It wasn’t meant to be back then. But it’s all happening again … for the first time. It began in the days of excess, when video killed the radio star and a new cultural frontier beckoned. A time punctuated by the whirring of videotapes capturing endless hours of “Night Flight” and “Top of the Pops,” of mixtapes passed back and forth between sweethearts, lovingly collected and assembled by passionate pop diehards. The world wasn’t ready for iDKHOW back then. They better get ready now.
Part archeological excavation and part forward-thinking vision, I DON’T KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME is as Day-Glo nostalgic and optimistically futurist as “Back to the Future,” the cinematic classic in which their band name was born. Doc Brown utters the famous line just before telling Marty McFly to “run for it.” Just as Marty traveled 30 years into the past and righted the wrongs of the present, so have Dallon Weekes and Ryan Seaman, resurrecting the songs and innovative spirit of iDKHOW for a new generation starved for creative risk taking and unbound joy.
IDKHOW’s music is from a time when iconoclastic pop trailblazers broke through commercially without compromising artistically; those who didn’t succeed despite creative courage but because of it. IDKHOW channels the legendary spirits of ‘60s garage, ‘70s glam, ‘80s new wave, and the early days of Britpop, merging the greatest strengths of bygone eras into a transcendent sound of the future. Imagine a nightclub powered by T. Rex, Bowie, Oingo Boingo, and Tears For Fears, distilled into pop rock anthems that are as instantly memorable as they are timeless. This isn’t ironic hipster satire; the IDKHOW movement is one of earnest reverence for an era that has much to offer the present day, through the lens of a postmodern possibility. The thrill of new discovery is central to the IDKHOW manifesto. “There are so many brilliant artists that I’ve been exposed to because of the Internet,” said Weekes. “Acts like Death, The Nerves, or Sparks.”
The frontman has plenty of experience with the potential for a great song to move crowds, propel late night drives, soundtrack makeups and breakups, and to top the Billboard charts. As bassist/backing vocalist for Panic! At The Disco from 2009 to 2017, Weekes co-wrote massive hits “This is Gospel” and “Girls/Girls/Boys,” and is credited on nearly all of the songs that comprise “Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!”
When Weekes discovered these lost recordings, this forgotten band, he knew Ryan Seaman was the perfect drummer to help him reignite the IDKHOW aesthetic. The resurrection of iDKHOW’s forgotten music arose organically, through word of mouth, social media and increasingly larger pop-up shows along the West Coast. Soon, the iDKHOW revolution was undeniable, as evidenced by the more than 10 million YouTube views and 6 million streams they amassed of self-released songs like, “Choke,” “Modern Day Cain” and “Nobody Likes the Opening Band.” Now partnered with tastemaker label Fearless Records, IDKHOW continues to mount an assault on the vacuous nature of fake relationships and the dirty underbelly of Hollywood glitz. Once confined to forgotten cable access TV, IDKHOW returns with a grand debut, in opposition to the traditional rules of pop and the music business. It’s art for its own sake. It’s left of center, challenging, bigger than middle-of-the-road party jams. iDKHOW is fun and exciting, smart and engaging, and always wholly authentic. The band’s high-anticipated (or long-overdue depending on your outlook) EP, 1981 Extended Play, will be available in-stores on November 9 (Fearless Records).
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Dallon Weekes to discuss his life in music, songwriting process and bringing iDKHOW to the masses!
How did you get involved with the creative arts early on?
It’s something that I always wanted to do from the time I was a really little kid. When I was about 3 years old, I would be drawing or wanting to play music. I didn’t start seriously pursuing the music part until I was about 15 or so. I spent all my birthday money that year on a pawn shop guitar and really disappointed my parents! [laughs] That’s really where I got my start!
Who were some of the early influences that had a big impact on you?
The first band that had a really big impact on me was The Beatles and I sort of fell in love with anything that was British and from the ‘60s at that point. From there, I discovered punk music in my early 20s, which is a lot later than most people usually discover it. I then graduated to new age style stuff. The next artist that had a big impact on me was probably Elvis Costello, when I was in my early 20s.
What went into finding your creative voice as a young artist?
It think it was two big things. First, it was copying the artists that I really loved. That was the biggest thing I would do. I would just cover Beatles songs, re-record them and try to imitate them as best I could. Experimenting was the other big thing; just getting as weird as possible at every single opportunity. When you are trying to recreate something like “Strawberry Fields” with an 8-track tape recorder, you don’t have a lot of production at your disposal. That forces you to be a little bit creative. Both of those elements are what sparked being creative on my own as I grew older.
When did you decide to pursue music professionally?
