Dizzy’s Katie Munshaw talks to Atwood Magazine about the band’s beginnings, the discovery of their sound, and what it means to finally have a debut album out in the world.
Dizzy’s debut album, Baby Teeth (released on Royal Mountain Records on 8/17/2018), opens with the following lines:
Found you in the bedroom
Vacant, set in gloom
Jamming all your fingertips into all your wounds
Baby it’s a dog day
Don’t you let it rule
Cause I could hold your whole weight
If you’d ask me to
Vocalist Katie Munshaw’s voice floats among ethereal synths and a delicate guitar as she makes poetry out of finding a loved one in need. The vivid imagery found in “Stars and Moons”, Dizzy’s debut single and album opener, is one of the band’s prevalent characteristics. The Oshawa band, completed by siblings Mackenzie, Charlie, and Alex Spencer, talks about adolescence and coming of age from a point of view that’s equally as romantic as it is mature. They long for the easier days and reflect over lessons learned through heartbreak and pain while they float in the interim between their teenage years and adulthood.
There’s an elusive and enchanting quality to their music. The monotony of a suburban upbringing is suddenly made incredibly interesting, loss becomes a lesson, and youth is examined from a distance. Comparisons to the last pop teenage prodigy Lorde are inevitable and absolutely justified.
And that’s not the best thing about Baby Teeth. Dizzy’s debut body of work inevitably leaves one impressed and infatuated with the band’s wisdom and skill, but more than that, it lays an incredibly strong foundation for Dizzy to build upon from this moment on. It’s one of those albums that makes you thirsty for more, and converts one from casual listener to fan in only one listen.
Atwood Magazine talked to singer and songwriter Katie Munshaw about one of Canada’s most exciting bands today. She dives into her first experiences as a songwriter, the band’s roots and evolution, how they found their sound, and what it means to have a debut album out in the world.
Listen: Baby Teeth – Dizzy
A CONVERSATION WITH DIZZY
Atwood Magazine: Hi Katie!
Katie Munshaw: Hey! How’s it going?
I’m good, how are you?
Katie: I’m great!
How was the record store show you played on Friday?
Katie: It was great. A handful of people came out, a lot more than we expected. It was cute, it was a little acoustic session, it was fun.
Congratulations on the album release!
Katie: Thank you! Yeah, we’re so happy this is finally out. Feels good.
I was going to ask, I know you’ve been sitting on this for a few years now, how does it feel to have it out in the world?
Katie: It’s a relief. Yeah, we’ve been sitting on it for a while, we’ve been playing these songs for almost two years. They almost feel new again now that people are hearing them and they’re giving us feedback. They feel new again for sure.
I feel like songs have three different life cycles. How they are when you write them, what they turn into when recorded, and what they become once people receive and react to them.
Katie: Yeah, absolutely.
How did you get involved with Royal Mountain? It’s such a cool record label and it’s awesome that you’re on their roster.
Katie: We are from Oshawa and about a year after we formed a band we decided to start playing in Toronto, that’s kind of the main goal for people in the GTA. If you’re a band, it’s to get down to Toronto and play. I think it was our second show, we were playing at a place called The Drake Hotel, and people from the label ended up being there, we met them and it ended up being a really, really good fit. They just liked our music (laughs).
I just feel like they have a very good ear and are great at fostering new acts, like the people who will actually be the future of music.
Katie: Yeah, yeah, I agree.
I know that you haven’t been a band for that long, how many years?
Katie: I’d say 3 or 4? We were under a different name for about a year, but as Dizzy about three or four years.
And yet I feel like your songwriting is so mature, especially this being your first album. So how and when did you start writing songs?
Kaitie: My elementary school had a songwriting program that I went to, so I started at about grade 6. From there, I stopped writing when I got into high school. I liked reading a lot, but wasn’t that into writing, I got into sports. Then after high school I was going to go away to school and Charlie said “If you’re not sure, lets take a year off and try this music thing” and that’s really when I started writing again, after high school. I had all these stories that I had experienced in high school that I hadn’t really told. That’s why a lot of the songs are about being in your teens and being in high school (laughs).
