10 minutes with: Blonde

Beatrice Cook

2015 will undoubtedly be a massive year for the Blonde boys. Off the back of last year’s meteoric rise into public consciousness, with their single ‘I Loved You’ featuring Melissa Steel killing it in the UK Charts, and instantly taking the number seven spot on its release, the duo are setting their sights on bigger and better things for the coming year.

Based in Bristol, a city renowned for its alternative music scene, Blonde, comprising of Adam Englefield and Jake Manson, are at the epicentre of a growing resurgence in house music and production.

Manson and Englefield’s partnership began over the internet, with the duo bonding over mutual musical appreciation via Englefield’s music channel and label, Eton Messy. The pair have taken their music from a relatively underground, club level, to a wider audience, with their remixes of 90s house and R’n’B classics, including the Corona’s ‘Rhythm of the Night’, seeing them rapidly gather a strong internet following.

Within the space of a couple of years, the duo have really begun to dominate the scene, with strong support from Radio 1 of late, as well as a growing number of artists, including the likes of Just Kiddin and Karma Kid, following in their footsteps.

Blonde are tearing up the UK electronic music scene, and the Glasgow Guardian was lucky enough to chat to the boys before their set at the Glasgow date of the Eton Messy tour. In the lobby of the Grand Central Hotel, we talked about beginnings, blurred lines, and taking on 2015:

Guardian: How did Blonde first come about?

Jake: I was at university in Leeds, and had just started getting into making electronic music, and I wrote a track that I was really happy with, which a friend suggested that I sent in to a YouTube channel. At that point, I didn’t really know too much about that whole online community, but I sent the track over to Adam at Eton Messy, which Adam founded, and I didn’t really expect to hear back. I kind of thought it would be like some big, corporate operation almost, but I amazingly got an email back saying that he was into the track, and we kind of started talking on Facebook off the back of that, sending each other bits and pieces that we were working on.

I ended up remixing a track that Adam had done; I found it on SoundCloud the other day. Adam was producing as Beluga, so it would be Beluga ‘Now or Never’ Thieves remix, Thieves being my alias. That’s the first thing we both ever worked on. He sent me some ideas, I worked on them, and that was it. We were really happy with how it came out, so we decided to start collaborating; at this point we hadn’t actually met.

Adam: Yeah, [having not met] is kind of testament to the whole scene in general, [with] so many people collaborating across the internet, people who probably wouldn’t be making music if they hadn’t had access to the internet. For instance, you can get production software on the internet now quite easily, and these people, who don’t really have any musical experience, are able to get together to collaborate.

Guardian: Do you think that this ‘availability’ is a positive thing for the music industry?

Adam: It’s kind of democratising it really, which I think is great, but then it does mean that it’s a lot harder to stand out with a lot of people doing similar things.

Jake: With so much stuff, it’s sometimes overwhelming, especially if you’re looking in the submissions and inbox and that for promo, and there’s such a vast quantity of stuff; it takes quite a long time to go through, and fish out the bits that you really like.

Guardian: Adam, you founded the Eton Messy record label – what was your decision behind that?

Adam: Well, it’s really weird, it’s another thing that happened accidentally really. I set it up in order to replenish my YouTube playlist, ‘cos, you know how people use Spotify now, I was using YouTube in a similar way to put together these playlists so I could, when I was working, have the music that I liked playing in the background, and a lot of the tracks I was really liking at the moment weren’t represented on YouTube, so I was like, I’ll just upload them myself, and put them in the playlist, and as I did it, that kind of music was taking off. People were looking for the same tracks on YouTube and adding them to their playlists, and it built from there really. It just kind of happened by mistake.   

Guardian: How would you describe the ‘sound’ of Blonde?

Adam: That’s a good question, because obviously that’s the question everyone wants to know when you’re trying to introduce people to your music, so you can sum it up a little bit.

Jake: We’ve always kind of said ‘uplifting’.

Adam: Yeah, ‘cos it doesn’t really tie you down to a specific genre. All the music that we make has that kind of feel.

Guardian: Blonde could be placed within the genre of EDM – there seems to be a lot of negative connotations surrounding that term nowadays, what are your thoughts on it?

Adam: Yeah, there’s a blurring of the lines as to what that actually is. If you took this [music] out to America, they’d be like, ‘It’s EDM.’ If you came over to the UK and called it EDM, you’d see EDM more as more like…

Jake: …as like the Martin Garrix’, the more big room, heavy stuff. Yeah I guess like, electronic dance music, we couldn’t deny that it [our music] fits that bill. We kind of see ourselves as more in the sort of house tradition, which is, you know, originally an American thing, but we do kind of class ourselves as house, rather than EDM.

Guardian: What are your musical influences, past and present?