I always wanted to do it but up until I was about 23 or 24, I think I was still paying lip-service to all the stuff you are supposed to do like go to college, get a career and all that stuff. I think the moment that switch finally got flipped and I said, “I have to do this,” was when a band I had at the time, The Brobecks, played a show in Salt Lake City called Kilby Courts. We played there a couple times before but it was always just friends and family that came to see us. This time, for whatever reason, I guess word got out about this little band and people came to see us. The place was filled with complete strangers that wanted to see my band! It was the first real performing experience that I’d ever had. You play for your friends and family and they clap but it’s more like, “Oh, this is a cute, fun little hobby that you have.” Playing for strangers who have this connection to this thing that I was making really lit a fire inside of me that is still burning today.
Where do you look for inspiration these days?
I’m inspired any time that I come across an artist who’s doing something amazing, original and creative, even if it’s not commercially successful. I think that’s secondary. I think if you can have that happen it’s just a bonus. There is a band from Brighton, England called FUR, who I think are really great doing some ‘60s revivalist, which is probably the wrong word … but I really love them. There’s a kid from New Zealand named Kane Strang who kind of sounds like Pavement but less schizophrenic. Finding artists who are making art for the sake of making art is inspiring. These are people who don’t really have an interest in being the next big thing. They just want to make good art. I find inspiration a lot there.
When we see you on stage you seem calm, cool and collected. When did you come into your own as a performer? Is being comfortable in your own skin something that comes naturally or something you grew into through the years?
It feels natural when I’m on stage. I feel like I get to be more myself or at least more aspects of myself than anywhere else. I think those moments started to really connect with me when I started to figure out that whenever you are on stage, it’s best to turn your brain off and just exist in that moment. That’s always when it’s the best and the moment I always really strive for when I’m on stage. I might be jumping off of an amplifier, knocking stuff over or be on my back rolling around, whatever it is, but all of that stuff happens without thinking. That’s what I love about performing the most — all of your problems go away. You just get to exist in this moment for a little bit!
It’s inspiring to see the success you had while building your career from the ground up. What lessons did you learn early on that impacted you moving forward?
The biggest lesson I learned early on was don’t waste time on people who don’t care about you. I think there’s a lot of, especially when you’re young, there’s a lot of, “Man, if I could only get my demo to this guy or that person.” It’s really kind of a waste of time and that’s something that took me a minute to figure out. I don’t think that you should give your music to anyone unless it’s your genuine hope that they will enjoy it. Don’t try to chase down people who you think can do something for you. Instead, spend your time and effort on making something that’s good. If it’s good and you treat it like a job and work hard, people are going to find you.
Your latest project is I Don’t Know How They Found Us But They Did aka iDKHOW. Tell us about how the seeds were planted for this endeavor.
It came about shortly after I got demoted in Panic! At The Disco back to a touring member. All of my creative efforts had been focused on Panic! for so long but I’m a creative guy, so I had this collection of ideas that were collecting dust, I guess. I started to gather them up and record them. As I did that, I brought in a friend, Ryan Seaman, to play drums on these songs that I had. We had known each other for 10 years plus. I got to hang out with him again and we started talking about doing some of these songs live. We started doing that in secret for fun. It was for no one else but us really and it started to snowball from there.
What went into fleshing the idea out further as it gained steam?
That all happened really organically. As I was making the record, I would fall into these weird YouTube holes of old performances from some of my favorite bands from 30 plus years ago on shows like “Top of The Pops” or “Disco Ring.” I would also watch these really old cable access talent shows from New Jersey in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. I always thought it would have been so cool to be on one of these shows but it’s not something that is really possible anymore. The idea of this band being something from 30 years ago that was forgotten about and is now being rediscovered was born from there and started to develop as I was making the record.
Did you have goals or aspirations as you entered into the creative process?
Only one! That was to have fun. I think that is what music should be and if it’s not that, you need to change something.
I think the element of fun carries through the entire project. It shows itself in the songs themselves.
Thank you! I think that even if you are making something super heavy and serious there should be some sort of element of fun. That the very least it should acknowledge that you aren’t at a 9 to 5 doing something you hate. Even if you are singing about something super sad, you are still singing and doing what you love.
This project brings you into the role of frontman once again. Was that a difficult transition?
Ya know, I kind of lost it for a minute. As you know, I had my own band before Panic!, where I was a frontman. Over the course of eight years playing with Panic! At The Disco, especially as time progressed, I was able to do less and less and less things. I kind of forgot myself a little bit and it took me a minute to find it again. As we started to play shows, I think that part of me or my personality got to peek out of its shell again. It took a minute and a few shows for me to go, “Oh yeah, this is OK!” I had to find that mental space again but I’m feeling good about it now!
You mentioned your partner in crime on this project, Ryan Seaman. You worked together for a while now. What do you bring out in each other?
Ryan is such a sweetheart and such a professional in every aspect of what he does, even when he’s off stage. He inspires me to want to take some of the more menial aspects of being in a band seriously and have a little more care about them. Growing up, I was all about the art and had the very art student attitude and all of the business and handshaking stuff fell by the wayside for me because I viewed it as unimportant. Ryan has always been so professional. I want to be more like that!
