Making Music Special: A Conversation with BLONDER

BLONDER © Shervin Lainez

“Well, I mean, the whole first EP is kind of this one story about like, whoever the singer is, and being the protagonist in this love story,” Constantine Anastasakis, otherwise known as BLONDER, elucidates about his forthcoming debut EP, $5.

As “indie” traverses — and definitively owns — the rock music sphere, it is becoming increasingly crucial (and difficult) for artists to be able to truly separate from the pack. It seems that BLONDER is indeed doing just that. Anastasakis curates his sound from a variant pool of influences, but cites 80s New Wave as the most inspiring source. BLONDER’s music blends together the tambour of Anastasakis’ post-punk-esque vocals with wet guitar sounds to make a sonic formula reminiscent of every indie film you’ve ever loved. His awareness of BLONDER’s sound is not lost on him, though, and he notes that he works tirelessly to craft his final products. Having racked up impressive combined streaming numbers on both Spotify and SoundCloud, it seems that the work is certainly paying off. Anastasakis knows that it’s not for nothing, either.

“I don’t really hear too many rock bands that are putting out songs at my level that are as involved, if you will,” Anastasakis notes. “So, I kind of feel like the work is speaking for itself, and the proof is in the pudding, you know?”

Listen: “Talk to Me” – BLONDER

A CONVERSATION WITH BLONDER

Atwood Magazine: So you have an EP coming soon, and from what I’ve read and researched, you’ve had a lot of time writing these songs - you started a couple years ago. Are you excited to finally put everything out there, and see what it’s like?

BLONDER: See what happens?

Exactly!

BLONDER: Um, yeah, I mean, I think it depends what day it is. Some days I’m like, wow, this music is so old, do I even care about this? But, definitely, going on tour, really made me remember, you know, how potent these songs were. And it also reminded me how hard I worked at them, to build them, to get them from where they were. What’s been annoying is, since they were done, the strategy to roll them out, that’s been kind of the frustrating part. Music is something I work really hard at, and I think it’s great. So I kind of — it’s really weird, because they were like, straight-up pop songs when they were recorded; like, very traditional, “go to L.A. with the big producers.” I tried to avoid all the, I don’t know, pitfalls of doing that. And I think I did, actually; and I think I made a really cool, like, real record. But part of me wants to be able to […] do something that’s more like, (Sandy) Alex G, that’s more like, demo-sounding; that’s really real. […] It’s like, getting a label is quote-unquote “big” for some reason. I don’t know. So, […] I just think it’ll be nice to get them out.

How many songs are on the EP? Is it going to include all of the singles that have been out?

BLONDER: Yeah. The singles are on it. And we’re debating on whether — it’s kind of funny, because we’re debating on whether to do seven songs or six. When we get to seven, it’s a little bit of… not an EP anymore.

Well, yes and no! I think anything less than nine is still considered an EP.

BLONDER: Right, right. So I think we’re considering seven. That’s what I’m trying to shoot for. We went back and made some very small changes to a few songs.

Sure; nice. And your sound has been kind of described online as like, post-punk rock/indie rock-type stuff, which I feel like is kind of influenced by New York. Am I right about that? Have you found that being from New York, and growing up right outside the city, has affected the way that you make your music, and what it sounds like?

BLONDER: I feel like it has to do with the grain of my voice, randomly, why the songs end up becoming like that. I was trying more like, pure synth stuff, and a lot of other kind of styles, and none of it was really working. I feel like this sound and this genre just works; that rock music thing, and going back to like, some 80s British bands.

I was going to say, you sound very New Wave-y, and I love it. I think it’s a really cool sound, especially now in modern music, it’s needed. It’s a breath of fresh air.

BLONDER: Yeah, totally. I think that the best thing that could happen to BLONDER would be people feeling that way; being like, you know, “He brought some of that back.” And the tracks are still pop, in a pretty big way.

Well, of all the singles, I think that ‘Talk to Me’ has been my favorite song of the last few months.

BLONDER: Hell yeah, that’s amazing. Thank you. So, yeah, there’s like a pop thing in there, but I’m just bringing back some of those 80s influences, I guess. I really got into Factory Records, like New Order, and how they [Factory Records] were presenting their bands, like attention to design and that’s kind of why all my single art is kind of font-driven; just kind of, more about design and more about elegance, rather than — I don’t know, album art is such a big thing to me.

Well, it’s not a bad influence! And you mentioned that you’re friends with Porches, and I’ve read some other people; do you think you’re influenced by the music that your friends are making? Do you bounce ideas off of each other? Or do you keep your separate things, and just support each other?

BLONDER: Yeah, I actually wrote three of the songs on the EP with Aaron from Porches; and I’ve also written a couple of songs with Greta Kline from Frankie Cosmos — but those [with Greta Kline] are not out, and they’re not going to be on the EP. They’re just kind of like, songs in the bank, for next time.

Have you played any of them live, or do they just exist in written form?

