Interview: Blonde Redhead

Blonde Redhead is a stubborn bunch, no? Impossible to pin down in sound, the New York-born trio – made of frontwoman Kazu Makino and twins Simone and Amedeo Pace – has had 17 years’ of experience in dodging style and genre bullets, with a canon of eight albums standing as testament to its assorted adventures in post-punk, art rock, dream pop, electronica and well, the combination of all of the above. 2007’s 23 scored the band its biggest critical goal, which its latest Penny Sparkle follows up on with more sublime and daring dreamscapes. JUICE caught up with Simone before their vivacious show at Esplanade recently.

Text Min Chen
Interview courtesy of Esplanade

Hey Simone. What’s new with you?
I’m back in Brooklyn at the moment. We’ve just toured in Europe, China, US and Mexico. And now, we’re just about to go to Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. It’s been going well… and I can see things changing. I feel like the shows aren’t as well-attended as they used to be, probably because of the economy. But the shows are better because the people who really want to be there are there, which is really rewarding for us.

Well, you deserve it after Penny Sparkle. What were you trying to accomplish with this new album?
The idea was just to approach music in a different way and to extend ourselves. And it’s difficult because we’ve made so much music already, so it’s limiting. Then again, we got to work with different producers, which was really helpful. So yeah, it was just to do something different and give the listener something different to listen to.

And it does sound different – more stripped down and minimal…
That came from working with different producers. Going into the studio with Drew Brown at The Magic Shop, he recorded us in a way that made all the difference. We were also kind of figuring out how to make the best of something without overwhelming it, because we do have a tendency to overdo things.

Are you happy with the final product?
Yeah, it’s fun to play live. And I think it’s an album that has a lot of personality because it’s hard to imagine some of the parts coming from anywhere else. They’re really special. I like that about it.

Did you guys feel any pressure having to follow up on 23?
There was no pressure at all – and not from the label. Any pressure was just about being on time to meet the release date, but everything else as far as how the album developed, was entirely up to us.

And how does the band approach the making of a new album?
We usually just think about what it is we should do. We talk a lot on how to approach the album and what we can do that’s different but still who we are.

Have you also worked out a rock solid dynamic within the band?
Well, we all have our jobs that we do, and sometimes it’s harmonic and sometimes it’s conflicting. Every album has a different dynamic. But we embrace both sides because we know good things can come from both. Sometimes it’s painful and sometimes it’s bliss, but it’s still us.

After 17 years of Blonde Redhead, does it get hard keeping things fresh?
I don’t think it’s hard. You always want to do your best and be your best. That’s very important. I mean, we want to do the usual things in a band, but I think it all comes down to being the best of our abilities. Also, our success hasn’t been… we haven’t made a million dollars or anything like that, so we can’t just say, “Oh, I’m done and I can retire”. We can’t do that and so, we keep going.

So, no real secrets to your longevity?
I’m sure there is, but I don’t know what it is! We’re just lucky, I guess.

Blonde Redhead rocked the Esplanade Concert Hall on 15 February, as part of the Mosaic Music Series. For more colouring and music, head to