She Shreds speaks to the founding members of Dilly Dally on dealing with depression, the importance of self-care and finding the beauty in music again.
Second album syndrome is a well-known trope in music circles. But whilst the sophomore release for an indie artist can be tough, it never normally takes the band to the brink of break up, or breakdown. Following the release of their debut Sore in late 2015, Toronto alt-rockers Dilly Dally went head first into a heavy touring schedule and an intra-band tumult hung over them as they tried to look towards record number two. From their battle with alcohol addictions to front woman Katie Monk’s potential threat of leaving the band, Heaven is something of an ironic title for a record with such a hellish process behind it.
Nestled backstage ahead of one of their UK shows, Monks’ signature white flying V is propped up against an old leather sofa as lead guitarist Liz Ball patiently paints her nails in a glossy coat of black.
She Shreds: You’ve got another big European tour ahead, did you feel apprehensive after everything that’s happened with the band or were you ready to get back out here?
Katie: No, we were ready to get back out there. We were hungry.
Liz: We had a long break and we were ready to get back on the road with our new tools to help us cope – not just sitting in the van. I learned how to knit so that’s been keeping me occupied and running around and exercising when you can is always good. I haven’t gone out for a run yet but I brought my running shoes.
Let’s dive into that as you’ve spoken openly about this record which brought you back from the brink of splitting up. It all started to swell after the success of your debut Sore, were you surprised by the reception?
Katie: We had been working on Dilly Dally for so many years. So much went into that album that I would say we almost thought ‘We’re going to be huge’. I don’t remember being surprised but I do remember being overwhelmed.
Also, you know it’s going to feel good but you don’t know that it’s going to feel that good to be on stage in front of that many people singing the words to your songs. Even still, it blows my mind.
Following Sore’s release at the end of 2015, you travelled the globe together touring the album to new fans. Did life on the road test you as a band?
Liz: A lot of different factors led to us needing time apart and to rest. We were all going through a lot of life things, as you do when you’re twenty-something years old. There was a pile-up of stuff. It wasn’t just like ‘Woah touring. I’m tired’. It was more like ‘Holy shit, life is fucked right now’. As amazing as it was at that time, I was going through some of the lowest points of my life so it was hard to live in the moment. It’s just not a good environment being on the road trying to figure out mental health problems.
Tell us about the year off that followed. Katie – you stepped away from social media and back to pen and paper. Was that an important step for you?
Katie: I was pretty heartbroken because I was like ‘Oh fuck, all our dreams came true’ and I always thought that would kind of fix all of our problems. But instead, you’re away from home and that comes with its own set of challenges. It ended up highlighting a bunch of stuff. Now it’s the sweetest victory for me putting out this album at a time when we’re all so secure as a band and grounded. This could continue now. It feels stable. It’s not like write or die.
You talk about this collection of songs as coping mechanisms themselves. Was the songwriting cathartic for you or did you also find it difficult to work through?
Katie: Creatively, we all had our own things we were doing on the side.
Liz: I worked on my solo thing after that long tour we did. It’s important to have your stuff you can always go back to and be like ‘Oh, this is why I’m doing this. I’m an artist’. Going back to your roots and asking ‘why am I doing this?’ and trying to find the beauty in it again. Whatever that is for you.
Katie: We were managing ourselves for the whole Sore campaign so it meant that in between tours it was impossible to write, for me anyway. Now that we have a manager, we had to throw out the reigns a little on the DIY side business-wise and it’s meant that we’re able to put more energy into music videos, our outfits, all the visuals. Remembering that we’re here to be artists and not getting too caught up in the industry part and just do the music part.
Were there any songs that felt too raw that didn’t make the cut for the new record?
Katie: There was nothing that was too raw but I did write a lot of sad-fucking-ballads by myself so sometimes the task with Dilly Dally is ‘How do we take Katie’s very slow ballad into a Dilly Dally song?’ Ben (Reinhartz, the band’s drummer) isn’t in this interview right now but if he was here, he’s very helpful with things like that.
That’s what makes it Dilly Dally?
Totally, people are head-banging but there also like ‘Why am I crying as well?’ (she lets out a laugh)
In single ‘Doom’, you explain how the song aims to catch people when they feel their friends are out of reach and could fall forever which were obviously direct feelings you were working through writing these songs. Did you feel vulnerable opening up about the meaning behind the songs or was it important to be that candid?
Katie: ‘Doom’ was about flying back home from a really fucked up tour and feeling like it’s time to look inside yourself. Like Liz was saying, look inward and remember why you’re doing this. Remember that if everyone else around you is really depressed maybe you can find something positive to hold onto and hold onto it really high. I think everybody in the band looked inside themselves and found some reason to keep going on their own terms.
In the three years since Sore was released, there have obviously been mass events happening on a global scale affecting the world, politically but also environmentally and culturally. Did that feel a weird synergy between the climate around you and what was going on between you as a band?
Katie: Well, the last tour in the States was the month before and the month after the midterm elections. It felt like a wave of depression washed over the whole country. Certainly for the people who were not Trump supporters. That was intense and then it just was all in the news. I think I became a bit addicted to American news as we were watching CNN every night in the hotel. You turn on Facebook and it’s there.
In Canada, people are processing it. There are Trump supporters in Canada. People posting neo-Nazi stuff around Toronto. There’s a lot of that alt-right thing happening all over the world. It was very saturated for me and giving me a lot of anxiety. I had to push it aside so I could think of how to react to it artistically.
Liz: That’s kind of why we’re not talking about all this shit that’s happening right now. I feel like with this record, it’s an escape.
Katie: Like, despite all odds, you can still find a reason to be happy. That’s the beauty of art. That’s why we fucking write shit.
Another part of the beauty of this band is your friendship, you both came together to make Dilly Dally a reality. How do you think your friendship has adapted and changed since you first decided to play?
Liz: It’s definitely felt like we’ve moved from two to a four-piece.
Katie: That’s what Liz and I have always wanted. I think that’s been a big part of what’s made us stronger too. Before it was this weird feeling that ‘Oh well if Tony left, could we keep going?’ Then he did, and we were like ‘Fuck’. It’s better for our friendship because there’s less pressure. We’ve learned to not be codependent in a lot of ways. It’s all very spacious now. It used to feel trapped. Now we’re just here because we want to be.
Heaven is out now on PTKF. Dilly Dally are currently on tour throughout the US.