Do you feel like you got to get some closure with the events that you wrote about because you wrote them after the fact, or you got to understand them differently?
Katie: Closure, sure. Like I said, I wrote them a little while after so for sure, definitely a little bit of closure for a couple songs…
Katie: (laughs) “Joshua”! Definitely, absolutely.
We’re going to get into that in a little bit. That song completely broke me when I first listened to it, and then I couldn’t stop listening and I was like “Is this a good or a bad thing that I can’t stop listening to it?”
Katie: Aww! That’s so good to hear!
I texted so many of my friends like “This is the saddest song in existence but please listen to it, it’s beautiful, it’s breaking me.”
Katie: Aww! Thank you! (laughs) So glad to hear that! That I broke you! (laughs).
It’s a good thing when you can get some sort of emotional reaction from people.
Katie: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Your band started as a duo with Charlie, and you brought in the other two boys, Alex and Mackenzie, later. What do you think each of you brings to the band?
Katie: Our sound changed a lot from when it was just Charlie and I. We were kind of a folk duo, and when Mack and Alex came, that’s when we incorporated more of an electronic sound. Alex’s guitar is unmistakeable, the way he plays, there’s a whole flair to it itself, I think that’s what he brought. Mack has a great melodic ear. Just different textures.
Is what you have today the sound that you were always striving for and maybe didn’t know you wanted?
Katie: For sure, definitely. I don’t think we really knew what we were searching for soundwise. We only came across the electronic sound that we have because when we went out to play shows, we had such a small car that we couldn’t fit our drum kit in it (laughs) so we had to have electronic drums to get to our gigs. Then we started getting inspired by a lot of bands that were doing that electro-pop vibe like Oh Wonder, Glass Animals, those kinds of bands. It kind of worked out in our favour (laughs).
I wanted to talk about the opening track of Baby Teeth, “Stars and Moons”. It’s very good at getting you into the specific mood of the album, it’s a very strong opener. What is it about, and why did you decide to open the album with it?
Katie: It was actually the first single we released as well. I agree, I think it’s a good first taste. I think the lyrics are one of the strongest on the record, and I wanted to open with a good first line. It’s a good first taste of our music. “Stars and Moons” is about falling in love even when relationships in your life are simultaneously falling apart and trusting that it’s a good idea to get in a relationship.
On the topic of stars and moons: if you could choose a space object to represent the album, which one would it be?
Katie: A space object. I’m with Charlie now (talks to Charlie) What space object would the album be? I feel like the moon. Not the Earth moon? The moon of Jupiter, one of Jupiter’s moons. That’s our answer.
You mention a lot of colours in your lyrics. Only a few examples are purple, baby blue, jade, red. Are colours symbolic for you?
Katie: Yeah! I’m trying to think of when I used colours. I think it’s something that comes to me. “Calico has purple hands and purple feet” is just when you get cold, your hands get red or purple. It’s pretty literal I’d say, not super symbolic.
But, if you could choose one colour to describe the record?
Katie: Definitely purple. It’s the theme throughout the single art and the album art is a purple-y blue.
So, now onto “Joshua”. What was it like to make that song?
Katie: I wrote “Joshua” about two years after the fact. Charlie had sent me a couple chords and a little bit of that melody, at first I was like “I need to write to this” and the first line I got was “Joshua’s a gemini” and I knew I had to pair that story with that song. A lot of closure in that song. It was a very different song before we went into the studio with our producer Damian, he encouraged me to dig a bit deeper so a lot of the lyrics in that song were written in Montreal in parks or long walks. It’s a lot of reflection and a lot of closure.
Watch: “Joshua” – Dizzy
And how does it feel having it out?
Katie: (laughs) It’s a little scary. I don’t regret putting it out, for sure, not at all (laughs).
I feel like you just got a lot of people on your camp after you released that song. I watched the music video with a friend of mine, and after it was over we were both like “Who the fuck is Joshua? We have to find him.”
Katie: I feel like that’s kind of a communal experience, especially at shows. As soon as I say the first line, a lot of people are on my side like “Fuck Joshua!” (laughs). It’s kind of this cool experience we get to share together.
