FOCUS: Blondes

Amassing a million Spotify streams, international TikTok stardom, and an abundance of newly found sonic surety from the pandemic-induced comfort of a modest Nottingham house-share, Blondes have certainly had a year for the books. In the wake of a certain visionary single that became a nostalgic inlet for teens the world over, the band sat down with The Mic’s Matt Andrews to share Blondes’ very own Coming of Age story.

The relationship between a sound and the information it conveys is an infinitely interesting and subjective one. Yet music, whether through rhythm, patterns, or combinations of sounds that are simply agreeable to the ear, often finds a way to create some degree of universality in its communication of feeling. It happens, every so often, that a musician is able to convey information, or perhaps emotion, that directly opposes the sound by which it is being conveyed; the voice says one thing but means another, and the listener understands that and automatically absorbs the ulterior meaning. Take the Bee Gees for example, singing in falsetto about loves lost or indeed, ‘Tragedy’, or Bon Iver perhaps, who coats his music in autotune and a general sense of over-production but retains, or perhaps even amplifies, it’s sense of authenticity.

I hesitate to compare Blondes to such musical titans this early in their career, but this indie five-piece hailing from Nottingham make music rich with contradiction equally prone to intensifying its emotional release. Their music is often characterised by its sense of nostalgia. It is also very visual, something which is quite rare for guitar-based music; when listening, colour seems to return, and slow and gentle movements make themselves known within that line of sight.

“It’s so easy to get involved – there’s no excuses really, if you’ve got a drum kit and a guitar, you’re set!”

Having formed during their time at the University of Nottingham, Blondes are well-acquainted with the city’s music scene and were, pre-apocalypse, gigging regularly at some of the city’s finest venues. The Bodega, for example, welcomed the band on stage twice within a week this March. Tom Herbert (bass) and Alex Davison (guitar) were quick to express their gratitude toward such local venues and indeed the local musical scene more generally: “Nottingham is such a great place for music. A lot of local venues are very eager to get smaller bands playing gigs which has been really helpful for us, particularly when we were just finding our feet as a band. That’s what sets Nottingham apart from a lot of other cities – it’s so easy to get involved – there’s no excuses really, if you’ve got a drum kit and a guitar, you’re set!”

Already distinguished as a group of exciting and dynamic performers, it seems the Nottingham graduates are closely tailing the trail left by the likes of London Grammar and Amber Run. In spite of its popularity, Blondes look back at their earlier music with a collective sense of dismay. It’s not that the earlier sound wasn’t good, it’s that it wasn’t Blondes; Alex says, “the first EP felt like us doing an impression of other indie bands. When I wrote those songs, I would approach them thinking, ‘Ok I’m going to write a Circa Waves song or a Two Door Cinema Club song’ but now we know what we sound like, you know, we know what a Blondes song sounds like, so that’s what we write.”

What’s particularly striking about the band’s search for a sound is not the distance they have come from their original music to what they make now, but the circumstances under which it has happened: national lockdown. Cohabiting a student house in Nottingham and with the make-do home Studio 62 (/Stroud’s (guitar) room) functional, Blondes used the months of March through December to retreat into questions of sonic identity and direction – “where are we taking this now?” Finding the answer to this question, they admit, did seem to involve a lot of beer, but it was found nonetheless: “You have to be comfortable enough to work with each other both positively and negatively, and that’s where we’re at now. We’re far more collaborative in that sense – and I think that sort of cohesion shines through in the material that we’ve been recording over the last couple of months, and in the next EP that’s coming out.”

Though the ongoing lockdown has proved an unprecedented and remarkably difficult time for almost all musicians; the perpetual absence of live music, the prohibition of in-person liaison and therefore most traditional methods of music production (again, thank God for Studio 62), and even the Sunak-orated recommendation that musicians commit to the day job, Blondes were unmatched in their unwillingness to submit to the relentless adversity 2020 brought with it. As well as finding and consolidating a sense of sonic identity, the band have seen their latest single, Coming of Age, explode internationally. Since being discovered by American TikTokers, the ballad has been loud across the Atlantic and in the bedrooms of over a million listeners. “It was crazy”, Alex said, “the volume in our house didn’t drop below an eight for the next seventy-two hours.”

‘Where their music is sugary and easy-golden, ambition is not – this is a band that is serious about taking their music all the way.’

Though adamant that streams aren’t the band’s most prominent measure of success, they do acknowledge their importance as an indication that they’re progressing in the eyes of their audience as well as their own: “Yeah, we knew it was all going quite well, but I think it was very important for us to have that reinforced by something tangible – I don’t think any of us expected to get a million streams on any of our songs, particularly not this year, or this early on in our careers. We’re very grateful for what’s happened.” Having made a name for themselves in the U.S., Blondes are looking to move forward, into the year in which live music returns (touch wood) with the intention of “making [themselves] known across the UK, getting an EP released as soon as that seems plausible, and hitting gigs as well and as often as humanly possible.”

Where their music is sugary and easy-golden, ambition is not – this is a band that is serious about taking their music all the way, and I’m confident that it would be naïve to doubt they’ll do it.

Written by: Matt Andrews

Edited by: Olivia Stock

Featured image courtesy of Blondes via Facebook. Article image courtesy of Taking The Pixels via Facebook.