The word “aggressive” came up a lot when Dilly Dally’s breakout debut, Sore, came out last fall.
“Yeah, but we’re aggressive about a lot of very positive ideas,” clarifies singer/guitarist Katie Monks. “Everyone in the band has their own reasons as to why we gravitated toward heavier music or ‘aggressive music.’ I really like epic, exciting things. I like exciting video games that are violent, and I like movies with explosions and dragons and aliens, and I like hanging out with people who are weird and cool, and I like to eat lots of hot sauce. So, when I listen to music or go see a live show, specifically, I want to be engaged. I want something to move around to…to push people around to…and something that isn’t just hand-claps. I want something that is an escape. It’s an escape!”
Dilly Dally’s music and, particularly, the Toronto quartet’s live shows, are a unique chance to escape, to let the wild side out, to unhinge, to exert. That Monk admits to a zero percentage of nervousness before any show speaks mostly to how open, how comfortable and how authentic the band can be when they grace the stage with their signature grit-rock and acerbic pop. Their edges are frayed but there is such frankness here, humanity in the howls, candor in the distortion. Dilly Dally might be one of the most secure and actualized “guitar bands” you’ll ever encounter, unconcerned with neither surfeit glitz nor the posturing glamour of ostentatious light shows, synchronized projection displays nor some other kind of self-conscious compensation for depth for which other artists may or may not be guilty of committing.
Where does Dilly Dally’s confidence come from? We can almost hear Monks’ nonchalant shrug through the phone as she explains: “We’re a guitar-rock band, and we play loud, and we go up there and we just flip out. That’s kind of what these songs are made for, ya know?” That’s all you need! And they seem to know just what they have to do.
Monks and her lifelong friend, lead guitarist Liz Ball, started Dilly Dally around 2009. They’ve had a revolving cast of rhythm players filling out bass and drums throughout the years, but they solidified a lineup two years ago with Benjamin Reinhartz (drums) and Jimmy Tony (bass).
Monks’ close friendship with Ball has continued to be “…the exact fucking same as it’s been since we were 14.” That is, it’s sustained it’s chemistry, it’s mutual respect, it’s shared sincerities, even throughout the considerable tidal wave of attention that’s been crashing onto the band from zines and blogs over the last two years, leading up to Sore.
Monks and Ball both grew up obsessed with music. As teenagers, they’d travel from the burbs into downtown Toronto to attend concerts together. “Like we were sisters,” as Monks puts it. “Fierce loyalty; complete comfort. We can truly be ourselves and be ridiculous together; we can be silly, make disgusting jokes, show each other our shitty songs that we wrote.” The way Monks describes it, you’d imagine she and Ball share an almost telepathic understanding of each other, at this point. But mostly, it’s a sisterly vibe. “And that relationship is spreading, to [Reinhartz] and [Tony], they’re feeding off it, and something special is happening now. We’re all growing as individuals through this process, and I think that we’re…we’re family!”
Dilly Dally blend post-grunge with a bit of alt-rock fuzz, and yet they never feel retro. They’re certainly not on any revivalist trip, because when you talk to Monks you realize that their motivation springs not from retreading the riffs of old dead legends but rather from energy, a certain kind of pure energy. That energy could be that of the kind sparked (like a chemical reaction, if you will) between audience and band, or between the band members themselves as they turn into pirouetting mini-tornadoes together on stage…or even between audience-and-audience. If you’ve been streaming any of the songs in the midst of this article, then you can already hear that kind of “aggressive” energy.
“For the most part,” says Monks, “[Sore]’s songs are love songs, or ballads, or songs about friendship.”
And, going back to how positive and endearing they can be, through all the noise, it really comes down to the engagement of an audience, to remind them or, rather, encourage them, that this energy is theirs to take, this noise is theirs to make…
“That was a thing for us,” Monks recalls, “Liz and I, when we were in high school, we didn’t want to marry the boys in the band or fuck the boys in the band, (well, maybe we did…) BUT, we wanted, mainly, to be in the band. We realized: Oh, I want to be that person on stage, and I want to wear those clothes, and I want to not wash my hair, and I want to smell bad and still have people think I’m sexy.”
“I want to go on stage and spill my guts out and be real and not be apologetic about anything and be congratulated for that,” Monks continued. “I think that’s something that women have not been encouraged to do and that there weren’t enough women doing that…well, maybe in the 90’s there were and that’s why people always refer us to that time period when they draw comparisons to Courtney Love or something. But I never listened to Courtney Love, ever. The music I listened to, actually, is a bit less accessible than Courtney Love, I’d say.”
Back to their family vibe: Monks says she can’t speak for everyone in the band, but she expressed gratitude for growing up in a family “where there was shit-fuckin’ tons of love.” Yes, we hear the word “aggressive” when we read about Dilly Dally, but that shouldn’t construe anyone into thinking Monks has some demons to exorcise or that she and Ball were overly troublesome high school students with dark sides. It was crucial, Monks said, to be raised by a family that encouraged her to be brave, outspoken and, above all, authentic. And that carries over into the dynamics of the band and has begun developing into the dynamic between Dilly Dally and the audiences at their shows.
Sore came out in October on Toronto-based Buzz Records. It was produced by Josh Korody (Fucked Up, Greys) and Leon Taheny (Austra, Owen Pallett). The last song we’re streaming (below) almost didn’t end up on the album, as it all came together on the final day of recording; Monks intoned that she felt “The Touch” to be one of their most essential songs.
Dilly Dally just finished their first European tour. Their very first show, in London, was sold out. Why be nervous, when there’s fans already there, waiting for you?
“When I go on stage, it’s like you don’t have to think about any of the bullshit,” said Monks. “You’re not second-guessing anything. The script is already written; you’ve put so much care and thought into the songs and lyrics and melodies and guitar textures. You’re confident in the people you’re standing with and the message contained within, you’re able to just go through the dance; it’s like a dream. I’m ten times more confident on a stage than I am anywhere else. To be on stage…it’s really…I don’t know what I would do without that.”