When iDKHOW’s 80’s emo pop banger ‘Razzmatazz’ was released last week, it was meant to come with a music video. As with everything in 2020 though, plans change and quickly. Now, one week later, you can see the video below exclusively on NME below.
While the visuals for previous single “Leave Me Alone’ were heavy on the P.P.E, the title track to their debut album is accompanied by a video that takes influence from old school films made with shoddy green screen technology. Sure, it leans into the fictional world that surrounds iDKHOW (“A band from 30 plus years ago that never got their big break,” according to a recent press release) but it also meant their band and their crew could socially distance as much as possible.
Delays probably could have been avoided had they used modern tech but Dallon wanted the character only VHS cameras could provide. As you’ll quickly discover with iDKHOW, the easiest way is not always the best.
Before starting the group, vocalist Dallon Weekes toured with Panic! At The Disco for eight years and helped write 2011’s ‘Vices & Virtues’, while drummer Ryan Seaman was part of post-hardcore mob Falling In Reverse. Rather than announce their new band with the bells and whistles to carry existing fans over, the pair spent the first year playing shows in secret and denying their involvement. “Handsome guys but that could be anyone,” they quipped.
Now he secret is out and despite the shenanigans, iDKHOW are quickly becoming bigger than their cult attitude should allow with their glam rock providing honesty, escapism and pulling in millions of streams. We hopped on Zoom with Dallon to talk playing arenas, betting on yourself and that good ol’ fashioned razzmatazz.
When did you start toying with the idea of iDKHOW?
“I started collecting ideas in 2016. I did one record with Panic! and after that they started hiring hit-makers to create their records, so they didn’t really need me anymore. I’m a creative person by nature. I had to have an outlet of some kind so I just started to casually record these ideas with no intention of doing anything with them. I called up my pal Ryan (the pair played together in the indie rock band The Brobecks) to put drums on everything. The more we hung out, the more songs we did and it was so fun. We started to book shows at dive bars and just not tell anyone. I wouldn’t want to do this without Ryan and we definitely came to a point where we realised that people actually cared about what we were doing.”
You could have got a leg up by announcing who was in iDKHOW, so why start out in secret?
“We knew that it would have been really easy to come out the gate waving a giant flag that says ‘formerly of Panic! At The Disco so come check it out’, but it was never a temptation to do it that way. It would have felt disingenuous. We learned a lot from people who have left successful bands to do side projects or do solo things. You can’t make people care just because of your history. Brand loyalty doesn’t exist in rock ‘n’ roll. We wanted to see if we could get the attention of complete strangers. “
You went from playing songs you’d help write in sold out arenas, to playing dive bars in secret. Was that a shock to the system?
“I definitely had that dream experience of playing stadiums full of people, but I’ve been on stage in front of 20,000 people and I felt completely alone. And I’ve been in a room of 12 people playing these songs with my band and there’s no comparison. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I would much rather be in a room halfway filled with a couple dozen people that really care about what it is that we’re doing than a stadium full of people that couldn’t care less if I was there or not.”
It must have been scary leaving Panic! for something unknown?
“There’s a line on ‘Leave Me Alone’ which is ‘They say the devil that you know is better then the devil that you don’t.’ It’s an old cliché but in my experience, it’s really not true. People tend to fear the things that are unknown, so sometimes they stay in a situation that’s not necessarily the best for them. Being in this band is a lot better for me. It’s a healthier environment. I can be creative without filters, without rules and with nothing standing between what I write and the finished product.”
What’s the track ‘Razzmatazz’ about?
“Like most of the album and our ‘1981 Extended Play’, there’s a lot about disillusionment with the culture of the entertainment business as well as feeling alone and angry in the middle of Hollywood. It’s definitely not my kind of town. Orbiting that world of fame, money and celebrity just made me really aware of the kind of life I wanted. For better or for worse, a lot of artists do treat art like a product to be manufactured these days. They build careers, make millions of dollars and become huge celebrities and that’s wonderful if that’s what your goals are, but I could never bring myself to treat art like that. For this track, I was able to take a step back from everything else we’d written and sum it all up. It’s a statement track and our closing argument.”
There are two versions of IDK – the one we’re speaking to now and that we see on stage, and then there’s the one from the past. What inspired that?
“David Bowie did it with Ziggy Stardust, The Beatles did it with Sgt. Pepper and I remember being really enamoured with those fictional storylines. It was really fun to dive into those worlds. It’s a soft conceptualisation, we don’t lean to hard into it and we’re not playing characters because I want the songs to be able to exist on their own but for those diehards that like to have something more, I wanted to give them another layer of entertainment. I doubt we’ll do it forever because I don’t want to just do one thing. As Bowie said, never play to the gallery.”
Has it been comforting to have the world of iDKHOW to escape into at a time like this?
“Music has always been escapism for me and right now, we’re living in chaos. With this pandemic, there’s this constant aura of paranoia and stress that surrounds you all the time. If you can’t escape from that, it starts to build until you hit a breaking point. Music provides that three-minute window of escape. It’s important to have moments like that so that you can get back into the world and continue to do what you can to improve it. The Black Lives Matter movement is hugely important and there are vital voting initiatives taking place across America but music as escapism is an important therapy. I hope that what we’re doing can provide that moment of escape for anyone else that needs it.”
Despite the nostalgia you’ve already shared festival stages with the likes of Billie Eilish and Twenty One Pilots. Do you feel like you fit in with that world?
“No, but that’s always been the case. I am definitely used to that feeling of being amongst a certain group of people but not really being part of them. And that’s not my intention. I would definitely love to be as successful as any of those acts but I think the nature of my inspirations (Marc Bolan, Sparks, David Bowie, Ben Folds Five) and the things that I like might be dooming us to obscurity forever. But if that’s the case, so be it. At least we did it our way.”
I Dont Know How But They Found Me release debut album ‘Razzmatazz’ on October 16.