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Feature

Dizzy: "I have an unhealthy awareness of death; I almost obsess over it"

Embracing life in their twenties, Dizzy's second album sees them offering up a warm comfort blanket of lovely, lo-fi bops.
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Published: 4:19 pm, July 30, 2020Words: Jamie MacMillan. Photos: Pooneh Ghana.
Dizzy: "I have an unhealthy awareness of death; I almost obsess over it"

Life sure moves fast. It was only a couple of summers ago that Dizzy were unveiling songs of finding yourself in the suburbs on their debut record, of coming of age in that furious rush of life's firsts. All the confusion, the sadness, the joys of an ordinary life in an ordinary town were made extraordinary by the wonder and beauty in the Ontario band's uplifting debut. But those baby teeth that gave the album its title are long gone now. For singer and lyricist Katie Munshaw, it is not about growing up any more. It is about what comes next.

'The Sun And Her Scorch' is another beautiful record, one that casts a suitably warm glow over some of the biggest questions that life can throw at you. But for Katie, it wasn't an easy album to begin writing. Life was almost too calm, it seems. "I felt a little bit lost when we started to write," she starts to explain from her home. "Our first record was a lot about being a teenager, and obviously I'm not that any more. And I'm not experiencing a romantic heartbreak either, you know?"

Rather than try and re-capture the magic of 'Baby Teeth' by treading down the same paths, she forced herself to look further inwards. "It wasn't working, and it didn't feel genuine. But what I realised as an early-20-something person was that there were other ways to break your heart. You can do it yourself." And with that realisation, it all began to slot into place.

From her early admission of "Take me to the roof/I wanna hear the sound of what a broken heart does when I fling it to the ground", the idea of self-heartbreak runs through everything. It is written in the memories of feeling wracked with guilt and regret at the harsh words that can be spoken easily but are hard to forget ('Primrose Hill'), explorations of grief at a friend passing away ('The Magician') or just unending fears of death (erm, the whole album). This isn't a band to shy away from hard truths, instead putting them under the brightest of lights. For Katie, it meant writing about a topic that she has admitted to having a crippling fear of.

"I definitely have an unhealthy awareness of death," she laughs nervously, "I almost obsess over it, especially as I get older and feel my body change physically and visually. It's definitely something that I'm thinking a lot more about." The likes of 'Sunflower' and 'Good And Right' drip with these observations and thoughts, Katie asking "How do you think you'll die?" on the latter before the realisation that "bones will bend and the circle ends". "Sometimes I'm like, am I the only one that's freaking out here?!" she explains today, before adding: "It sometimes feels like I'm barreling towards something, and not something that I'm super happy about, you know? How are we not all just screaming all the time!?"

"How are we not all just screaming all the time!?"
Katie Munshaw

Screaming or not, 'The Sun And Her Scorch' manages to continually turn what could be darkness into moments of light. 'The Magician' turns her grief at a friend passing away into a gorgeous state of wish-fulfilment, or as Katie describes it, a 'defence mechanism'. "It felt strange to open that back up for me, that song is really heavy for me. Having people message me and talking about their own grief stories was really overwhelming, people that knew that friend were also getting in touch…" She pauses, almost audibly putting her thoughts into order. "It feels weird because I think that I'm always worried that I don't ever want to make it seem like 'poor me', you know what I mean? I think what I was writing about was more how I handle grief, and less about the death of my friend. It's how your mind can sometimes play tricks on yourself to make you more comfortable about it."

Just as painful, in a different way, is 'Roman Candles', where she admits to feeling jealous of others in her home town. In many ways, it is a sequel of sorts to the 'life in the suburbs' themes of their debut. "It's like a city here, it has about 150,000 people living here," she explains. "And it's really encouraged to go off to university or college once you've graduated. You know, get an education, get a 9-5 job, buy a house, have a family." This pre-ordained path through life, familiar all around the world, is not one that Katie has followed obviously. "I definitely didn't take that route and it's terrifying!" she laughs. "Songs like 'Roman Candles' are a little about regret, being jealous of my friends and wanting to quit the band. And basically feeling scared about the choices that I HAVE made."

Starkly honest in all her writing, it is clear that it isn't always an easy process. But Katie has noticed a difference in her style between the albums. "I think on 'Baby Teeth', I was always very aware that I was writing a song and I kept trying to make things seem very pretty and maybe poetic?" she explains. "But this time, I was just being more honest and not worrying about what I was saying. And it was a little more freeing this time for sure."

Raving about her inspirations, like just about everyone else with Good Sense on Planet Earth she has nothing but love for one Phoebe Bridgers. "Phoebe just writes about whatever the fuck she's thinking, and it's heartbreaking in its own way. I am really inspired by that." But for someone so in tune with her own feelings, that comes at a price. "I feel like it's cathartic afterwards. Once it's done, it's kind of like, 'oh, so that's what I was feeling'," she admits. "But during the writing period, well I could do without it I'm sure… I feel like I'm pretty in tune with my emotions, and if I'm sad, then I'll just cry. But when the song is done, it does feel maybe like I figured something else out."

Dizzy: "I have an unhealthy awareness of death; I almost obsess over it"
Dizzy: "I have an unhealthy awareness of death; I almost obsess over it"
"I feel like I'm pretty in tune with my emotions"
Katie Munshaw

With the band taking control of nearly the entire process this time around, it is not just the writing that stands out as different and more personal. Evocative and rooted in a place with its descriptions of the Canadian snows, it is lent a warmer tone by the lush production that wrap the moments of heartbreak up in its surrounding glow. Describing the choice to control all aspects of the album themselves as a conscious choice, drummer Charlie Spencer took the lead in production. "We had done the producer thing on the first record, and it was a wonderful experience," she offers. "But I think we felt like we could do it ourselves, and I'm glad we challenged ourselves to do it."

Renting a cottage, jamming until they were ready, and then setting up in a studio in Montreal that she describes as 'like an old church', the songs came together deceptively quickly though Katie laughs as she admits that the band underestimated the sheer amount of work involved in self-production. But no matter the difficulties, Dizzy have drawn out a sense of optimism and at times, almost playfulness, that gently balance the subject matters. Katie is naturally delighted with the finished product. "I like that some of them are masked in fun, pretty production. It adds a sort of eeriness to them? And leaves them a little bit more open to interpretation," she finishes.

The band once described their relationship with their fans as 'a heartbreak club', and this club is still a welcoming one. But the nature of 2020 'And All That' obviously make it harder for a band that thrives so much on their connections. Confessing that it feels abstract to even be releasing a record under these circumstances, Katie is all for new ideas like the series of drive-in gigs across the UK that were announced the day Dork spoke to her. With talk about similar shows in Toronto happening at home, she doesn't hesitate in her response. "I love the idea of drive-in shows. Maybe a month ago, when we were really all in the thick of it, I was so distraught at not playing a show in the whole year. So even the idea that I might maybe play a show to people, even if they are really spread out is very, very exciting!"

With all the general uncertainty around what the coming months may bring however, Katie is concentrating only on the present though she does admit that her thoughts are starting to drift towards writing again. We talk about whether the next album will continue these current themes or touch on 'happier' subjects, laughing as she tries (and fails) to even name a happy album in existence today. Guess we'll all be heartbroken with Dizzy for a while yet then.

Taken from the August issue of Dork. Dizzy's album 'The Sun And Her Scorch' is out 31st July.

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