Du Blonde, Back to Feeling Like Herself

Du Blonde is still a relative newborn… It is the new moniker and project of Newcastle (but often LA-based) singer/songwriter Beth Jeans Houghton.  In 2012 Houghton released Yours Truly,...

Du Blonde is still a relative newborn… It is the new moniker and project of Newcastle (but often LA-based) singer/songwriter Beth Jeans Houghton.  In 2012 Houghton released Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose, which critics mostly liked, but which had many comparing her to a plethora of the most obvious contemporary chanteuses of the indie pop variety… which was, frankly, not really her thing… She, in-turn, had a nervous breakdown, reevaluated her music, her career, and even recent life choices that would fall into the realm of the heart.  So for a follow-up?  Houghton became Du Blonde and recruited Bad Seed Jim Sclavunos to produce a new album, which went on to become Welcome Back to Milk, which hit shelves this May.  The album sounds like… Well, it sounds like if you recruited a Bad Seed to produce a record for someone who’s currently discontent with nearly every aspect of life… But the album does cover quite a spectrum of sounds.  At its core seems to be psychedelic garage rock, but it’s also often reminiscent of all of the best post-riot grrrl bands, ‘90s alt rock, and, at times, even a ten-ton-truck-take on piano pop balladry… Du Blonde currently has a handful of UK festival dates booked for July and September, in addition to a date with Future Islands, but in a recent chat I had with Beth about this new self of hers, she told me that touring the US is something that she’s definitely hoping for in the near future.

Izzy Cihak: Since this is a new project, I have to ask:  What was the motivation behind this “new incarnation,” as you have described it?  What do you feel you’ve gotten out of this new outlet?

Beth Jeans Houghton: The motivation was no longer feeling like myself. I had reached a point where I was listening to the opinions of others more than I was listening to my own, and I needed to start fresh in order to be myself again. It’s allowed me to grasp what it is I love and put me in a position to live my own story as opposed to living the stories that others try to write for me.

Izzy: What would you consider to be the most significant influences for Du Blonde, whether musical or otherwise?

Beth: The most significant influences are the people, whether I know them or not, who have stood up for themselves and not bent to other people’s rules about who they should be. People who are unashamedly themselves. It can be the most terrifying and simultaneously, freeing experience to allow yourself to exist as you are instead of in a way that pleases other people. Musically I find a lot of this attitude in psych and garage rock and American hardcore.

Izzy: How was working with Jim Sclavunos on your upcoming record, Welcome Back to Milk?  He’s had a pretty amazing career as both a musician and producer.  What do you feel like he brought to Du Blonde?

Beth: Jim is a force of nature. He has a very old school way of working and we both like to work fast. He has a low tolerance of anything whimsical, which worked perfectly as that is what I was hell bent on avoiding. He’s a no fuss kind of guy and I feel like this is a no fuss kind of record. His drumming is powerful and he doesn’t rest on his laurels or take the easy route when coming up with beats and he definitely added extra groove to a lot of the songs because of that.

Izzy: For that matter, do you have any particular favorite works of his?  He’s obviously amazing as a “Seed,” but I loved his work in The Cramps too and I’m a huge fan of his production work with Black Moth and The Horrors.

Beth: Yeah he’s great. One of my all-time favourite tracks is “No Pussy Blues” by Grinderman. He’s such a ferocious drummer and that kind of music requires someone like that.

Izzy: Do you currently have a favorite track off of Welcome Back to Milk, whether one that you’re most proud of or one that’s just the most fun to play?  I especially fucking love “Chips to Go,” which totally reminds me of a beautifully twisted blend of The Breeders and L7 (hopefully that’s not insulting).

Beth Thank you. “Chips to Go” is for sure one of the most fun to play. That track was written as part of the first version of this record that was scrapped, and when I started again, I had to make sure we kept it for the album. We re-recorded it in London a lot faster and it’s great for getting my aggression out. I also love “Isn’t It Wild.” We reworked it for live shows and it has become a whole different beast. Lyrically though, I think it’s one of the songs I’m most proud of. It’s simple but I wrote it in a moment of clarity just after I found out my granddad had died and I was thinking about life and how quickly it can disappear and how important it is not to waste anytime pretending to be somebody that you’re not.

 Izzy: What is that that inspires the visual elements of Du Blonde?  Your recent video for “Black Flag” is particularly awesome, in addition to your own personal fashion sense.

Beth: It’s a mixture of living in LA, taking from the scenery there and the way of life and also from my own need to put myself in an uncomfortable position in order to grow. I spent a lot of my younger years worried about my body and about how I looked. I had no confidence and felt like I wasn’t the way I was supposed to be. I have the same body now but a better understanding of what is and isn’t important. Clothes, body shape, and physical flaws are not important. What’s in your head and how you stick up for what you believe in is.

Izzy: Finally, what can be expected of the live experience on your upcoming UK dates?  And, for that matter, can we expect to see you in the states anytime soon?

Beth: I’m really enjoying playing live. More so than I’ve ever done. I don’t play guitar live, I leave that to my guitarists and that means I can focus on singing and connecting with an audience and for me that is the most important thing. We have a great time, and hopefully our friends watching do too. I would love more than anything to tour America. Let’s make it happen!

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.