Dallon Weekes is at home convalescing after a recent outpatient procedure involving his sinuses. The main fulcrum behind I Don’t Know How But They Found Me should probably be resting before his rock ’n’ roll duties ramp up into high gear, but that’s not going to happen.
He takes off his earbuds (currently rockin’ Parquet Courts, since you asked) to explain the motivations behind his art in the most succinct way possible.
“Once upon a time, a really successful producer told me that my philosophy toward making music is wrong,” Weekes begins. “He said I shouldn’t be doing it that way. Maybe he’s right.
“I won’t name names, but he’s a really successful guy and has a great career. He might be 100-percent right. But I can never bring myself to do it any other way. I love a certain type of music, and I want to be able to enjoy the kind of music that I make. If it wasn’t me making that music, I’d still want to be able to listen to it.
“The foundation of what I want to do is making a good song,” he continues. “Everything that revolves around that is extra-fun. Just make it good—whatever you’re making. I tried to make the kind of music I would want to listen to.”
Spending much of his youth in Salt Lake City, Utah, Weekes developed a passion for music via his parents’ record collection. He spent his formative years fascinated by the Beatles and “anything ’60s and British,” before picking up a guitar at 15.
Completely immersed in music, Weekes longed to pursue making it his stock in trade. Until then, he accompanied his father on blue-collar job locales, working on everything from building sites to learning the finer points of plumbing, electrical work and wall framing.
“And I hated every second of it,” Weekes says, unapologetically. “My heart was in music. I wanted to do nothing more than to write and play music for my job.”
In 2002, he started the Brobecks, a power-pop outfit who explored some of his new wave/’70s faves along with similar-sounding discoveries (like twisted synth-heavy rockers Ima Robot).
The Brobecks had some label interest, but nothing that Weekes was comfortable about signing on the dotted line with. But it was through those initial connections that Weekes got on the rock radar: It was John Janick, the former Fueled By Ramen chief who suggested Weekes audition for Panic! At The Disco after the departure of guitarist Ryan Ross and bassist Jon Walker.
It was a situation that progressed naturally, with Weekes starting out as a touring member before making significant contributions to the band’s first post-Ross LP, 2010’s Vices & Virtues.
On the surface, it looked like Weekes had it made, gaining membership to a highly successful band, as well as being somewhat of a fan favorite in a group centered around the dynamic, 400,000-watt personality of Brendon Urie.
It looked like Weekes would never have to see the inside of a Home Depot again: Upon closer investigation, however, his eight-year Panic! stint wasn’t the plan as much as it was merely one stop on the journey.
“I wasn’t necessarily a fan of Panic! At The Disco,” he says. “I certainly admired the success that they had, and to have the opportunity to play in a established band was huge. My intention was always to play with Panic! and have another separate outlet for myself. Despite how successful it would be, it was inevitable that those roads would diverge at some point.
“And when they did, I was going to choose IDKHow because as fun as it is to just play music onstage, that was never my dream, really. My dream was to write and record music and perform music that I create.”
Before Ryan Seaman’s reputation as a journeyman drummer was in full swing, he was searching for his musical identity. He started playing drums and studying jazz, playing gigs in restaurants and bars.
When he discovered punk rock in the late ’90s, his interests swung hard. In 2005, he was an original member of the theatrical post-hardcore outfit I Am Ghost. When that band flamed out, he met Weekes and manned the drums for the Brobecks in 2008.
His friendship with Weekes always remained, despite the Brobecks ending and the bassist being in Panic! mode. Stints playing with Jeffree Star, Aiden and the Bigger Lights followed, before he was enlisted into Falling In Reverse in 2011.
“We are grateful for everything that’s happened in our past lives and careers; we really don’t feel the need to bastardize it,” says Seaman in a separate interview. “It’s really cool that Dallon and I get to play together again, but we don’t want to take advantage of our previous fanbases.
“We’ve always supported each other in everything we do. Even when I was in the Brobecks, I was still a hired musician for other bands, but that was the one band I was trying to do full time.
“I always wanted to be in a band, but I always found myself being a hired guy,” he continues, admitting that while his career as a Josh Freese-type figure in contemporary punk was appreciated, he was craving more. “When Dallon wanted me to be in the band with him, that meant everything to me because it was my second band with him. I felt like I never really had that until now.”
On Extended Play, the duo’s six-track mini-album for Fearless, IDKHow have created one of the best records of 1975. Multi-instrumentalist Weekes channels most of his longtime favorites and influences across the proceedings, while Seaman propels everything with a swinging jauntiness that grooves with unabashed charm.
But for all of Weekes’ affected vocals (especially the multi-stacked homages to Queen) and processed guitars, there’s also something remarkably contemporary about IDKHow that levitates their status to more than just playing in the retro sandbox (“Bleed Magic”).
It’s not really discernable on the visceral level; the hidden charms tend to reveal themselves with repeated listens. Consider the club confection “Do It All The Time,” a song that’s vastly more compelling than the bulk of dance-rock hybrids seeking market share.
Which makes their rising popularity both curious and somewhat unbelievable. When Weekes professes his love for “glam rock,” he’s talking about the halcyon days of Great Britain in the ’70s, as manifested sonically and historically by David Bowie, Queen, T. Rex, then-American transplants Sparks and Slade.
He’s definitely not talking about the vapid, insipid LA hair farmers that ruled the ’80s (Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Warrant, Quiet Riot, ad nauseum), giving career advice to a huge swath of today’s scene acts.
