Toronto’s Dilly Dally has always had big dreams. Those dreams are quickly becoming a reality, with their debut album, Sore, coming out last year to the acclaim of both fans and critics in Canada and the US. Currently on the road supporting Fat White Family, we called up vocalist and guitarist Katie Monks to talk touring, Toronto pride, and finding vulnerability in aggression.
You’re getting to the end your tour soon; do you have a favorite memory from touring so far?
Katie: We really loved the L.A. show. We played with these bands called Feels and The Tissues, and those bands were awesome. The promoter was a sweetheart. His show series is called Part Time Punks and he’s a total sweetie pie music nerd. It felt like home in a little way to play with other bands that would fit in well in Toronto. It was really good vibes. There are so many memories I can’t just choose one. We love Denver. Denver loves us. They all smoke weed maybe that’s the reason. [laughs]
Were you there for 420?
Katie: Oh my god if we were in Denver for 420 that would have been magical. No, we were in Oregon and we did not find any weed.
What do you do to fill time on the road?
Katie: Me and Tony were just playing Frisbee and I wanted to Snapchat it real bad but my phone’s on low battery. I’ve put a few snaps on My Story so far, mostly consisting of cats and weed, as was promised.
So you’ve been a part of the Toronto scene for years, but are now a part of major festival lineups and touring in Europe, and doing things far away from home. How does it feel to be more than “Toronto big” or “Toronto famous”?
Katie: Honestly, we got recognition outside of Toronto before we got big in Toronto. As soon as American publications started to catch on and American labels, then Toronto accepted us with open arms. Before that, Canadian labels didn’t want to sign us and we didn’t have a fan base outside of our friends. It was more like “Oh, now you’re interested” and now everyone’s like “Oh my god you guys are fucking huge!” and they think we’re bigger than we actually are. Like “Oh my god you did a show in New York City! You did a show at SXSW! You guys are famous!” [laughs] So now we’re bigger in Toronto that in any other city, it’s so funny. Mostly what’s happened is that our friends are really proud of us. That’s the best part. It’s sad missing all of their shows. We see all of their shows on social media. Our friends are in a band called The Beverleys, who’s been part of our squad for a while. They had their farewell show, because they’ve broken up now, while we’ve been away, so that was sad missing that. We want to be there with our buds, but at the same time when bands from Toronto exceed the scene there, like Metz and Fucked Up, it’s like a journey that gives everybody hope and excitement and drive. It’s all very beautiful but we miss our buddies sometimes.
Do you think that Dilly Dally will ever move out of Toronto?
Katie: I think creatively, Toronto is our home base. Our favorite bands are from there and we rep it till the end. Now people are moving in a more dark, electronic, industrial, droney direction. Maybe 4 or 5 years ago it was a lot of grunge and garage rock and now a lot of our friends are moving into this dark, electronic music world. I always look up to our peers in Toronto for being a step ahead of us, ahead of the game. To me it’s more exciting and inspiring than anything else I know. Maybe it’s because they’re all my buddies and I get to see them play for free. [laughs] Or they send you their unreleased material and you watch them grow and it’s all-emotional. I’m continuously blown away by the music that comes out of Toronto and its rejection of whatever else is going on in the states and its persistence in having an emphasis on the live show and making music that is just incredible live and explores dark shit. I haven’t used up all the inspiration that I see there. It’ll always feel like home.
Speaking of Toronto rep, I loved your recent cover of fellow Torontonian Drake’s “Know Yourself.” Do you listen to a lot of Drake or did that cover stem from having a lot of pride for your hometown?
Katie: Every day we feel differently about Drake. He’s no Kendrick Lamar, we know that. [laughs] I think it was when we left Toronto and started touring and we would hear Drake outside of Toronto and people would be like “Oh my god you’re from Toronto that’s where Drake is from.” Fucking everywhere. Or we would be like “Yeah we’re from Toronto and people would be like ‘what?’ and we’d be like “Drake is from there” and then they’d freak out. I think it [the cover] came that way. There’s this feeling when you’re not in Toronto and hear Drake and it’s like “Aw, our weird fucking guy who came from the really rich part of Toronto that no one ever goes to unless you’re on shrooms and want to look at cool houses at night.” It was always that shitty part of Toronto that he somehow made cool, and there’s something badass about that. I think it started as irony and now it’s just like “Oh, he’s actually really good.” I don’t feel like I need to have an opinion about Drake, to be honest. The cover is about a good song. Liz [Ball] has a knack for finding those good pop songs and whipping them out at karaoke or on her acoustic guitar. It was her idea to do the cover because we thought there was something badass and poetic about fucking it up.
What do you like to listen to while you’re touring?
Katie: We’re listening to our friends who are in a band called Bad Channels, from Toronto. They’re a dark pop duo who’ve been working on this project for years. They’re best friends of ours and we’ve been listening to their record that hasn’t come out yet. We’ve been listening to Weed’s record that hasn’t come out yet. The other morning it was foggy and cold, it was 8am, and Tony put on Godspeed You! Black Emperor and it was fucking dope. And much to everyone’s dismay I’ve been listening to Future nonstop. That’s my pump up music, hands down. Drake – mixed feelings, Future – no mixed feelings, totally fucking down over here. The Future is now, that’s what I’m saying.
