that I’ve ever done.”
“When you get a late diagnosis for autism, it’s this weird experience where you sort of unpack your entire life and experiences that you’ve had growing up that you’ve always wondered about, like why did this happen? It’s not an excuse for anything, but it’s more of the reason why you experienced your life this way, or the reason why this social interaction went the way that it did or why you’ve felt this particular way your whole life or perceived things in a certain way.”
“You’re sort of armed with this new information that is extremely helpful and overwhelming in the best way possible. To be able to look back at your life and everything that you’ve done. It’s like turning the light bulb on in a dark room and you can see it now. And it’s been wonderful to learn that and it’s so ironic that it was that app that sort of cracked the door open. But you know, I would encourage anybody to go see the professionals to make sure that the questions get answered.”
While neurodiversity as a subject is explored in subtle ways throughout ‘GLOOM DIVISION’, Dallon is understandably keen to stress that he is in no way claiming to be any kind of spokesperson for any group or using his discovery as a marketing tool.
“I don’t want to be perceived as using that as like a crutch or something. It’s more just another bit of information that I’ve learned on how to understand myself better and how to understand others and interact with the world.”
Elsewhere, ‘GLOOMTOWN BRATS’ finds Weekes in familiar territory, a spirited social commentary with satirical bite reminiscent of ‘Do It All The Time’.
“I grew up without money, as a lot of us do, and one of my favorite quotes growing up, especially when it came to chasing music as a dream and as a career, is by an American baseball player named Yogi Berra. You don’t really know if he even said this, but it got attributed to him – ‘rich boys never make it to the majors’. And I always took that and applied it to the music. I had a guitar from a pawn shop and a second hand amplifier, and every single show that I would play, everything had to be duct taped and super glued together in order to just get through it. In between shows, I was cleaning carpets or doing construction. So if you’re chasing music, it’s not a nine to five, it’s 24/7.”
“There certainly are rich kids who grow up and are aware of what they have and aware of their position and they treat it appropriately. But there’s also people who are totally oblivious to it. And that’s sort of a theme that I’ve written about once or twice. I think if you are in that position, the best thing that you can do is treat it appropriately and help others where you can. Those people do exist in the world, but I tend to write about those that aren’t aware.”
‘SPKOTHDVL’ deals in similar territory; a dissection of fame and its pitfalls, proclaiming that ‘your front page boy is finally here’ and encouraging the listener to ‘turn it off because it doesn’t sound like them’.
“That’s the theme of the song – expectation versus reality. Particularly whenever a band that you like puts out a new record. If they decide to take a step in a new direction, or evolve a little bit musically, that can sometimes be disconcerting to a fan, because there’s this thing that you love, and you’ve defined it, and you put it into this box and that’s what it is. But the thing inside the box wants to peek out and put shoes on and walk around a little bit and try something new. That can be a little bit challenging for people, but that’s what that line is – you turn the record off, because it doesn’t sound like them. Well, why do you get to say what they sound like? You don’t. I’ve always wanted to be the kind of artist that writes whatever kind of song I want to. If I want to make a country song, I’ll do it. I want to like it first and foremost, I want to make this for me. And if anybody else out in the world happens to like it, that’s just an incredible bonus that you get to enjoy.”
THE TITLE & ARTWORK
It was while browsing through some online photography accounts that Dallon found the exact image that he wanted to grace the cover of ‘GLOOM DIVISION’ – a vision of brutalist architecture, now offset by Dallon’s Tim Burton-esque facade. But as he reveals, it is the inside of the album that will open up the image even further.
“That shows us six figures that are clad in black and have this black goo coming from out of them. The idea is that the six people on the inside of that album cover represent six of the seven deadly sins, and then I become the seventh one. So yeah, without being too specific as to who is who, I think I’ll let fans pick that out.”
The title itself makes a nod to past musical icons The Boomtown Rats and Joy Division. In fact, this was partly out of necessity as the album was originally going to be called simply ‘Gloom’ before Joe Keery’s DJO project beat him to the punch.
“So I didn’t want to step on Mr. Keery’s toes, and I don’t want to offend anyone from the Joy Division/New Order camp. Any sort of callbacks to that stuff is done from a place of love and admiration. So I hope that that comes across.”
“I’ve got about two more albums worth of stuff” Dallon reveals. “But don’t get too excited because out of that amount of ideas, I’ve been toying with three or four of them that I like. That’s not to say that the rest couldn’t develop into something that I like. But I haven’t stopped working. So hopefully, it won’t be this same amount of time in between this release and whatever comes next.”
As the album draws to a close, the final lyric lingers out in a cappella chorus, underlining, in many ways, the entire message and attitude of the preceding tracks: ‘It doesn’t matter what you think of us’.
“I’ve been around long enough into the music business to see that there are different ways that people make music, and some people are perfectly happy to treat it like a widget or a product that’s manufactured on an assembly line and send it out into the world. And if you’re happy doing then more power to you, I wish you the best, but I was never comfortable treating art and music that way. When it comes to that line, ‘it doesn’t matter what you think of us’, that was from the experience of fans who sort of turn you into what they need you to be sometimes. For better or for worse, people who like what you do will pick things inside of your songs or your art that they need. And if they don’t like what you do, they’ll do the same thing. So that line relates to that experience. If you need me to be the bad guy for your story, so be it. If it helps you sleep at night, if you need me to be whatever, I don’t have any say and what you decide I am doesn’t matter. I’m still going to do what I want and what makes me happy.”