“When Did Cheesy Become a Bad Thing?” Dylarama Talks Love Songs and His New EP

Photo creditSimon Loisir

When Montreal musician, DJ, and blogger Mathias Pageau released his first EP under his Dylarama moniker back in 2018, the world was obviously entirely different from the last several months of our lives. So much so that the origin of his second EP Parle-moi de ça (out August 7 on Lisbon Lux Records), were his travels across North America, where new experiences and perspectives unlocked a wellspring of creativity. Even with so much of our lives having changed, the power of a songwriter scratching beneath the surface to turn their personal experience into a universal one remains the same. That said, Dylarama doesn’t take himself too seriously either - look no further than the multitude of cats surrounding the artist on the cover of Parle-moi de ça. CJLO interviewed Dylarama about his new EP, love songs, and missing his cat.

Parle-moi de ça is described as an intimate, straightforward EP, written in a universal language addressing desire, regret and romantic dialogue. When you were writing these songs, were you thinking of writing explicitly with a larger audience in mind, or was that not a factor, and it was more a hope that people could relate their own experiences to your lyrics?

It’s hard for me to write with an audience in mind. In the early stages, thinking of someone listening to my song would be like thinking of someone reading my diary as I’m writing in it. I try to write the songs I’d like to hear, and I relate to straight-forward (read: dumb) songs about naive emotions, mumblecore nonsense, etc. There’s also a nuts-and-bolts aspect to it. When I write, I have a bunch of melodies on one side, notebooks filled with bad ideas for songs on the other, and I’m putting them together hoping I get something done that day. It’s not very romantic, but most professional songwriters I’ve spoken to work that way, even the good ones.

The genesis of Parle-moi de ça is your travels throughout North America in the last couple of years, whether they be cafes in Mexico or hotel rooms in Los Angeles. Do you think you could have only written these songs during your travels? Would you not have had the same lyrical frame of mind if you wrote them in Montreal?

I could’ve had the same frame of mind, but I wouldn’t have found the motivation to write them there. I needed to experience something different. Is it sharks that need to move to stay alive? I guess I’m like a shark that way. I need to see new places, meet new people, have different circumstances. Travel gave me the perspective, but the answer was inside me all along, or whatever.

After having released two EPs in a row, do you see an album on the horizon, or will you stick with the EP format for releasing your next set of music? Is there something about the EP format that you find is advantageous over crafting LPs?

An EP is more immediate. You have less of a chance to overthink everything; you just find a couple songs that fit together and kick them out into the world, see what sticks. The less ambitious and definitive a project is, the more fun and stimulating it is to me.

Comme des dominos is the most purely pop song on the EP, with a sugary-sweet 80’s pop arrangement and the lovely sentiment that tout est possible avec elle." At its core, what is it that makes a perfect pop song to you?    

Ironically, the things that make a good love song are also the things that make a bad relationship. Explosive emotions, passion, insecurity, codependency. We all go to therapy to outgrow those things, yet we like to experience them in the safe, abstract space of a pop song. Why would someone write an even-keeled love song? Where’s the fun in that?

Similarly, what do you think is the key to writing a good love song one that is romantic without being too over the top or cheesy (or is there indeed a place sometimes for cheesy love songs)?

Oh, the cheesier the better. When did cheesy become a bad thing, by the way? The cheese is the best part! (Cue in the Seinfeld theme.) Why? Do you want your song to be breadier? Who’s the best guy in a group? It’s the Big Cheese! etc.

COVID-19 has obviously wreaked havoc on our lives, but are there any music or non-music related trends popularized during the pandemic that you hope continue once this is all over?

There was this brief period where it felt like we were all in this together. There was this feeling of community, of compassion. We were banging on pots for essential workers and calling each other up to make sure we were holding on. I wish we could’ve stayed like that a little longer.

As someone who also writes about music for a living and is a DJ, I imagine the current pandemic has given you plenty of time to sink into new releases and old classics. Are there any notable discoveries youve had that you’d like to share? Alternatively, has the pandemic led you back to your past favourites instead?

There is so much good music coming out right now, I don’t take the time to go back and listen to old stuff as much as I should. Still, there is one album that I totally overlooked, and I’ve been really into lately. It’s Untrue, by Burial. When it came out, the subtleties of this masterpiece whizzed right over my head. It sounded like a bunch of rain ambiance and muffled drums to me. I watched a short YouTube documentary about the album recently and I realized a lot of the artists I’ve been obsessed with in the past decade are probably inspired by Burial. Anyone from Caribou to The Weeknd, to lo-fi house producers like DJ Boring and Computer Data.

To end on a lighter note, that’s a lot of cats on the cover [taken by Simon Loisir] of Parle-moi de ça! What was the inspiration behind the artwork, and are you a cat person at heart?

Long story short, leaving Montreal also meant leaving a cat behind. I think about him around 20-30 times a day, no exaggeration. What is he doing? Does he still think about me? What would we be doing right now if I had never left? Would he sit on my lap and do that thing where he curls up his paws under his chest like a pretzel? I’m starting to think he was the one true love of my life.

Parle-moi de ça is out on August 7 (Lisbon Lux Records).

Alex Viger-Collins is the host of Ashes to Ashes, your weekly dose of modern pop, every Tuesday at 8:00 PM EST.