Recently All Things Go listed “Snakehead” as one of our favorite videos so far of this year, even though it’s kind of like an anti-music video. Are there a lot of aspects of the music industry that you feel like you need to do even though you don’t want to?
Katie: Honestly, I really love thinking about these videos. I think that the music video thing is going to grow on me more when we have more time and money. At the moment, it’s a frustrating process because I have these visions for them that are actually really clear and all I want to do is create them in real life but that’s not really what making a music video is and it’s not really what making a song is either. It’s about the process; you just kind of have to do it. Because music videos are a new art form for me, unlike music, there’s a layer of frustration there. You’re also collaborating with an artist you’ve never worked with before and it’s just a process handled a little bit more carelessly. People don’t see as much value as they do in music videos as they do the record. I think that’s wrong, to be honest. I think there’s so many of my favorite bands, specifically my favorite pop stars or hip hop artists, that have music videos and visuals that are as equally important as the songs. It’s an amazing way of experiencing something for the first time. Case in point, Beyoncé’s new album, “Lemonade.” Yeah, it’s not going to be on MTV or whatever, it’s just going to be on YouTube, and maybe it doesn’t make people want to go out and buy the record right away, but I think that it does help you connect with your fans and display your message in a really powerful way. I really want more opportunity to not have the same constraints I’ve had moving forward with band and the next record. I want to go all out, have more, and to take more time and be more involved with the direction. There’s something sad about this part of the process that you’re just shoved into with a day of shooting and it’s hard when you’re touring all the time. I’m still learning my voice as the leader of this project and still learning to be like “Yo, this is what I fucking want, this is how much fucking time and money we need” instead of being frustrated in the process and then putting together an anti-music video. I guess that’s what’s cool about it though.
Are you already making plans for a 2nd record?
Katie: I daydream about it all the time, but I’m in a van all the time too. While we are a band and we’re in a room and we complete the songs together, there’s this whole other part of the process for me. It’s like, every day waking up being half asleep, I can’t check my emails before I go to write a song, I can’t have interviews or have a stressful phone meeting because we manage ourselves. For me I need to like wake up, make a coffee, and then just play for hours when I’m half asleep and my brain is turned off and just jam and play and make sounds with my voice. I need my gear and my pedals and a microphone because my hearing is absolute shit. I can barely play acoustic anymore and get off on it. So I’m pretty high maintenance, basically. You got to set the mood and you need space from everything to isolate yourself so you’re in this dreamy space. It’s really hard to find that time. It’s freaking me out, not because it’s bad business or bad for the fans. First and foremost for me, my mental health suffers when I don’t have that. That ability to have that moment with myself and having the feeling that I’m chasing and what I live for; all this other stuff is just background noise. You need to have that intimate moment with yourself before you can share anything with anyone because then it’s useless. I’m going to carve out that time for myself in the summer. Everyone else in the band is so antsy and wants to write so badly. They don’t care when or where, they just want to do it, except me, I’m all emo.
Have you experienced any underestimation or surprise by critics or guys at shows for being a female-fronted band that goes so hard?
Katie: It’s more like this undertone where you’re just a bit more sensitive to it and you wonder sometimes. I’d say with our fans, it’s not like that. The people that come to see Dilly Dally aren’t like that. They know what they’re getting into, they’re stoked on the band, they’ve already been through that in their head if they have to, but I don’t think our fan base is like that. I don’t encounter many douchebags at our shows, but when we’re crossing the border, and the border guys are like, to Liz, “Oh, so they’re letting you drive the car! You’re in the band as well? What do you play little lady?” That stuff happens, just not at our shows. I haven’t seen that yet. I throw certain people for a loop, it’s kind of what I’ve always been into. My own gender and sexuality and everything, I love that moment when someone thinks you’re a guy from the back and you turn around and they’re like “Woah.” I fucking love that shit.
I feel like I read a lot about the aggression in your music, but also there’s so much affection and sweetness behind it as well, like the lyrics of “Ballin Chain” or “Green.” Even the album title [Sore]— soreness can come from both good and bad things. Do you see the softer aspects of your music just as important as the aggression?
Katie: Oh my god, yes, totally. I love that vulnerable-ness of it. That’s what it all is. Even when you’re angry, you’re vulnerable. When you tell somebody that you just need them, you’re vulnerable, or that you miss somebody, or that you’re on your period, all this stuff. Someone said this to me, Sore is a coming-of-age record, and it totally fucking is. “Green” was written was I was 18, so that’s probably one of the more sweeter, more romantic, naive, songs on the record. “The Touch,” “Purple Rage” and “Ice Cream” are the more recent songs, not that that matters as much. When Liz and I started the band, it was a very romantic dream and I think our older music used to be a bit cuter and then over the years, working it out, I think we started to get a little more sour, a little more defensive, a bit tougher.
Do you think you’re getting more jaded with age?
Katie: What it is that the angry songs are therapeutic and displaying all those negative, aggressive emotions and frustration is really therapeutic. You feel like you’re cleansed. Just like that “Green” lyric, “Just because my heart is clean, doesn’t mean it’s new,” it’s true. It’s true. The music keeps you and your heart younger. You take all this fucked up shit that happens in your life and you turn it into something beautiful and poetic and that’s ultimately so healing and cleansing then you’re brand new again.
Dilly Dally will be at U Street Music Hall with Fat White Family tomorrow, April 30th. Buy tickets here.