On a Saturday evening in DC
Capitol Sound DC: So, you were asking me where I am from and I said Minnesota. Where are you from?
Blonder: I'm from a town on Long Island called Oyster Bay.
CSDC: Did you like growing up there?
Blonder: I did! It's nice, it's kind of like where The Great Gatsby took place, so it's the north shore in Nassau County. t's nice, I grew up in more of a middle class household but the area is really elegant, the trees are really tall, it's really kind of romantic actually.
CSDC: Do you feel like it influenced you music in any way?
Blonder: Some of the melancholy that can come from being in the suburbs and the summer nights type of thing maybe? But the music is a little bit more intellectual and came from living in the city for years you know?
I needed something brand new and fresh with these new songs.
CSDC: I read that you got into music through someone you grew up with? A neighbor that became sort of your "guide" to coolness.
Blonder: Wow. Yeah that's actually true. Wow this is some -who's that doo doo da doo dude? Nardwuar, that's some crazy Nardwuar shit right there. So yeah, it was my sister's best friend's older brother on the same block as me, much older than me. He was a skateboarder -used to ride for Supreme in the 90s; very dope, was such a swaggy dude to grow up down the street from. And he literally showed me guitar, he'd give me records, he'd be like "I know you don't like David Bowie 'cause you're ten but listen to this." He was kind of that guide.
CSDC: You need someone like that to kind of show you the way, who can kind of open your world and blow your mind. What did you think when you first heard Bowie?
Blonder: Oh man, I didn't get it at all. I mean God, not at all.
CSDC: I think it can take awhile. It took me up until fairly recently to really "get it."
Blonder: Yeah, and I was like a child. Out of the stuff he showed me I was into Miles Davis, like Bitches Brew -that more free jazz thing that he did, more experimental stuff. Also Bad Brains, that DC punk band, I was like really really into that.
CSDC: I wanted to talk to you about the process leading up to the birth of Blonder. I read that you had the music before you actually had the name, brand, etc. Was this intentional or did it just happen that way? Did you want to take the time to figure out what you wanted this project to be before it was actually out in the world?
Blonder: Well, I was in this other band called Dream Baby -not a bad band name- we had this weird, kind of buzzy thing just kind of within our friend group and it grew in this kind of way where a lot of people would come to the shows but we weren't big, you know what I mean? But it was like New York and it was really really fun. And I'd written a bunch of songs for Dream Baby that actually got me a record deal and then once I got my record deal they were like "hey, think about your music, think about your art, mature and develop." So I actually moved to Los Angeles wrote a bunch more music, lived the life. And while I was there, I was like okay Dream Baby is over, it's something else now. And that's what happened, I wrote and recorded all the songs and realized Dream Baby was done and I needed something brand new and fresh with these new songs.
CSDC: So your label gave you time to figure your sound out, that's cool.
Blonder: Yeah they were super supportive.
CSDC: You're based out of New York now, what is it like to be an "aspiring" musician in a place where a lot of people are chasing the same thing? Is is supportive? Collaborative?
Blonder: I have a friend group and I make music and they make music and we share ideas -between Porches and Wet, little bit of Devonte Hynes in there. He's been super supportive of Blonder and he's really happy when I do finally release stuff - you know I played him songs like two years ago and he was like "you gotta put that out!" Joe Valley from Wet is a super close friend of mine, an amazing cat so is Gabe actually; Gabe the drummer from Wet- he was the bassist in Blonder for our last tour. And I wrote three songs on the record with Aaron Maine from Porches. So it's all kind of in the mix there in that sense, just as far as a peer group that's already going. I don't ever think of myself as "aspiring," just saying! I just make music, put it out, do it, and that's it. I never think of myself as less than; I've been making songs for like six years now.
CSDC: Your aesthetic-how would you describe it? For example, your font choice (on merch, album, etc.) was that a conscious one? I think font is so important.
Blonder: Conscious? Oh my god yes.
Dylan Chenfeld (Blonder guitarist): Font is two weeks with this guy! Lowercase only, lots of emojis, lots of emotions. Please write that all down.
Blonder: Yeah make sure that Dylan is on that part; what he said is correct. The vibe is basically like, the music is one thing and then what you do with the brand is something else; that has to do with history and graphic design and people that came before you and so on and so forth. So the touchstone for this stuff is basically Factory Records and Peter Saville; a British label in the 80s and late 70s that dropped all of that post-punk stuff and there was a really obsessive attention to detail that Peter Saville had that I just - I always just felt like -it's so weird because it's like anti-emotions; it's just a font and a color and this but it's also so emotional and there's something there, something so real there. So that's where we started, with Peter Saville. To me there is something so real and essential about it...the way they did their shit was like wow; that was the coolest scene ever.
CSDC: So did you design the merch yourself?
Blonder: Yeah, so there's an art director at my record label that I have developed an amazing relationship with and we kind of go back and forth. I send a lot of refs and then I move things around with them; I'm not physically moving the thing on photoshop but I'm goading the entire thing, 100%. I'm the final filter for everything related to the band -songs, art, everything.
CSDC: This "Blonder World" you've tried to create -how would you describe this world to those listening to your music?
Blonder: The Instagram has left the mood aspect of it and has become more live, like what we're up to type of thing. Cause like you know that's kind of just what it is and we have some fun with that. But at this point the "world" is just on the record, you know? And it's a love story basically, it's just about being young in New York City and falling in love, falling out of love, and heartbreak. And that kind of intoxicating thing that happens; as well and all the in-betweens -the awkward stuff, the amazing stuff, the perfect night and the bad night.
Immerse yourself in a Blonder World at the links below.
All photos by Cina Nguyen for Capitol Sound DC.