March 21, 2014
We chatted with LA-based indie-pop band Blondfire before their show at The Regency Ballroom a couple Fridays ago. Though Blondfire’s original members are brother-sister duo Bruce and Erica Driscoll, the touring band consists of Erica on vocals and guitar, Steve Stout on guitar, Kiel Feher on drums and Nathan Beale on bass. Some items from our discussion include: Steve’s grandma, a Honda Civic commercial, and hummus. Blondfire released Young Heart on February 11th of this year and has been performing numerous tracks from the album on their current gig, opening for The Sounds. We were able to see them perform twice on this tour and were captivated by their energy and live sound.
SFCS: What are some of your rituals before a show?
Erica: Ooo, eating a tub of hummus [Laughs] that’s definitely a ritual.
Steve: She cuts me off, I was eating the hummus. She’s like, “we’re gonna wanna eat some after.”
SFCS: There’s this Tuscan white bean hummus—
Erica: Trader Joe’s!
Everyone: [Collective “yes”s of agreement]
Erica: That’s our favorite! That and maybe trying to have a glass of wine usually or something, I don’t really drink beer that much—
Steve: Anchor Steam. I can’t believe you’ve never had it.
Kiel: I didn’t know about it.
SFCS: What is the coolest venue you’ve ever played?
Erica: There’s been some cool ones but I thought the Goat Farm was pretty cool.
Steve: This place is actually awesome.
Erica: This place is beautiful.
Steve: This might be like top five, depending if I mess up tonight.
Erica: The Goat Farm, in Atlanta. They filmed some of the Hunger Games there and stuff. It’s this farm. It has these crazy buildings and they have these projections of art installations on the wall. Like all over the grounds. It was really cool.
Steve: Really rustic.
SFCS: Do you ever feed off the vibes of the architecture?
Steve: Absolutely. You travel so much and then you’re in the buildings and it definitely gives off a vibe.
SFCS: What’s been the band’s biggest accomplishment?
Erica: Oh gosh there’s been so many along the way. That’s a hard one. Like recently playing some summer festivals this past summer, Lollapalooza was a pretty big one. Some bands that inspired me from a long time ago played, like New Order, The Cure. Even on a different stage, but on the same like, show. That was cool for us. And obviously just like having our music played on the radio. Alt Nation [Sirius XM] has been really supportive to our band. So that’s a pretty big accomplishment.
Steve: The Honda Civic commercial was pretty cool. My grandma saw it on Jeopardy.
Erica: That’s so cute!
Steve: Apparently once she was in the bathroom and she lives by herself so the door was open and she heard it, and I think she might’ve run out. She was like [funny grandma voice] “That’s my Stevey there on the TV!”
Steve: She doesn’t talk like that.
SFCS: That actually was our next question: What was it like having “Where the Kids Are” in the commercial?
Erica: It was really cool because it definitely exposes you to new people that wouldn’t hear your music otherwise, you know? But like everyone watches television.
Steve: The Jeopardy crowd versus just the Alt Nation crowd.
Erica: Yeah! If I hear a song on a commercial that sounds interesting I’ll Google the lyrics or something to find out. So I feel like that was happening a lot. It’s like so weird when that happens, or you’re like in a bar or somewhere and your song comes on, cause you’re like “Oh this sounds familiar” or “Oh this is so weird.” People are just like hanging out and your song’s playing in the background.
Steve: And then you stand up and bow. You don’t say anything, you just bow.
Erica: [Bursts out laughing] Exactly. That’s what we do.
Steve: Just a simple bow. It’s respectful.
SFCS: Do you remember where you were the first time you heard your song on the radio?
Erica: I don’t know the first time but I feel like the best time is when you’re driving in your car and it comes on. Just something about driving and listening to music is always cool.
SFCS: So you and your brother are in the band, what’s that dynamic like on tour?
Erica: Well he actually doesn’t tour with me. He used to! He doesn’t tour anymore. We still write all the music together. We’ve toured in the past together but I think he just didn’t want to be on the road anymore. He’s married. So I’ve been taking Steve - who everyone thinks is my brother - now.
Erica: Steve’s the adoptive brother. He comes on tour with me as the guitar player.
Steve: We all kinda look like Bruce a little bit.
Erica: Yeah it’s true! Dark hair. He counts off the tracks though, which is funny. He’s got it in his earphones when he clicks in with us. So he’s with us every night.
Steve and Erica: One… two… three… four…
Steve: He’s crushing it.
SFCS: If you guys had to cover a song tonight, what would you do?
Erica: Ooh I know the answer. I really wanna cover that Drake song, [sings] Just hold on, we’re going home. Do you know that song? By Drake. Cause you’re a good girl and you know it. I don’t know why, like every time it comes on the radio I just turn it up.
