“dvr -a name that is going to be everywhere in the coming years.” – Clara Amfo, BBC Radio 1
Today, DIY singer-songwriter and producer dvr releases dirty tapes, his debut EP on XL Recordings / Remote Control Records. Expressing raw vulnerability, dvr explores the ups and downs of teenage life through wry lyricism, unique production, and infectious guitar hooks; a charismatic style that shines from all corners of the EP.
dirty tapes presents a full-circle moment for the musician, who has gone from a bedroom producer from North Berwick in Scotland, to an artist collaborating with Kenny Beats in just over a year. Through previous self-released projects including tape_01, thru the city andu can call me dillonEP, dvr became an organic, word-of-mouth success story, racking up millions of streams and amassing a committed Discord community alongside a diverse, growing fanbase which includes Snoop Dogg, FINNEAS, Omar Apollo, and Joy Orbison.
To mark the release of the EP, dvr premieres the visual to the newly released track ‘drugs’. Directed by underground visual-artist Elif Gönen aka FORLUCK (Lava La Rue, Louis Culture, Poppy Ajudha), ‘drugs’ is the third chapter in the visual story of the dirty tapes EP with the duo previously collaborating on the ‘lowlife (with kenny beats)’ and ‘stupid’ music videos. In ‘drugs’, dvr explores his own journey with migraine medication and the despair which surrounded it. Speaking on the new audio-visual, dvr says “it’s just about headache meds. don’t do drugs ”.
On Friday 14 January, the dirty tapes EP will be available to buy as a 12” vinyl, and limited edition cassette. For more information, or to pre-order head to dvr’s bandcamp page HERE.
In less than a year, dvr has gone from a 16-year-old Scottish kid on the hunt for a cracked copy of Ableton, to an XL-signed artist collaborating with Kenny Beats at 17. As though A-Levels during a global pandemic weren’t enough to contend with, the prodigious singer, songwriter and producer has also self-released two EPs – tape_01 andu can call me dillon – lo-fi gems full of frank lyrics and endless promise. “Lockdown was a creative renaissance,” he says. “It gave me all the time and resources to do exactly what I wanted: wake up every day and work on music.”
With his soft, hybrid accent (“somewhere between Scottish, English and South African”) Dillon explains that when it comes to music, he writes straight from the heart. “My songs are basically diary entries,” he says. “If they seem kind of personal, it’s because they are. In fact, I might be oversharing.” He began building beats on Garageband at the age of 12, having just had his mind blown by the hip-hop on his friend’s iPod. Up until that point, Dillon’s experience of music looked a little different — his parents, both South African, had raised him and his older brothers on legends like B.B. King and Jimmy Hendrix.
At 15, Dillon taught himself guitar from a series of YouTube tutorials breaking down songs by Frank Ocean and quickly realised that making instrumentals on Garageband – though it had given him a solid foundation for songwriting – wasn’t going to cut it. Inspired, he convinced his school to reintroduce a long-shelved music technology A-Level course. “They had a really shitty old studio,” he says of the state school he attended in North Berwick. “All the equipment was falling apart but it was a space that I could go to make music.” Finding his feet through playing with influences, Dillon was beginning to think he might be onto something when the pandemic shut down his school. With the news that they’d be sent home in just two days, he set out on a mission to complete the song he had been working on. “It ended up being “Am Sleep” from tape_01,” he says. “It was the first proper song that I ever made; I was like, oh shit! It actually sounds quite nice!” The internet would soon agree.
“This is where Kenny comes into the picture,” explains Dillon. Newly confined to his home, the teen started hanging out on Twitch and quickly landed on Kenny Beats’ channel. “I went straight into the Discord and asked if anyone had a crack of Ableton,” he remembers. “It’s what I had been using at school but I couldn’t afford it.” After almost being banned for the request, Kenny himself chimed in and told Dillon to go grab himself Ableton’s 90 day free trial. “I was like… 3 months?! That’s all the time in the world!” In that 90 day period, Dillon wrote, produced and mixed his debut project,tape_01. On release, in June 2020, the mods of Kenny’s Discord urged the US producer to give the EP a listen, which he did… live on stream. The next day he reached out to Dillon directly.
The producer – who has worked with the likes of Rico Nasty and Vince Staples – wanted to collaborate, so Dillon sent him the demo for ‘lowlife’ and he loved it. With Kenny developing the production further, XL appeared on the scene and saw that same potential in Dillon. At the top end of 2021, he followed up his debut with a collection of demos called, u can call me dillon, including ’16’, a love song played on his school piano and recorded to his phone in just one take.
This September, with high school out of the way, Dillon finally released ‘lowlife’, his first official single and a downtrodden number in the vein of King Krule, inspired by a particularly dark period of illness. It will sit at the heart of the artist’s altogether grungier EP, dirty tapes, which is due in early 2022. The project documents the past year and a half of Dillon’s life – the ups and downs (but if he’s honest, mostly downs) of an unrelenting battle with both his physical and mental health. The struggle is audible. “The EP progressively gets more depressing,” he states, matter of factly. Its title track opener lays out the artist’s ambitions, while on ‘stupid’ (which is crying out for a Netflix coming-of-age sync) he starts to notice shit going wrong. Then, the self-deprecation of ‘lowlife’ hits and things spiral further, with Dillon admitting that ‘drugs’ was made “at a point of complete despair”.
He’s feeling a lot better now and the future excites him. Like a lot of young musicians coming of age during the pandemic, Dillon has never played a gig before and only attended one. Currently a one man band, he aims to keep it that way when he takes to the stage; with dreams of jumping between instruments like his idols Tyler, the Creator or Dave Grohl on Foo Fighters’ self-titled debut. The dichotomy of his idols evidenced in his visionary, genre-fluid sound.
What Dillon’s really excited about though, is the fact that people are already sliding into his DMs asking for production advice. The speed at which things have come full circle, without a doubt testament to both his ambition and talent. “I think the coolest thing ever is inspiring people with my music, in the same way that Kenny or Tyler or Dave did for me,” he says. “I just want to make other people want to make music.” And when the world hears dirty tapes, in all its raw vulnerability, it’s certain to have the desired effect.