Noah Dillon: “With my music, I try to explore the extremities of emotion”

The Fremantle singer-songwriter talks learning on the job, what makes the Western Australian music scene special, and the light and dark of his debut album ‘Kill The Dove’

Listening to ‘Kill The Dove’, the debut studio album by Noah Dillon, you get a real sense of who he is: a hopeless romantic, an endearing optimist, a rough-and-ready troubadour and an aspiring rockstar. But the Fremantle singer-songwriter will also readily tell you what he isn’t: On lead single ‘Nothing Matters’, he confesses: “I’m no good at love songs”. So what kind of songs is Dillon good at, then?

“I think I’m good at being able to tap into a weird state of consciousness,” Dillon replies, after taking a beat to consider the question. “I just sort of play guitar and then let the lyrics fall out of me. I think I’m weirdly good at telling a really honest, authentic story about feelings without actually trying to analyse them too much. The most special part of writing and music is that ability to write something that means so much to me, because it’s just literally come out of my brain. I haven’t tried to tamper with it or anything like that.”

Noah Dillon
Credit: Michael Tartaglia

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This unfiltered approach could explain why ‘Kill The Dove’ is so versatile and genre-defiant. Dillon’s approach to songwriting means that plucked nylon-string acoustic guitar and squealing, speaker-bursting distortion pedals can exist in the same body of work – and sometimes even the same song. “When I started writing songs, I didn’t really know what I was doing a lot of the time,” Dillon confesses.

“A lot of what you’re hearing on the album is stuff I’ve just sort of learned as I’ve gone. The dynamics is a big part of that – to me, it’s like its own instrument. Contrasting the quiet moments with the really loud and noisy stuff is such an interesting way to show light and darkness. With my music, I try to really explore the extremities of emotion – you get a look at the lighter side, but also the darker sides of what it means to be here.”

“I think I’m weirdly good at telling a really honest, authentic story about feelings without actually trying to analyse them too much”

Following the release of his second EP, 2021’s ‘Don’t Change For The World (Like It’s Changing Me)’, Dillon and his longtime backing band took to the studio over the new-year period, wrapping up around mid-January 2022. Even though it’s his name on the proverbial marquee, Dillon is quick to emphasise his bandmates’ contributions to ‘Kill The Dove’. “They’re amazing at doing what I’ve envisioned, but making it even better,” he says.

“Everyone has their own artistic flair, and I can feel their creative style just as much as I can feel mine. Clancy [Davidson], in particular – she plays violin and sings backing vocals, and she’s probably the most proficient musician I know. Her parts really made a big difference to the sound of the album.”

Noah Dillon
Credit: Michael Tartaglia

Dillon also points out Andy Lawson, the veteran producer who has been behind the boards for a myriad of notable Perth bands including Eskimo Joe and Little Birdy – bands that Dillon himself no doubt grew up listening to. Working out of Lawson’s studio, Dillon says, was a huge influence on the album’s creation.

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“He’s become a real role model to me, and we get along so well,” Dillon says. “I think we’re very in sync when we’re in the studio together – we make each other feel really comfortable, which helps a lot. The studio itself is beautiful, too – you’re up in the hills of Perth, overlooking all this greenery and surrounded by chickens. It’s always a good time.”

Though ‘Kill The Dove’ was made by this tight-knit group, Dillon’s cast of collaborators still expanded internationally on the album. Its second single, ‘Broken But It’s Working’, is a duet with Sarah Tudzin – better known by her project’s moniker, illuminati hotties. Tudzin, who also co-wrote the song, was a dream collaborator for Dillon – a dream, it turned out, his label Dew Process was able to make come true. “I told them how much I was loving Sarah’s music, and as it turned out they had a connection with her manager,” he explains.

“We had a Zoom call, and we wrote ‘Broken But It’s Working’ in about two hours. It’s some of the easiest songwriting that I’ve ever done – it just felt so natural. I didn’t really think about it further after that, but when it came to picking songs for the album I wanted to throw out another hail-Mary shot and ask if she wanted to sing on it. To have someone I’ve looked up to for a really long time be on this album in such a way… that’s something that I really value.”

Having steadily built up a profile across the late 2010s and into the 2020s, Dillon has worked his way to a prominent place in Western Australia’s current music scene. It’s a scene that’s often been mythologised, as seen in the 2008 documentary Something In The Water, and one that has proven its resilience time and time again.

Case in point for Dillon: When the opening night of his album tour was jeopardised just last week following a situation with local venue Freo.Social, a new last-minute show came together within 24 hours at the nearby Port Beach Brewery. It illustrates a greater truth within the WA scene: If you want something, and you want it bad enough, it’s never impossible.

“This is a community that’s really passionate about music,” says Dillon. “It’s filtered through generations. It’s really hard work when most of the industry is over east, and it’s expensive as fuck to get over there yourself. What that’s created, though, is this real playground for creativity within the Perth scene. It’s not as if some bigwig is going to come to your gig and ‘discover’ you, so you can really push yourself and see what sticks. When a band succeeds in this community, everyone does. It’s pretty special.”

‘Kill The Dove’ is an album that asks a lot of questions. It’s curious, adventurous, ambitious and consistently endearing. “I hope people feel related to when they hear it,” Dillon says. “Whatever shit’s going on in their lives, I hope it makes them feel like they’re not alone in the battle.” It’s an admirable mission for an album that bears, at first glance, a somewhat grim title: what’s the story behind the phrase “kill the dove”?

Noah Dillon
Credit: Michael Tartaglia

The title does sound “bleak”, he acknowledges, but it’s “about not playing into toxic positivity.”

“When I thought about the album, it all seemed to be about finding peace,” Dillon says, “whether that was within myself or within my friends, my family and my community. This is an album about pushing away the idea that things like peace and happiness will just appear in your life. It’s about admitting life is going to be hard, and it’s going to be a roller coaster. Peace doesn’t look like a life without ups and downs – it looks like your community, your hobbies, and whatever gets you through.”

Noah Dillon’s ‘Kill The Dove’ is out now via Dew Process

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