Meet Life of Dillon, the Fresh UK Boyband Aiming for the Top
It is not very often you come across a boyband who write and produce their own material - sans co-writers - and play their own instruments. Originally solo, David, Joe and Robert have combined their individual assets and varied musical tastes to form Life Of Dillon, eradicating conventional boy band stereotypes in the process. The UK-based trio arrive equipped with uplifting self-penned lyrics, radio-ready melodies and, most importantly, distinguishable voices to set them apart in an already saturated market.
Having signed to Sony Music imprint Disruptor Records, supported Meghan Trainor on tour across the US and notched up over 20 million plays on Spotify, the band are gearing up for the release of music in their home country. We met for a candid chat to discuss the journey so far, life on the road, new music and their stance on reality TV shows.
How did you first form the band?
David: These two are brothers and have been making music from a young age and I have too. I met Joe in school about eight years ago, and he introduced me to Rob and brought me up to London; we were at boarding school down in Kent. Pretty much from there we just made music. Predominantly we were just trying to produce and write songs and hone our skills and craft. The intention was never to be a band, it was always just to make music and make good songs. It was the music that brought us together. We thought we've got all of these songs, why don't we just be a band? It was very organic and naturally formed.
Joe: I think we were all going through some stuff last year where we had a lot of pressure to go out and get a real job, so we were actually quite desperate. We'd been working as songwriters for a while. We all went to university and when we finished, instead of going and looking for a job, we just went home and made music and tried to pitch it to other people. Me and Dave were doing a lot of writing, pitching to bands in Asia like Korea, Japan and even a few in China, and we were trying to pitch to the big American artists as well.
Joe: Then we started reaching out to management companies and different people, trying to get a bit of help -
David: In a desperate attempt to make some money and do what we love and be comfortable doing what we love. You can't really do that without money.
Joe: At the time we were still living at our parents' house and basically the ultimatum was: make it by the end of summer - this is in July  - or get out and get a real job.
David: I'd been slumming it there for like three years, so there mum was just like, "You know what, David? Time to go." [Laughs].
Joe: So, literally in July, we started reaching out to people. We sent out hundreds of emails. We'd go and look at who's doing good things in the music industry and find out who their managers were and email them.
We got through to someone [Adam Alpert] who we had no idea had signed a deal with Sony for his own record label [Disruptor Records]. It was just perfect timing.
And you're the first signing to Disruptor Records?
David: Yeah, and that was pretty much the only option we had at the time, which is why it came out of America first and which is why we got signed in America because we didn't have anyone interested in our music over here, or we just hadn't met the right people, so we were all for it. Who doesn't think about going to America and being a band and touring and doing all this crazy stuff? We were like, "Absolutely, let's do it!" Adam (owner of Disruptor) is the one guy that we've met that really has done right by us, and everything he's promised, he's delivered. It's really hard to find someone like that in the industry because there are so many people that just talk shit [laughs].
What is each member's role within the band?
David: In a basic format, I play guitar, Joe sings and Rob makes beats, like that's how we met. But now me and Rob do a bit of the production together, and we all kind of write, and Joe does a bit more of the writing and the singing. We all kind of mishmash a bit of everything.
Joe: Yeah, it really depends on the song because the truth is we're all artists as individuals and, like I said, the band just happened [unexpectedly]. For some of the time maybe Robert might start the song and then me and David kind of fit into it or maybe David starts the song. There's one song on the album - I don't know if it's going to end up on the album - but literally we were working so much, making music every day and living it that I started dreaming music. No Joke.
David: [Laughs] I remember he comes down and he's like, "Yo, I've got this melody, and I was in the shower for like 20 minutes, and I've just put some lyrics to it, and it goes like this."
[Joe breaks into song, which David joins in to harmonise, as Rob chuckles in the background].
Joe and David: "Hey, let's go swimming in the ocean, skinny-dipping, on a weekend. I got the magic potion. I know it. You know it."
Joe: It was just really simple like a nursery rhyme.
David: And then we were like, "Okay, let's put some guitars down."
Joe: Yeah, so it just depends. Everybody brings something and, when you bring something, the rest of us work around it.
Who are your musical influences either individually or as a band?
Robert: We all have different tastes. Me as a producer, I was brought up listening to Timbaland and then kind of moved on to Skrillex, Diplo and more electronic kind of stuff.
David: He's the guy at the Chase & Status concert fucking raving hard as f**k!
Robert: I actually kind of broke my leg at a Chase & Status concert once. I was so drunk that night that I didn't even notice. I kept on raving all night.
David: [Laughs] comes home and he's like, "I hurt my foot a little bit."
Robert: Yeah, I didn't sleep well that night. But, yeah, we all have different influences. Joe likes more of The Weeknd, Michael Jackson kind of stuff and David's more guitar and acoustic influenced.
