Dilly Dally’s Katie Monks is explaining her pre-show rituals.
“Me and our bassist [Jimmy] Tony, before we go onstage, we always do these power moves, which is kind of like meditation but more aggressive,” says the lead singer and guitarist. “We add on new power moves as we go.”
Her bandmate and longtime friend, guitarist Liz Ball, chimes in.
“They’ve become more and more aggressive.”
“We need a lot of space to do them,” adds Monks.
If there’s one word that describes the Toronto grunge-pop band’s live show and recently released debut album, Sore, it’s just that — aggressive. Formed in 2009 while Ball and Monks were still in high school, the band cut their teeth playing hole-in-the-wall venues across the city, gaining a reputation for their in-your-face, high-energy sets and the charismatic singer’s throat-shredding howls. After putting out a handful of Bandcamp singles — and scrapping a completed full-length — they solidified the lineup last year with the addition of Tony and drummer Ben Reinhartz, and things began falling into place.
Sitting down at a Toronto café to discuss Sore, it’s clear Monks is the most outspoken of the group, though it’s Reinhartz who offers up an analogy to sum up their feelings on finally having the album out.
“I think it’s kind of like your baby’s first day of school,” he says.
“Yeah,” agrees Monks. “But if it gets bullied, it’ll be able to stand up for itself. We made it tough.”
Recorded at Toronto’s Union Sound Company with producers Josh Korody and Leon Taheny in a whirlwind eleven days, the eleven tracks confidently capture the four-piece’s unflagging intensity, from opening ode-to-lust “Desire” to the scathing “Purple Rage” (Monks’s defiant declaration “You don’t know me” ringing out like a battle cry). At times, the singer screams as if her larynx is going to collapse, but there’s an underlying tenderness to her lyrics. The best example: “Green,” which features the line “I want you naked in my kitchen making me breakfast.” It’s a song Monks wrote at the age of eighteen, before she met Ball, and has grown into an anthem for the band.
“It just feels poignant the way we write. We know right away if an idea is going to translate or not,” says Monks.
“A Dilly Dally song comes together so fast. That’s really telling about the way we work together and how we understand each other as musicians,” adds Reinhartz.
It’s this same sense of friendship that extends to their decision to align themselves with local label Buzz Records, which in recent years has built a reputation for putting out diverse music from some of Toronto’s most exciting new acts (including the Beverleys, Greys, Odonis Odonis, and Weaves).
“I think the fact that all the bands on Buzz are different really speaks loudly about the artistry, and the efforts of the artists on the label to do something different and unique,” says Monks. “We’re just fans of each other,” adds Reinhartz.
So far it’s a call that seems to be paying off. The band has received acclaim from publications including the Guardian, Pitchfork, and NME, and has signed with Brooklyn-based label Partisan Records for American distribution (they’re still with Buzz in Canada). After several high-profile CMJ shows — their second time playing the festival — they’ll head out on their first headlining North American tour, the thought of which they’re only just beginning to digest.
“We’re imagining people coming to our shows and actually knowing the songs. We don’t even know what our fan base looks like!” says Monks. While it’s been a long journey not without setbacks for Dilly Dally, their attitude toward the future is decidedly non-cynical. Adds Ball, “Even though we’ve been doing this for six years, it feels like we’re just getting started.”