28th Sep2011

Your New Favorite Thing: Dirtblonde

by Todd

Dirtblonde are a Liverpool based rock’n’roll band. They seek inspiration in the darker, more exciting side of rock’n’roll – the noise of The Jesus And Mary Chain; the intensity of PJ Harvey; the fresh-faced attitude of early NYC punk, the detached energy of early New Order, circa Movement and buzzsaw guitars of Sonic Youth. And if all that doesn’t get you excited, you’re at the wrong website.

Their new EP, Token Rose will be released on October 6th and is available from http://dirtblonde.bandcamp.com/ as digital download or CD. Their first album ‘White Noise, Rubber Heart’ is available on iTunes

Todd and Sania collaborated to interview a band that ought to be the next big thing.

TDOA: The Token Rose EP was just released, real great stuff, as a teaser for a new album in the works. How is that coming along, and is the sound on the EP what should be expected?

IVAN: We’re halfway through the recording of the album…we hope it’ll sound pretty unique. We’re using more sounds and instruments than before, and the mood will be bleaker than what we’ve done in the past.

LULA: The song Token Rose will give the best idea of what the album will sound like. It’s more of a dark and moody feel than our older stuff. The rest of the tracks on the EP are a collection of more mellow and lo-fi songs.

TDOA: You’re also working on a video for the Token Rose single?

IVAN: Yeah, we had this idea of a black and white video with weird, dreamy images in the style of a David Lynch or Kenneth Anger. We met a Spanish guy who’s doing a great job – he started filming some scenes in Madrid and we’re doing some band shots here in Liverpool.

TDOA: You’ve played with some really amazing bands like The Crystal Stilts, and Vivian Girls this year, both Brooklyn bands actually, how was that? Also, Leeds Festival, do you more enjoy the small club shows, or an experience such as that?

IVAN: It was great to play with those Brooklyn bands because we feel we’ve got more in common with them than with bands from the UK, especially from Liverpool. Here, most people don’t get us. But playing with bands such as Crystal Stilts or Vivian Girls exposes us to the right sort of crowd. So things are slowly getting better, it seems. We’re playing with another Brooklyn band next month, She Keeps Bees, so that should be cool, too.

We played at Leeds festival a few years ago and it was fun. Some reviewers said we were the most rock’n’roll thing at the festival, which was quite a compliment. We’re not a ‘party’ band here to entertain people, so we divided the festival crowd, which is just as well – so many people go to festivals in Britain just because it’s trendy, they don’t care about music that much! One reviewer said we scared some people away and the rest who stayed were ‘a fierce cluster of disaffected and wonderful looking kids drawn like bruised moths to a rather guttering candle of venomous wax.’ Which sounds about right to us…

LULA: Some of my favourite gigs have been smaller ones. We played some amazing shows in Brazil which were small but with a great crowd and atmosphere. We played in a book shop in Rio and at a club in Sao Paulo, which were both cool. I like it when people are up close.

IVAN: We don’t care about the size of the gig – the important thing is whether there are any people there to see us! Playing on a big stage in front of lots of people is not a big deal, it feels just right, in fact. There’s nothing worse than playing in a small club to no one.

TDOA: What is the vibe like at a typical Dirtblonde show?

IVAN: Hard to say…perhaps loud, messy, tense. It feels like things could fall apart at any moment and sometimes they do. When we played our first ever gig we were told to leave the venue after we finished playing, because of our behaviour onstage. Once Lula and I had a fight during the set, she stormed off the stage and I smashed my guitar. Some people thought that was the end of the band!

LULA: In bands there is often a battle between the singer and guitarist about who is too loud or not loud enough and we are no exception to that! But we know each other so well there is a great chemistry when we’re onstage. We react off each other. I think it’s quite rare and people seem to pick up on that and enjoy it.

IVAN: For us, when it’s a good gig, it’s a release…we like going crazy, getting lost in the moment. And no two Dirtblonde gigs are ever the same. We always change the ending of whatever is the last song on our set, so it always descends into an improvised, chaotic noise. We never know what’s going to happen.

TDOA: Reviewers cite the Mary Chain, Velvet Underground and others as kindred spirits. One of the things I enjoy about your sound is that each song seems to vary in style and influence. However I feel like I hear a Joy Division/early New Order sound through much of your work. Am I on the right trail?

IVAN: It’s funny, lots of people mention Joy Division when they talk about us. We certainly love them, and there are similarities – we like simple beats, simple basslines, simple guitar riffs. I remember that when I started playing guitar, Bernard Albretch was a big inspiration. I didn’t want to be Jimmy Page!

LULA: When I came off stage at SXSW one of the guys from the next band told me that I sounded like Ian Curtis, which I took as a compliment. I have been influenced by other singers but really the way I sing is hopefully just a reflection of me. It’s been called ‘slacker vocals’ before! I like that.

TDOA: Do you like comparisons to older bands or do you worry that it pigeon-holes you, especially given that your sound seems to be changing?

IVAN: We don’t mind comparisons. But unlike most new bands out there, we have lots of ideas and lots of personality. Our songs vary in style but they all sound like Dirtblonde in the end.

We’re not a one-trick pony. So many bands just have one sound . There are all those bands out there that have a very clinical approach to their music – ‘let’s be indie pop’, ‘let’s be grunge’, ‘let’s be a shoegaze band’. They bore me to death.

I think people sometimes look at us and think, “Hang on, what are they trying to do?” But that’s precisely the thing – we’re not trying to do anything, we’re just being ourselves.

