An incredibly articulate young artist with a delirium-inducing vocal range, Dijon has been creating music out of Baltimore bedrooms for the last few years. And although the stripped-down sound makes up his music’s core, the simplicity is its strength. He packs each piece with a powerful, philosophical lyrical strategy, with a process that translates as anything but homespun. Each project he presents is hyper-intellectual and entirely unpretentious. Hard to find in a young and emerging artist. Dijon references everything from literature—Tim O’Brien of Roland Barthes, to techy Sci-Fi—to Lucinda Williams and John Vernon as inspiration. And somehow, it comes through.
To listen to his work is to experience separate from what exists in today's industry— to use his favorite word, it emanates “earnestness”, lacks irony, and sounds like a soft iteration of old school RnB with the underproduced essence of Bedroom Pop, with words that are personal, raw, and poignant. Having recently released a new music video for "CRYBABY :*(" that reflects the above sentiments with overwhelming and emotional editing, alongside many new major projects on the horizon—we headed to LA to get to know this sure-to-be star, Dijon, a little better.
"My first five songs, I love them, but I made them at a time where I was looking for myself. So there's a little bit of a lack of sort of a lack of total confidence I think when I listened to some of those other things. There's a pride in how simple it is. And there's an actual palpable feeling of acceptance, which I think a lot of younger art doesn't have really yet."
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I want to talk about the term 'Bedroom Pop'. It seems to be a genre that is thrown around a lot nowadays, but for me, it's not one that I've heard of before just recently. Is this a new thing or what? And how did your music become associated with it?
It's a pretty complicated situation. I wouldn't put myself under that category. [Bedroom Pop] has turned into an idea of a [certain] kind of music and style of song structure. But the reality for me is that I used it as a blanket term for things that are home-recorded. And for as long as I've made music, that's just kind of how I've understood music being made. I think that's why I’ve resisted the terminology generally. For me it has always just been everything that was being made in Baltimore, slotted in this DIY-type thing.
It seems that “genre" itself is less and less relevant in the SoundCloud easy-access era, as much as it is in itself an ever-evolving concept. So we've established that your style is it's kind of a stripped-down, do-it-yourself thing, but then with success, which you’ve been really building on, comes producers, it seems. How has that process changed your work, and in what ways do you hold onto the DIY spirit?
I think forever, no matter sort of end goal or the destination, I'll probably always be doing like 80-90% of my own production. I really, as a philosophy point, sort of avoid studios... It's just not how I make music. So if it's specifically based on recording techniques, I'll be a bedroom producer for the rest of my life probably [laughs]. My goal is mostly just to get better at just songwriting and create very interesting divergences from the idea of certain songs, structures. And that's pretty much my only goal.
Left - Suit by MARTINE ROSE, vintage T-shirt
Right - Suit and T-shirt by MARTINE ROSE
That's the way people make timeless music, which I think is so rare these days. I remember Jay-Z speaking to David Letterman about that—the importance of timelessness.
It's a bit frustrating. I think the democratization of making music is the most beautiful thing, 'cause I wouldn't be able to make music without it, but I also do think that naturally it just overcrowds everything just because the playing field is so leveled now that it's almost impossible to sustain some sort of grand idea of progress in a certain group because you're constantly distracted. The one thing about today is there isn't the same irrelevancy factor. If you just continue to make kind of cool shit. I mean there is, but somebody who made one big YouTube viral hit could probably make another one two years, three years down the line and nobody would really be bummed.
It's like an almost an entirely different industry, due to the internet. There are the people that were established in the late 2000s and early 2010s that can ride on that position, who are going on physical tours, putting out full albums, and it's just, not comparable to the way the YouTube or SoundCloud community of musicians is making their way up.
Yeah. And it's really weird to see that. Obviously there is no rule book, but it does seem like, from a practical standpoint like the albums right now are kind of privilege. They're like a privilege, sort of given to the people who have passed this threshold of relevancy. And so everybody else was sort of forced to try and kind of figure it out on their own. Like, "Oh, we can sing these back to back, to back to back to try and amp up stream volume." It's very sad way of thinking about music.
Left - Suit by 424, shoes by VANS
Right - Suit and T-shirt by MARTINE ROSE, shoes by VANS
It's an interesting conversation point for us to have reached, given that your latest music video presents this perfect, beautiful overlap of analog and modern technology. Just watching something so traditionally made [stop-frame stills] on YouTube was such an unbelievably unique experience. And honestly, I started to lose hope in anything being unique a while ago.
I appreciate it. And I really have to give much of that whole thing to Jack, because he was always going to be the video. He is one of the few guys that I have integrated with and trust making music with at this point. But we did have that conversation about the real kind of paradoxical death of the music video because we have so many resources to make crazy crazy shit and no one does. And so we sort of brought about the frustration that kind of comes with these really bizarre and limp performance videos that sort of have no character but they serve a function of just providing a visual to a song.
Or like adding sponsorship to the singer’s brand. [laughs]
Yeah. Exactly. And then they just check a certain box that sort of leads happens there. So the video that, I mean the only reason the size of it came out was because I mean Jack's video concept was just terrific and we thought it would be a really fun way to commit to sort of establishing a philosophy. And specifically with the still image, I mean the more Jack talked about the idea the more sort of kind of hit this very subconscious philosophy of the whole situation where it's like everything is sort of a deconstructed. A performance video and while having to literally pose for the syllables of each line, each word. For me making music is such a real-time situation. So I, for better or worse, all the songs that have been released, are the songs that I make right then. And this is despite my having a longterm 10-year goal for where I want my songwriting to ready to go.
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Right - Suit by MARTINE ROSE, vintage T-Shirt
What is that? What is your 10-year goal?
Well, my 10-year goal is just to really establish myself, my voice and myself as just something very new. I have no respect for traditionalism, to be honest with you. I just think it's probably just because we all grew up in an age where everything's smashed together. My goal is—in the way that kind of Prince would do it—create a language for myself, not really anybody else's, that allows me to explore song structure and melody and lyrics in a very specific way that can't be really effectively emulated.
That's incredible. Yeah. Timelessness in artwork feels like it holds this notion that there's a thread that goes through everything that's created, but everything that's created is unique and different and new.
I'm not really this fastest person, but yeah, that's [another] huge goal of mine. It's like getting that excitement and those threads of character and uniqueness, but also being really honest about it. Like if I got the privilege to make a pop record for somebody with producing it or even helping write it, there wouldn't be irony. Just earnestness. And that's the struggle for me—I do look at all of it as a giant interconnected board that's very complicated.
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Right - Suit by MARTINE ROSE, vintage T-Shirt, shoes by VANS
A challenge and an opportunity, there's a lot of cynicism in what we're talking about, but it's also like it could just be criticism and it could also be something really incredible that's not being done.
No, I think that that's perfectly said. That's just where I'm at right now personally—taking time to try and fill this quota in terms of like I can't disappear for five years 'cause my career hasn't really started in full yet. But at the same time not be discouraged or intimidated by the pace at which things happen. Allow myself to explore these ideas because it takes a long time to explore the ideas.