Maile Carballo / KUTX


Artist of the Month - February, 2023


KUTX Artist of the Month is powered by PNC Bank

by Jeff McCord

Dorian Williams II is a name that doesn’t exactly scream ‘rock star’. Yet new to town, Dorian’s bedroom pop project Skateland, with its moody, introspective songwriting, is already making its mark on the Austin circuit. 

Williams is not new to music, he played in several bands in his hometown of Las Vegas before coming to UT, where he’s majoring in advertising. But really, he came to dip his toe in the city’s fabled music scene. I confessed to knowing little about Vegas beyond the strip, and asked about the scene there.

“There’s a lot of really cool little corners of the city, especially musically. There are clubs, and platforms for like pretty much any genre. I played saxophone in a jazz band. I played guitar, bass, drums. I think in Vegas there’s actually a really big sort of band culture, which a lot of people don’t realize because like House and EDM are obviously like the drivers of the Vegas music scene. The Killers are from Vegas. There’s a lot of really good bands that came out of the city.”


Williams had heard about Austin being the ‘live music capital’ before he got here about a year and a half ago, but upon arriving, what, I asked him, surprised him about the city? 

“I think in general, the friendliness of the city was something I didn’t foresee just because it’s so big, at least compared to Vegas. And I think big cities have that big city rap where everyone keeps to themselves. But Austin’s been super friendly. Musically, I would say just the skill level of musicians in Austin has definitely blown me away. Your touring bands, that you pay $60, $70 to go see, you expect them to blow you away at a Moody Amphitheater or something. But Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights, I’m going out to some of these small clubs or bars and I’ve seen bands that have absolutely given jaw-dropping performances. There’s just so much talent from a musicianship standpoint, and that’s definitely been cool to see.”

Yet when Williams first got to town, it took time to tap into this deep well. So he started making music on his own. In his room. 

“I’ve always loved bedroom pop, that sort of music.” 

Among other influences, Williams cites the DIY talents of St. Vincent and Frank Ocean. 

“But when you’re playing in bands like, it’s hard to carve out a space to even learn how to write that kind of stuff. When I moved [here] and I was by myself,,, it can be hard to get traction going, finding people to start a band with, and you kind of get in that rhythm. So it’s new, but it’s still familiar to me. The music is familiar.”

Did Williams find challenges?

It’s natural because there’s no one to push back on it. But at the same time, unnaturally scary because you don’t know if you’re making something good or bad, there are no checks and balances really. So I found it easier to get things done. But contrary to a band, I found it harder to be confident in. In a song, you have to put it out. You’re like, ‘Oh, this is great.’ And then you walk away for a week and you come back to it and like, ‘This is terrible.’ Someone would have told me that if someone was here in the room with me. So the push and pull is different, but I like it. I think I’ve learned to prefer it more.”

Michael Minasi / KUTX Skateland performs during the KUTX Free Week Showcase on Jan. 6, 2023, at Cheer Up Charlies

Even so, Williams now has a band and is bringing Skateland’s music to the stage. Has it changed things?

The sound and scaling is evolving. Naturally, they’re just bigger and a little grander. And you realize, like, I do miss that part of being in bands. I’ve met a talented group of musicians here who also happen to be my friends. I feel a lot of scaling will start to get back to sort of those roots that I had before this, because that’s what I grew up on. And I definitely want to keep some of that, maybe keeping the bedroom vibe, like just as far as the melody.” 

The handful of songs he had released so far, including his new single, “As the Father, So the Son” (off a new four-song Skateland EP, New Wave Revival, out at the end of February) all burrow deep in the genre’s traits: hushed vocals, haunting psychedelic tinges. The songs come in a variety of styles and tempos. But I mention to Williams that, to my ears, they all seem to share one trait: melancholia. 

You’re definitely hitting the nail on the head. It’s funny because I’m actually a pretty happy guy. But writing, you know, it ends up being melancholy for me because that’s sort of my way of just dealing with the things of life. Writing is a fun form of catharsis where you can sort of sum up the feelings that you’re having in a therapeutic way, just put them down on paper. So I find myself writing sadder things because I’m literally transferring them away from me and on to something else. And I feel better after.”