For anyone who just happens upon this band without any prior knowledge, there’s a high chance they’ll be wondering what the hell this actually is and why they’re riding so high within the ever-shrinking circle of media coverage. The name is utterly ridiculous for a start, and considering the majority of their material to date has fallen within the narrow range of solid to slightly-below-average, it’s not like I Don’t Know How But They Found Me (hereby referred to by the more manageable contraction IDKHow) are doing anything special. But then you realise that this is actually the band of former Panic! At The Disco bassist Dallon Weekes, which means they’re fully eligible for the sort of nepotism-driven overhyping that the mainstream rock media have developing something of an unattractive penchant for doing. Factor in ex-Falling In Reverse drummer Ryan Seaman, as well as a recent signing to Fearless Records, and IDKHow seem to be a marketer’s dream even before a single note of music has been brought into the equation.
With the music, however, this is actually a decent bit of fun, not breaking the mould for alt-pop by any means, but offering enough spark, wit and – most crucially – catchiness to really hit some kind of mark. There’s definitely the theatricality of Panic! At The Disco that’s been translated over, but Weekes is canny enough in the execution to make this more of its own entity. Take something like the first track proper Choke, for instance, with the saucy bassline and horns that play to a distinctly cabaret-esque atmosphere, but kept a bit more subtle and allowing the buzzing guitars to play more of an active role. It doesn’t always work as well as it could – it’s why Bleed Magic remains the worst track here as a messy Neon Trees cast-off – but the rubbery strut of social climb and the sharp, slightly wonky grooves of Do It All The Time ensure that colour is there more often than it’s not. Alongside alt-pop production that doesn’t exactly make the riffs roar but has enough texture to prevent this from being utterly sterile, 1981 Extended Play rarely suffers from a lot of the inertia that can plague this sub-genre, and gets as much out of its brisk sixteen minutes as it can.
There’s a lot of the mindset in the lyrics too, taking the idea of this being a lost demo from the ‘80s but subverting the expectations of tropes of the pop and rock from that era with a traditional brand of alt-pop snideness. It’s a neat idea that could be executed better in all honesty – while the sideways glances cast towards Hollywood culture on Social Climb and Absinthe are noticeable, they could easily be made a bit more cutting – but there’s an acidity to Weekes’ delivery that’s so refreshing to see in such a naturally placid genre, and the sarcasm that drips from Do It All The Time as the duo take up the role of egocentric rockstars makes for a song that gets better and better with each listen.
It honestly does a lot right for a debut EP, especially when it comes to laying down the groundwork for more to come. It’s not quite enough at this stage to peg IDKHow as an essential new act or anything, but alt-pop and pop-rock could definitely do with more like 1981 Extended Play. It’s snappy and lively enough to stick even on an initial listen, and has enough snark and sass to it to cut away from the genre’s influx of plain-faced nice boys and put IDKHow on course for something a lot more interesting. There’s enough to warrant keeping an eye on this duo; they could go far, hopefully enough to distance themselves from their former bands to stake their own individual claim within the scene.
For fans of: Panic! At The Disco, Neon Trees, Waterparks
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘1981 Extended Play’ by I Don’t Know How But They Found Me is out now on Fearless Records.