Remember when Canada used to be a musical punchline? Back in the '90s and early aughts, our neighbors to the north were best known for Alanis Morissette, Celine Dion, and Bryan Adams. But soon indie darlings like Arcade Fire and The New Pornographers would change that perception of Canada as the Land of Adult Contemporary Stars.
Over the last 20 years, the Great White North has unleashed a flood of amazing music across a wide range of genres and styles. But one of the things that Canadians have shown a real knack for is producing bands that fuse the best aspects of punk and indie rock, music with indelible hooks that isn’t afraid to be noisy and fierce.
One of the bands that best exemplifies this approach is Toronto’s Dilly Dally. Alongside fellow Canadian rockers like PUP and Single Mothers, Dilly Dally create a sound that is catchy and barbed — their hooks draw blood.
Dilly Dally consist of Katie Monks (singer/guitarist), Liz Ball (guitar), Jimmy Tony (bass), and Benjamin Reinhartz (drums). Monks’ voice is the band’s deadliest weapon. She sings with wild, throat-shredding abandon, and she serves as an a heir to the lineage of punk banshee singers like Poly Styrene and Live Through This-era Courtney Love. These women were unafraid to put as much emotion and power into a slurred moan or whisper as they would a bone-rattling shriek, and Monks is much the same.
The band sound confident and fully formed on their 2015 debut album, Sore, which snagged nominations for the Juno Award and Polaris Music Prize, two of Canada’s most prestigious music awards. On songs like “Desire” and “The Touch,” you can hear what makes the band so compelling. Ball and Monks’ guitar parts nimbly interlock and joust each other alongside Tony’s melodic lines and the hard snap of Reinhartz' drums. Monks’ vocals sound like she’s trying to crack open each line like they’re bones and suck the marrow out of them.
It’s only fitting that Dilly Dally sound like punky conquering heroes on their debut. Both Monks and Ball got matching Dilly Dally tattoos before starting the band, pledging that they would be the best band in their city. But that kind of unity and self-assuredness is hard to maintain, and Dilly Dally almost came apart at the seams after Sore came out.
A combination of personal tragedies and touring stress almost dissolved the band, but they were able to stick together through it and come back strong with their latest album, 2018’s Heaven. The new record pushes Dilly Dally’s sound to new extremes, adding metallic and dreamy textures to their feral style. It also influenced the band’s visual style, with Monks adopting a now-iconic blonde Louise Brooks bob haircut.
“I think that’s why the aesthetic for the band changed slightly, because I think we just felt like if were going to continue, it had to be in a different way,” Monks says.
The color choice of her new hair is significant because it harks back to the making of their new record. Monks wrote most of the songs while working in a room painted completely white. She also used angel cards for inspiration, embracing a kind of “DIY spirituality” that would seem to be at odds with her band’s turbulent, hard-edged sound. According to Monks, that white room helped her reset herself and start over after the band’s rough patch.
“It felt like a blank page,” Monks says. “I think sometimes the greatest way to heal is to just mark a new chapter and go, okay, I have a fresh beginning now. Through the process of scribbling all over this theoretical blank piece of paper — the beginnings of songs that ended up on the album — it became a very healing process because you’re creating this new dream life for yourself.”
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