Have you ever just known you could be best friends with someone — if only you got the chance to meet them? Fans of 27-year-old dance music DJ Dillon Francis know the feeling well, thanks to an online persona that makes him approachable when fans run into him in real life.
“A lot of people think that they know me!” Francis tells the Voice. “Like, they’ll see me and they’ll be like, ‘Hey!’ and I’ll think I know them! And they just talk to me like I’m their friend, and then I actually don’t know who the person is at all, and, I mean, they just know me through being on Instagram.”
The Instagram account Francis runs boasts more than 498,000 followers, and is home to personalities he portrays in hotel rooms and other locations from the road — he’s been on tour since his debut album, the twelve-song Money Sucks, Friends Rule, was released in October.
“It’s just me messing around,” Francis says of his character-tropes, who have names like Becky (a stereotypically upper-middle-class, twentysomething white girl) and Treva (a sunglasses-wearing, spoiled Australian teenager with an accent that skews more New Zealand) and Klaud (a fashion critic probably from Central Europe).
“Most of the time it’s just me doing the selfie-camera, and just, like, yelling at myself in a different accent.”
Between Instagram, Twitter (442,000 followers), SoundCloud (4.5 million followers), and Facebook (798,000 followers), he’s in digital communication with more than 6.2 million accounts, a massive audience even with the expected overlap of fans who follow him across platforms. And his audience loves him. It’s not uncommon for a celebrity to rack up tens of thousands of likes for doing something as everyday as playing table tennis, but EDM news blogs have taken to reporting on not just the latest music created by Francis, but on the fifteen-second comedy shorts he produces for Instagram.
The Los Angeles native says he grew up sheltered — he was pretty much only allowed to watch comedies as a kid. “I think during that time Jim Carrey was pretty PG; that was like the main person I was obsessed with when I was younger,” Francis says. “I think that helped a lot with, you know, me just not really caring about what I do and just trying to make people laugh. Because I just enjoy it. It’s one of my favorite things, making people laugh.”
Francis is closing this chapter of his tour with three NYC dates at Terminal 5, January 16–18. He says his success is “insane” for him to process; three short years ago, he was only just beginning his musical journey.
“I just still think it’s amazing that people look into my music and watch my Instagram videos and even wanna go to my shows, ’cause I was just a kid that wanted to play at a small little tiny club — I just wanted to play at [Hollywood event space] Cinespace. That’s how it all started.” It should come as no surprise, then, that his favorite stop on the tour “was of course Los Angeles — ’cause I’m from here.”
Francis likens himself to an artist doing a gallery showing, wanting “to showcase everything I could possibly do…and that’s kind of what I tried to do for [Money Sucks, Friends Rule], was make all the different types of art that I like, in musical terms. Like pop songs, Moombahton, 128 club records, weird Eighties synthpop stuff — it was just everything that I’ve really grown up listening to, I kind of wanted to do in one album.”
If you’re still not sure whether to head out to one of the shows, you should know that alter ego DJ Hanzel is opening for all three performances — factor that in to your decision-making process.
And if you can’t make it? “I’ll film some Instagram videos,” Francis promises. “Don’t worry. You can live vicariously through Instagram.”