Blondfire are about to release their sophomore effort, yet they already have a career that would warrant a two-hour edition of Behind the Music… Blondfire began with Erica and Bruce Driscoll, two siblings who grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan and have since relocated to NYC and eventually LA. They grew up learning to play piano, guitar, violin, and drums (respectively). They’ve been recording and releasing music for nearly a decade now, gaining the attention and help of members of Ivy, Fountains of Wayne, and The Smashing Pumpkins. Their debut LP, My Someday, dropped in 2008, followed by a number of singles and EPs, including 2011’s “Where the Kids Are,” which got them into Honda Civic adverts; TV shows on MTV, CBS, and ESPN; and onto tours with the likes of Foals and Surfer Blood. Their sound was a transgressive take on the popular, akin to Blondie and Depeche Mode’s charting efforts of the late 70s and early 80s… the synth-heavy sounds that appeal to both the youthful masses and those who appreciate the snobbery of sonic subversions, alike.
Young Heart, Blondfire’s sophomore effort, drops February 11th on Tender Tender Rush (which includes numerous of their recent hits). The album boasts the input of not only the siblings, but producer and co-writer (among other things) Wally Gagel and reflects a notion of youthful musings and obsessions that can lead to the most earnestly uplifting kinds of art… both in its hopefulness and bitterness. While the album serves as a beautiful amalgam of the siblings’ time working together, brother Bruce has opted out of the touring lineup, choosing to focus on the writing and producing aspects of the band, leaving sister Erica as the sole core live member of Blondfire. And she was actually kind enough to take some time recently to tell me about the too-complex-for-its-years history of the band.
Izzy Cihak: It’s been quite a few years since your debut LP. What have been the highlights of the band between then and now?
Erica Driscoll: There have been so many, but definitely seeing the success of our song “Where The Kids Are” and touring this past year has been pretty great! We were on the road with Awolnation, Foals, and Surfer Blood, to name a few. Another highlight for me was playing Lollapalooza. It was pretty cool to be on the same bill as a lot of the bands that inspired me in the beginning, like New Order and The Cure.
Izzy: So your sophomore LP, Young Heart, is about to drop. What would you consider to be the biggest differences between your sophomore effort and your debut?
Erica: I think with this new record we left behind a little bit of the synth pop we had on the last one and went in a more anthemic direction. It still has the dreaminess of Blondfire, with a bit more edge to it with the guitars. Also, a lot of the lyrics drifted away from a love/relationship theme, to be more about bigger ideas, like youth, taking chances, and following your dreams.
Izzy: What would you say were the album’s biggest influences and inspirations, musical and otherwise?
Erica: Bruce and I pull from a lot of different things for inspiration. Bruce is a big fan of movie soundtracks, so I definitely think there is a bit of a cinematic feeling to it. I think we both also tend to gravitate to kind of whimsical, quirky movies, like Beetlejuice and Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory. I love the crazy, imaginative stories and visuals they have, and I think our music can kind of take you away to another world like that. We also love the happy/sad vibes of Bossa Nova, and The Smiths, 1980’s bands, 1960’s fashion…
Izzy: You worked with Wally Gagel on the album, with whom you’ve worked before and who has a terribly impressive catalogue of work, so I have to ask: Do you have any particular favorite records he’s worked on? I’m a huge fan of his work with Belly and Tanya Donelly.
Erica: Yeah, he’s pretty awesome! I really love the Best Coast EP he did recently and The Family Of The Year album.
Izzy: Blondfire’s live lineup has recently gone through some changes. What ultimate impact do you feel that has had on the project? Was anything particularly difficult or particularly enlightening?
Erica: Yeah, Bruce had decided a while ago that he didn’t want to be out on the road touring anymore. I think he was just over that lifestyle. I’m not gonna lie, touring is not always easy, but it can also be amazing. So, that was definitely a bit scary for me at first. I was used to having him around to rely on in things, like interviews, etc. Funny enough, not having him there forced me out of my shell and taught me how to rely on myself a bit more. I guess it kind of showed me what I’m capable of. We still really enjoy writing together, but now when I go on the road it’s not too much brother/sister time [laughs].
Izzy: What do you have planned (or hoped) for 2014? If there is a chance of a tour, what can we expect of Blondfire’s live show?
Erica: Well the album is coming out Februaruy 11th, and I can’t wait for that! I guess my biggest hope for 2014 is that people discover the music and some of them fall in love with it, like I did with my favorite band’s albums. As far as touring, we’re doing a west coast run with Royal Teeth and Chappo around the album release. We’ll also be shooting a music video for the first single “Young Heart.” Then SXSW and more touring for the rest of the year. Our live show is definitely about giving our all, getting lost in the music, connecting with people, and just having a good time!