Q&A: Blonds on Backing Up the Hype; Show Tonight at Bardot
South Florida's next big breakout act, Blonds, is a funny example of how a little mistake in the internet age can translate to acclaim, label interest, and opportunities very, very quickly. Of course, a cute girl singer with a distinctive voice -- backed by some pretty sweet songwriting -- helps a whole lot too.
Here's the legend of Blonds, so far, in the group's short, three-months-ish existence. Jordy Asher, of Young Circles and former acts Blond Fuzz and Stonefox, got together with girlfriend Cari Rae over the Thanksgiving holiday and recorded a quick EP of songs. She in turn sent it off to Stereogum, because, why not? An editor there opened the message thinking it came from another group, BlondEs with an e, liked what he heard anyway, and quickly named the group a "Band to Watch" on the über-influential music blog.
Other blogs quickly champed at the bit; labels even came calling at that early point. In those first few weeks, Blonds had yet to even play a show.
Luckily, the attention is well-deserved. Asher's songwriting has always been strong throughout his various local projects, but Cari's voice here adds a sweet but slightly mournful foil to his brashness. The initial free EP, Dark Roots, was a collection of almost torch-song-influenced reverb rock, something between a happier Cat Power and what Lana del Rey might have sounded like with a little more bite and without all the poppy studio fuss.
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And luckily, according to the various videos the duo has released so far, we know that Cari Rae can actually, you know, perform her own songs live. You can also see for yourself when the band performs tonight in Miami at Bardot, at a show sponsored by blog South Florida Music Obsessed and local online radio station Jolt Radio.
Act fast, because if all goes according to plan, the couple will be relocating soon to work with some big industry names to record a proper debut. In the meantime, check out this Q&A we conducted with Asher recently as the hype was just picking up steam.
Blonds, with the State Of. 9 p.m. Tuesday, January 31, at Bardot, 3456 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Admission is free; age 21 and up with ID. Click here.
County Grind: For the most basic question, how and why did you start the project?
Jordy Asher: We started the project because I heard her singing and I loved the way her voice was, the style behind it. For me, singing voices have always been about the character and style and uniqueness. Singers like Beyoncé and all of them are good singers, and I can recognize their talent, but they've never impressed me because they don't have too much character beyond just being able to sing their ass off.
Singers like Fiona Apple or blues singers like Bessie Smith or Etta James and people like that all had these really beautiful voices -- oh, and Nancy Sinatra -- that were also quirky. So I heard Cari singing in the car, and in my opinion, she has one of those voices. I had to start writing music with her, and we wrote and recorded the entire five-song EP.
You guys got written up as a Stereogum "Band to Watch" when you had existed officially as a band for something like a week. What happened there?
I'll tell you what I can thank -- I can thank the fact that (a), the writer thought we were a different band, and (b) Cari was the one that emailed Stereogum. Of course, I can also thank the fact that they loved the music enough to make it a story.
So they thought you were another group, right? Blondes with an e?
Yes, which is awesome. That's a wonderful mistake. But he liked it enough to make us a Band to Watch. For me, it's been a long road to even get to a position like this. I know what it's like, now, to be on both ends of the spectrum. I know what it's like to be in hard-working bands that tour and tour and tour and get little to no reaction -- maybe blogs here and there and a cool fan base.
And now I see what it's like when there's just a sudden flurry of buzz, or whatever you call it. It just shows you that if you have a good idea and a well-written song -- and in this case, if you have a girl with a beautiful voice -- it's a lot easier to get where you want to go, apparently.
The Stereogum blurb compared you to Tennis and Cults, which are two pretty obvious comparisons given the guy-girl dynamic. Do you think those comparisons are apt? Also, are you worried about getting caught in a premature hype cycle?
I think that that's the easiest parallels they could draw. Cults, obviously, because of the xylophone on "Kite." If you listen to our EP, it's a lot more intricate than that. I think that we, as well as those bands, are somewhat drawing from the same well of inspiration. My intent is to take it a step further than those bands did, with my background in electronics and sampling. I have big, big plans for this band, specifically.
I appreciate the comparisons, and I understand how if it's a boy and a girl and a xylophone, it might instantly seem like Cults. But I don't think Cari's voice is anything like that girl's, and the rest of the music sounds nothing like those bands. But I appreciate the comparison because it will get more people into us.
When you started dating, did she want to be a singer, or was her ability a random discovery?
It was a random discovery. She voiced interest in learning to play songs on the guitar, so I taught her how to play this Feist song. I heard her sing, and it was like, "Holy crap." She sounded great, and she is just very, very natural. She has great pitch for not being a singer, and she can pick up a guitar and learn something instantly. She's very, very gifted as far as being a natural at things.
Does it feel good or frustrating that you can have a group with a girl in it and get a big blog to write about you in two weeks versus playing in your other bands for a long time and struggling to get exposure?
I honestly don't care. I'm enjoying this project so much. I see it as an opportunity, no matter what way I look at it. I've always, my entire life, just wanted to be able to create music and make music and have that be a career. I see this as a step in getting there. I love doing production and writing songs; I'm writing songs 24 hours a day. Her singing and playing songs I wrote is the same feeling as fronting a band with songs I wrote.
It's a lot less pressure to write songs for this band, because I have to go into a really strange place to write Young Circles songs. I have to really stress myself and test myself for that. With this, it comes really naturally. I'm not writing vocal lines for myself; I'm writing vocal lines and lyrics for her. It's really stress-relieving, actually.
Does it feel more freeing to not have all the attention focused on you now, like it has been in the other bands?
I wouldn't say "freeing." I would say that it's just a different position to be in. I don't feel weird about it. I don't really care. There are songs on the EP that we both sing together, and there will be more we'll be singing together in the future. My involvement in music has never been about people saying, "Look at what he can do." If I wanted to do that, I'd go be a starving solo artist who wanted all the attention for myself.
I don't want that. I just want people to appreciate and enjoy the music I'm making, in whatever position that puts me in. This makes me feel the exact same way it does in any other project. I'm actually excited to be able to do more things onstage now without having to be glued to a mic the entire time.
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