On Van Halen’s A Different Kind of Truth, David Lee Roth asks the listener an interesting question at a certain point: “when was the last time you did something for the first time?”. That struck a chord when I heard it, and since then I’ve been adamant in trying something different at any given opportunity – new foods, new sports, new countries…new bands! Last Wednesday, on a day when Torontonians began to envisage something remotely similar to summer, I experienced yet another band – one which is completely left-field and unexpected, considering my all-things-metal background. The band is called I Don’t Know How But They Found Me, but you can call them iDKHOW. In case you’re wondering, their name comes from a line on the 80’s film “Back to the Future”.
It’s hard to describe iDKHOW’s sound, but if I was to take a stab at doing so, I’d say it’s a cross between boy band and indie rock. They only have one EP out, entitled 1981 Extended Play in which they unashamedly wear their 80’s influence on their sleeves, so embarking on a headline tour was a risky bet. I came to the show completely unprepared and not knowing what to expect, but kept wondering “How on Earth are they going to fill a one-hour set if they only have five songs ‘officially’ released?” Bear with me and you’ll find out.
I arrived at the gorgeous and very traditional Opera House just as the band was hitting the stage for the first song, “Modern Day Cain”. To my surprise, they’re a duo – a format which was made popular in recent times by bands like White Stripes and Royal Blood. However, unlike these two, iDKHOW does not bet on minimalism or space between instruments, instead opting for pre-recorded guitars, keyboards and eventually a saxophone. Visually and sonically, they have a demeanor that indicates that they’re a lost act from the late ’70s/early ’80s who never quite made it, and now with modern technology made available, they are bringing their sound for today’s generation. Crazy concept, but you can’t blame them from trying. Especially at a time when retro-rock seems to be the ONE THING that can attract the ears of generation Z to a more instrument-oriented type of music.
On songs like “Bleed Magic” and “Absinthe”, Dallon Weekes (vocals, bass) and Ryan Seaman (drums) mix new wave, Weezer and, why not, a bit of the innocence The Beatles’ first years. The rest of the repertoire is filled with songs from The Brobecks, a band which once had both Dallon and Ryan in their ranks, and an interesting choice of covers – more on that later on.
With a cult following this early on in their career, iDKHOW won the crowd even before they played their first note. Dallon’s stage banter speaks to the younger generation – when he introduced “Social Climb” he said “if you ever felt alone in a crowded room, this song is for you. Hands up if you felt out of place or misunderstood when you were a teenager”. At one point of the show he says “the first rule of iDKHOW is no peer pressure”, and many in the crowd seemed to know that already. At a time when the internet has multiplied the corners of information by infinite times ten, it’s no surprise that these guys might be a sensation and end up selling arenas around the world without many of us ever hearing about them.
And now, the covers. “Iggy Pop”, from Hot IQs, fit like a glove into iDKHOW’s repertoire, and got a great response from the crowd. Another interesting choice was Beck’s “Debra”, where Dallon puts his falsetto to the test. And they even found time to include snippets of “I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys and “I Want You To Want Me” by Cheap Trick. There will come a time when their repertoire will be robust enough that covers won’t be necessary, but tonight, their choices sounded more like “hey, look what we can do with these songs”, rather than “we’re desperate to find an hour’s worth of material”.
The highlights of the show were the funky “Do It All the Time”, with the clever line “we’re taking over the world one kiss at a time”, and the cathartic retro number “Choke”, which was appropriately released as a single – it is definitely their most interesting song, with an equally amusing video. Also worth noting is “Visitation of the Ghost”, where all the piped in sounds are muted, allowing the instruments to shine. The proceedings were closed with the cleverly titled “Nobody Likes the Opening Band” and The Brobeck’s vintage-sounding, Coldplay-esque “Boring”.
Moral of the story: their sound may not be for everyone – it is definitely an acquired taste. But credit must be given where credit is due: it’s reassuring and refreshing to see that there are bands out there willing to bring rock to a younger audience. iDKHOW has chops, potential and charm, and if the amount of smiling fans at the end of their set in Toronto is any indication, I have a feeling we will be hearing about this band for a long time.
Modern Day Cain / Bleed Magic / Bike Ride (The Brobecks cover) / Social Climb / Debra (Beck cover) / Iggy Pop (Hot IQs cover) / Anyone I Know (The Brobecks cover) / Absinthe / Do It All the Time / Visitation of the Ghost (The Brobecks cover) (with snippets of “I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys and “I Want You To Want Me” by Cheap Trick) / Choke / Nobody Likes the Opening Band / Boring (The Brobecks cover)