On the precipice of the band’s third, self-titled record, Katie Munshaw of Juno Award winning quartet Dizzy has a lot to reflect on. On what is arguably a career-best record to date, the band navigates the challenges of being present in the hyper-visual state of the modern music industry (among other topics, of course). The often-piano-focused Dizzy flows through genres and emotions from the upbeat, irresistable indie-pop of ‘Open Up Wide’, to the more downtrodden, introspective balladry of ‘Are You Sick of Me Yet?’ Calling in from Toronto, Katie and I had an insightful chat about the band’s journey navigating all of the above. Read on, and don’t miss the band’s new record, out today via Communion Records.
Due to a time constraint, the following interview has been transcribed and edited by Lucas Garrett. Some sections have been truncated for clarity.
TF: Before we dive in, congrats on the new record that’s coming out in a few days!
KM: Thank you!
TF: How’re you feeling leading up to release day?
KM: I’m feeling pretty fine. A bit anxious; ready to just have it out in the world and give it away to somebody else. I feel like I don’t need it anymore. They’re old stories and there’s new troubles for me to worry about.
TF: How long have you been working on this one?
KM: We started writing in 2020; we were on tour in the U.K. and had just put out our second album. We were stuck at home, so we were like, “I guess we’ll start writing the third one.” We finished in November of last year, so it’s been a while.
TF: Yeah, that’s always – as a musician – so fascinating to me how, by the time you write a record and release it to other people, those stories are all a couple years old and your mind is onto the next thing. But you still have to rehash them, performing them live and releasing the record. Are you one of those people who is already working on the next record in your head?
KM: Not so much. I’ve definitely been working on the visuals [for this one] for a while. I finished working on them early this year. I’ve just been chilling and enjoying the work that we’ve done. But I definitely need to start writing. I’ve been talking to my drummer, Charlie (Spencer) – I feel ready and inspired to start writing.
TF: One thing at a time, right?
KM: Yeah, haha.
TF: Being your third record, I feel like that’s a pivotal one. Did you guys feel any pressures and anxieties going into it, or was it more, “We’ve done this twice, now. We know what we’re doing. Everything is hunky-dory.”?
KM: For sure we knew what we were doing. The first record, we didn’t even know we were making a record when we made it. We were a band that was just playing shows, and somehow, somebody at our label saw us when we played a show in Toronto. They were like, “Do you have an album?” We were like, “I guess!” We had songs that we played, and they were the first songs we’d ever written. That ended up being the first album. With the second album, we wanted to do it all ourselves so that was a headache in its own right in that I feel like we really beat it to death and didn’t know when to stop. I think we just wanted to make sure it was perfect and in doing that, might’ve overworked it a bit.
With this album, it felt like I’d seen both sides of the spectrum of writing a record – undercooked and overcooked songs – and this time, we wanted to be really precise with the way we made the record. So, we knew that we didn’t want to do it all by ourselves. We enlisted our producer… anyway, this album is the most precisely written and produced record that we’ve made.
TF: I love the way you just described that – it’s so true that you start off and you’re finding your footing, so-to-speak. Eventually, you get to a point where you want to take on everything yourself and there’s obviously huge pros to that. I’ve found you’re not under that time crunch, necessarily, but that’s not always a good thing because you can just fall down that rabbit hole.
KM: Totally, when you don’t have somebody reining you in. Especially us. We can get so easily distracted; it’s not always great.
TF: One of the things that really drew me to this record and your story was how you as an artist and songwriter were battling some disillusionment with the music industry. As a songwriter myself, I’ve been feeling that a ton more than ever. This climate is tough to navigate and can really easily beat you down. I thought it’d be interesting to have a conversation about that. I guess first and foremost, what is your overall take and feelings on where we are right now?
KM: I feel like I could talk for a long time about this topic! Particularly right now, I’ve been feeling super drained and burnt out with social media. I hate being a musician that complains about it, because there are people who have real jobs that are… all jobs are hard in their own way. As somebody who is particularly quite sensitive and introverted – and that is why I became a musician – posting on social media every day is a struggle for sure. You know when you go out with your friends and you drink a little too much, and then the next day you’re like, “Oh, god, what did I say?” You think about all the dumb things and how you acted. That’s exactly social media, for me. Or, even playing a show. The next day is always a hangover. That’s how I’ve been struggling recently.
