Saturday, March 29, 2008
Blondfire - Interview
Blondfire is the brother/sister combo of Bruce and Erica Driscoll. The siblings grew up splitting time between Brazil & the US, and first gained popularity back in 2004 with the single L-L Love which was featured on I Tunes as a free single of the week and ended up breaking downloading records. The band had gained this success under their former name Astaire, and in 2005 were threatened by Fred Astaire's estate with a lawsuit. The band had to change names, but has since moved forward and is out with their new album My Someday. They were nice enough to take some time with us for an interview.
BTB-Is it true that every song off the new album was recorded in a different location? Was that by choice?
Bruce: We're a slightly nomadic band, so we tend to travel around a lot. And the thing is that we write and record quite frequently, almost every day, so this new album is the result of many years of recording and taking our studio with us wherever we go. We had the synth sound and main riff for My Someday tracked in my apartment a few months before we finished producing it, and it just so happened that when we felt inspired to finish it we were working on a Digi002 in a room at the K-West hotel in London.
Erica: Yeah, traveling a lot kind of made that happen. It's great that with today's technology you can basically fit a studio in a suit case...
BTB- Having grown up in Brazil and in the States. How do you think having that multi cultural background has influenced the music?
Erica: We grew up with the sound of Brazilian music. My mom had such a great record collection! Being able to absorb the music of people like Caétano Veloso, Astrud Gilberto, and Jobim had a huge influence. They sang the kind of haunting melodies that stay with you.
Bruce: I agree. Having the half-Brazilian background opened our eyes up to a whole different idea of interesting, slightly jazz influenced melodies and chord progressions. And even in addition to melody, Brazilian music has the greatest sense of rhythm. The kind of grooves you can't help but move to. Jorge Ben's Taj Mahal for instance, the song that Rod Stewart lifted for Do You Think I'm Sexy... Talk about an unforgettable melody with a danceable beat.
BTB- How does the writing process work out between the two of you?
Erica: It depends on the song, but the majority of the time we sit down next to each other, turn on Pro Tools, Bruce will either play the drums or make a loop, and we'll fool around on different instruments until we find something unique.
Bruce: Erica dreamed up "L-L-Love" one night and the next day we wrote and recorded the song in about a total of three hours. Some songs start with an idea like that and others come from figuring out a guitar riff or cool synth melody and then building on top of that.
BTB- When you were both growing up did you always know you wanted to make music?
Erica: Our parents put us in music lessons really early on. I've been playing piano since I was three years old and singing since I can remember. Writing and performing music has always been what I'm about, and what feels natural. I can honestly say it's the one thing I'm confident doing.
Bruce: I've always loved playing songs. Growing up I was addicted to film scores, the Beatles, and the Smiths. I don't think I figured out that I wanted to play music with the rest of my life until I started playing the guitar around fifteen years old and got to know how fulfilling and amazing it is to create a melody.
BTB- They always say that when you're in a band that the members in it are as close as family. Does the whole brother and sister dynamic ever get complex?
Erica: We've always gotten along really well, and any complexities we've had as a band have always come from outside forces.
Bruce: We're both pretty mellow people so, yeah, remarkably drama free.
BTB- How difficult was the name change after already having been established under Astaire?
Bruce: Extremely devastating from a progress point of view. We had so much time and money invested in the name Astaire, so it was a jaw-dropping, gut-wrenching experience to be told that the Fred Astaire estate was threatening to sue. But we soon realized, after the initial shock that is, that fans will buy your records even if you're called The Crazy Coconuts From Jupiter as long as the music is good. We're not a schtick band, and our fans know that we are really writing and recording our own stuff, so they've stuck with us. We're grateful for that.
BTB- Did your early success off of I-tunes, having broken downloading records back in 2004 with the free single of “L-L-Love” and then again with the exclusive Ep take you by surprise? How did that relationship come about with them?
Bruce: Our digital distribution company got in touch with the people at iTunes and they flipped out over L-L-Love. It's kind of mind blowing to me that we had that many downloads of a song we recorded for free in a basement in three hours. We are forever indebted to the people at iTunes for using our song.
Erica: When they asked us to do the Exclusive EP we both felt very lucky! It was such a great opportunity to have a chance to reach an audience of that size, and to have a major company like iTunes get behind the music. We actually ended up having a #1 pop album with that!
BTB- The band was signed not that long ago with EMI Uk? What happened with that?
Bruce: To make a long story short... We played a showcase at the London club, the Troubadour. Our manager at the time rounded up every label in London to come down and see us play and EMI swooped us off after the show and wined and dined us. They made an offer, we took it. They flew us out to work with different producers to see what we'd come up with. We ended up working with some very cool people and coming up with a lot of great stuff: Richard X, Hannah Robinson, Dave McCracken (Depeche Mode/Ian Brown), Paul Harris (Dirty Vegas), and Greg Kurstin (Beck/Lilly Allen)... Eventually, around the time EMI got bought out, we were dropped while still owning our masters. I know it's a complete cliché, but 'You live, you learn.'
Erica: It's not that we prefer it, but by now we're used to doing things on our own out of necessity. Without being signed we've managed to get some big licenses in movies, Monster In Law and I Think I Love My Wife, we've done national tours with Ivy and Stars, had our new single featured on the Nike website, and at this moment our album is in the Top Sellers on Cd Baby. We constantly get surprised with how far a band can go if they just keep at it and think of new ways to approach situations. We've also made friends with all the people we've met along the way when we were signed... So it wasn't a negative experience by any means.
BTB- When splitting time between Brazil and NYC? What do you miss from each when your in the other?
Erica: It's hard because when I'm in the States I'm missing Brazil, and when I'm in Brazil I eventually start missing things about the America. What I miss the most is simply the Brazilian lifestyle. The people there have such a great energy, and know how to enjoy the good things in life! Also the food! Every time I come back to from Brazil I feel like a new person. When I'm in Brazil I miss my friends here, and how efficient everything is...
Bruce: When I'm in the U.S. I miss the Brazilian girls. Not the band, the gender/ethnicity. When I'm in Brazil I miss my synths and guitars that I can't bring with me every time! I can't win.
BTB- What's the touring schedule like for the rest of the year? Hitting any festivals over the summer?
Bruce: We're putting the word out right now that we're looking for opening slots on a tour this summer. No concrete dates as of yet, but we update our myspace and website regularly.
BTB- A year from now. Where does the band want to be?
Erica: I want us to be releasing albums as often as possible, touring quite a lot, and having international distribution for our music. We're hoping a label will take notice of the response we've had from fans and the things that we've been capable of doing on our own and provide us with the means to keep on doing what we're doing, but with the ability to reach larger audiences.
Bruce: As long as we can keep writing, recording, producing, and performing, then I think we'll be alright.
Blondfire's new album My Someday is out on Tender Rush records & can be purchased on CD Baby.
Blondfire at Myspace.
photo credit: Chris Eichenseer