Jake: Really varied, I think, for both of us, to be honest. We always listen to a vast amount of different things, just really been interested in stuff that’s got a lot of emotion and soul in it, so a lot of Motown stuff. I’m still really into shamelessly cheesy mid-80s synth disco, like Donna Allen and Jane Child.

Adam: 90s house and R’n’B strongly influences our sound, definitely.

Jake: And UK Garage as well. It would be hard to discredit that sort of influence; a lot of its grooves and movement we try and put into our tracks.

Guardian: How are you feeling about the release, and subsequent commercial success, of your single ‘I Loved You More’ feat. Melissa Steel?

Jake: It’s been in the charts for eight weeks now; it initially charted at number 7, and has had a bit of a comeback, which is quite interesting. (The track currently sits at number 15 in the Official Chart.)

Adam: Yeah, that was a bit of weird one really. We thought it just kind of began [to drop], you know how things slowly move down the chart, but a couple of weeks ago it jumped back up to 18, so it’s really weird how it has come back round. It’s kind of amazing.

Guardian: Would you say there has been a recent resurgence in the popularity of House music?

Jake: Yeah, definitely. I think people just got a bit bored of identikit, David Guetta-style, kind of EDM. I think they were looking for something a little more musical, a little more genuine, and emotional, and it kind of coincided with a time where a lot of people were getting in to production, and really making their own stuff exactly how they wanted it, and not trying to adhere to any rules. We’re now at a stage where house has become sort of commercialised enough for people to want to copy certain sounds. But, at the time when we first started, a lot of people were just really trying to do their own thing, and that was a really inspiring time to be getting in to making music the way that we were.

Guardian: Was 2014 a turning point for Blonde?

Adam: Yeah, massively. And for the whole scene in general really. There’s a lot of artists following in the wake of the likes of Disclosure and Duke Dumont, who’ve had massive success in the past couple of years, and in the wake of that, people like ourselves are kind of really seeing commercial success. It’s a great thing really, because, the bigger the audience, the happier we are.

Guardian: You’ve been championed by a number of DJs, including Annie Mac and Danny Howard –how do you feel about Radio 1 as a platform for upcoming artists?

Jake: Danny Howard has been massively supportive of us, as has [1Xtra DJ] MistaJam.

Adam: You kind of begin to realise the importance of radio, and stuff like the support of those key people. Any single time anyone does support us on radio, especially Radio 1, we feel so grateful, because we know how important it is to have their support, and [being able to] reach out to their audience.

Jake: I mean, they’re the nation’s key tastemakers, so to have their backing is obviously flattering. We’re not scared of the pop charts. I think [some people are scared], there’s a lot of negativity around it; when I was younger, I used to shy away from anything that was commercial, but I think that, as I’ve got a bit older, I’ve seen that good music rises to the top, and sometimes it’s infuriating if you feel like you were, as an earlier adopter of that music, to see other people join in with it, and it might skew your perception of it. But ultimately, the music is still the same music that you fell in love with.

Adam: The lines are blurred really; like, [look at] what used to be commercial in the noughties. I was looking at some kind of things that charted high then, it’s all a very ‘same-y’ pop sound, whereas now, with Oliver Helden, and people like Martin Garrix and stuff, [being] top of the charts, it’s a pretty mixed bag.

Guardian: Off the back of your success last year, what are your plans for 2015?

Jake: We’re currently working really hard on our first live show, which is going to be in London towards the end of February. There’ll be a couple of other guys who will be key members of the band, a drummer and a keyboard player, and then beyond that, working with a lot of feature vocalists who we worked with to write songs, so it’d be great to have them on stage with us.

We’ll be playing a lot of instruments ourselves, because that’s the background we both come from, so being able to add some live instruments to the performance just gives it a whole new way of connecting with your audience. It also allows to reach the audience who wouldn’t necessarily come and see you at like three in the morning in a club. They may come to a gig in the evening, but I think our intention for the live show is to make it as much of an experience as possible, and as much of club-like experience.

We really want to break down those inhibitions that people may feel at gigs, and that should get everyone dancing. If we manage to do that successfully, that’ll make us very happy.

Guardian: Do you think different cities throughout the UK react differently to your music?

Adam: Yeah, massively. I’ve always found that, up in Scotland, everyone’s proper mad for it. You find that, in every single city, different things go down better, different tracks go down better; every city has its own identity music-wise.

Guardian: Final thoughts?

Adam: We’re working on an album at the moment actually.

Jake: The next single will be coming out in a couple of months, and it should go to club pretty soon. Obviously we’re from the club world, and that’s how we started making tracks, so its super important to us that, with all of the singles that we put out, that we aim at clubs first and foremost, so that’ll be the building blocks for it, and hopefully it will connect at club level. We’re really excited about the tracks we’ve got coming out.

Their debut live show is at Oslo in London, on the 26th of February.