iDKHOW aren’t anybody’s lowest common denominator with ‘Razzmatazz’
I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME, aka the duo of Dallon Weekes and Ryan Seaman, are bringing the retro-futurist grooves on their debut album, Razzmatazz. Be advised: Egos, and “touring drummers” are not included…October 26, 2020
In real life, it is indeed true that time flies when you’re having fun. But sometimes in your head, it runs painfully slow, like medical procedures, governmental policy changes and living in a pandemic. Ever since Dallon Weekes and Ryan Seaman of I DONT KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME landed on the cover of Alternative Press in January 2019 (AP 366), we’ve been wait…hang on…clamoring for a full-length release.
Forget about fans and excitable rock crits: Weekes himself was antsy and impatient to get all of the music out of his head and out into the world as fast as possible. The impatience wasn’t without good reason. This would be the singer/multi-instrumentalist’s first major body of work since leaving Panic! At The Disco in 2017.
The precision of hindsight allowed Weekes and Seaman the ability to look back and wonder why they were in such a hurry. Indeed, iDKHOW’s Fearless Records debut, Razzmatazz, delivers on all the grooves, passion and fun their previous output had teased us with. The synergy of Seaman’s reliable power (and sense of the appropriate) and Weekes’ uncanny pop sensibilities is completely unparalleled. Weekes’ musical fascinations range from classic ’70s glam (David Bowie, T. Rex, Sparks) to ’90s alt-rock mavericks (Weezer, Ben Folds) and even vocal groups from the ’30s (he could chat up your grandparents about the Ink Spots).
The only major drag about Razzmatazz has nothing to do with its scintillating songs, dance-floor come-ons and Top 5 hits in 2033. The only disappointment here is the pandemic that stops iDKHOW from bringing their cool vibes to audiences. Great music has always inspired people to add dimension to their lives. Weekes and Seaman are paying that very gesture forward in the best ways they can. The duo told Alternative Press about their adventures, be they ongoing or completely stalled. Their enthusiasm is still massively high. Only three years in, iDKHOW are truly just getting started. The retro-future commences in 3…2…1…
Did Razzmatazz take a long time? I’m just trying to get past the idea, the anticipation of making a record versus the actual real-life work. It’s your personal thing. You’re the one who’s hyped up, and you’re the one feeling, “Why is it taking so long?” when actually it’s not really taking long at all. You’re just too excited because it is your first high-profile artistic endeavor.
DALLON WEEKES: It was probably a combination of both because the songs on the record—at least the majority of them—had been written for a long time. But getting into the studio and actually laying it down was put on hold in favor of touring and building the band up some more. So me being excited to get it out of my head and get it laid down was certainly an aspect of that.
But having to wait for the amount of time that we did? I think that only served to exacerbate that issue for myself, sitting and living with all these songs for as long as I did. It was hard, but actually getting it recorded and laid down only took a few weeks. I think three-and-a-half. But in that time of waiting, I think it allowed me to dial in and fine-tune ideas a little bit more and go into the studio a little bit more prepared so that things did move really quickly once we got started.
Was there a bit of backpedaling and fine-tuning? “I don’t like that lyric. I don’t like that melody.” Did you have an extended moment to reflect on what you completed?
WEEKES: Maybe not so much backpedaling as looking at being able to look at things through a microscope with the help of a producer. Tim Pagnotta from Sugarcult [has] made a bunch of really big records for Walk The Moon and Neon Trees. He comes from this really great pop world. So having that pop foundation, I think, really helps to serve some of my weirder ideas.
In that sense, we were able to tighten the screws a little bit more on some ideas and trim some of the fat away, so to speak. We were also able to write a couple more songs while we were in the studio. “Razzmatazz,” the title track, ended up being, I think, the last song that we put together. We wrote that one in the final week or so of making the record.
What is the necessity of a producer and his role in the prism of how you work? You obviously have an idea as to how things should sound inside his head. What does a producer add to the iDKHOW universe?
WEEKES: I feel it’s more a matter of him adding a different perspective to some of these ideas. I have a tendency to just sit down and go song by song and don’t really get a feel for the scope of the record as a big picture until we’re actually laying it down. That’s when I start to make the connections to tie everything together.
