There was a simple premise for the track. Dallon Weekes wanted “Leave Me Alone” to sound as if David Bowie, Prince, and Don Henley got into a bar fight. Simple… indeed. Somehow, Weekes, formerly with Panic! at the Disco, along with his musical partner and ex-Falling in Reverse drummer, Ryan Seaman, synthesize this cinematic scenario on a more personal level, biting through lyrics Big Shot, So What / So you want to pretend / You took the money / But the money couldn’t buy a friend.
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The first single off Razzmatazz, out Oct. 16, the latest from Weekes and Seaman’s new project I Don’t Know How But They Found Me (iDKHOW), explores wretched relationships, the polarity within the music industry, and other reflections that need a proper fleshing out.
Addictively percolating around a dysfunctional relationship and all the things one ever wanted to say to someone who wronged them, “Leave Me Alone” is iDKHOW’s glam-fused soundscape, oozing out all the bad stuff. Channeling something slightly bombastic and weaved in subliminal Grace Jones stylings, you can’t help but hear Bowie’s “Fame” guitar jangle and that Talk About It, Talk About It groove of Lipps, Inc.’s 1979 disco hit “Funkytown” moving throughout refrain of They say the devil that you know is better then the devil that you don’t / You’re a big shot here, but nobody else knows.
Shot in Los Angeles in August 2020, the video, directed by Raul Gonzo sees Dallon and Seaman finding their bearings in a sci-fi ’70s landscape. “Making a video in the middle of a pandemic was a challenge,” says Dallon. “We decided to incorporate a lot of things from the state of the world as it is now. Social distancing, sterile isolation… it all seemed to fit with the song’s themes of wanting to quarantine yourself from toxic people and situations.”
Weekes talked about the premise of “Leave Me Alone,” having the freedom to create his own music around his debut with iDKHOW, his disenchantment with the music industry, and finally wrapping his head around this music-making thing.
American Songwriter: Songs will always translate into something specific for the listener. For you, what is “Leave Me Alone” about?
Dallon Weekes: “Leave Me Alone” felt like getting this huge weight off of my shoulders. Songs can often be a weird form of therapy, but for years I have had a lot to say and no way of saying it without negative repercussions. To me, that song is a line in the sand, almost like a warning to anyone who would want to do you harm, whether that’s physical, or verbal, or emotional.
So much can shift in a few years. As an artist, how do you feel you’ve evolved since 2016, when you started iDKHOW?
I feel like having an opportunity to finally be creative without any restrictions has been really liberating. There are no rules in iDKHOW, creatively speaking, so we don’t spend any time trying to chase trends. It’s provided an opportunity to be more experimental while writing and recording.
How are you approaching music differently now, compared to earlier singles like “Modern Day Cain” etc.?
In hindsight, I feel like it took me a minute to find myself and find my own voice again after Panic. When it comes to songs like MDC, I don’t think I had quite rediscovered writing for myself yet. I still like that song, but I feel slightly detached from it now. We have an alternate version of that song we call the ‘slow jam’ version that feels a lot more like me. So I try to approach things more personally now.
When did you start writing the “Leave Me Alone” and the rest of the album, and when was it recorded?
That song got started a couple weeks before we went into the studio to make the album. I began the demo at my kitchen table and took the tracks into our producer in February. We ended up using a lot of the synths and sampling that I put together at home, which felt strangely validating. I’m finally starting to get the hang of recording on my own.
How do songs typically come to you? Do you need to be in a specific state or space to write?
I feel like it’s all pretty atypical for me. There’s no one way that a song develops. I try to sit down and force myself to work on ideas, but it never seems to work out that way. I feel like it’s got to come from somewhere else first. Sometimes that inspiration can strike at really inopportune times, but I try to write them down or record them as they come.
Sonically, I get so many vibes, textures from this track—even a hint of Bowie’s “Fame” in that riff. Tell me what your concept was around the album?
I wanted “Leave Me Alone,” in particular, to sound like If Bowie, Prince, and Don Henley got into a bar fight. I feel like for better or for worse I can’t help but wear my influences on my sleeve. Conceptually, it’s mostly a critique of the entertainment business culture—fame, money, loss, isolation—but we’ve wrapped it all up within this fictional narrative, just as a way of adding another layer of entertainment to whomever may want to dive into it. I was always a fan of artists who used similar methods to present their music—Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust or The Beatles with Sgt. Pepper.
Where does “Leave me Alone” fit within the entire threading of the album?
It’s the first track on the record. After we had finished tracking the song, it felt like an opening statement. Usually when you’re in a toxic situation, that phrase “leave me alone” is the last civil thing that gets said before things start to get uncivilized. So I felt like it was a nice way to set up the rest of the album. It’s the line in the sand. The rest of the record is for anyone who feels like stepping over that line.