BLONDER: Yeah, they just exist on a guitar with some lyrics. It was kind of a long time ago now. […] But, yeah, the relationships are good; you know, with someone like Blood Orange, he’s someone who’s like, a super powerful force. He influences everyone, you know? And we don’t really have that much of a personal sharing relationship; although I have been to his studio and I have heard a bunch of songs that he’s working on. So I can get a little bit of the inside scoop, but we don’t really trade ideas. Like, with Aaron, we listen to music together, and we actually talk about stuff.

I don’t think you could meet someone that hasn’t experienced the desire to fall in love, or heartbreak, or anything.

And do you find that when you’re songwriting, do you follow along with similar themes? Or does it kind of vary in the moment?

BLONDER: Well, I mean, the whole first EP is kind of this one story about like, whoever the singer is, and being the protagonist in this love story. There’s songs about not wanting to give up a relationship; there’s songs about being dumped; there’s songs about falling in and out of love; there’s songs about wanting to talk to someone. They’re all kind of revolved around this central theme of romance or love. It’s kind of like this weird, indie heartthrob reference to like, I don’t know — like, Duran Duran.

Listen: “In and Out” – BLONDER

Something out of an indie movie!

BLONDER: Yeah, exactly. Definitely. Some people — I don’t know, to be honest it’s really weird to be writing about that stuff, in like, the political climate that we’re in now. And for these songs to be coming out now, it can definitely feel superfluous. It’s like, “Okay, what? This guy’s just talking about love? That’s the last thing we need.

I think it’s exactly what we need! We need people to be writing love songs and breakup songs because it keeps us human.

BLONDER: Definitely, definitely! That’s what’s up. That’s what it’s about, to me. Like, before this EP, I was still writing a lot of songs, and I couldn’t really figure out what I wanted to talk about, and then someone from my record label was like, “If I put a gun to your head right now, what would you talk about?” And, you know, it really was about love, and it really was about romance. Those things, in my opinion, they turn the world in a really interesting way. I mean, money turns the world, but that stuff turns the world in a completely different way, and that’s why — like you said, there’s something so essential and human about all of those kinds of different stories and parables that everyone goes through. I don’t think you could meet someone that hasn’t experienced the desire to fall in love, or heartbreak, or anything. There’s so much of that, and it’s just the human experience; so, short story long…

That’s totally fine! It’s better to be descriptive about it. Do you think that you have a certain song of yours that you attach a stronger meaning to, just for yourself? Or one that you feel means more than the others?

BLONDER: Um, well, it’s weird. The song that’s doing the best right now, “Lean”  — the lyrics on that are actually the most personal, and the least about abstract things like “let’s save a relationship,” or “you just dumped me so I’m feeling horrible.” That song is about something more essential; it’s almost about the whole project. You know, that chorus is pretty epic, and it’s just about wanting to feel a certain way. It’s really describing what it means to be in a rock band, and what’s it like to have people watch you, and just kind of, go for whatever your little dream is. It’s kind of more encapsulating. I mean, I think that song’s the most emotionally accessible. The way that I got to sing that one was really gentle, and really like, approachable. The chorus is straining and there’s more of that like, post-punk influence, but the song in general is more welcoming and washy and easy.

Listen: “Lean” – BLONDER

I like that word, ‘washy.’ Have you found it difficult, especially in New York, being a musician in ‘the industry,’ because everything’s so saturated? Have you been able to find a little niche at all? Has it affected the way that you do things?

BLONDER: Yeah, I mean, I think I paid so much attention to the music, I would even consider in a pretty radical way. Like, I don’t really hear too many rock bands that are putting out songs at my level that are as involved, if you will. So, I kind of feel like the work is speaking for itself, and the proof is in the pudding, you know? As far as ‘industry stuff,’ I mean, there was politics in the 80s, too.

Of course; it never stops.

BLONDER: Right. It’s weird, because there’s always going to be that aspect that you’ll have to deal with and work with it. And, yeah, things are saturated, but I think it’s mostly because kids think like, “Oh, I can layer five things in Ableton, and put it on SoundCloud.” And that’s not true.

Everyone just sits in their bedroom on their laptop!

BLONDER: Although this is like, a pretentious thought or something, I think that every sound has a provenance. It comes from somewhere; like wine. Like, “Oh, this wine was made in Italy in 2004.” It’s like, that synth sound, it literally comes from somewhere, and it belongs to something. And I think that kids overlook that a lot nowadays, because history gets collapsed, and you have everything right in front of you. I think, yeah, writing songs in your bedroom is hard because you don’t — you have to pay even more attention to where the sound is coming from, or why you’re picking this sound, or that sound. Ableton just gives you sounds, and you’re kind of able to just do whatever. It kind of has no identity.

Music is supposed to be special, and it gets special through work.

You can’t really be unique with it.

