Get to Know: Blondshell
Radio Milwaukee’s stations introduce you to new artists every day. This is your chance to learn a little more about them beyond what you hear on our playlists. Consider it a meet-and-greet, CliffsNotes and elevator pitch all rolled into one.
Sabrina Teitelbaum’s heavy and pointed alt-rock is undeniably an ear-turner. As Blondshell, she eschews any pop elements employed by her first project, BAUM, brushing off that guise to expose grit and all. Her new identity’s self-titled debut album is made by and for those seeking a proper outlet for big emotions in the hope they resonate in the wider world and restore some needed human connection.
Sometimes, that definition of human connection is seeking justice for a friend or speaking up for anyone who’s been a victim of any kind of abuse. On “Salad,” Teitelbaum sings with steely rage about retribution, dumbfounded that real-life retribution feels fantastical when viewed primarily via TV shows: “Gonna make it hurt / But I don't know how to do that within the framework / Cause we were never violent.”
Inspired by the equally seething rage of ’90s-era Hole, the smart humor of Liz Phair and the big sound of The Cranberries, Blondshell hits the mark on all her influences yet holds a refreshing appeal, with her realistic fragility and transparent sincerity bursting at the seams of every song she’s released so far.
We have Blondshell’s “Salad” in rotation on 88Nine, and you can head over to Bandcamp for her self-titled album. She’s also currently on a heavy tour with NYC rockers Hello Mary and makes her next closest stop at Schubas in Chicago next Wednesday, July 12.
Before heading to Chicago, she shared with us why grunge is so important, the experience of the transition from BAUM to Blondshell, and why connecting with an audience is so important.
What was on the home turntable or radio in your house growing up?
A lot of classic rock and a lot of 2000s pop radio — The Rolling Stones but somehow also Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey.
What was the first instrument you picked up? Are there instruments you can play that we would never guess?
Piano was my first instrument, and then guitar came a couple years later. I don’t have any secret instrument talents, unfortunately.
You have a twin. Are they also musically inclined?
I have a twin, yes! He’s not a musician, but he has a good ear and good taste. :)
You currently live in Los Angeles but grew up in NYC. Which place feels more like home to you and why? If you could live anywhere, where would that be and why?
At this point. L.A. feels like home to me. I’ve lived here for almost eight years, and I’ve spent my whole adult life here. There’s a lot I miss about New York, so maybe I’ll go back at some point. I think if I could live anywhere, I’d probably just stay in L.A. But some days I would like to live on a pig farm.
What does L.A. mean to you, creatively speaking?
L.A. is where I made friends with other musicians for the first time, so I feel like my music has always been influenced by the community here. I’m always inspired by my friends here.
Besides music, what's something you do to keep yourself inspired (and sane)? Any odd hobbies?
I like to go to bookstores and do wholesome things like make pasta sauces. I’m trying to get better at cooking. I’ve also been drawing lately.
What was the nudge you needed to go from your BAUM project to Blondshell?
The biggest nudge I needed was definitely from my friends. I liked the new songs I was making, but I felt like I needed my friends to give me an extra push to leave the last project behind.
How did you feel after (re)introducing yourself to the world as "Blondshell"? Liberating? Scary? Exciting?
Mostly excited. I really hoped people would connect with the music, but I felt proud of it regardless of what happened. I had never had that feeling before.
Your songs are centered on the parts of everyday life that not everyone is brave enough to share. How does it feel to expose what most people aim to hide? Have you gotten (mostly) appreciative feedback?
It feels liberating for me to release things that I say privately. I can be reserved, so it’s nice to connect with people without having to explain all the stuff I say in the music. It can also be intimidating sometimes to not have that boundary, but for the most part it’s been really nice.
Blondshell has moments of modern pop and heavier ’90s alt rock. What were the key writing and production techniques you used to balance these two sonic worlds so that they'd be seamlessly impactful?
The balance wasn’t so intentional or conscious at the time. I wasn’t focused on the overall sound of the album as much as I was just focused on each song and giving it what it needed.
You've mentioned that Hole's 1994 album Live Through This is a big inspiration. Do you remember what was going through your mind when you first heard that album?
I first heard that album as a kid, but it didn’t really hit me hard until right before I made my album. “Doll Parts” was the first song that I really connected with. I was just really relieved to hear so much unbridled anger. I wanted songs like that about my own experience.
What appeals to you most about "grunge" as a sound?
Grunge feels very unconcerned with perception, what’s okay for women to say, what’s not okay to say, trends, etc. I think grunge just feels urgent to me, and that’s how I want my music to feel.
As a touring musician, how do you deal with anxiety and stage fright, especially while sober?
I try to have little routines that make it feel like I’m home. In terms of stage fright, I remind myself that I’m not just performing for people, but we’re there together. I want the show to feel like a place that I can connect with people rather than a place I’m just being perceived by people.
Which of your songs currently speaks to you most and why?
I think “Sepsis” always speaks to me the most because it summarizes how I was feeling at the time. I was just scared of all my own feelings and wondering if they were going to kill me, literally.