“Aliens are probably light beams that fuck constantly.”
Dijon’s knee-deep in a Rated R hypothetical about post-human reproduction when Mochi, his dog, darts toward the courtyard door as it swings open. Seesawing after her in his tall cowboy boots, the singer-songwriter follows her trail, eyeing the outer limits of a property where he’s spent most of his recent waking hours creating.
It’s a small divide—six inches of wood and stone, max—separating the outdoor enclosure from the street, and the dark hills beyond it. But the unlatched passage feels like a breach. As if a spaceship’s airtight seals had come undone. All under one sea of black, a starless LA sky.
Mochi’s just fine, however, and any concerns wash away as quickly as they surfaced. Small dogs will do that to you, though Dijon doesn’t particularly care what UFOs might do to Dijon. “I’m down for an abduction examination. Let me get thrown into a corn field. It would be really nice to see a Martian every now and again.”
18 months have passed since Dijon's first solo release, “Stranger.” The one-off, which sounds like a lock for mid-2000s pop radio and reads like an atomic tear in the wake of heartbreak and late-night panic attacks, turned heads. A handful of loosies came one after the other, broadening Dijon’s gravitational pull. But it was intense isolation that made the music possible. There was the cross-country move, and the severed romance. Plus the dizzying paradox unique to entertainment’s capital city: if everybody’s somebody special, what are you, really?
For Dijon, the answer starts with impulse. Imagine the scrawled crayon drawings of a kid nursing his first crush. Or the reflexive banging of rainbow keys on a Fisher-Price piano. Those moments—simple, earnest, honest—appear, to chilling effect, all over Sci Fi 1, his solo debut EP. Its seven songs were enriched and polished before Dijon ultimately ditched the extra touches, favoring rawer demo versions.
The tracks still hit hard. Knockout lyrics (“I burrow like an animal in the bend of your arm”) get the ball rolling, rollercoaster deliveries (“Cannonball”) test uncharted waters, and lush vocal stacks make the moments between feel like interstellar spirituals. Even mundane details take on extraterrestrial weight, as if the distance separating singer from subject rivals that of a faraway species, failing in their attempts to make contact with our little blue rock.
Every second of Sci Fi 1’s 17-minute runtime is another step in the pursuit of truth. By discarding excess fluff to focus in on what’s pure, Dijon is becoming a favorite among his peers—Brockhampton, Clairo, Zack Villere, and Raveena are vocal supporters. Yet Dijon has no interest in demigod status. Letting emotion lead, for now, is more than enough.
Displacement has its fingerprints all over Sci Fi 1.
Comfort is the worst thing for me.
Were you a LimeWire kid?
I used LimeWire. And sometimes Fairshare.
You seem like a true music student.
We were super lucky. First generation ever with so much music. If it weren’t for friends giving me mixtapes that had Phosphorescent and Sufjan Stevens and Company Flow and Madvillian, I just don’t think I would make music at all. “Cannonball” was my capital A attempt at trying to merge Jodeci and Animal Collective. It’s supposed to sound like this gigantic crayon drawing. You look at Panda Bear’s liner notes in his first record and he’s heavily crediting J Dilla. I don’t see any of this as a stretch.
We really were lucky. It’s strange to see hard lines still drawn between different music.
There’s something so confusing to me about making something that’s immediately put into some genre. My impulses just lead me to make shit and then it’s automatically classified. There’s nothing more American than a kid who grew up on hip-hop and R&B, who worships and loves it to death, but also got into a dozen other kinds of music. That’s so sick.
It feels like you see all these old genres as playgrounds to run wild in.
Yeah, it’s like playgrounds you can destroy and fuck up. Each song is like a playground I’m obsessed with. None of this ever comes from a place of irony for me. No satire. If I play a country lick it’s because I’m in love with it. “Wild” has a melody I interpreted from watching King of the Hill. “Lace” references “Teenage Spaceship” by Bill Callahan, which is sort of funny to me because it’s similar chords, but I love it.
None of this ever comes from a place of irony for me. No satire.
You touched lots of people by mixing different sounds when you were making music as abhi//dijon with Abhi Raju. What did you learn from those years when you look back?
We were pretty convinced that sort of dancey R&B we were doing was punk. I’m still proud of that. We were completely alone in a basement in the suburbs of Maryland. Probably the purest time I’ve ever had making music. I always look at the abhi//dijon stuff as a model for where I came from. People thought the music was safe, but we thought it was bizarre to put UK Garage rhythms on R&B songs, instead of R&B samples. I’ve grown, but I’ve also lost something since I started to really take what I wanted to do seriously.
So much has changed between then and now. Your voice has moved to the forefront.
The vocal approach I had then came from a lot of insecurity. I can only make what I make now by objectively accepting that. Now I fully believe in performance as God in music. You make a conscious decision when you let vocals lead. I used to recede into the production. Now my harmonies are out there. They’re smearing.
I learned it’s okay to wear your philosophy on your sleeve with your music. We tried so much, though, and that’s also something I’m trying to revisit, shamelessly reaching for something way beyond you. I’m just as proud of “Let You Know” and “ECS” as I am of “Cannonball.” I’m always trying to figure out how I can make myself fully isolated in my impulses. I don’t find it enticing, or compelling, to just make music. It’s not mystical to me. It’s more self-exploration.
