Blondes Keep it Natural
Though Blondes’ Sam Haar and Zach Steinman aren’t actually blondes at all, they’ve become synonymous with the word over the last few years—without ever releasing a full-length album, at least until today. The duo makes a simple statement—both as brunettes and as musical “Blondes.” The duo started off in various musical projects, and began playing music at their alma mater, Oberlin College, where musicians like Tortoise and also Beach House began. Their self-titled debut of trancey-electro music comes out today—an avant-garde album shimmering with the familiarity of nightclubs in the ’90s. They’re bringing the fun back into electronica and dancing along the way.
We spoke with Zach Steinman and Sam Haar about improvising their way to music, living in the moment, and hoping to play in Ibiza once again.
ILANA KAPLAN: How did you two meet and form Blondes?
SAM HAAR: We met in college. We started the project when we started playing at Oberlin.
ZACH STEINMAN: Sam studied music at Oberlin.
KAPLAN: There are a lot of bands with “blonde” in the title. Why did Blondes fit for you?
STEINMAN: We liked how it sounded. It was very natural, you know? It was a placeholder at one point, but then we started liking it more and more. We liked the ideas that it evoked. It just came to us, I would say. It actually did. It looked good.
HAAR: I liked the way it looked. We liked the way it looked.
STEINMAN: It looked good.
KAPLAN: How has your musical style changed in this project, as opposed to previous projects that you’ve worked on before?
HAAR: I don’t think we have. We’re very improvisation-based. The sense and sensibility of playing and jamming and firing out. That is probably the thing that has most translated. Although there were a couple that were kind of dancey, a little bit, but that was different because we were playing with live drums and stuff.
STEINMAN: Our bands before were really different than this. Just like the sensibility of the band before, we still have a little bit, which leaves it loose.
KAPLAN: Are you guys both originally from New York City?
STEINMAN: Um, nope. I’m from San Francisco.
HAAR: I’m from New Jersey. Like Central West. Near Princeton. I grew up in Pennington.
KAPLAN: What are you looking forward to the most this year?
STEINMAN: [laughs] No idea. You know…
HAAR: I don’t know. We’ll definitely see what happens naturally, I guess. We’ll see what’s waiting for us.
STEINMAN: We’re about to go on tour in Europe for a little over two weeks. We’re releasing an album next week on February 7.
HAAR: [laughs] Then we’re going to do some touring in the US. We’re really excited. We’ll be releasing some more stuff. Hopefully we’ll go back to Ibiza during the summer.
KAPLAN: How did you go about making your record?
HAAR: Well, it started out being this series of 12″ records, and that really defined how it came about, I would say. We started just doing them two tracks at a time, thinking about making them for vinyl for that kind of a release, but doing them in pairs. It kind of evolved in pairs as we were trying out new things. It happened over basically all of last year. So, a lot of it was in response to some touring we had done or to the last record we had made. So, it was how we wanted to change it a little bit. They were done two at a time, so the pairings were done in very much the same way.
KAPLAN: What goes into creating your sounds and beats?
STEINMAN: Yeah. It comes out of basically playing and a lot of improvising. We basically load up samples and play around with different parts.
HAAR: It all comes together. We kind of find some elements that we like playing with and some sounds we like to use or something, and we just play together. That’s how we come up with everything.
KAPLAN: Who are some of the coolest artists you guys sampled?
STEINMAN: Meredith Monk. That’s probably the only one.
KAPLAN: Where do you guys see yourselves in the next five years?
HAAR: I don’t know. I don’t think we think about it really. Hopefully we’ll still be working on things.
STEINMAN: [laughs] Yeah, you know. Hopefully we’ll be prospering. I was gonna say that, the whole project has evolved really organically. We’ve just kind of kept doing our thing. We’ve done a record and a tour. So, five years is kind of like… we have never really seen ourselves doing this, what we’re doing right now, five years ago. It’s not really deterring much. So, it has very much happened by itself.
KAPLAN: Which tracks are your favorites off of the album?
STEINMAN: This is a tough question as a lot of the tracks mean such different things to me. You’re asking me who’s my favorite child here. I’ve recently been really enjoying “Business” and “Water.” I’m really happy with “How the Move” and “Evolve.” Although “Amber” also has a very special place in my heart, as the one that didn’t feel a need for a beat and gets so gestural in static.
BLONDES’ SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM COMES OUT ON RVNG LTD. TODAY.