Local Hotshots Blondes on Viral Mania and Maintaining Momentum

Since blowing up on TikTok and their single featuring in videos by US Vice President Kamala Harris and Lizzo, Nottingham lads Blondes have shown no signs of slowing down. Though sorrowfully parting ways with guitarist Mark Turton, the band have signed a record deal with Texan label C3 and released a shimmering debut music video for Coming of Age. Gemma Cockrell caught up with lead singer, Will Potter at the cusp of a new era.

The past five months have been an exciting time for Nottingham’s very own Blondes. However, surprisingly, the single which sparked their overnight TikTok success, Coming of Age, had been in the works before the band had even met each other. “With Coming of Age, the writing started a long time ago,” explains an exuberant Will Potter. “Our guitar player Alex (Davison) had most of that song written when he was back in high school before the band got together, and he shelved it for five or six years. Then, he showed it to us last year to try and work it out. That song got finished off in rehearsal, and we recorded it after that.”

In terms of both lyrical and musical influences, Coming of Age is inspired heavily by this sense of sentimentality. “It has a nostalgic feel, like 80s or 90s music. That was the main inspiration behind the sound,” the singer explains. “It has a long introduction, similar to Broken Social Scene, in the sense of long instrumental parts at the beginning and end, whilst still being a normal pop song. I think the sounds of the 80s combined with bands like Broken Social Scene forges the sound of that song. I think that’s where it came from.”

“We want to achieve things outside of the TikTok world as well. We want to be a real band.”

Having met whilst studying at the University of Nottingham, the local music scene has also helped meld the young band and their sound. “I guess the main way it has influenced us is when we’ve played live. You’re playing before and after local bands, and if there’s a song of theirs that you like, you’ll subconsciously remember it and take inspiration from it. For us, we played shows in Nottingham with a band from Leeds called Mega Happy, who we are good friends with,” he smiles fondly. “We’ve played a couple of times with them, and we really like their sound.”

Blondes fanbase rapidly increased through Coming of Age’s viral TikTok success, and Potter recognizes that this is a unique and unconventional means of accumulating a fanbase. “I think the timing was so unexpected, given the wider situation of being stuck here and not being able to play live. It was October time. We all live together and one of us got Covid, and we all had to isolate, so we were feeling quite down,” he reminisces. “A matter of days after that, the TikTok stuff started happening, so it felt very strange.”

Unsurprisingly, becoming the source of a global TikTok trend has also had an impact on the band’s mindset. “For us to be at the stage we’re at now, in the current situation, has exceeded what we thought we could achieve at this point. We have more confidence now than we ever had,” he grins. “In some ways, it’s changed the way we look at writing music. We’ve written a lot more and been more productive as a result of what happened on TikTok, after the exposure to new fans and the huge number of people who now listen to us. It spurred us on to write more music, to be more creative and more productive.”

Far from swept away by the glamour of viral fame, Potter is evidently aware of the potential problems that can arise after finding success on a social media platform where new trends emerge daily: “The drop off of TikTok trends can be as fast. TikTok sounds can be huge, but then a week later, no one remembers them.” However, it seems that Blondes have managed to avoid succumbing to these hypothetical downfalls of virality, proving that their sudden success is more than a brief fifteen minutes of fame. “What has been amazing is that the level of success from TikTok was sustained for a number of weeks, and then translated to our other platforms as well, like Spotify and Apple Music, and it’s stayed that way four months later. It’s insane because it’s based on one song!”

“The music video has done so much better than we thought it would, we were really happy with how it turned out.”

Despite the band’s positive venture into viral stardom, Blondes are eager to achieve further success through more orthodox means. “While it’s great that we’ve got this unique story, it’s not conventional in the sense that it happened so quickly. We want to achieve things outside of the TikTok world as well. We want to be a real band, if that makes sense!” he chuckles. “Hopefully when things open up again, we can make our mark in the live scene. It would be such a shame if any music that follows this doesn’t quite match or reach the same levels as Coming of Age, that’s something we’re mindful of. It’s amazing that success has happened in this way, but we want to explore more traditional ways of being a good band. That’s definitely in the back of our minds.”

A notable example of the band’s explorations of traditional methods of expanding their fanbase is their recent music video for Coming of Age, which stands at a whopping 346k views just two weeks after its release. “The music video has done so much better than we thought it would, we were really happy with how it turned out. The video was really good fun; it’s our first music video ever!” Potters exclaims. “It goes to show that for the people who found us on TikTok, it was worth the wait and they hadn’t lost interest.”

The music video was directed by James Slater (Blossoms, Jamie T, The Kaiser Chiefs). “A lot of the creative ideas were from him, but he was very switched on with the TikTok stuff. The reason our song became big on TikTok was that it was used to parody old-school, coming-of-age movies, so scenes in our music video referenced that. When he pitched it to us, it made perfect sense! We thought it would be harder than it was. I was in almost every scene so I just did what I was told, and I tried to mime properly, because I’d never had to do that before. It was a really great experience and I think it’ll help us when we do another one. We’re really happy with how well received it has been.”

Looking to the future, Blondes are eagerly awaiting the world’s return to normality. “We have new music recorded, and it’s being produced right now. Some of it is almost ready. Having signed to C3 not long ago, the plan is to work towards an EP. We haven’t got anything confirmed date-wise, but that’s the next aim for us,” Potter reveals. “Hopefully in time for when the live scene kicks off again. We’ve had some offers for live stuff, bits and pieces, but it’s still a bit fragmented and there’s still uncertainty about whether things will go ahead.”

“Most bands have struggled to maintain a fanbase without a live scene, but for us, it’s been quite the opposite.”

Despite this underlying uncertainty, Potter views the future optimistically. “There’s something to aim for, which wasn’t the case four or five months ago, so it’s really exciting. I’m looking forward to putting out music as a signed artist and playing some live shows as a signed artist as well. It’s going to be a first for us, and it’s such a long time since we’ve played any shows, it’s going to be a very exciting time.” He acknowledges the anticipated immensity of the difference in attendance of their live shows post-Covid. “It’s a bit scary!” he laughs, “hopefully we will be able to arrange it in a way so the jump isn’t too massive. Most bands have struggled to maintain a fanbase without a live scene, but for us, it’s been the opposite, so that’s going to be interesting. It’ll be quite nerve-wracking but it’ll also be really exciting and fun, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Despite the band’s glittering rise to fame, the singer’s final comment – “hopefully we’ll be able to meet the newer members of The Mic properly soon!” – demonstrates that Blondes have far from forgotten their Nottingham beginnings. This is a band with their roots planted fondly in NG7 but their sights set firmly on the future.

Written by: Gemma Cockrell

Edited by: Olivia Stock

Featured and article image courtesy of Blondes via Facebook.