The story of I Dont Know How But They Found Me (shortened to iDKHOW) is fun and exciting. Their beginnings as a band have been well-documented, but in case you’re still new, let’s do a quick run-down, shall we?
iDKHOW formed after Dallon Weekes and Ryan Seaman had left their previous bands, and the pairing was natural, as they had previously worked together on their project The Brobecks. Now, fast forward through some shows of secrecy, an EP (2018’s 1981 Extended Play), and numerous radio appearances and a sold out tour, and the band is finally getting ready to release their debut album, Razzmatazz, tomorrow, October 23rd via Fearless Records. You did read that right, they accomplished everything that I mentioned prior to releasing a full-length album.
All the while, the aforementioned story/narrative of the band has been delicately laid out, as being an unearthed from 40 years ago — with numerous twists and turns along the way. That narrative continues on Razzmatazz, but, we’ll get to that later.
Now, as you can imagine, releasing a new record isn’t exactly ideal, nor what most bands have planned. However, when I asked Weekes about this earlier this week during our interview, he mentions that “nothing about [iDKHOW] has gone according to plan,” but that hasn’t ever stopped them before. “It’s just a matter of whatever challenges come our way, it’s about finding that silver lining so that’s what we’re trying to do. I guess, for me, it’s just been being able to finally get music out and still be here with my family, too, which is huge — I’ve never really done that before,” he says.
The family time has been a welcomed change for Weekes, who jokes that being home with the kids and helping them with school online has turned him into a “teacher/content creator.” Something nice to add to the top of his resume.
For iDKHOW, aside from 2019’s Christmas Drag EP, Razzmatazz is their first release of new music since 2018. The long gap between 1981 Extended Play and Razzmatazz wasn’t intentional, as Weekes tells me — in fact, the record had been written and ready for a quite some time. “When we first started, we had our own timeframe for when we were going to put our own record out, but things started to snowball beyond our control,” he says. Of course, this is due to good things going out of control, such as playing some radio shows, festivals, and really growing their fan-base. “Getting this record out and getting it properly recorded got put on hold in favor of touring and building the band up some more,” he says, before finishing with, “That was probably a good move.”
The album’s lead single was “Leave Me Alone,” which has bested “Choke” as their most successful song on Billboard’s alternative airplay chart currently sitting at #9. This was news that Weekes had received just the day before our interview, and they’re both surprised and grateful for the success. “It’s not something — the music that I write for this band is not something I ever expected to see on the charts of any kind. So, that’s pretty incredible,” he says.
While it’s a great accomplishment, it’s not something that lives in his head. Radio play has never been a goal for iDKHOW, in fact, for a band that started out as a secret project for fun, it has always been the furthest thing from their mind. “I write the kind of music that I would want to hear,” Weekes tells me. “I never try to chase down a hit, or chase down a trend. I just write what I like and the fact that it resonates with other people is just a huge, incredible bonus that I get to enjoy.”
Razzmatazz builds on the 80’s themes that iDKHOW has built so far, sonically, and as mentioned previously, builds upon the narrative of the band. Without giving too much away, after all you’ve only got one more day to wait, Weekes explains how Razzmatazz fits into their story as follows, “It definitely takes a left hand turn. Once you listen to the record from front to back, without giving too much away, the narrative of being a band from 40 something years ago gets turned on its head a little bit. There’s a shift in that narrative that changes, and it’s not exactly what you think it is.”
For Weekes, the storyline behind the band has always been a big part for him. Growing up, he loved bands that went the extra mile to create something unique. He references David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers as big inspirations for him and why he built iDKHOW the way he did. “I remember just losing myself diving into that artwork and these fictional stories and having a space for that — like that for fans imaginations to wander around in, is pretty special. Something I’ve always wanted to do,” he says.
Though there is a story behind the band and everything they do, iDKHOW still crafts songs that stand on their own. Weekes knows that not everyone may want to dive into the whole story behind the band, and that’s okay. It’s also important to note that writing the narrative and story for the band doesn’t necessarily dominate their song-writing process. Weekes describes the process to me as “pretty organic.”
