KC Dalager on Now, Now's Journey to Being Saved

Jasmine Albertson
photo by Sam San Román

Last year, Minneapolis-based duo Now, Now unveiled their first album in six years, Saved. The record was a major departure from their emo-tinged, guitar-based previous work, seeing them blossom into slick synth-fueled popmakers. While it was worth the wait, the process getting there wasn’t easy for KC Dalager and Brad Hale. Extensive touring following 2012’s Threads and a major songwriting block plus the added pressure from fans to release a follow-up led to extensive anxiety, delaying the album further. Now, a year after the record’s release and the duo’s first-ever headlining tour, the band is back on the road with Missouri indie quartet Foxing. Ahead of their show at Neumos this Sunday, May 19, KEXP chatted with Dalager about Saved, the ups and downs of touring, and Michael Jackson.

KEXP: So we are now almost exactly a year after the release of Saved, your first record in six years. How have you felt about the reaction to the record and has it been a relief to finally have it out?

KC Dalager: Yes, I think I still kind of don't believe it to an extent. We worked on it for so long and it was such a process and such a struggle that I kind of kept feeling like it was never going to happen. And then it happened and I can't believe it's almost been a year but it's been kind of... I was going to say it's been amazing but I feel like it's kind of hard to tell from the inside what the reception is. It's like everyone says “Oh yeah the reception has been great” but I think when it's your thing you kind of feel it’s a bit difficult to gauge because I am so in it that I can't see out of it very well, but it's felt amazing.

It sounds like you might be out of your songwriting blockage with the release of your new single “Enda.” Do you think another record will emerge quicker than six years?

I get asked this a good amount at shows and on the internet and I really want to say that, yes, it will be less than six years. Part of the problem with the last album is we put way way way too much pressure on ourselves so the next time we approached writing and it was not for the purpose of an album, it was just do a song and that was it, then we finished it really really quickly and it was really fun. So I'm just going to approach the writing process as like “let's just write some songs.” I would guess that it will be under six years but I also don’t want to promise anyone that it will be.

All the videos you’ve released for the singles off this record have been so fantastic and very aesthetically pleasing, do you have any plans to release more?

Well, we did the one for “Enda” but I'm not sure what the plan will be for the other songs at the moment. I'm sure we'll always be making some sort of visual project but I'm not sure if it'll be simply a music video. I’m always working on some form of visual something. I'm not sure if it'll be a music video but we'll do something creative. Like, we've done little mini docs and just little things like that.

You've previously said that Saved was the first record that you would actually want to listen to, do you still feel the same after spending a year on the road playing the songs?

Yes I do. I feel the same amount of enthusiasm about playing those songs. Whenever I hear them for any reason, sometimes I'll have my phone on shuffle or when I'm driving, and one of the songs comes on, I still really love it and I still feel really proud of what we did with that and what we made. So yeah I still feel super excited.

Last year you embarked on your first-ever headlining tour. And yeah you're back to a support slot, this time with Foxing...

No, not right. I feel like everyone is confused about it but it’s actually a co-headline run. So we're switching every night who plays last but yeah everyone's definitely confused. It's kind of crazy how much even just the poster design of one band being above the other one effects how people see the show. For us, it was like OK it's alphabetical and since we all like design stuff, we made the poster. But yeah, a lot of people have been thinking that this is a support tour for us but each of the bands play the same amount of time. It's actually not even every night, it's like per leg. The first half they played last and we just switched over yesterday. So, as of yesterday we play last for the rest of the tour.

Gotcha! Well, when you did your headlining tour last year, was it everything you dreamed of and something you’d wanna do again? Or did you feel there was an added layer of pressure?

I loved it. I guess there's more pressure but I also feel like it's easier to a certain extent because you know that people are there for you. You do feel pressure to put on a great show but I always put a lot of pressure on myself. No matter if we’re playing like 20 people at a festival or if we're doing a headlining show, I always feel major pressure from myself to put to to do the best that I can. But I think headlining is easier in that regard because you know that people paid to see you. I approach it not with less pressure but just a little less tense.

What was the worst or the most awkward opening gig you’ve played where the people were not there for you?

