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INTERVIEW: Dilly Dally

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Dilly Dally, formed by Katie Monks and Liz Ball, was born from teenage journals, a hatred of high school and, in Katie’s words, ‘when you go to university or move out of your parents’ house, you’re like, fuck, I guess this is life. Then you just look at your friend and you go, ‘no’, let’s do this other thing.’ Together, with bassist Jimmy Tony and drummer Benjamin Reinhartz, their music videos are full of pastel pinks, blood and ice-cream; their sound is an addictive and aggressive mix of 90s grunge and pop melody. Over a morning Skype call, Katie is honest and funny, chatting to Liz from her bed and occasionally passing on my questions. It feels a lot like talking to friends after a sleepover.

Laura Maw chats to Katie about their debut album Sore, diaries as inspiration – and the power of self-reinvention after heartbreak.

 

You and Liz met in high school, right? How did you go about forming Dilly Dally?

We fantasised about being in a band and then once we got out of high school we had the guts to do it. We were living in an apartment together in Toronto. This was when we were nineteen, and we’re twenty six now. And then the name Dilly Dally, we were trying to come up with a band name for a while, and I just wrote it in a journal entry. It was just supposed to be sarcastic. My parents are Irish so they would say stuff like ‘dilly dallying’ all the time and I thought it looked cool written down. It was supposed to kind of be a joke because we knew we were very serious.

You mentioned that you keep a journal – is that something you do a lot and do you take a lot of inspiration from that for your song-writing?

That’s a nice question, no one’s asked me that before! I like that question. I used to journal so, so much. Liz, do you still journal? She says, ‘sometimes’. Now when I journal it’s like lists of things to do, but it was so huge for me and I still have all of my old ones from when I was younger.

Yeah I have all of mine as well, I’m a huge diary and scrapbook keeper.

That’s awesome. Yeah, it’s definitely a huge part of me and it feels like a huge part of the beginnings of this band. Now it’s just like scraps of paper everywhere. I feel like I take writing for granted now or something. It used to be more special and I would write more tidily and be more dedicated to organising my thoughts but now I just talk.

I love the cover of your album and the single covers are really striking too, with the blood and the ice cream. Could you talk a little bit about the inspiration behind that?

I couldn’t sleep one night and the image just came to my mind right when a relationship I was in was kind of falling apart. I was in that person’s bed and had this image and it was very empowering and sexy and mystical to me. It just felt like a cool juxtaposition and a lot of our stuff is that – balancing the very dark and twisted with very adorable and overly feminine things. This relationship I was in was falling apart but we decided to stay in contact just for the purpose of making sure that this image came to life. I knew that she would be able to make this piece of jewellery really well from scratch and that she understood the image. She’s a great artist. It was kind of wonderful.

A lot of the songs on the album feel driven by anger and this manifests itself in quite different ways: sometimes it’s powerful rage and other times it’s self-reinvention, especially in Purple Rage. Do you think a lot of strength can come from anger and is it an emotion you draw on when writing?

Totally. I don’t think it’s true for every song that I write, but I definitely think Purple Rage is a great example of turning anger – but mostly, whatever’s at the root of that anger is usually a lot of pain. To me, anger as an emotion to me is like the rejection of sadness. It’s like, I’m not gonna even let this make me sad. I’m just going to reflect this pain right back at that person and deflect it away from me, you know? Often, I think for girls, for artists, maybe everybody, you have this feeling that you want to put space between you and that person who hurt you, so you want to change who you are in some way, or you wanna get out of your home town for a bit. You just wanna shake off that experience.


You mentioned that after you go through a break-up you want to change who you are, and I go through a ritual of changing the way I dress or what I read after a phase of my life is over. Do you find power in reinventing yourself after you’ve been with someone?

So much. You see them later and even if it’s not someone who you dated, it could be someone who fucked you over or pissed you off, or just a time in your life that you want to move away from and it’s a great feeling of, ‘that’s not me anymore, I’m this now. I’m this person now. And anyone who thinks that they know who I am is wrong, because actually there’s this whole other part of me that I’m going to express’. Years ago, this guy broke my heart and I was just so, so torn up about it. I was so hurt and I thought it was awful, the way I was treated. And I didn’t know what to do, but I quit smoking cigarettes and I was a pack a day. Out of anger I just wanted to be a better person.

I read that you said that Sore is about rebirth, which is really interesting. Could you tell me a bit more about that?

I think that art in general is a really cleansing process. It all relates to what we’re talking about too, reinvention. I feel like this album is totally about rebirth, and within the process of birth there’s lots of gross slime and moaning and screeching and crying. Rebirth just feels like a great way to explain the experience of this album and of making it and hopefully of listening. Each song is from a different time in my life and spawned of like a very specific feeling that I felt was universal at the time.

A lot of my favourite albums are by women who I feel are reinventing themselves in some way, asserting some power over their experience in a cathartic way and I really liked that about your album as well.

Yeah, I feel like women are very good with change. I think my mother told me this actually. Women are so good at adapting to change, they’re so strong. I have aunts in Ireland who have changed their careers many times over, and my mum has had many stages in her life. There’s a lack of fear of change. It’s like, ‘I might suck at this but I’m gonna try it anyway’.  I really think that Dilly Dally is going to embody that and our music videos are different and will continue to change.

I guess your influences change a lot over time.

It changes so much. Sometimes when I tell people what I listened to when I was a kid, it brings everybody’s focus to that, when really you’re just learning what music is at all and you’re finding out who the hell you are and it’s a weird mess of cultural signifiers or points of reference. Where our inspiration comes from now is our super beautiful wild lives, and it’s so connected with so many other artists that are here in Toronto and we’re always going to see one another’s shows, and we see a lot of industrial and drone and noise and grunge and heavier, darker music. And then we’ll do karaoke at night time and sing Celine Dion. And the melding of pop music and then all this dark, experimental stuff is what makes up Dilly Dally. I find that the less I read books, the more universal or the simpler my poetry for Dilly Dally is, the more it’s able to reach people. I think simple art is the best art.

 

Dilly Dally’s debut album Sore is out on 9th October, available to pre-order here.

Watch Purple Rage here:

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.