David: I was into the Ed Sheerans and the John Mayers and James Morrison and kind of acoustic and songwriter-driven [music]. When I met these two they were more hip-hop and R&B based, and over the years we've kind of mishmashed our sounds together, which is why you kind of hear a bit of acoustic with the electronic and the R&B. No limitations.
Joe: I think we're just fans of music like years ago maybe we all listened to just one particular type of thing, but today making music for starters and then making it with people that listen to a different kind of music to you - our musical palette has grown, and we've broadened our taste.
As you've been working at this for quite some time, what are your thoughts on shows like X Factor where success is more instantaneous?
Joe: I don't believe it.
David: The thing is, their success might be instantaneous, but also their careers are pretty instantaneous too. They're a flash in the pan, even the winner. Being the winner is probably worse.
Joe: Let me tell you something, who's a star of X Factor? [Pause] Simon Cowell! He's the only one that's there every year! Everyone else comes and goes so that's what I think of X Factor. I think it's a great opportunity for some people, like obviously One Direction have done so well. We just did a show in America, Minneapolis, and Leona Lewis is still touring singing "Bleeding Love", oh my days! But most people are just a flash in the pan.
David: We actually went to an X Factor audition, and we saw the contracts; we saw what they give them. They want you to sign your life away.
Joe: Before you've even stepped on stage they give you this contract-
David: And we didn't do it.
Joe: Most people don't even understand what they're being asked. They just want to get on stage and make a million pounds overnight, and nothing that good happens that quickly for anybody; it just doesn't.
What do you think of the boybands that are currently out, such as 5 Seconds of Summer and One Direction?
David: I actually quite like 5 Seconds of Summer. They can actually play their instruments, and I'm pretty sure they write as well. The kind of more manufactured bands I'm not a fan of personally. A lot of these talents get shadowed by a lot of media, like Justin Bieber for example - everyone thinks is not the world's nicest person - but the guy is so talented. He can play his instruments. He can sing. He can write, and to be honest I'm a fan, especially if it's new music, and I think I'd say the same thing with some of these boybands. I think you have to be good to be in this industry. Like there's no one out there right now that -
Joe: Doesn't work their arse off.
David: Yeah, like we did a bit of touring in the US, and we know how hard it is to be waking up every day in a different city doing these shows, doing the promo and getting by.
Joe: You get a newfound appreciation for people whose music you might not necessarily be into because you know they are working hard to be where they're at. You don't have to like their music; you can still respect what they're doing. David: People like The Vamps have built their online success doing covers and stuff online, and then they kind of got the attention from the labels, and then they got signed and put some songs out, and it's like people forget where they came from. They actually built their fanbase themselves. There's a lot of respect for that, for sure.
What do you think separates you from these bands? What do you bring to the game?
Robert: We write everything ourselves. We produce everything ourselves, engineer everything, record everything. Up to this point nobody has worked on this album other than us, so it's like everything that you hear comes from us. It's not just something that's manufactured in the background by 20 songwriters at a writing camp in LA. We are the music you hear.
David: We'd love people to know that 'cause I feel like there's a lack of real musicianship nowadays, but you can see the ones that are getting through, like the Ed Sheerans and the Adeles of this world - they're the ones that last because they make their music, and they control their future.
Joe: And I think, just really simply, we don't sound like anyone or the other bands out there.
David: What do you think our sound is?
It's really cool that you all write, play instruments and produce your own music; you don't often see that.
David: I think that was out of the need to not have to rely on anybody else. It was so hard, say three or four years ago, when me and Joe weren't so much into the production, and Rob produced, but he had a deal with Sony/ATV, so he was working with other artists, so we found it hard to get Rob's time, so then we started learning to produce a little bit.
Joe: Every producer we'd reach out to it would be like, "Yeah, don't worry fam, I'll be there on Monday", and then they don't show up.
David: No one wants to know you when you're not anybody, and now it's like they're all banging at your door.
Joe: We've made our album; it's done. We're gonna start making album number two. We're writing and collaborating with other people, and we have our own studio, so we can make music all day every day and put out one-offs. Why not? I don't see a reason why not.
So you're going to be collaborating with other writers and producers?
David: We have a bit of time now before things kick-off over here so we've got some time to work with some new artists and stuff, and being on Sony, they can put you in a room with most artists. We wanna get involved with the music community as well 'cause we were kind of plucked out the UK, dropped in the US, did a bit of touring, made a bit of buzz, came back over here, and nobody knows us, and to be honest no one really knows us that well over there either.
If we make a great song out of it and happen to work with another writer or another artist, we're definitely not against putting that on our album.
How would you describe the music you've been working on so far?