For example, one song we had, “From The Gallows,” the demo for that was this 1930s jazz barbershop quartet-sounding ballad. Had we left it as is, I think it would have really stood apart from the record and would have been a square peg. [It was important] having a producer there to say, “Let’s just disassemble this one and put it back together within the sonic landscape of what we’ve been doing.” I think that allowed it to not get weird, and it fit the rest of the record really well. As we were making it, the thought that came to my head [was that] it sounded like Lawrence Welk on acid.
Makes sense. By the looks of things, American radio seems to really like iDKHOW. Why do you think? iDKHOW are like a chrome-plated DeLorean in a world of Toyota Corollas on most playlists.
WEEKES: It feels like one of those weird anomalies that happen in radio every once in a while. Because there’s still a lot of artists and their labels trying to manufacture a hit and trying to chase down trends and that lowest common denominator stuff. But every once in a while, I think someone sneaks through with something that’s sincere and that comes from somewhere real, which is important for artists to remember.
iDKHOW are being discovered by mainstream platforms where those cultures have no idea of your lineage. I would imagine a lot of these people probably didn’t know you were in Panic! At The Disco until somebody from a record label mentioned it in a press release. Is that type of thing liberating for you?
WEEKES: Whenever people discover us or get behind what we’re doing without knowing where we came from, it’s always really refreshing. I really appreciate it, too. Not to take away from however you may come to discover us. Come on in: You’re invited to the party, for sure. I think as long as you stay for the right reasons is what matters.
The reality of having played for that band for as long as I did is not something that’s lost on me. It’s also definitely not something that we have a desire to exploit. Having those worlds be as separate as possible is something I think is important. So it is nice to have that happen.
Both of you come from an area that maybe a lot of people at radio [stations] either aren’t aware of or may have a preconceived notion about. They could probably tell me all the members of Pop Evil, but they couldn’t tell me a single member of Falling In Reverse. They may have tertiary knowledge of Panic!, but nothing that’s aligned with Warped Tour or “scene.” It’s great that this realm is looking at iDKHOW solely on your merits and not a preconceived notion about your musical lineage. It’s different criteria.
RYAN SEAMAN: And in my lifetime, it only took me 18 years to achieve that. [Laughs.] I went straight away: As soon as I graduated high school, I went out with the Eyeliners, the all-girl punk-rock band. I got on a tour bus for the first time, and I haven’t really stopped since then. I moved to L.A. and joined band after band after band, being a hired guy in situations. Then meeting Dallon and joining the Brobecks was a blessing. It feels like a weird movie I’ve gone through. I wanted to be all over the place, musically. I like hardcore music, punk rock and indie rock. And I grew up playing jazz in high school. When I was in Park City, Utah, it was really encouraging to play with multiple people. Because that’s how I feel, if you were a musician, that was how you would grow.
Dallon: Have you learned something about yourself by making that transition from sideman to being front and center? Psychically, musically, professionally, the whole thing? Were there things you learned about yourself that maybe you weren’t aware of?
WEEKES: It was more a matter of remembering. Remembering how to have fun onstage again. And remembering that music at its heart is supposed to be fun, and that’s why you start doing it in the first place. When you first pick up a guitar, something sparks inside of you that never really goes away. But I think it was a great reminder of why I got into this in the first place. Not to just stand onstage and collect a paycheck. But because there’s just something inside of you that needs to get out.
Stepping into that frontman role again, it took me a while to find myself and to find my own voice as a writer, rather than writing for other people.
What are you afraid of right now?
WEEKES: I’m afraid that I’ll never be able to play a show again. That’s something I think about a lot. I really miss it. To finally be putting this record out but not be able to play it for people is a point of frustration. I certainly hope that we get a chance someday to play this record live for people because we’ve waited so long. But if waiting is the name of the game, then we’re pros by now. So we’re trying not to think about that too much.
SEAMAN: It’s a huge bummer. I think this is the longest I’ve been home since 2005. You know, on the real. The longest I’ve been home was like seven months or something in a row.
Ryan, you’ve always been a guy who’s constantly been on tour. At any other time, you’d have a minimum of eight weeks of dates on the road. To have a new album out into the world and not be able to support it playing live has to be weird.