I'm trying to think of a particularly bad one. There isn’t one in particular that stands out more than any other of the night. But one of those situations where it's kind of funny if you let it be funny is when you're playing and people are like just a couple feet from you in the front row and they have with their elbow on the stage and are like holding their head up trying to show their boredom. You’re busting your ass and they just could not care any less about you. One of my favorite things is to pick those people out and think to myself, “Can I turn you?” Oh yeah, it's kind of funny to be like wow you really really don't want me here! And you want me to know that you're not here for me. I'm up there laughing and singing and you're just like “No.” It feels like someone having a tantrum or something. You know it's like OK you have your tantrum, I'm still up here. And I love playing shows so much that I just don't really care. I care because I get nervous and I get really anxious but I don't let it bother me because I really like playing.

Did you already have a relationship with Foxing before joining them on their tour?

I wouldn't say we had a relationship but we played one of our first shows together. I think either Houston or Dallas or something maybe six years ago. They opened for us I think. Or maybe not...I don’t remember what the order was but we played a show together a long time ago. I don't think we really became friends until this tour. Just kind of stayed in contact and we have mutual friends.

Are you going to continually be touring for the next couple of years or take a break?

I'm not positive. What we did with the last album [Threads] just wasn't normal. We finished it and we felt like nobody knew about it, so we just kept trying to expose the band by playing as many shows as possible. We toured for probably two years straight off. Once I came out, I realized that maybe that's not really what people do. We've been touring about a year on this album already and it's kind of been more like, “So when are you writing next?” It's kind of all up in the air right now at this point in time how much we want to prioritize being home.

What can Seattle expect from your set at the Tractor Tavern? Do you play a diverse mix from your catalog or will it primarily be material from Saved?

It's mostly Saved but there are some little goodies in there for the people who have known us from other albums, the old school fans.

So, I’m gonna go a completely different direction here for a second. A little more heady...semi-controversial...but an important topic, I think, and one we’ve been discussing a lot here at KEXP. So, you have a song on Saved called “MJ” that’s a semi-tribute to Michael Jackson where you’re talking to him about a crumbling relationship. Did you watch Finding Neverland and did it change your opinion at all about him?

I have yet to watch it. I have had a lot of people in my life who know how important Michael was to me reach out about it. He was my first idol and I found him when I was 4. I dressed like him and I would show up to school in like black pants and loafers and a white V-neck and a leather gloves. That was my regular attire when I was in elementary school. So I feel a bit of...I don't want say denial in terms of saying that I'm not denying reality, but I have not stepped into the realm of reality yet. If that makes sense. I need to like mentally prepare before I can even go down that path. And I think it's important to go down that path. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say anything about anything but I have not watched it and I honestly haven't dug very deep because that's a scary thing for me as someone who idolized them.

Do you believe in the mentality of separating the art from the artist? Or is it just more specifically Michael Jackson?

I think I'm being particularly biased in this setting because I love Michael so much and it's just hard for me to accept any of those things. Again, not that I don't but I just haven't. He's legendary, you know, but it is hard to separate these things. And if it was someone else I would easily be like no I can't support you. My instinct is to say yes and no because of the bigness of Michael Jackson and the importance of his music in the world. What he did changed music history and I can't deny that but I'm not justifying anything else. To me, factually, Michael Jackson changed the music industry and influenced everything we know. But I'm not saying that that should excuse anything.

On a lighter note, I read that last time you were in Seattle, you were trying to use the power of Twitter to acquire a boat...if KEXP was able to get you on a boat when you’re in town on May 19 would you be interested?

I definitely think so yeah.

First of all what kind of boat are we talking about?

I don't know. At the time, we just really wanted to go on a boat ride. I don't know what the logic was. We're sitting around and our tour manager at the time was like “Hey you guys want to go on a boat tomorrow?” And we're like yeah definitely. We couldn’t figure out that process, we just had to go on someone's boat. Do we go on a particular boat? Or a boat tour? We had no idea where to even begin. So we sent a tweet out. To be fair, we didn't ask specific questions I guess. Like can you help get us on a boat tour? Can someone get us on their personal boat? It was completely not clarified because we didn't know. There's just so many types of boats out there. There's too many options.

I get it. We should really talk about getting you on a boat if you have time.

If you could make it happen! If I can't remember where we're coming from beforehand but if there's time I know that we would flip out over doing that.

OK let's keep in contact about that.

At time of print, KEXP has not been able to acquire a boat. If you or someone you know can help Now, Now hang out on a boat while they're in Seattle, reach out to the band via Twitter. Now, Now play Neumos this Sunday, May 19 with Foxing. Below, watch Now, Now's KEXP in-studio performance from 2018.


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