It’s really bold to name the song after him but you know… Oh, well.
Katie: Yeah, well…
He got what he deserved, I hope he learned. And you got a great song out of it, so who’s winning?
Katie: Yeah, yeah right!
But if you could choose a famous fictional couple to represent the relationship in “Joshua”, who would it be?
Katie: That’s a tough one. Maybe the ones in You’ve Got Mail? I’d say You’ve Got Mail.
The music videos for “Swim” and “Joshua” are very different, and each is beautiful in its own way. What was the process of coming up with the treatments, filming them, what did you want to convey?
Katie: “Swim” was a last minute video. We had filmed another one and it didn’t work out, the vibe wasn’t right, so we called up our friend Ryan Faist and he just came together with that really quickly. It was a lot of fun, it was a good way to introduce us to our audience and what our live set is like, with a lot of dancing and again, the purple-y colours, purple-y, pinkies. And for “Joshua” we paired up with Ryan again, and I wanted to show somebody going through the experience of a breakup and how over time you can get better, through the seasons. He ran with that idea and we found some house in Hamilton, Ontario, and we found a great actor, her name’s Kalyna… and that’s that one!
Watch: “Swim” – Dizzy
There’s a line on “Pirouette” that really sticks out to me. It’s “If there’s no heaven, then we’re dancing”. What are you referring to in it?
Katie: So that song’s about a friend of mine who passed away. That line’s specifically about like, if there’s no heaven we’re still going to hang out when I pass away as well and we’re going to dance together and have a great time. It sounds like a very sad song but it’s actually a hopeful, optimistic one.
It’s a beautiful tribute.
If you could choose one lyric from the album to encompass the whole album, which would it be?
Katie: Ohh this one just came right to me. It’s “There’s a bitterness and a mellow sting/ It was always in vain”, that’s from “Joshua”.
The cover art for album shows you floating into the distance. It really reflects the theme of the album because it’s in the suburbs and grounded in reality but there’s also this out-worldly quality to your music. How did you choose that?
Katie: The original idea was just to have us standing on the street. We thought it might be cool to have us floating, like you said there’s a lot of dreaminess to the record, it’s a dream-like effect. The idea that we rested upon was us ascending out of suburbia, out of this coming of age that we went through. And the back of the record is a bird’s eye view from our city.
You’ve probably written a bit since you finished writing the album. How do you think your sound and songwriting has evolved from then to now?
Katie: We actually haven’t written that much. We did, but we took a little break after we recorded, we played a lot, and we’re just now getting back into it. I think we’re trying to stray away from verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, big chorus – the pop formula – we’re trying to stray away from that. Lyrically I’m being inspired by a lot of different artists that I’m listening to now, my lyrics are definitely changing, I think they’re a bit more honest, and the stories are different. A lot of the songs on Baby Teeth are about partying and high school, the stories are a lot different.
Are you excited to start releasing your new music?
Katie: Yeah, definitely! Like I said, we’ve been with these songs for so long. Even though they’re starting to feel new again because people are hearing them, I feel like we have a lot more to share.
How does your sound translate to a live setting? I’m very curious to see what you’re like live, because your music is just this whole vibe and it’s not moshy, I feel like it must be transcendental.
Katie: That’s what we’re trying for, for sure! I think it depends on the crowd. I like to talk a bit about a couple songs, I like to dance as much as I can even though some of the songs you can’t really dance to (laughs). I do like to dance. Fun, I don’t know!
Are you touring soon?
Katie: Yeah! We’re doing a little bit of Europe in September, then through the States in October and then Canada in November, and then hopefully a lot more touring in the new year.
You have a very specific sound, it’s atmospheric, it’s pop-leaning, it’s dark and nostalgic. if you could choose a few emotions to describe your sound as, what would they be?
Katie: That’s hard. I’d say hopefulness, probably. I think that’s the main one. Each song, if it’s angry or sad or nostalgic, it feels like there’s a bit of hopefulness and that things will get better. That’s a common theme between each song.
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