Interview: Dylarama


Under the name Dylarama, Mathias Pageau writes pop songs made from a collage of disparate styles that nevertheless blend naturally together.  The beginning of 2018 started off with a bang for Dylarama, with the release of his first EP for Lisbon Lux Records, entitled Certified Cutie, and the chance to perform in Paris with label-mates Paupière.  Dylarama kindly took the time to talk with CJLO about the roots of the project, filming a music video in New York City on two iPhones, and the dream of having his own clothing line.

Q: Certified Cutie is your first EP for Lisbon Lux Records, but you released an EP under the Dylarama moniker in 2015, titled Caught Dead, that harkens back more to the DJ roots of the Dylarama project.  What were the factors that led to the shift from remixing and breakbeat music to the pop songs you make today?

A: Basically, before making the EP in 2015 I was a song-writer for 10 years under another moniker [Mathias Mental], so for me at first Dylarama was a way to completely ignore everything I learned as a song-writer, everything from production to composing to arrangements, and give myself permission to use samples I didn’t have to write [in order] to make instrumental music.  That was really fun for me and really liberating as a musician, so when it came time to come back to a more [traditional] songwriter approach, I decided to remove my old moniker and to keep the Dylarama moniker [and] include or integrate all the things I had learned while making the first EP in 2015.

Q: For the new EP you had Jean-Nicolas Doss of Wizaard as producer and collaborator.  How did that partnership come about?

A: Very simply actually, when I signed with Lisbon Lux Records [both the label and I] came to the conclusion that I needed to work with a producer.  I think on my part I needed that because I still have that songwriter state of mind; when I produce or write music it sounds way more linear.  I felt like for Dylarama I needed it to be more all over the place, so if a producer could help me get there I’d have a more eclectic record.  We just started naming names and listening to music on the label, and Jean-Nicolas’ name came up really quickly.  I was a big fan of Wizaard, and he had done a remix for another Lisbon Lux Records signee, Le Couleur.  I just called him, asked if he was free, and we started working [together].

Q: Maybe it’s a bit early to ask, but do you see yourself collaborating with Jean-Nicolas on future material?

A: Actually, I would love that, but at the same time I know for him the project was a big undertaking.  We had so much fun together and we became really, really good friends to this day, but on his part the project was such an undertaking with his own music that I don’t know if he’d have the time to continue producing for me [laughs].  Definitely he’ll be part of future material in a way or another, but I’m not sure if he’ll be producing everything from A to Z like on the EP.

Q: Do you see yourself then with the Dylarama project collaborating with more artists, either in Montreal or perhaps abroad, or are you going to make it more of a solo undertaking?

A: Actually, I think there’s a paradigm right now when you’re a musician that you need to do everything yourself and you need to play an instrument.  Especially now with laptops, computers, and multi-tracking, it’s very easy playing everything from A to Z.  Some of the artists that really inspired me do that, like Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, but I still feel like it’s not really something I want to do personally.  First of all, my musicianship is limited, and second of all, I think a big part of the meaning of life is collaborating and meeting people and [having] social interactions, so locking myself in a studio for 11 months I don’t think is really the way I want to live my life [laughs].  So, to answer your question, I would really like to collaborate with someone else and find another producer.  I don’t know if it would be locally or abroad, but if anyone’s listening and works to work with me, contact me [laughs].

Q: I want to ask the inverse then: Do you see yourself producing for other artists, helping them with their own projects?

A: Well, I did in the past, maybe most notably by a Montreal band called Choses Sauvages. I produced their last EP [Japanese Jazz], [and] it was really fun doing that and hanging out with those guys.  As with Jean-Nicolas with me, I realize producing for other people is a really big undertaking, so I don’t know if I’d say I’ll never produce for anyone else, but if I ever did it would be more in a position where I’d be in the studio calling some of the shots, but not doing everything from arrangements to manning the board.

Q: Along with being a musician you’re a writer with lifestyle website Ton Barbier, and I want to know if being a writer who digests so much various music and pop culture is what’s behind the eclectic nature of your music?

A: That’s a good question.  I’m also a writer for Exclaim! – I do album reviews and show reviews.  Some people start as musicians and they become music fans, but I’m totally the opposite.  I was a music nerd from when I was a teen, and I really listen to a lot of music and have a lot of influences, and really thought about what kind of music I wanted to make before I even started making music.  As I blogger, I think it’s just a logical evolution of that whole process.  I definitely think it helps to have all those influences that you can hear in my music.


Q: Considering the eclectic nature of your music and how it goes in so many different places, whether it’s the melancholic funk of “Chantal” or the lackadaisical vibe of “Saison estivale,” do you see genre as limiting at this point?