“As you find yourself in the studio and you’re finally laying these things down properly, you find little moments to make the connections between ideas. And it’s not necessarily something you focus on when you’re demoing songs. But as you live with them a bit and you iron them out in the studio, you find moments to make those connections to the narrative. But it is a secondary thought process that we tackle as we make the record.”
Keeping it in the back of their mind allows everything to flow naturally. Which makes it all the more impressive, that they’ve built such a story and have kept it fun and exciting, without letting it dominate the rest of their existence as a band. “It’s an organic connection,” Weekes finalizes, “You find yourself in the middle of a song idea and something sparks that connects you to something else you’ve already done and then you try to chase that down.”
Not only is simply releasing a record during a pandemic not normal, nor a part of their original plan for the album rollout, but promoting the record changes as well. However, one word that Weekes won’t hear is the word impossible. “There’s a motto I’ve always said when it comes to the word impossible,” he begins, “When someone tells you that something is impossible or it can’t be done, to me that just shows a lack of imagination or an unwillingness to work hard. We’re finding ourselves in this weird time where releasing music and promoting music is a lot harder than it would normally be, but impossible is not a word that I like to hear.”
Weekes explains that he often finds the easy things aren’t worth it, and that when it comes to music videos, he actually didn’t approach these differently than normal. While that may sound surprising, it’s because he usually doesn’t come up with ideas for music videos until right when they get the green light, to avoid being married to an idea he can’t pull off. So, he didn’t have any ideas for music videos pre-pandemic that he needed to push to the side or throw away.
“I think when you have limitations, whether they’re budgetary or a pandemic, it sort of forces you to be creative with what you have to work with. So, the ideas for the videos that we’ve done so far are really heavily a reaction and reflection to the times we’re living in,” Weekes tells me. “How do you make art and how do you make something that’s visually interesting, but keep everybody safe and from getting sick? So that’s how those ideas were born. Because as much as we want to make good art, if it comes at the expense of someone’s health, then we don’t want to do it.”
For Razzmatazz, iDKHOW teamed up with Tim Pagnotta of Sugarcult, who has worked with bands like blink-182, Neon Trees, Walk the Moon, and more. Through his experience with his own band and with producing others, Pagnotta has never been afraid to get unconventional, and that’s something that Weekes has always admired.
For those reasons, the pairing was nearly made in heaven and was bound to be good, if not a little unconventional itself, from the start. The result in Razzmatazz, is exactly that — and then some. Pagnotta’s impact on Razzmatazz was only good things, as Weekes also references to me Pagnotta’s experience in the pop realm that drew him to wanting to work with the producer. “[Pagnotta] has this really great pop foundation and he’s made a lot of really big records. So, working with him seemed like a really good fit — and it was,” he explains.
Continuing on what their working relationship was like, Weekes elaborates further, “He was able to really give us focus on how to carve these ideas out, and also allowed me spaces to get weird with my ideas. Sometimes those weird days and weird experiments, you might get one or two things out fo them and the rest might not work out. But at least, you have answered those questions of ‘What if we tried this?’. So he was really great about letting me pull apart tape machines, play things backwards, and just really get weird with everything.”
As far as further promotion of Razzmatazz goes, obviously live shows and touring are on pause until further notice. However, the doesn’t mean iDKHOW doesn’t have a few tricks up their sleeves. “We’ve collected a few live performances that we did in a studio down in Provo [Utah] called June Audio,” Weekes tells me, before naming a few of the musicians that he brought in: Robert Loud, who has worked with The Killers and Stu Maxfield, who has done some co-writes with Weekes before.
It will be a unique performance for iDKHOW, as Weekes and Seaman have never played with…well, anyone else in this project. It’s always just been the two of them, but they’ve been thinking about it for a while. “It’s something that’s been on our mind for a long time, but due to — whatever the constraints may be, budgetary or scheduling people, adding more musicians is something we’ve always wanted to do. So to be able to do it finally was really fun.”
The immediate future for iDKHOW will be that collection of live performances and finding new ways to engage with their fans. While the future may be cloudy, one thing’s for sure: Razzmatazz is the stunning debut album that everyone wanted and anticipated from the band. And tomorrow, it’s all ours.