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INTERVIEW: Alt-Pop duo DBMK release anthem for a new generation

Photo Credit: Anna Blank

DBMK is the project of Nashville-based vocalist Kyle Knudsen and drummer Colton Ward. They’ve sold out DIY shows across the country and racked up millions of streams across their repertoire, cultivating an incredibly tight-knit fanbase (‘the KULT’) along the way. With each release, DBMK continues to explore new musical dimensions with their eclectic yet fresh alt-pop sound. Their songs explore the complex layers of human experience — change, love, loss, joy, misery, triumph, disappointment — with compassion and curiosity.

On “Chains”, DBMK serve up a message of hope for a generation who feel like the weight of the world is on their shoulders: “we’re a generation facing what feels like another apocalypse at the start of every day, but we don’t have to spend that time alone… we can even dress up and make it a party along the way,” the duo write.

Define DBMK. What’s your story? What do you stand for?

Kyle: “We were both independently making music in our hometowns, feeling a little like outsiders and searching for a scene to be a part of. We had heard about each other through mutual friends, got introduced one day, and met for coffee at the local Starbucks – backlit by a buzzing Target sign looming over us. That was Florida. Bouncing from plaza to plaza trying to make something cool with our friends. DBMK has always been about creating a literal space. A place where we could feel connected to something – confident, cool, collected; doing it all with our friends. ‘Fake-it-til-u-make-it’ style. We want to be something more than just a band making music and that’s it.”

As a project that explores the complex layers of the human experience – change, love, loss, joy, misery, triumph, disappointment, how have you found these themes intersect in the music you create? How has this approach allowed you to be more honest with yourselves, in turn creating a more intimate connection with your audience?

Kyle: “We just want to tell the truth. What I’ve found through talking with our people online and in-person, is that the things I say that are most specific and personal to me, are the things that affect others on deeper levels as well. Kinda funny how that happens, isn’t it? Being human is to be vulnerable. Everyone hurts and everyone gets scared, though the language and syntax we use to explain it to ourselves may change person to person. So now that I’m literally growing up in this band, I feel encouraged to be honest and nice to myself, maybe for the first time ever. Damn, I gotta call Kate, my therapist. Shout out, Kate.”

What challenges have you experienced when releasing music during these trying times? In what way has this time provided you with a greater understanding of who you are; both as a duo and on an individual level?

Colton: “We have always felt a deeper connection to our music while we’re out playing it live. This obviously has been the biggest struggle for us recently. Playing shows gives us the inspiration to come back and create more, so with that being taken out of the equation, we were forced to find inspiration from other things. Quarantine gave us the forced time to sit down and really find our sound and what we were going for musically and visually as DBMK. We’ve also been able to get healthier mentally and physically during this last year or so.”

An anthem of hope for a generation who feel like the weight of the world is on their shoulders, your latest single, “Chains,” lives on the cliché of “here for a good time, not a long time.” How have you found adopting such a philosophy has been congruent with your aspirations in all aspects of your lives? 

Kyle: “I mean here we are all realizing how little it all matters now, right? Everything is fragile. Systems and policies in the real world fail. Humans are flawed. So we started asking ourselves, ‘why be so precious with it all?’ Let’s get scrappy and have fun with what it is we’re doing. We have huge dreams and goals and we carry the knowledge that there is far from one way to reach them all, so let’s take the pressure off and make it about others. Always.”

Though the above philosophy may be true, we definitely don’t have to walk the world alone, and shouldn’t hesitate to be the life of the party along the way. How might a song such as “Chains” encourage listeners to break free from said “chains,” and live life not for others, but with others?

Kyle: “I think ‘Chains’ became a way for me to grab some of my biggest universal anxieties and wrestle it all into something I could live with. We get up every day and just practice. We practice being a better human, and in that way that is directly for others, but it’s also for ourselves. It feels way better to address the darker parts of ourselves head-on. Start the conversation with them. So that, in the end, we can get the most out of loving and living with others in our lives. To be truly seen and loved for who you are is rare. Keep those that do that for you tight.”

“Tough,” an infectious single that addressed the frustrations of feeling stuck in life, has now been met with peace and tranquility upon the release of “Chains.” When did you come to the realization that suffering is only temporary?

Kyle: “I came to the realization that suffering is temporary when I realized that I can track my existence in cycles. I live with depression every day, as many of us do. Sometimes the cycle of my depression is a wide Ferris wheel ride of an experience – sometimes I get stuck at the top and the view is unreal. I call my mom. I make a perfect dinner just for me. Music sounds incredible. I love the way I look. My head feels tidy; organized. Sometimes we get stuck at the bottom. My head feels like a minefield: don’t wander off or maybe I’ll never find my way back. I hate my body. I hate my art. Nothing matters. I should quit. I withdraw from everyone, even Colton. But the cycle continues. I try to stay healthy and focus on what I’m grateful for. The proverbial Ferris wheel operator wakes up and suddenly I’m at the top again. I don’t know if this is a healthy or a helpful way to intellectualize this kind of thing, but it helps me remember who I am when I get to see a pretty view and have an outfit on that makes me feel bulletproof.”

What’s next for DBMK?

Colton: “We have been doing nothing but creating this past year, and we are so excited to share it all with you. Whether it be video ideas, songs, merch, live show ideas, we never stop coming up with new ideas to innovate and make what we’re doing as fun as possible for us and everyone involved. Expect the most from us this year, we can hardly wait.”

Connect with DBMK:

Matthew Patania

Hi, I’m Matthew, and I am the Founder of Pulse Music Magazine. Having attended my first live show in the Spring of 2015, I realized just how much joy music brings to my life. As my love for music continued to grow, I decided to create a publication that serves as an outlet to share stories told through life's grandest medium.

Written by Matthew Patania

Hi, I’m Matthew, and I am the Founder of Pulse Music Magazine. Having attended my first live show in the Spring of 2015, I realized just how much joy music brings to my life. As my love for music continued to grow, I decided to create a publication that serves as an outlet to share stories told through life's grandest medium.

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