BLONDER: Right, right. So, yeah, I mean, the industry is crazy. It’s really like, you have a dream, and you want to make something happen, and it’s very touch-and-go. You have to be willing to stick it out, and just release more music. Everything is another step, you know? It’s like, I’m going to release this EP, and I’ve worked super hard on it, but I can’t wait to write new music, and I can’t wait to build on this one, and just continue to build the story, and continue to expand people’s perception of the project. So, there’s got to be a second EP. But, I think kids now want to have that instant [gratification]. They’re like, “Oh, I went on tour, and I didn’t blow up, so question mark??

But I guess, too, that kind of weeds out the ones who don’t really care, and the ones who aren’t really serious about it in a real way.

BLONDER: Definitely.

I know that you mentioned in an interview that you’re very tight with your live performing, and that your standards are pretty high with your live performing. Do you think that live performing is going to continue, I guess, kind of saving the music industry? Do you think that it’s important to be able to put on a good live show?

BLONDER: I think that, it was like, I felt rewarded for that, in a way, because at every show, the fact that our set was what it was like really came off, and people were really wowed. And what I wanted to happen, happened, as far as fan reaction goes. So, I mean, a live show is everything. Unfortunately, depending on where you’re at, music is touring now; especially for rock bands. And I love music. So, if the band’s not tight, that’s not remarkable. That’s not what music is. Music is supposed to be special, and it gets special through work. For me, it’s just about making it special. Did you say it’s “saving the music industry?”

I really feel that live shows are going to be what keeps music afloat!

BLONDER: Oh, absolutely. I mean, people still love to go to shows, you know? And when you hear that a band is good from someone you trust, you’ll go and see them, probably.

It’s like a gateway into their actual music, as well. Especially if it’s a band that you haven’t heard of, and they’re opening. It just opens so many more doors.

BLONDER: The whole thing about being a new band, and touring, is that you’re just kind of planting seeds. […] I’ve definitely had a bunch of people be like, “I’m definitely coming to your next show.” That’s what’s important.

For sure. So, what drives you to do music?

BLONDER: I don’t know, I guess it’s just something that feels real and rewarding in life. You know, I’ve worked dumber jobs, and there’s a difference between a job and a career. And I think, you know, a career is an ideal, in a lot of ways, of what you want to contribute, what you want to do with your life. So, for me, music is a really important part of life, and if I can have a band that people want to enjoy and want to get into, then that would make me happy. I guess that’s what it’s about: happiness and connection, and community. I don’t know if that’s a little too long-winded, but it’s a big question.

You answered it just fine, I promise! I know it’s a loaded question. So, I guess to wrap up, is there a piece of advice that you’ve received in your life, whether it’s about music or not, that you kind of live by, and has pushed you forward?

BLONDER: It’s funny, because I usually feel like I have this one on lock, and I can just like, answer it, but damn.

It doesn’t have to be recent; it could be any time in your life.

BLONDER: I mean, damn. I don’t know why I’m drawing such a crazy blank. Just do — do what you want.

Just do what you want!

BLONDER: You know what, how about this? I’ve got one; I’ve got a line. It’s really random, but it’s from Jerry Seinfeld, of all people. Someone was asking him — another comic was like, freaking out, and was like, “I’ve got so much pressure from my parents, and I’ve got so much pressure from this, or that,” and I don’t know if this is ‘advice,’ but he was like, “Your parents? What do your parents have to do with your actual life work, with your career? That’s up to you. That’s on you.” So, that’s what I mean by “do what you want to do.” It’s a lot about self-discovery, and what do you think is good for you and fulfilling for you, and an honest assessment of yourself.  So, I guess, “your parents, question mark?” Like, yeah, we all want to be a certain kind of way with our family. But there’s something about pursuing art that gets people nervous. But, fortunately and unfortunately, it’s not about impressing your parents; it’s about doing something fulfilling for yourself, and in time you will come to impress whoever.

Listen: “Just Because” – BLONDER

BLONDER © Jordyn Beschel

BLONDER © Jordyn Beschel

BLONDER undoubtedly impresses. Anastasakis has taken a New Wave prototype and turned it into something bigger than itself; BLONDER is keeping “indie” cool. In the ever-expanding pool of  modern rock bands, it is sometimes beneficial to  pay homage to the artists of yore (i.e., 30 years ago). With the release of the debut EP due June 16 and a steady stream of tour dates with Day Wave in tow, BLONDER will continue to prove that “doing what you want” is exactly the right thing to do.

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:: BLONDER 2017 Tour Dates ::

Maggie McHale

Maggie is the Chief Music Director for Atwood Magazine, currently living in Philadelphia. She also works as a Digital Marketer for Fame House, a Philly-based Universal Music Group subsidiary. She is heavily involved in the arts and music scene in the City of Brotherly Love, often enjoying (and even preferring) going to concerts and museums alone; just generally loving and exploring the city that she calls home. A self-proclaimed “hug enthusiast” and dog lover, Maggie also enjoys fashion, travel, the paranormal, and drinking way too much coffee. In addition to writing for Atwood, she freelances and contributes to JUMP Magazine. (Fun fact-She also once slow-danced with Boyz II Men in Las Vegas.)

  • Dumb

    Most boring, bland music ever. This guys a phony.