Alt-Pop Duo DBMK Show Their “Tough” Side

How do you spell success? For some bands, that might be having legions of fans familiar with a single song that’s played on the radio. For others, it’s having a concentrated, sometimes local, fanbase that follows their entire output.

The latter scenario is where Nashville-based duo DBMK have found themselves. Composed of Kyle Knudsen on vocals and Colton Ward on drums, the group has a close, attentive fanbase called the “KULT” that they’ve gathered locally, in their home state of Florida, and from touring.

Continuing to build momentum and give listeners more, DBMK released “Tough” earlier in October. 

“Tough” displays DBMK’s knack for transcending while simultaneously blending multiple genres – electronics, pop melodies, and a touch of showy musicianship. It follows 2020’s six-track EP Jump in the Dark

With the duo returning to performing live, we had a chance to speak with them about their latest release.

“Tough” just dropped in October. What inspired you to write this song?

“Tough” was born after an especially bad string of shifts at our respective day jobs. At that same time, we felt uninspired and like the creative well had dried up, so basically, we were in an awful cycle of beating ourselves up and not finding confidence anywhere.

We were drained and exhausted. One day, we started making a beat, nothing out of the ordinary. Then all of a sudden, we had “Tough” practically falling out of us. We took the pressure off and decided to stop overthinking.

“Tough” reflects DBMK’s abilities to blend multiple genres. How would you define your style?

Honestly, we’re taking submissions for the name of our genre. But, that’s what’s so exciting about making music right now! The rules anyone could point out feel more like guidelines that are there to be smashed, destroyed, reformed, caressed lovingly, and then disrespected.

We’re just making the music we want to listen to. Our style is “underdog-anthems composed of buzzy synths, angry guitars, punchy drums, sometimes ambient/electronica elements (??? wtf), and vocals that read like your favorite book.”

As a band, how did you two start working together?

The two of us grew up traveling to the same shows and the same scene and always kind of rubbing shoulders accidentally. We were finally formally introduced by a mutual friend after I sent out a searchlight for a drummer to support the very first iteration of what we now know as a DBMK Tour.


The first time we hung out was at a Starbucks off of HWY 19 in our hometown. The rest is history buried in hard drives, touring miles, and schemes of world domination over late-night pasta.

You originally started in Florida but have since relocated to Nashville. What made you make this move?

To be honest, we had a friend move there from Florida that inspired us to make the move as well. We’d go up and visit him and take sessions and make friends.

We realized this was a step in the right direction in terms of the journey we imagined in our heads. Also, have you tried the food here? Oui oui, sacre bleu

How do you two start writing a song?

It’s never the same. Recently, the main defining factor is that we’ve focused on writing the entire song on just the piano or guitar.

Otherwise, oftentimes it starts with a beat or a musical expression first – a texture, groove, melody, or energy. Basically, anything that feels like our inner child coming out is what gets us excited.

You also have a strong fanbase, called the Kult. What’s it like having fans like that?

The Kult is everything to us. It’s easy to feel small and down on days when it feels like nothing is working, but the Kult is always there.

They’re a perfect army of weirdos, artists, and dreamers. In many ways, DBMK exists as a place for Colton and I to be who we really are, and I think the Kult feels the same way.

That means more to us than any other side effect of making pop music could ever give us. Kinda makes me want to cry. We haven’t seen them in almost three years. 

When did you realize that you had such a devoted following?

In 2018, we took a huge leap of faith and teamed up with another small band called Jet Black Alley Cat to tour the entire country. No label, no backing investors, no real plan, just some kids in a van doing the only job we’ve ever really been qualified to do – I think?

In every city, we were surprised each time to be met by dozens and dozens and dozens of kids who knew every single word to every single song and showed up because they believed in what they meant.

We returned to our hometown near the end of the tour and sold out a 450-capacity venue at the legendary skatepark of Tampa. We’ve used these feelings to push us forward to this day.

At the end of last year, you released your latest EP, Jump in the Dark? How would you say your sound and songwriting have evolved since 2014’s The Abyss?

In actuality, it doesn’t feel like it’s changed that much. I definitely don’t feel like I know any better than I did at 16. We talk all the time about how we never, ever want to grow up or get stale. If anything, it’s more focused. We know what we want to say and how we want to say it.

Artists have started performing live and touring over the past few months. Though everyone was on hiatus for much of 2020 and early 2021, what do you have planned for the end of the year?

We’re starting a run of shows we’re calling the “One Night Only” series. We will announce city after city, one at a time. Instead of a tour, we want to just play one-off shows and be able to get as many people there as possible for one night.

We have had so much fun developing the show and making it work as a two piece. 2022 will hopefully be a big touring year for us as well. We cannot wait to rage with the Kult. 

Do you have any more music planned for listeners?

Oh, absolutely. We’re sitting on tons of music, as well as finishing lots more. We are always feeling and writing and making a world for our songs to live in. Music, videos, tours, etc. Stay tuned, there’s so, so, so much more coming. See you soon.


Ivan Yaskey is a Philly-born EDM and synthpop enthusiast and interviewer who recently relocated to beautiful Boston, MA.

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