They knew we’d find them. Eventually. But nonetheless, Dallon Weekes, formerly of the hugely popular Panic! At the Disco,” and drummer Ryan Seaman of post-hardcore band Falling in Reverse, managed to play dive bars and small local gigs as a two-piece for an entire year before their fan base of “little detectives” smoked them out. Which is good news for us! Because now they’re both back, and the music is better than ever, with their latest record “Razzmatazz,” also ensconced in a compelling conceptual visual and sonic maze.
This clandestine gigging partially explains the name iDKHOW, as an inevitability-abbreviation for their new band I Dont Know How They Found Me. But another driving force according to Weekes was that “we wanted to build this thing from the ground up as honesty as we could. And the challenge for us was that we were both employed by bands that were pretty successful and we didn’t want to take advantage of that. We wanted to do this just like anybody else would so the only way to circumvent that was to do it in secret for the first year.”
amNewYork Metro sat down with Weekes: bassist, songwriter and singer of iDKHOW to talk about the band’s latest album “Razzmatazz” and iDKHOW’s sound, aesthetic and concept album labyrinth.
The central thing about iDKHOW is not only that it is some of the best contemporary music out there, but that its thought-provoking, for those who want their thoughts provoked.
For example, when amNewYork Metro first watched the video for the play-it-on-repeat level catchy hit, “Do It All The Time,” we wondered why we were watching a better looking Jarvis Cocker-esque singer playing one-handed synth à la Kraftwerk in a Franz Ferdinand colored room with a brass section of well-dressed mannequins. Fun fact: the synthesizer in the video was actually an out of commission Soviet-era model that their director tracked down. “He has a great knack for finding props that really fit our aesthetics, and we wanted it to look as foreign as possible. And they say the devil is in the details and I think it’s little things like that that can really make a difference visually and aesthetically,” commented Weekes.
There are other “confusers” in the video. Weekes and Seaman are wearing what look like security clearance badges and at one-point don lab coats. It’s edited with flashes of text that are sometimes self-referential and humorous “Original Dynamic Bridge Section, ” reads one, while some are probably even too obscure for Merriam Webster—“YBM DESCHINCRODIAL” being a case in point. Furthermore, the video is introduced by a 50s sounding TV-caster voice and a logo featuring a company TELLEXX well as text in what seems to be Icelandic, because, you know, why not? TELLEXX is the first of a handful of mysterious and clandestine reference that appears throughout the album and its visual accompaniments.
A quick scan of the YouTube comments for “Do It All the Time”—a song marked by Weeke’s signature bass stylings and clean, steady drums—yielded many, many interpretations of the song and video, so amNewYork Metro got the low-down from Weekes: “I wanted to sit down and, to be perfectly honest about it, make the most brainless kind of pop song that I could be happy playing. Something that would sort of take the conventions of pop music and make fun of them. It’s probably the most sarcastic song I’ve ever written. But a lot of people don’t really peel that first surface layer back—and it is a pop song—but if you take a look at the lyrics and the structure of it all and what we are doing, its kind of making fun of that whole conventionality of the rules that you’re supposed to have when you’re making a pop song. Even lyrically, the stuff like, “taking your girl and making her mine,” lyrics that you’ll find a lot in modern pop music, the ‘we’re gonna’ do what we want; we’re gonna’ live forever’ and that song is there to say well, maybe that’s not the case.”
When asked about the concept aspect of the band, Weekes states, “I’ve always been a fan of concept records and growing up for me, that was stuff like Sergeant Pepper’s and seeing artists make a collection of songs and present them to the world with a fictional storyline to accompany it all it was always really entertaining. And that’s what it is for us, the TELLEXX stuff and the White Shadow stuff, everything is kind of symbolic of something we’ve experienced in the music industry, just sort of presented in this semi-fictional way. And all it really is is just kind of another layer of entertainment for people to dive into because of course we want the songs to standalone. But there is more there if you care to go out and find it.”
And being the intrepid reporters that we are, amNewYork Metro did exactly that.
At the end of the video for “Social Climb,” which has that recognizable snappy bass as well as electronic, piano and sax elements, the final frame is a still reading “We invite you to follow along,” with a phone number underneath, which, it goes without saying you’ll have to watch the video to acquire. Expecting it to lead nowhere, we were pleasantly surprised to hear voices at the end of the line. But surprise morphed into confusion fairly quickly as a male and female voice, clearly from an earlier era, “conversed” back and forth with random sentences such as: “There was water in the basement after the heavy rain,”; “Rum was given to the heroes”; “The frosty air passed through the coat,”; “The wagon moved on well-oiled wheels” and ironically “Much of the story makes sense.”
This seemingly unending stream of decontextualized sentences continues and continues and continues until, frankly, you’re so confused you can’t take it anymore.
I asked Weekes about this. Apparently it’s a phone number that has existed for 30-40 years in the U.S. It was apparently created by Harvard University and used to test new phone lines with these “Harvard Sentences.” In Weekes’ opinion, “It’s a creepy series of weirdly soothing sentences, and I think they were put together by Harvard at some point because they were pleasing to the ear even if they didn’t make sense; it was a focus on them phonetically, they sounded somewhat hypnotic. So it was a free way for us to incorporate something creepy into the video.”
Not wanting to go to far down the rabbit hole and end up rocking back and forth in our basements, drooling while wearing tin foil hats, our interrogations ended there, just in time to sit back and enjoy a record that, besides The Strokes “The New Abnormal,” is one of the best of the year so far.
Being a bass guitar wunderkind, in closing, I couldn’t help but ask Weekes who his favorite bass player was in a decade-dependent format. For the 70s he went with John Deacon of Queen and for the 80s—the vastly underrated—Talking Heads bass player, Tina Weymouth.
“Razzmatazz” is available for download on iTunes, and you can check out more of their music and “lore” at www.idkhow.com.