How does the songwriting process for iDKHOW compare and contrast to what you did in the past?
I think there is a little more of the different influences that have crept into what I do, probably over the past 10 years. It’s stuff that maybe I didn’t listen to as much eight or nine years ago. It’s stuff like Sparks, Bowie, T-Rex, Oingo Boingo and stuff like that. I’m still influenced by stuff like the Beatles and the ‘60s Britpop and stuff like that but I think that some of the influences that I just mentioned have come a little bit more forward as of late.
What were the biggest challenges with this project?
The biggest challenge, because the concept is a band from 30 plus years ago, has been visual. A lot of that stuff is very specific. I wanted to do this band in a way that’s not a wink and a nod and a jokey poke in the ribs like, “Hey, remember the late ‘70s and early ‘80s? Wink, wink!” I don’t want to do that. I want to treat it with a little more reverence. I also want to be able to fool people who aren’t initiated into what we are and what we do. If they saw a video that we’ve made, I want them to ask themselves, “Is this really from 30 something years ago?” That would be a cool moment and that’s what I’m hoping for.
How does that translate into the live show?
Well, I don’t want to take it so seriously that we are always wearing some persona. I still want to be able to be ourselves, especially when it comes to the stage. Creating an atmosphere that it is possible that they are seeing an act from 30 years ago or that they are traveling through time is such a cool sci-fi idea to me! I’m a sucker for sci-fi, so to be able to create that kind of feeling would be really special. That’s what we aim for!
You lived with these songs for a while now. Which songs came easier and which were the hardest to nail down?
There is one that hasn’t been released yet and it hasn’t been played yet called “From The Gallows,” that will most likely be on the full-length record that was really difficult. The style of it came from this 1930s-1940s jazz quartet called The Ink Spots that I really love. They had this great formula for making songs. If you listen to them you’ll start to hear it. Every one of their songs follows this formula almost. It was something really natural for them but for me it wasn’t that natural. It was a challenge to make that vibe happen but it turned out great and I can’t wait for people to hear it and I get to play it. That was probably the most challenging song and I think that’s why it’s one of my favorite songs that we have so far. The one that came the most naturally and the easiest was probably “Choke.” That’s a song that feels like it almost wrote itself. It all came together really quickly and was probably the most inspired of songwriting I’ve had in a long time!
Where do you see this project heading in the future?
We are hoping to put out a full length record pretty soon in the new year and we hope to do some more touring. We are doing a November tour with Waterparks, which will be great. We’re definitely looking to move forward with the band and the concept. It’ll definitely grow, evolve and stories will evolve and change with time. I don’t ever want to do the same thing twice!
You are on the front lines of the music industry working hard to make this project a success. You are the driving force. What’s the best way for fans and people discovering iDKHOW to support you and help you grow?
Tell your friends. Come to a show! Whatever it is that brings you in, give us a chance and give us a listen, as long as you stay for the right reasons. I think that’s what counts the most!
You’ve come a long way as a musician and have a lot of productive years ahead. How have you most evolved along the way?
I feel like I’m a little more comfortable writing than I was maybe 10 or 12 years ago. I think I was a little more guarded about stuff I considered personal. I still am and I pick and choose the things I want to say or not say. There are things I’d rather keep to myself but not every song has to be autobiographical. I think that is more of my songwriting process now. That’s something I think I’ve adopted a little more.
What is the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?
Treat it like a job until it is your job! It might take a minute but don’t give up. That’s probably the best advice I could give to anyone. Do it your own way for sure but, whatever that way is, don’t quit!
I appreciate your time today, Dallon. I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us with this project. I wish you continued success!
Thank you so much, Jason! This was great! Talk to you soon.
Catch iDKNOW live on these upcoming tour dates:
2 – The Kelsey Theater, Lake Park, FL
3 – The Abbey, Orlando, FL
4 – The Senate, Columbia, SC
6 – Arizona Pete’s, Greensboro, NC
7 – The Broadberry, Richmond, VA
9 – Chameleon Club, Lancaster, PA
10 – Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ
11 – Webster Underground, Hartford, CT
12 – Anthology, Rochester, NY
14 – Mr. Smalls Theatre, Millvale, PA
15 – Agora Ballroom, Cleveland, OH
16 – The Castle Theatre, Bloomington, IL
17 – Blue Moose Tap House, Iowa City, IA
19 – The Waiting Room Lounge, Omaha, NE
20 – The Oriental Theater, Denver, CO
21 – Mesa Theater, Grand Junction, CO
23 – The Complex, Salt Lake City, UT
24 – Jub Jub’s Thirst Parlor, Reno, NV
25 – Ace of Spades, Sacramento, CA
27 – The Glass House, Pomona, CA
28 – 191 Toole, Tucson, AZ
30 – Alamo City Music Hall & Club, San Antonio, TX
1 – Warehouse Live, Houston, TX