Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a term that’s been thrown around for decades and iDKHOW frontman and multi-instrumentalist Dallon Weekes has no time for it. ‘If you’re in it to become a rich and famous rock star, pick something else,’ is his advice. This philosophy is translated in the band’s first full length album Razzmatazz, which sees Dallon and drummer Ryan Seaman unpick the idea that what’s behind the curtain might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
Theoretically, the duo had all of the ingredients for success in iDKHOW’s early days. Dallon was a member of pop-rock band Panic! At The Disco for nine years and whilst many would have attempted to ride off the back of that success, Dallon decided to do the complete opposite. They left the spotlight behind in search of some dimmer, grungier lights, playing smaller venues and denying they were even a band. ‘We wanted to succeed, or fail, based on our own merit,’ explains Dallon. ‘Our first shows were always a room of a dozen or so strangers that didn’t know, or didn’t care what other bands we were in, and it felt amazing.’
There was no real goal for iDKHOW in the early days. The plan was just to make some art and see where it went and for Dallon this was a welcome change from what he was used to. ‘I don’t feel like there is much catharsis to be found in writing for other people,’ he admits. ‘It was challenging to write something that I felt strongly about and have it passed around and filtered through teams of people. It’s tough to have your ideas watered down or to have their meanings twisted.’ This newfound path of freedom took Dallon to where he’d wanted to be for a long time; creating weird and wonderful music that satisfied his creative energy on his own terms.
Listening to their album Razzmatazz you might think that you’re hearing a deleted scene from Back to the Future and in a strange way, you wouldn’t be far off. iDKHOW have been described as ‘a band that time forgot’ with their aesthetic being a mash-up of vintage pop-rock, sprinkled with a dash synth and the odd twist here and there. Imagine unearthing some old footage in your aunt’s cellar that doesn’t all quite make sense, and you’ve got the vibe of Razzmatazz. ‘I’ve been able to discover a lot of old bands because of archived footage, so the idea of being a forgotten act from decades ago seemed like an interesting way to aesthetically present everything,’ explains Dallon.
Championing albums such as Sgt. Pepper and Ziggy Stardust as his inspirations, Dallon wanted to make sure that Razzmatazz was about more than just 12 songs on an album. Instead, he wanted to present his music through a semi-fictional lens, taking his work and distorting it a little to make the listener question what it is that they’re actually hearing. He describes it as ‘hipster nonsense.’
Leave Me Alone acts as the album’s opening statement, revealing the problematic side of show business with lyrics such as ‘big shot, so what, do you want to pretend, you took the money but the money couldn’t buy a friend’ exposing the loneliness of fame and fortune. ‘There were people in my life that made sure I knew my place and made me feel as though I wasn’t welcome to be where I was. I never had an opportunity to do anything about it, because that’s what show business is. If you don’t like the way you’re being treated, there are a dozen other people lined up waiting to take your spot.’ Dallon notes that Leave Me Alone helped him express a lot of the ‘mistreatment’ that he experienced and the ‘demons’ he had to tolerate during his time in the spotlight.
Moving further into the album we stumble across the track Nobody likes the Opening Band. Its theatrical roots provide a total change in tact from the rest of the album, flipping the musical narrative on its head and making the listener do a double take. ‘I wrote this song during my 45 minute drive to the show venue for that night.’ Dallon remembers. ‘It really seemed to address the elephant in the room for when you’re an opening act. When opening a show, we usually begin with that song and if we’re headlining, we won’t play it unless we speak with the openers and explain the meaning first. Sometimes we’ll invite the opener to come sing an additional verse I wrote; ‘Nobody Likes The Headlining Band.’ It’s always good fun!’
Everything about Razzmatazz is meticulously thought through and the visual accompaniments are no different. Watch any one of them and you’re instantly back in the early ’80s, where television was slightly crackly and colour TV was a fairly new concept. In the lyric video for Leave Me Alone we see the words flash up on an old dinosaur of a computer screen and in New Invention we find ourselves in middle of a deepening plot to a vintage sci-fi film. Dallon took his inspiration for these visuals from a show called Stairway to Stardom, an old public access cable TV show that aired in NYC and New Jersey in the late ’70s. ‘I fell in love with it immediately and wanted to be on the show, which obviously wasn’t possible, so the idea of being some forgotten about act from the late ’70s/early ’80s got started there,’ he says.
As our world begins to open up again after what can only be described as a nightmare of a year, iDKHOW are looking forward to getting back on the road. ‘There are two smaller venues in my home town that I’d like to play again, when it’s safe. It’s important to support your local venues,’ says Dallon. They’ve been confirmed to play on the main stage at Reading and Leeds Festival this year and New Invention will serve as their next single in the UK.
Dallon Weekes might not be what you expect. He’s not in it for the fame, money and power but instead he’s here to make music that provides the listener with his narrative, whether that be fictional or not. He lives with his family in Salt Lake City and his daughter even made an appearance in the Razmatazz music video; ‘I hope one day she’ll want to sing it with me live!’ It’s not the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle you might imagine, but that’s exactly what makes him the musical mastermind that he is. As he says, ‘I’d rather be a good person than a rock star.’
August 26: SWG3, Glasgow, Scotland
August 28: Reading Festival, UK
August 29: Leeds Festival, UK
August 31: The Forum, London UK
Listen to the single here