Portland’s Blouse have become known for making sounds along the lines of Nico fronting Joy Division: A morose chanteuse serving to temper a slightly insane rhythm section by using hyper-lush voice to coax listeners into a reverie of dark pleasures. In Blouse this lush voice is courtesy of lead singer Charlie Hilton, whom upon answering my recent phone call actually sounded to currently be in a similar haze… “I’m actually at a cabin in the forest, sitting on a porch, listening to a river. It’s quite idyllic,” she tells me. Although I, admittedly, feel quite bad for disturbing her present state, she seems more than happy to talk to me about her Blouse’s sophomore effort, Imperium, which is due next Tuesday, September 17th, on Captured Tracks.
“It felt a little more serious and deliberate. We recorded over the span of eight months,” Hilton tells me of Imperium, going on to say, “The sophomore record is an interesting thing because at that point you can compare yourself to yourself.” The recording of the songs actually turned into an exercise in restraint of sorts for Hilton and bandmates Jacob Portrait and Patrick Adams: “The plan was basically to try not to use any synth and drum machines, which we relied heavily on for the first record. We wanted to go the more mysterious road.”
I ask Hilton about what influences her and she tells me that much of her personal influences actually come from the literary world: “I’m influenced a lot by literature and writing, people like Henry Miller and some of the Russians, definitely Dostoevsky. One song on the new record was inspired by a Truman Capote short story.” However, she admits that Blouse’s musical influences are more shared between all three members: “As far as music goes, we all kind of like the same stuff. Like, we’ll go on YouTube and just geek out about things.” Portland itself also seems to have a big influence on Blouse and Hilton, who tells me, “I love the music and arts scene here. I’m from LA, which is just so big that it can kind of make you lazy, but I love the size of [Portland]. It’s really tight-knit and supportive and kind of maks you want to do things.”
Although it might not directly affect her musical output (although she didn’t say that it didn’t), Charlie Hilton’s sense of fashion is quite admirable and I’m inclined to ask her where it comes from.
“I think fashion is really fun because it just changes all the time and you can just look completely different and feel completely different. I’m drawn to unique clothing. I like wearing something you’ve never quite seen before. It makes getting dressed up more fun that way.”
Beginning the 17th in Seattle, Blouse have a short string of upcoming West Coast dates supporting their sophomore effort, which take them through the 26th in Costa Mesa. And while they are scheduled to go to Europe in November, they’re still working out the next time that they’ll be on the East Coast: “We’ll be back there, but I wish I could tell you when. Maybe after the holidays settle down.” Hilton does admit to having fond memories of Philadelphia though: “We played there with Bear in Heaven at the Church, in the basement, and the green room was like in the church. That was the coolest green room I’ve ever been in, but I kind of felt like I shouldn’t be in there.” When I ask what can be expected of the live experience, Hilton tells me, “I’ve never really thought about it from the perspective of the audience, but it changes based on the environment. We played like a warehouse the other night and everyone was dancing. I don’t think we’ve ever had a show before where everyone was dancing like that… but the new songs are maybe a little dancier and a little less stony.”