There are plenty of words in music subcultures that mean different things to succeeding generations of listeners: Glam, punk and alternative are three adjectives.
“That’s such a bummer for me because I hate that stuff with such a passion,” he says lucidly. “That hair-metal stuff…” his voice trails off, but the contempt in the silence is palpable.
“But you are right: You say that word [glam], and that’s where people’s minds go. It’s so unfortunate because where it should be going is the New York Dolls, Bowie, Marc Bolan, the Sweet and Slade, stuff like that.
“That’s glam to me. It’s still the stuff that holds up without being jokey and comedic, 30, 40 years later. People look back at hair metal now and it’s a gag—a Halloween costume.”
Because Extended Play doesn’t have anything stylistically in tandem with FIR or Panic!, it raises the question on how far Weekes and Seaman think they can go.
While they are both incredibly grateful for the fan response, they do acknowledge that selling classic glam-rock signifiers to crowds used to Panic!’s Harry Connick/Sinatra worship or populist pop-metal conventions is positively daunting.
“In my mind, both of those bands—Panic! and Falling—are theatrical in their own way,” Seaman offers. “This is more of a twist: With Dallon and I, we’re coming from a place of more experience and writing under his belt. I always thought the Brobecks were great, and I think we’re picking up from that.”
“It’s my hope that the aspects that [our fans] are being affected by are challenging,” Weekes says. “We did know going into it that eventually, there would be a percentage of people who came around to listening to us would give us a chance because of the bands we had played in before.
“That was an inevitability. But our view on that was that we wanted to be respectful and not exploit—the bands and their fans—we were in.”
“I haven’t had input into anything for a very long time,” Seaman says. “It feels good to know I’m with somebody who cares. I can’t explain the energy that happens when we get together.
“We know each other as players: I know what he’s thinking when he’s playing. In the previous bands, it would always be a case of ‘Here, learn this,’ and now I get to do what I want and have opinions. Whatever style I’m playing, I want to be challenged, and I want to be able to put myself in the music. To me, that was everything.”
“We want to carry with us that attitude of whatever brings you in to give us a chance, that’s fine, as long as you stick around for the right reasons,” Weekes stresses. “It’s my hope that we can challenge not just ourselves by making this music, but challenge listeners to think a little bit more than push ‘play’ and turn your brain off and listen to party songs.
“Which has its value, for sure, but that’s not the kind of music I want to make.
“When you wear your influences on your sleeve, it can be very easy to fall into camp,” he resigns. “The foundation of what I do is to make a good song and have it be a little more left-of-center by the time we’re done recording it.
“I never want to be [writing] a middle-of-the-road pop song; I want there to be an element of weirdness to it that makes people want to take a second listen or go, ‘What was that?’”
After hitting the road with Waterparks this fall, Weekes and Seaman will reconvene next year to create I Don’t Know How But They Found Me’s proper full-length album. What’s going to happen is anyone’s guess—that includes the guys who are making the record.
Call them revivalists, abject weirdos or brave new sonic explorers, but you won’t be calling them ordinary or merely “OK.” They’ve got far too much character for you to ignore them.
“It’s breaking my heart that we didn’t go full-bore and do an LP right out of the gate,” reveals Weekes with a slight touch of regret. “There are so many songs I want to get out there that I’ve been sitting on for a little bit.
“The EP is great, and I’m so proud of it. It’s only frustrating in the sense that the door is cracked a little bit: You get to peek inside, but you don’t really get a full scope of what’s on the other side of that door yet. And I don’t think that’s going to happen until we get a record out.”
While we’ll have to wait until we hear what’s on the other side of that glitter-painted door, it’s interesting contemplating Weekes’ endgame. Whether he arrives at massive commercial gain or merely drives up the price of Sparks’ mid-’70s albums in collector shops remains to be seen.
Weekes laughs at the options with equal measures understanding and ambition.
“Practically speaking, my endgame is to take care of my family through music,” he says. “Psychically speaking, it would amazing to have some kind of moment of cultural significance. Even if it was just one song that people would still listen to 30 years from now; something like that would be so meaningful for me.
“A lot of people disparage acts like that. They call them ‘one-hit wonders.’ I think that’s a crappy way to look at a success. Lightning striking. Those bands that do qualify under that are still incredibly, incredibly lucky. To be considered even in that category would be a huge blessing.”
It’s too early to tell where the men of I Don’t Know How But They Found Me are going to land, from the eternal rock-history books or the micro-crevasses of today’s extremely thoughtless scroll-down/swipe-left culture.
When Weekes and Seaman get to their fork in the road, they’ll err on the side of having a career than inspiring a Jeopardy! question. They won’t be remembered—they’re bound not to be forgotten in the first place.
“Really, knowing that I’m able to create something with my friend is my reward,” Seaman says. “I love all kinds of music, but what we’re doing is far beyond what I ever thought I’d be a part of.
“I feel like I’m playing the music I want to play; I almost forgot why I was doing this,” he says, laughing. “IDKHow is a good reminder that music can be fun: You can play with your friends, and there’s no drama. It’s such a breath of fresh air for me. I feel like I’m finally in my zone.
“You know how twenty one pilots sang, ‘Wish we could turn back time/To the good old days?’” he asks rhetorically. “Well, to me, these are the good old days.”
This feature originally appeared in AP issue #363 with cover star Tilian Pearson, which is available here.