LULA: Everyone sounds a bit like someone else, unless you produce atonal-prog-acid-space-jazz. It’s not the 1950s anymore, nothing is new and what we do is not re-inventing the wheel. We’ll always wear our influences on our sleeve, whether it’s older or more recent, from other bands or from artists or poets or writers. The thing is just to put yourself into it as well and we try to do that.

TDOA: Can you talk a little bit about the production on the newest single (we like to talk about the technical side too)? It sounds super compressed, which gives it a cool sound that you don’t hear many bands using anymore.

IVAN: We don’t really care about the technical side of things that much. With the exception of ‘Token Rose’, which was recorded in a studio, all the songs on the new EP were recorded just by the two of us in a tiny bedroom at home using an 8-track recorder. We have a Unidyne mic from the sixties, a valve mic preamp and a Sonic Maximizer…but no compressor! Maybe it’s the Fuzz Face I used for my guitar parts, some people say it gives a more compressed sound.

All of the songs on the new album will be recorded in the studio though, we just didn’t have the money or time to do the EP there as well!

But we definitely don’t care about whatever are the recording trends today, or what are the current ‘production values’ most bands adopt. We just plug things and tweak things until we get a sound we like. As everything else we do, we’re quite carefree…we just run with it and do something we enjoy. If we think it sounds good, then we keep it. Simple.

TDOA: Will we be seeing you guys around more in the States anytime soon?

IVAN: We hope so! We loved it when we played at South By Southwest in 2009 and we really hope we’ll return for SXSW 2012…but that’s not up to us! If they book us, we’ll come.

We’ve also played in New York before and we loved the city, we’d like to play there again. First time it was a very ad hoc affair, so it’d be nicer if we played to more people. But it was a great experience and it was cool to meet BP Fallon, who’s a total legend and who booked us to play a couple of gigs there, including Death Disco at the Annex.

We’d love to play in other places in the States, too. We’ve got much more in common with American bands, and we think people over there would like our sound. I think we just need more people in the US to be aware of us. We need more sites like yours talking about Dirtblonde and hopefully there’ll be a demand for us there someday!

TDOA: You were included on the bill for a show called Snub Festival, what is that whole thing about? Your inclusion had something to do with experiences in being represented at SXSW music festival here in Austin?

IVAN: Well, Snub was just a nice little one-day festival showcasing bands that were NOT picked to play at Liverpool Sound City – a popular music festival in Liverpool. It was quite ironic that Sound City didn’t want us to play, because they basically want to be a ‘British SXSW’, and we are a band who not only played at the actual South By Southwest festival before, but who was named by the press out there as one of the ‘Top 8 must-see UK bands’ at SXSW 2009!

So, for Sound City to think we were not good enough to play at their festival…it was a bit ridiculous. But that’s how things go for Dirtblonde in Liverpool – some people here just don’t like us, and don’t take us seriously, for whatever reason.

TDOA: What’s currently on your favorite music playlists?

IVAN: I love Deerhunter! ‘Halcyon Digest’ was my favorite album last year. I love the Black Lips, too. I think ‘Arabian Mountain’ is probably their best album. Also, I fell in love with Sonic Youth again, after reading a book about them (Leaving the 20th Century Behind) and I have been listening to everything they did, from their first EP right through to newer stuff like Murray Street and The Eternal. As for newer releases, I’m loving Ladytron’s new album, ‘Gravity The Seducer’ and John Maus’ ‘We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves.’

LULA: There’s a British band called The Duke Spirit who I’ve been listening to for a few years and they’re starting to do really well – their new album ‘Bruiser’ has just come out – and I’ve been listening to some of their new songs recently. I always come back to PJ Harvey, both new and old stuff, plus I love the Warpaint album.

IVAN: We also listen to a lot of 1950s music like the Elvis Sun sessions, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent. And blues, Chess Records, that kind of thing…

TDOA: If you had to hand someone one album to change their life, which would it be?

IVAN: I remember ‘Nevermind’ by Nirvana made me interested in noisy, alternative, obscure bands, so maybe that’d be a good one.

LULA: I would probably give them ‘Horses’ by The Patti Smith Group. It’s the perfect combination of the sound of freedom, passion, classic rock and roll, experimentation and spoken word.

TDOA: If someone had never heard your band before, what would you tell them about it?

IVAN: I would tell them that if they love bands like Sonic Youth, Jesus & Mary Chain or My Bloody Valentine, they will probably love us, too. I’d tell them we’re the best and most exciting band in the North of England right now. I’d tell them we’re much better than lots of ‘hype’ bands out there such as Yuck or The Vaccines, for instance. I’d say; ‘Don’t believe the hype, just listen to your fuckin’ ears, and you’ll realise just how good we are!’

LULA: There is a line from a review in a little fanzine that describes Dirtblonde really well, saying we are; ‘A delicious slab of nasty rock scuzz… it’s the sound of motorcycle crashes, of bruised eyes, of existential rage and a yearning for glamour in a grey world.’ I’d try to remember it and tell them that!

TDOA: What can we expect next from Dirtblonde?

IVAN: I don’t know. We never make any plans. We feel like splitting up every year come December, when we look back at yet another year of struggle and frustration. We’re making the new album, ‘Hours’, as if it was our last. Doesn’t mean it will be, but it could. It certainly reads like an epitaph in parts. The cover is just a skull. The last song is called ‘Too Late’…

LULA: We’ll be having a launch for the Token Rose EP in October and we’ll be playing some gigs to promote the album in early 2012. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to play SXSW too.

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