SEAMAN: It is totally crazy. But it’s also amazing that right now, we’re charting on the alternative radio platforms. We’re at No. 8 right now, which is just insane. I wonder what would happen if we were on tour.
Did you see the clips of the Flaming Lips’ hamster ball gig?
WEEKES: It is so cool. I love the Flaming Lips so much.
They had it so people could bring their friends with them and go out in the crowd in those balls.
WEEKES: That would be a cool experience, though. The only thing I was curious about was how long was the set because there’s not a lot of air in those things.
Wayne Coyne was saying you can actually be in those for a while.
WEEKES: I was just wondering if doing something like that could be expanded over the course of an hour or so if you were pumping air into those things somehow safely. Definitely a cool experience to be able to attend something like that. The videos I’ve seen of that just look really special.
SEAMAN: Right now, everybody’s in the same boat. So for me, it’s just about, “How do we keep the fans engaged? How do we have them follow a long story while we’re all trapped?” As you know, we started the band in secret. When I was young and going to shows growing up, I always felt like I wanted to be a part of this secret society, you know? I wanted to be different than everybody else at my school. The stuff that I was listening to wasn’t cool in my school. Nobody knew about Epitaph Records or Fat Wreck Chords. Green Day weren’t popular—just rap and whatever was on the radio or MTV.
So I think there is something to be said when you can discover something and have it so close to your heart, and you can follow it. That’s what I want to create for somebody else. Something they can latch onto and be a part of. [iDKHOW] have brought people together. I’ve had people hit me up on social media being like, “I met my new best friend because of you guys.” I want iDKHOW to bring that into society, even if it’s online and through email.
Did you consider the drive-in movie shows?
WEEKES: We’ve talked about that. There’s been talk about a socially distanced concert in a soccer stadium up in Salt Lake City. But plans for that seem to change day by day. Who knows if it will actually go through? I think it’s one of those things where we hope for the best but [are] prepared for the worst.
Speaking of the worst, what was the one interview question that really made you want to punch somebody? Whether it was to get a rise out of you or if it was genuinely a dumb question. The one thing that really irked you.
WEEKES: I’m racking my brain for that question. If somebody has asked me a question like that over the course of doing iDKHOW interviews. I haven’t noticed. I think any questions, whether it’s “Where do you get your band name from” or questions about Panic! At The Disco, I don’t care, bring them all on. I’m happy to talk about it all.
In a recent article, a bastion of British rock journalism described Ryan as a “touring drummer.” I’m sure a lot of fans read that and thought the band were turning into The Dallon Weekes Show. Admittedly, you’re writing the material and the lyrics. But some fans have been concerned about it. What the hell made the Brits think that?
WEEKES: That’s an excellent question. I don’t really know. Because from my point of view, Ryan is not a touring member of this band. He’s my guy. He’s my drummer, and he’s my friend. And I don’t want to do this without him for any myriad of reasons. He’s been my friend for over a decade, and he’s always been my go-to guy when it comes to the drums.
It was really hanging out with him while we were recording these songs that I’d written. That got me wanting to play this stuff live. And I wanted to play the stuff with him because we came from similar situations. He is on the same page as me when it comes to putting songs first rather than any kind of ego stuff. He wants to do the work, and he wants to serve the bigger picture more than he wants to serve himself. He’s the world’s biggest sweetheart, too.
As we started, everything that we’ve done so far has been songs that I’ve written. Because I’ve had this collection of ideas and songs for so long, I needed to get them out and get them rolling. But I think as the future moves along, we’re going to collaborate more on writing because he is a talented writer, too. But “touring drummer”? That’s not it.
We can’t be together all the time in order to do photo shoots, interviews, calls and things like that. With this, creatively speaking, being my brainchild, I think that is probably where that moniker of a “touring drummer” was born from. But for me, that just doesn’t seem like an appropriate term. He’s the drummer for iDKHOW. He’s half of the band.
Indeed. How would you describe iDKHOW to a server at an all-night diner at 4 a.m.?
WEEKES: I just say “hipster nonsense.” [Laughs.] Just keep it simple.
You can read more Alternative Press digital cover story interviews here.