Steve: Drake and Josh?
Erica: We have to cover that song! We have to figure out how we can make it our own.
SFCS: You should do it!
Erica: I’m trying. We want to think of something unexpected to do.
Steve: “Hold On We’re Going Home,” that’s the name of it. [Looking at guitar tabs on his iPhone] This person uses capo three, so it must be right [Laughs].
SFCS: What’s the most important song you’ve written?
Erica: That’s a hard one. It’s funny cause like, it depends on my mood which one I’m into more, but currently I feel like in a weird way “Young Heart” might be because it was the first one we wrote for the new album and so once we wrote that it kind of gave us an idea of where we wanted to go with the whole record. So we wrote that, and the next day we wrote “Where the Kids Are.” And that’s a pretty important song for us too, cause that really took off online and made people know who we were.
SFCS: That’s how we knew you guys! We saw you open for The Mowgli’s too!
Steve: That was a fun show! The San Francisco show!
Erica: That was like my favorite one on the tour actually! People were so fun! It makes such a difference, people’s vibes in the audience. Sometimes people are enjoying it but they’re not really, they’re just kind of. And then when people are dancing, you just have so much fun, you can get more out of it.
SFCS: So you just answered the next question which is: What’s most important to you in a live show?
Erica: Definitely having a crowd [Laughs] definitely, yeah. And good sound. Hearing your voice when you sing.
Steve: Yeah being able to hear what you’re doing is helpful.
SFCS: Can you not sometimes?
Steve: Yeah [Laughs].
Erica: Yeah sometimes. We don’t have a sound guy with us so we use the venues’ sound guys and usually they’re pretty good and sometimes you’ll get on stage and things will be set differently than when you checked. Some of the vocals I do are high and breathy so if it’s not loud it’s really hard to sing, you know?
SFCS: What was the last live show you attended?
Kiel: We saw The Sounds last night!
Erica: Exactly! They’re pretty awesome! But actually it’s all a blur, we just did South by Southwest—
Kiel: We just did some shows—
Steve: Who did we see?
Erica: Well you saw Strange Talk [the opening band on the current tour of Blondfire and The Sounds].
Steve: You did. He actually went and saw Strange Talk.
Kiel: I did. But I didn’t know we were touring with them then.
Erica: Yeah it’s crazy. It’s fun. We did like eight shows in four days. It was like a marathon, and you’re running from venue to venue and interviews and all these things with your guitar on your back and your pedals across your body and you’re just like sweating and you’re like “Okay we just need to get to here!” And like one day we had four shows and the last one was like 1:00 A.M. Before the last show we were all like sitting there like “Oh my god” but then it ended up being really fun ‘cause that was our official show. So a lot of people really knew about that one. We had such a good crowd there.
Erica: They were all pumped and ready to go.
Steve: We were like sleeping, just ate a ton of donuts.
Erica: Oh my god we ate so many donuts.
Steve: We were well past coffee at that point.
SFCS: If you guys could collaborate with any musician or band, living or dead, who would it be?
Erica: Definitely Tom Petty. We listen to Tom Petty a lot in the van.
Steve: The joke is always like how long we can go into a tour before we listen to him. And we broke it last night. Our bass player broke it… we were out for like a good three days.
SFCS: So who drives and who DJs?
Steve: Usually the driver DJs.
Erica: And I don’t drive. I don’t wanna kill anyone. I mean I drive my car but the van is so big and we have a trailer. I’m not feeling it. Too stressful. Also Damon Albarn would be pretty cool. That’d be pretty awesome. Tom Petty would be a good one. We played Firefly Festival last summer in Dover, Delaware and he was headlining that. So it was really cool like—
SFCS: Did you get to meet him?
Erica: We didn’t unfortunately. But the Yeah Yeah Yeahs played and their trailer was like two down from us.
SFCS: Where is next?
Erica: LA! Our home! We’re playing Club Nokia tomorrow. Which I’ve never played. It’s a cool venue.
Steve: We have two days off after that.
Erica: Two days off, and that’s nice ‘cause it’s in our home town.
SFCS: So what are you gonna do?
Erica: One day of nothing. I wanna work out and then just watch movies in my pajamas. [Laughs] Oh it’s so nice. And then I think I’m gonna write some music with my brother on the second day. Do something productive too.
SFCS: So if you have a day off in a city, what do you typically do?
Erica: Definitely work out, I feel like I have to do that to stay sane and you’re sitting so much. I like to be outside if possible, get good coffee and a good meal. Like healthy but delicious food.
SFCS: Have you ever had Blue Bottle Coffee in San Francisco?
Erica: I have not, but I’m obsessed with coffee.
