Since cutting their teeth in New York in the early ’90s, Blonde Redhead have remained one of indie rock’s great bar-raisers. The three-headed Hydra created by Japanese-born singer Kazu Makino and Italian twin brothers Amedeo and Simone Pace has formed one of the most malleable bands from that era when rock bands on the fringes were coloring well outside of the lines.
"I feel lucky that the three of us are so different in so many ways that we contribute to the music in a different manner,” - Simone Pace, Blonde Redhead
Blonde Redhead. Photo: Getty Images
Blonde Redhead started out playing noisy and minimalistic rock that was influenced by post-punk and the No Wave scene that captivated peers such as Sonic Youth and Unwound. The band’s name comes from a song title by the Lower East Side No Wave pioneers DNA. Through nine full-length records and over 25 years of being a band, Makino and the Pace brothers — Amodeo on guitar and vocals, Simone on drums — have elevated their sound from their gnarly beginnings to incorporate elements of pop, electronic music and krautrock all while staying true to their identity and remaining as captivating and vital as ever.
“Time is helping a little a bit because you grow and you learn, and also as a band,” says Simone Pace. “I don’t think our integrity toward our music decreases in any way, at least we try not to. We have nothing to lose because at this point I don’t think we’ll have a hit record any time soon [laughs]. So we don’t think about things like that. We always think about, what’s the best thing that we can do? What feels right for us? And then we do it. I feel lucky that the three of us are so different in so many ways that we contribute to the music in a different manner.”
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As for the expansive sonic map the band has created over the years, Pace believes the band was forced to catch its creative spark due to the limits of being a tight trio and for — in his words — their limited abilities as musicians. But sometimes, some of the best art comes from throwing everything you have against the wall, no matter how proficient you are.
“As musicians, I think we feel kind of limited,” Pace explains. “It’s not like we feel we’re very good. We see other musicians play and we get very insecure. I don’t think we feel like we are that good, but I think maybe that is our strength because it forces us to do things that are more creative just because we don’t have that ability. We rely on that part of ourselves and we embrace it. I don’t think we fight it because when we start playing, something more important comes into play, which is the coherence between the three of us. That is very strong between Amedeo and I, because we are twins, and also with the three of us and Kazu, because she is special in her own ways. But sometimes I am embarrassed because we are so bad.”
Over the past few years, the band has been looking back on their career as a whole, with an extensive box set of their early material put out by Chicago-based archival label Numero Group titled “Masculin Feminin” and different runs of shows where the band performed their classic albums “Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons” and “Misery Is a Butterfly” in full. But while they have taken time to reflect on the work they have done, Pace assures that the main goal has always been to keep creating and pushing toward new territory.
“Kazu hates looking back [laughs],” Pace says. “Out of the three, I think maybe I’m the one who has collected more things from the past than anybody. ‘Misery’ we really wanted to do with strings just because we never had a chance to. We met with ACME [string quartet] and it seemed like a really amazing thing to work on at the time, and it was really great to do it. But when we had to do ‘Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons,’ we were asked if we could do that. So, it gets a little weird when people start thinking, ‘Oh, we would love if you could do this record or that record.’ But sometimes we say yes because it’s a challenge also to learn old songs again and find a way of playing them now because it’s been so long. But it’s more refreshing to look at the future and it’s more exciting to think about the new songs. After a certain amount of records or years together, I wonder if people think that you should choose, but we never feel like that.”
The band is choosing not to rest on its laurels as it was announced that Makino will be releasing her first-ever solo album, “Adult Baby,” later this year. As for the band, fans can expect some new material in the not-so-distant future.
“We’re working on a new record right now,” says Pace. “We went to Italy for 10 days to record and it started out as a demo but then it was going pretty well so we ended up keeping some of the ideas. The record is pretty much ... not done, but the songs are there. So now it’s a question of finding a way of developing and recording them, what kind of instruments, and getting deep into the production and the making of them.”
Before the new record arrives, Blonde Redhead will be playing a show in Industry City this Friday, June 14, as part of the City Farm Presents concert series. For tickets and more information, head over to cityfarmpresents.com/summerseries.