TF: As musicians, we’re expected to wear so many hats now, and “social media manager” is such a key one. If you’re not constantly pumping out content whether it’s pictures, or video clips, or whatever, it’s almost like you don’t exist.
TF: Not to wax poetic or anything, but back in the day, it was so much easier to write music for the sake of writing music. Getting the word out was admittedly tougher, but now, to your point, it’s the draining aspect of posting all the time, then wondering, “Did I say the right things? Did I use the right hashtags?” Et cetera.
KM: Totally. I feel all those things. At the same time, I also feel like TikTok, and social media in general, is such a good tool. The angel and devil on my shoulders. When it works, it works great. I found a lot of my favorite new artists from TikTok. I think it’s worth it in the end, and we’re very lucky to live in a time where we can reach the masses, but it’s also tough on the heart for sure.
TF: It’s arguably easier than ever to reach so many people if you crack the code. Do you feel like you’ve found some sort of key to unlock that code?
KM: No. I haven’t had any viral things unfortunately. I think, for me, the way I’m trying to keep sane is to treat it as a personal diary. I was a big Tumblr girl when I was younger. So I treat it in a way that is genuine. I feel listeners and followers can sniff out a fake feeling on an account. I just try to stay as genuine as possible.
TF: I know one of the things in particular that was top of mind for you as you were writing this album was the hyper-visual aspect of being an artist. I know at least a couple songs on the new record cover that. Talk to me about how you explore those themes. For example, the cover, all of your promo photos are very purposefully you disguising yourself.
KM: That was a decision that we made after the record was written and it was time to start talking about visuals. My friend Ryan, who does all our visuals, jokingly said, “Why don’t you just wear a fucking mask?” I was like, “Oh, that’d be sick! That’d be tight if I could do that.” This whole record has been about making my own decisions as an artist and feeling confident. That is what I want to do, and I want to decide when I will show my face and when I won’t.
Then, the mask turned into this character of confidence. It’s a theme of the record, really. But the idea – it goes along with exactly what we were just saying with social media – when I signed up to be a musician at 18, when we started making music as a band, I was and still am a very introverted person. It’s a coping mechanism, I guess.
TF: How did you start?
KM: I met my drummer, Charlie (Spencer), and we started making music together when we were 18. The band, Dizzy, started in 2018 and then our first record came out.
TF: Something else that you touch upon as well is this notion of “commercial success”, which I think means different things to different folks. That goal post has seemed to move pretty quickly in terms of what is attainable, or what the word even means anymore. What would you deem success to be?
KM: I feel I have to remind myself every once in a while, that we have achieved some amount of success, because you’re right: the goal post keeps changing. You see similar bands to you with bigger stream numbers or bigger follower numbers. Success, to me, is creating music you like and haven’t compromised on, at all, which is what we have maintained and I feel comfortable with. And, being able to pay my rent. Haha. I think that’s all I ever will want. Of course, as we get older, some of our band members want to start families and buy homes. Stuff like that. I think that will be the new goal post of success for this band: the music growing with us.
Music, to us – of course it means so much – but it is not everything. Our families are the first thing in our lives and priorities, and happiness. As long as the music is helping us maintain happiness, that is absolutely success to me.
TF: It’s so easy to fall into that trap of religiously watching the streaming numbers and follower counts and so on. “I can do better. I can get a little bit more, a little bit more…” That, to me, is such a hard measure of success right now to wrap your head around. But then there’s the more intangible things as you said, and as artists, you almost gotta remind yourself of why you’re doing it.
KM: Oh yeah.
TF: So, what keeps you going? What keeps you pushing through all of this noise and all of this bullshit to keep going through the process of making records, touring on them, and chasing the dream?
KM: It’s hard when you’re living up to an album. Everything about the album, if you’re not touring, is online and that is very draining like I was saying. Even today, I’m at my place and the guys are in the next room. We’re rehearsing. It’s a day when we’re all together in the same room fucking around and being goofballs. We’re playing the music we feel really proud of, and haven’t compromised on – at all. That is what helps me get through all the other tough shit. Remembering the love for the music.
Dizzy’s fantastic new record is out today on all major streaming platforms.