Blondes interview: “Alternate states of being.”

31.05.10, Words by: Ruth Saxelby

BLONDES is, thus far, the pinnacle of a creative union between Sam Haar and Zach Steinman, two New York based artists who have been “playing music together for many years, developing improvisational chemistry and listening to all different types of music…from Ryuichi Sakamoto to screwed Mili Vanilli.” It’s hardly surprising to see such a wild combination of influences in 2010, but these particular acts really speak to the cultural tangle informing their sound. Sakamoto made highly influential and intensely weird chartpop hits with Yellow Magic Orchestra before a lengthy career as an avant-garde composer. Mili Vanilli, ex-chartpop stars themselves, continue to endure a reputation of deep trashiness; chopped and screwed, though, the underlying longing is amplified, prepackaged emotion-for-the-masses twisted into intimate, disembodied desperation. Superficially, BLONDES present a similar anomaly – a jam band making Trance seems less than tantalizing until compared with how rigid modern electronic music can be. They’re extracting the trippy out of the mainstream, though the end result isn’t that kind of trance anyway, but a more shamanistic conception of the word. “The goal of our music is to inspire trance-like states, to enter into alternate states of being,” they explain over email. “We try and keep it experiential.”

‘Touched’, BLONDES debut EP for Merok (listen to Spanish Fly above), shifts between ecstatic arpeggiator epics and soundtracking shady narcotic afternoons, consistently loose, alive, and engaging because of its willingness to build into something beyond disposable tracks. And being over-the-top is often a priority, as they explain: “In some ways we’re definitely trying to bring back that epic expressive vibe into electronic dance music that is shunned and taboo right now because of the way that commercial trance developed in the late 90s. You know, it’s now a cliché to build up to climaxes and then collapse into a minimal beat – a tease. It used to be a bait and twist, but now it’s a standardized fear of climaxes and expressivity beyond the groove.”

BLONDES are a live act through and through, and wanting to go “beyond the groove” rests at their heart. “[A typical track] normally doesn’t find itself completely until we’ve played it a few times – playing out helps out a lot as you can bounce it off of the crowd,” they say. Their tracks are essentially malleable jam-outs, governed by improvisation and crowd response, a process built more around simply playing than making hyper-technical adjustments. Haar, who works in sound design outside of the project, sees BLONDES as an organic response to that sort of careful scrutiny. “I actually try and avoid hyper-attention to detail…I mean, it’s still me – so I think that I bring a textural…and spectral, timbral approach to my music,” he says. “But Blondes is much more about physical and emotional expressivity in a familiar musical language than it is about detailed sound work.”

The focal point, then, is blurring the recording process with the live show. “We really like our recordings to be performances with minimal editing and barely any overdubbing; it’s just how we make the music we make – to produce would just be something else,” they explain. Their music exists in amped-up chillout rooms, the hallucinatory place between dancing and ambience, In concert, their fans have appropriately variable responses. “Our favourites are when everyone is dancing because the energy really builds, but we’ve had some great ones too where it was raining and we played much slower and everyone swayed,” they recall. “But we like the idea of people deciding on their own what to do with it – whatever feels right to them.”

‘Touched’ is out on Merok on June 28th. Catch Blondes on tour in the UK and Europe later this summer, plus listen out for an upcoming 12” on RVNG INTL and their remixes of John Talabot and HEALTH.

Blondes’ myspace

TENSNAKE MAKES MUSIC TO GET LOST IN TOO. READ DAVID’S INTERVIEW WITH HIM HERE.