Blondfire’s Erica Driscoll Muses on Fashion, Recent Success, the Alt-Rock Resurgence + More
This has been quite the breakout year for Los Angeles-based duo Blondfire. Their hit single ‘Where the Kids Are’ has been one of the top tracks in the alt-rock world, and having released an EP of the same name last fall, the brother-sister combo are ready to reach new heights.
Blondfire mainly comprises vocalist and guitarist Erica Driscoll and her brother Bruce. Formerly called Astaire, the group released their debut album, ‘My Someday,’ in 2008. The Driscolls have been able to build some brand awareness thanks to the placement of ‘Where the Kids Are’ in a recent Honda Civic commercials. Diffuser.fm sat down with Erica before Blondfire opened for AWOLNATION at the Intersection in her hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich. In addition to chatting about fashion, the singer dished on the band’s forthcoming album, Bruce’s decision to refrain from touring and the changing place of women in rock.
This current tour with AWOLNATION marks the longest you’ve been on the road. How has it been so far?
It’s been funny with my packing. You don’t want to bring too much, because ultimately, you’re hauling everything yourself. I thankfully have guys in this band who are very kind and help me with my suitcase, but the less is better. I went with a lot of black clothes and try to mix accessories. It was kind of hard to pack. I think the shoes were the hardest part [laughs].
Is style just as important as the actual music while you’re performing?
I definitely love fashion and clothes. I like to dress up for shows because it gets you in a different mindset than if you’re in your slobby jeans-and-t-shirt kind of thing. I always want more clothes, but it’s hard to pack when you have to keep it streamlined for a van tour. We’re not in a tour bus right now, so we have limited space.
You can’t really stop by an H&M store in every city you play at.
No. I just have to simplify, which is kind of hard for a girl, but I’m trying my best.
You and your brother Bruce started Astaire, which is now obviously Blondfire. Have Astaire fans stuck around?
There have been a lot of fans who followed us along the way, and even now, I’ve had people come up and be like, “Oh my gosh. I did not know what happened to Astaire, and I heard Blondfire, and I really liked it and didn’t know it was the same band.” It’s been years in the making, but they’re still finding us somehow, which is cool.
With broader audiences being exposed to ‘Where the Kids Are’ thanks to the Honda Civic commercial and increased airplay, how has it been adjusting to your recent success?
It’s been really cool, because we have been doing this since we were very little. We had a little studio set up in my parents’ basement. It’s cold in Michigan, so we basically just wrote and played instruments and made so many songs. This has been a long time in the making. To see people really responding to the song and getting this attention is really cool, and we appreciate it all. We don’t take anything for granted, and we’re just enjoying the moment and seeing what comes out of all of it.
Has the success of ‘Where the Kids Are’ put more pressure on you and the next full-length album?
I’m not really concerned about the pressure, because I feel like my brother and I have been writing for so long together that we actually have hard drives full of music. We have all different types of songs, but we just tried to pick the songs that aren’t just like ‘Where the Kids Are’ but fit in the same family. It’s all done and ready to go. The album is called ‘Young Heart.’ We’re just waiting for the official release date from our label.
‘My Someday’ had a dream-pop feel in the same vein as early Stars. ‘Where the Kids Are’ goes into a more rock-oriented direction. What caused the shift?
We were just trying to push ourselves slightly in a new direction. We just started using more distorted sounds and seeing what we could come up with. We wrote ‘Where the Kids Are’ and were like, “This is a cool direction.” It’s still melodic, poppy and dreamy, but it’s cool to have that edge in there too.
[Someone hands Erica a cup of liquid]
Is this whiskey?
Hell yeah! Go for it!
Ah man, people are pawning whiskey off on me! This is amazing [laughs]!
Bruce is the co-writer of all the Blondfire material, yet he doesn’t go on tour with you. Why is that?
He loves the studio experience more than the tour life, and I understand it. It is pretty intense to be on the road. Your life back in L.A. is on hold. It’s just go-go-go, and you have to love it. He loves the process of creating music. He wants to pursue film scoring and these types of things. So instead of having him come on the road and not be happy, I’d rather take people like my awesome band. We have a really good time on the road. And it works out because my brother and I have that time where we write and record together. It’s not too much brother-sister time in the end [laughs].
Was it hard to translate some of the stuff you and your brother wrote into a live performance?
Not so much. We still incorporate a lot of the electronic backing tracks to fill out the sound and make it as much like the album as possible. I’m playing on electric guitar and we have the rest of the band, so I feel like it translates well.
Do you have a keytar? We feel like that would fit very well.
You know, I think we should maybe have a keytar. Eventually, we may someday have a keyboard player. I would love to rock the keytar.
After the AWOLNATION tour, you’re hitting the road with Foals and Surfer Blood starting April 25. Will you continue to be on the road after that?
I think it’s going to be epic touring year. We do the Foals tour, and that goes all the way through June 12. We’re doing a bunch of festivals, but I don’t know if I’m allowed to announce all of them. I know we’re doing Firefly, and maybe one that starts with an “L” and ends with an “ooza.” So we’re doing a bunch of summer festivals.
Pop-leaning alternative songs have seemed to cross over into the mainstream in the last few years. Artists like Mumford and Sons, the Lumineers, Of Monsters & Men and Foster the People have become regulars on Top 40 radio. Blondfire are gaining more fans everyday due to broader exposure. Is this a sort of resurgence in alt-rock?
I definitely feel that a lot of people are into alternative music right now, and it’s really cool that they’re responding. And I feel very excited to be a woman in rock at this moment, because it seems like there are more opportunities for you to be on a rock station. Before, there could always be a million guy bands, but they would maybe play one woman. Now there’s a bunch of cool rock chicks, so it’s a pretty good time to be doing what we’ve been doing for a long time. It’s finally coming into the foreground of music.
Watch Blondfire’s Music Video for “Where the Kids Are”