David: We like to call it acoustic house. I think every song has an element of an organic acoustic instrument, be it guitar, piano, electric guitar or something that we've played and recorded mixed with electronic music. Generally, it's just feel-good positive music that you might wanna take to the beach with you.
How was it touring America and releasing music over there?
Joe: Well, English accents in America can do wonders.
They were obsessed with your accents?
Joe: Yes! America was a great experience. We really got to see so much of the country, more than most Americans will ever see, and it's a very vast, diverse country. LA is very different to Nashville to New York to Atlanta, so touring was just an amazing experience. We played in front of crowds up to 20,000 people, and it's crazy that the bigger the crowd, the more they respond to you.
David: We're so used to being behind computer screens in our bedrooms making music. To actually be out there face-to-face with someone, playing your music and getting an immediate response from someone who has never heard your music before, and they're shouting, cheering, clapping and going crazy, that's something I never thought we'd get to feel. We had never really performed together that much before six months ago to then going on tour with Meghan Trainor and putting our live show together, and being able to deliver that is awesome.
Joe: It's funny that when they signed us they'd never seen us perform.
David: It was extremely weird. Honestly, we were in New York sitting in Doug Morris' office [Sony Music CEO] at the top of Sony and they're all going nuts about the music, and no one's ever seen us play live. So we were thinking, how is this even happening? But they loved the music so much and all the tracks that we had.
It must have been exciting being on the road with Meghan Trainor.
David: And Charlie Puth as well. That was nuts. We were lucky enough to have a tour bus, and we did something like 16,000 miles by the end of it, over the space of about a month and a half to two months.
Robert: It's crazy 'cause you go to a show, get all your kit out, do the show, pack up, go meet the people, go to the tour bus, sleep, wake up in a new city and then do it all over again.
Joe: It's funny 'cause the people that are there to see you only see you on stage, but they don't see you there hours before you go on stage getting ready, warming up, soundchecking.
David: They see you for like 30-40 minutes.
Joe: And after your show you've then got to go pack all your things up, go sell CDs, go meet the fans. You're so busy, and by the time it's done, they're just going home, and you're going to the next city, so it's definitely a big hustle.
What are some of your favourite tracks or albums from other artists this year, which you've been listening to while on the road?
Robert: The Weeknd's new album is crazy. Disclosure's new album is crazy.
David: Lost Frequencies; he's got some great music.
Robert: Sam Smith; I've been listening to him.
Joe: That Drake and Future album, What A Time To Be Alive. I like that, that good s**t [laughs]. Rae Sremmurd; we listened to them a lot on tour. They'd hype us up before the show.
David: James Bay's album is great. I saw him live about two weeks ago, and it was so good.
Having finished the tour, I saw you went out busking in Covent Garden a few weeks ago; what was that all about?
David: We wanted to get a bit of footage and show that we're English 'cause you can watch [the video for] "Overload" or maybe even "Dreams" and think that we're an American band.
Joe: Americans tend to make things American and we're taking a step back and [saying] actually guys we're English. People need to know that.
Do you have any advice for artists who are in the position you were in a couple of years ago?
David: We always knew what we wanted to be and we never gave up on that. We just had to keep persisting and realise that it is possible to become an artist if you make good music. All you need is one great song and all of a sudden people will listen to what you've got, so keep working on those melodies and those lyrics and get that one great song that's gonna turn people's heads, and then also make sure you've got 10 more to play. Keep persisting!
Joe: Growing up, all my friends would be spending all their money going to clubs, popping bottles, and I'd be spending my money on new software, and we'd be buying equipment for our studio 'cause that's where the passion was, and I don't think that's ever really going to stop. I think if you love something enough, you will succeed at it.
David: What's funny is that we never really socialised in a drinking or a party environment until we got signed, and it was then we started going out clubbing together and drinking together, but prior to that it was always making music for hours and hours and hours.
What do you think you would be doing if you weren't in the band?
David: Joe did Law School, I did Engineering and Rob did Computer Science, but I think we'd all be doing music to some degree.
Joe: I think ultimately I just never wanted to work for anybody else. Why would I do that when someone could be working for me? [Laughs] that was always my thought process. Ultimately, I wanted to be working for myself, and I think with music we get to do that in the best possible way. We're in charge of what we do. No one is telling me to wake up at 7am, and we can do what we love to do.
David: Someone told us, "Find a job that you would do for free and make that your career." Because, at the end of the day, you're gonna have so much more fun doing it, and you're probably gonna earn 10 times more than what you do if you're getting up doing that 9 to 5 and going to the office or whatever it is that you're doing. Do what you love to do; I think that's our kind of thing!
Life of Dillon's debut single, "Overload", is available to buy now.
Interview by Nathan Miller
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