SFCS: You gotta check it out like tomorrow morning before hitting the road.
Erica: That sounds awesome - Blue Bottle. I’ll have to remember that.
SFCS: If you could take credit for any song, what would it be?
Erica: Oh wow, there’s so many. What’s coming to mind right now, Depeche Mode, I’m spacing on the title right now. [Sings] Words like violence, break the silence, they go crashing in... Why am I spacing out right now? Or New Order “Bizarre Love Triangle” would be a good one. I’m gonna say that cause the other one is not coming to mind.
SFCS: Can you tell us about Nectar?
Erica: Yeah, that was a band I had with my brother, who I do Blondfire with, and our older sister. Just like learning how to play guitar, we just kind of had a built in band and we would write songs and we had a little studio at my parents house, and that’s how we learned to write songs together.
SFCS: How old were you?
Erica: Pretty young, I guess high school or junior high. Early high school I would say. Maybe 9th grade, 8th grade. That’s how we entertained ourselves, it was really cold in Michigan, there’s not really much to do. I had played piano and violin since I was really young but then I started getting into bands and I wanted to play guitar. I taught myself, and my brother taught himself how to play guitar. My sister would song. We’d start playing stuff and writing songs together.
SFCS: How did the name Blondfire come about?
Erica: It’s super random actually, we were trying to find a band name, which is pretty hard ‘cause it represents you and any name that seemed remotely cool, we would search it and there was already something. So then we were just driving one night and a friend was in the car and we could smell a fire burning outside, and it smelled really good, and he’s like “I can smell a bonfire,” but he kinda stumbled and I said “did you say Blondfire?” And I was like “maybe that’s what we’ll call our band,” just kind of joking, and then I kept thinking about it, and I’m like “that’s actually kind of cool,” and there were no bands online with that name so we decided we’ll just make it mean something, like Coldplay, just whatever. I always say it’s kind of masculine and feminine sounding, and it’s a boy and a girl who write the songs.
SFCS: Did you catch Coldplay at South by Southwest?
Erica: No, they played a show, and I really wanted to see Phantogram too but we missed them too.
Steve: Oh I watched them on Jimmy Kimmel and they were great. They’re cool. She’s got a good jacket. This white leather jacket, killin it. That’s what’s important.
[Steve starts playing guitar]
SFCS: Is that the Drake song?
Erica: It’s just E, and A, or D.
[Steve is playing, Erica begins to sing]
Erica: I can’t get over you, [laughs] that’s so awesome. I want your hot love and emotion. It’d be so fun to play that song! You left your mark on me, I want your hot love and emotion. Cause you’re a good girl and you know it. Yeah it’d be fun to play that. I think people would be like “whaaat?” It’s just every time it comes on the radio, I’m like “oh yeah.” [Laughs]
Steve: Dude, nailed it. I’m done.
Steve: This gig is really hard actually. I cut my finger open, so that’s my excuse.
Erica: He was trying to be healthy and eat an apple, but he doesn’t know how to do anything.
Steve: So I called the hunks at 911, and they saved me.
Erica: His finger was bleeding so much and he didn’t know what to do so he called 911.
Steve: They got there and there are like 5 firemen and they’re like “What’s the emergency?” and I called 911 and I was trying to find out where the hospital is, or what to do, and they’re like “We’re sending paramedics” and I’m like “maybe they’ll just stitch me up there.” So these 5 firemen showed up at my house.
Steve: The best was like, they’re like “Do you really want to take the ambulance?” And I’m like “yeah, there’s blood everywhere, I can’t drive.”
Erica: That’s gonna cost you a fortune.
SFCS: Did you have to get stitches?
Steve: Oh yeah I had three of them. We had to play a show like two days after, so I was kind of putting a band aid on it, and trying not to use that finger. I got by.
Erica: Good thing it was on the side though, not the tip.
Steve: It was funny though. They look at the stretcher in the ambulance, and they’re like “You can sit on the bench.”
Erica: They’re like “you’re kind of a pussy.” [Laughs]
Steve: Yeah... I was. But I took the ambulance and then waited three hours to get stitched up. So I could’ve walked there.
Erica: You were probably the lowest priority!
Steve: This lady came in and one upped me! I think she cut her finger off—
Erica: She probably drove herself there too! [Laughs]
Steve: Her boyfriend did. But she had barefeet. And like a single, just a single paper towel. And like her finger is hanging off. Not a bunch of paper towels, just one flowery paper towel, and she’s like “we’re going to Encino! We’re going to Encino!” I think they might have just bandaged her up with a home sewing kit in Encino. It was scary. The hunks saved me though. Glad I called them.
Erica: Well thank you guys so much!
SFCS: Thank you! Have a great show!
Photos by Rachel Feder