How has Matt Champion helped you evolve since you came to LA?
I wouldn’t have made my first songs as a solo artist without Matt. He taught me to amplify my impulses and eccentricities by showing me how fearless he was when he makes music. Still is. All those guys. But my time working with him and Romil showed me what they were good at, which forced me to realize what I was good at. They challenged me to use my voice differently. It’s hard to figure that out if you’re not trying to keep up with someone. It helped make my stuff more explosive, more true, since we started working together two years ago.
There’s more of a spotlight on your lyrics on Sci Fi 1 and on the solo releases.
I went to school for literature. I felt intimidated by writing, but I always wanted to write at a scale or a caliber of the people I loved reading. When I started doing the solo record, that's how I found out how to write. I couldn't write prose without music to save my life. I just couldn't. I tried all the time. I write poems and all these little things that no one will ever see, but the musical side makes more sense. I’m really just trying to be a better writer.
How do you define good writing?
Truth. I don’t believe in putting one word next to another because you’re supposed to, or alliteration. Fuck all that. Writing has become performance for me. It’s one and the same. How you choose to display your writing. To me, anyway. It’s all a big, giant pot roast. A big meatloaf. That’s what writing is to me, man.
You have an intense sense of competition. Is that more internal or external?
I think that’s my Achilles’ heel right now. I’m always trying to one up myself, which isn’t stable. When I first came out here [to Los Angeles], so many vocalists were so expressive, with so many great ideas, it was shocking, and it got me completely stuck for awhile. I didn’t make much music the first year I was here. It was intimidating to be around a place where that’s all there is here. Music. And I was one of them. It felt like a place where I would go once my career was finished.
When you’re back home, the idea of making music is so far-fetched you just go make it. You go to your day job, tell no one you make music, go home, and make music. I waited tables for six years doing that. LA’s also unlike any other place I’ve ever been, though. A constant shift in stimuli and geography whenever you want it. And having friends around me making incredible shit makes me want to go do the same. That means more than any numbers could.
It’s such a dangerous road for so many creative people. The downfalls of ambition.
Music’s isolating. There was an intense shame I had for a long time. Maybe it had something to do with my parents being in the military, how important the concept of work was. But I’m learning to stop running from it, to stop feeling ashamed. Shame is a big theme on Sci Fi 1.
I think I might have only made nine songs for Sci Fi. Only two aren’t on there. With my album, I’m learning to push myself to be less precious, to be more present. I’d love for there to be 50 songs for this album that don’t make it. Even with the abhi//dijon stuff, every song we made was released.
I’m very critical of everything. All the time. But I vowed to myself to not wait for the great song anymore, after I finished Sci Fi 1. It’s not sustainable. So look out for a lot of bad songs in the future [Laughs].
I realized how little I agreed with most of my favorite musicians, but that helped free me up a lot.
Do you look up to anyone?
The older I get, the less sexy it becomes to be thought of next to other artists. I don’t really see it as a goal. I just don’t really see why I should base my ceiling on anyone else. There’s so many artists I loved that are... Their impulses shocked me so much that it’s like, “Fuck, I’m not that person.” I realized how little I agreed with most of my favorite musicians, but that helped free me up a lot. Joni Mitchell made me wish I was really good at guitar. I’m not a jazz master, though. For me, it’s about translating emotions, being great at that, versus being technically good. I have to continue to climb to figure out what I am.
If Sci Fi could score any film, retrospectively, what would you pick?
Badlands. Created by Terrance Malik. It’d be awful but there’s this quiet to it, a violent tenderness, which aligns with songs like “Lace,” which was about driving. The story’s about a series of murders, which Sci Fi is not about [Laughs]. But there’s this man vs. nature aspect. Paris, Texas would be another one, about isolation on the plains, the capacity to lose love. Quieter stuff. I don’t have a hero, but if I had one, it’d be Mica Levi, who did the scores to Jackie and Under the Skin. She’s the benchmark of brilliance and freedom. I would love to score a horror movie. Big goal of mine. A horror film with the most beautiful shit you’ve ever heard in your life.
How about David Lynch?
Man. His capacity for tenderness is so true. People think of him as this strict, abstract artist but he’s tapped into humanity. That’s where Twin Peaks is. Mulholland Drive. It’s the best and mostly worst parts of the human condition. Twin Peaks balances that tenderness with absolute horror.
Is that Yoshi in the background of “TV Blues”?
[Laughs] No, don’t think so. I made a lot of Sci Fi with the TV on. I can’t record in a booth, and I always had this background noise playing that my mic picked up. I think it’s a comfort thing. Maybe Yoshi was on TV. I leave my window open all the time when I’m recording. When I did “Dog Eyes,” I think lots of sounds were smashing together in the background. There’s definitely some gun shot sounds from the TV on one of them. I’d have X-Files playing. I used to listen to a lot of tape music, ambient music, so it’s kind of like that. The dog running around. Doors closing. It helps dissolve the wall between me and the listener, I think.
Dijon's 'Sci Fi 1' EP is out now. Listen below and catch his first full live shows in New York and L.A. in May. Tickets here.