A: I think genres aren’t limiting as long as long as you’re not making yourself feel divided.  I think when you listen [to my EP] there’s the four songs that are very different from one another, but I think when you listen to it as a whole it gives you a little bit of everything.  I think there’s a through line throughout the [EP], and I also think from a musical point of view [that] things are different, but I think in the lyrics and overall vibe there’s a through line.  When I write a song I don’t think about genre, I just let myself be inspired by whatever I’m listening to at the moment, and hopefully it makes it makes sense in the end.

Q: Speaking of “Chantal,” you and your partner shot the video for that song in New York City using two iPhones, and you said that because it was so low-key filming with your iPhones that people weren’t as worried about being filmed, as opposed to if you had done a full-scale production for a video.  Was there anything interesting that you filmed while in New York that was left out of the video but you wish could’ve made it in?

A: [Laughs] Actually, I think maybe I used too much, because [in the video there’s] a lot of screens, so I needed to use all the material we shot.  I went to New York with my girlfriend and we just got out our iPhones and just started shooting.  At the end, very little was left on the cutting-room floor, except I can think of one shot.  I was at a metro station in Brooklyn, and there was I think a well-known figure of that neighbourhood.  He’s this weird, thin guy with a huge beard and hair, and he was just dancing to somebody playing at the metro station.  I really wanted to use that, and most people I showed the first cut of the video to said it’s one of the best shots of the video [and] that it’s so funny and cool.  At the last moment I took it out because I was afraid the guy would find out and ask YouTube to take my video down, which would have sucked [laughs].  I guess that’s the only thing I would have left out.

Q: Do you see yourself handling a larger scale production for a video in the future?

A: Maybe – I think the main reason wasn’t a big artistic ego trip for me, going with my phone doing everything myself was because it was a budgetary thing.  We had 700 bucks, and I said instead of putting this much money on the production, I just thought why not buy two bus tickets to New York and figure it out from there.  But it’s the same thing for the production [of the EP], I think the meaning of life for me is meeting people and having social interactions and sharing artist creations with other people.  I would always try to put my vision in my videos because the visual aesthetic is very important to me, but I would always tend to work with a director or someone else to bounce ideas off.

Q: Speaking of collaboration again, what I find interesting is that when you released the first two singles off the EP you promoted their releases with collaborations with local clothing labels Bonvilain and Toujours Correct.  As someone who is not just really into the music, but all the visual aspects of your work, have you ever thought of branching out into fashion, or collaborating on a Dylarama line for your own brand?

A: Actually it’s a dream of mine.  Maybe not tied to Dylarama, but I’m a big fan of streetwear.  At Ton Barbier I try to write a lot about local designers.  I’m really passionate about fashion and streetwear, so it would really be a dream of mine to curate a clothing line or something.  It’s just a matter of finding the right collaborator, because I don’t know the minutiae of it, but I’d really like to collaborate on something with somebody… someday [laughs].

Q: You’ve said that you believe Spotify to be the future of music, but what is it about the streaming service that you find to be the way forward for the industry, and as an artist is it 100 percent enthusiasm on your part or do you have reservations as well?

A: Well, I think I have the same reservations as every other musician; my main reservation is that we don’t get paid [laughs], [that] we get paid 0.0001 cents per play.  My generation [went from] Myspace [to] Bandcamp [and] all these resources came up, and it’s still very hard to monetize.  You have to be either really bright or really good at marketing, which I’m not sure I am [laughs], or you have to be sort of ready to bite the bullet and make do with very little money.  Other than that, for me music isn’t really a way to make money, music is a way to express myself.  I think that to have people from around the world, or at least North America, hear my music [on] playlists and all that, for me that’s all I care about, and hopefully people that discover me on Spotify will come to shows or something else.

Q: Despite your eclectic world view in terms of music, you seem to have an affinity for the smooth yet funky 80’s R&B sounds of Nile Rodgers, Patrice Rushen, and New Edition.  What is it about that style of music that you have such a fondness for?

A: I think once again that coming from the singer-songwriter background, I started really knowing nothing about R&B, hip-hop, and sort of funkier music.  When I first started getting really into music and being a music nerd, I was more into rock and folk-rock and folk and all that, more like square music.  Once I listened to a lot of that I needed a change, so that’s when I started uncovering all those funk records [by] just going on YouTube binges, discovering African music from the 80’s full of pretty great thumping beatboxes and synths.  Even artists like New Edition and all the more mainstream stuff.  I think discovering this layer of music I didn’t know anything about really refueled my love for music.

Q: Now that you started 2018 off with a bang with the release of Certified Cutie, what can listeners expect in the coming months from Dylarama?

A: [For now] it’s a bit out of my hands.  We’re really hoping that the first song on the EP called “Les yeux fermés” will be on some kind of radios, but it’s not like we’re really crossing our fingers that we could maybe get on some bigger airwaves.  We don’t know, so I can’t promise anything, it’s not really in my power.  All I can do is write more songs and prepare the next album.


Image by Carolane Belanger