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Volume 91, Issue 19
Tuesday, September 30, 1997
Fake blondes can be just as fun
THEY FOLLOWED ME HOME CAN I KEEP THEM? Blonde Redhead brings its unclassifiable noise to Call the Office tonight, as they open for The Grifters.
By Gord Westmacott
There's a quality of mystique surrounding Blonde Redhead and it seems the band isn't about to give it up.
Twin brothers Simone (drums) and Amedeo Pace (vocals/guitar) move to New York from Italy, abandon their jazz training and start a band with Kazu Makino, a Japanese guitarist/vocalist with similar goals. Pretty soon, they're signed to Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley's then fledgling label, Smells Like Records and the band is producing music which seems to defy an easy categorization despite a few noticeable reference points. In all, it's a mystique you don't want to tamper with.
"Everyone hears our music in a different way and I just like to leave it at that most of the time," says drummer Simone Pace. "It's nice the way people see and hear things and if I explain to them why it is like that it kills the spontaneity in you to hear things and think about things. That's your present [as a listener], that's what you get out of it."
Landing a spot on Sonic Youth's tour in Italy early in their career and then being supported by Smells Like Records for two albums and a score of 7" singles, Blonde Redhead seem fortunate to the point of being blessed.
"It was a great beginning," says Pace. "Steve [Shelley] was just starting also, so it was like we were starting together. It was very important for us to have such a fresh, good beginning."
Despite Pace's unwillingness to affix a singular meaning to the band's material, its latest release, Fake Can Be Just As Good, sounds like a remarkable focussing of goals has occurred.
On first listen, the album sounds absolutely chaotic as layers of sounds compete for attention. Guitar lines alternately collide against and compliment each other, as Simone Pace's drumming provides a kind of hidden groove. Makino's vocals are particularly striking as she screeches and soars amid everything, often exchanging lines with Amedeo Pace's more grounded, but equally effective, half-singing.
After a while, though, the instruments appear to talk or respond to each other throughout the songs as if there's something very deliberately calculated beneath it all.
"Everything is not obvious but takes a few tries to be able to hear certain things," says Pace. "The more you listen, the more you hear different things. That's the way we play. That's the way we are."
For the recording of Fake Can Be Just As Good, the band recruited Vern of Unwound to play bass. Since then, however, the band has continued to tour as a trio.
"I think even if we had a bass player it would affect the songs just because [in a live setting] we interpret the songs in the way we want to interpret them," says Pace. "One night it might be a little faster, one night the instrument section might be completely different from another night. It's just like that. Sometimes our mistakes are the best things that happen."
One thing Blonde Redhead is very clear on is the recognition of how fortunate it has been to have landed where it has first with Smells Like Records and now with the Touch and Go label.
"Both are in it for the right reasons and both give us the freedom to do whatever we want to do," says Pace. "All you have to do is talk to anybody who's part of it and you realize who you're dealing with. We can't picture ourselves being with a major label or in any other situation where we couldn't be ourselves where we couldn't talk to the people we work with, where we couldn't reach them or see them."
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Copyright © The Gazette 1997