How Toronto Punks Dilly Dally Survived Near-Breakups And Beautiful Mayhem To Ascend To ‘Heaven’

Senior Music Writer
09.13.18

Vanessa Heins

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A breathy miasma. A blood-curdling scream. A stampede of snare drums. An avalanche of guitars. And out of the din, a clarion call: “I feel free, and I want you to find me.” This is how Toronto punk rock band Dilly Dally’s, savage, heart-stopping new album Heaven begins. It’s incredible to think now how close it came to never happening at all.

Dilly Dally were always confident that they’d be rock stars. From the time they were teenagers growing up together outside of Toronto in Newmarket, Ontario, the question between singer Katie Monks and guitarist Liz Ball wasn’t really “if,” but “when.” Bright lights, roaring crowds — it was their destiny.

“I have never really, for better or for worse, had anything in my life other than this band, as far as a career goal,” Monks told me over the phone, when I called her to discuss the process behind the group’s stunning second album. “When me and Liz started playing together, it was like ‘let’s drop out of school and do this!’ And we didn’t even have any songs… I think a lot of people thought we were crazy, you know, for being so confident.”

Their aspirations and their confidence might have appeared misplaced to those who didn’t know them, but Monks and Ball were deadly serious. Eventually, they bought guitars, read tabs and learned how to play, moved into the big city of Toronto, and spent years writing songs in anonymity and performing regular gigs in literal garages. In 2015, the band released their debut album Sore through Buzz Records to widespread critical acclaim. Songs like “Desire,” and “Purple Rage,” which were fueled by Monks’ razor-ragged vocals and a cacophony of discordant guitar melodies and non-solos, touched a nerve within the indie rock world.

“With Dilly Dally… once they started rolling out singles, it was very obvious, very quickly that it was something that a lot of people were really going to connect with,” Buzz Records founder Denholm Whale said. Whale was the promoter of a venue called The Garage that incubated Dilly Dally’s early career. He recognized their talent from nearly the beginning and signed them to his Canadian-based label shortly after he got it rolling. The band is signed to Partisan Records in the States. “Everybody grinds it, but getting that real, natural connection over a very large group of people is something you have to work for most of the time. They got it very quickly just off the music.”

Shortly after Sore dropped, the band — which includes Jimmy Tony on bass and Benjamin Reinhartz on drums — hopped in the van and brought their signature brand of searing rock to the masses. They started out opening for fellow Ontario natives, the critically-adored Sub Pop signed-outfit Metz. “It was like a dream come true because Metz are the gods of the punk scene in Toronto,” Monks noted.

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