B2B: Blondes and Lindstrøm
- Words: Patric Fallon
- Photo: Lin Stensrud / Shawn Brackbill
For some, the work of Norwegian producer Hans-Peter Lindstrøm is irrevocably important and possibly one of the biggest catalysts for the prominent rise of the "space-disco" sound throughout the aughts. Dancefloor gems like "I Feel Space" and "There's A Drink in My Bedroom and I Need a Hot Lady" have certainly become classics in their own right, but the sprawling psychedelia of Lindstrøm's proper debut LP, Where You Go I Go Too, and his collaborative work with Oslo-based vocalist Christabelle on the brilliant pop album Real Life Is No Cool firmly testify to the artist's wide-ranging versatility. As he continues to showcase his abilities and expand his notable discography (the latest addition to which will be the daringly maximalist Six Cups of Rebel LP for Smalltown Supersound), Lindstrøm's influential shadow also grows; it wouldn't be a stretch to say that it's already touched up-and-coming Brooklyn duo Blondes.
Sam Haar and Zach Steinman have gradually become a force in contemporary American dance music, assuming a place alongside the likes of Teengirl Fantasy and Pictureplane as an electronic act possessing strong crossover potential. Blondes has built an impressive collection of dreamy, handmade house tunes in the span of only a few years. Starting with 2010's Touched EP, Haar and Steinman continued to dive deeper into the possibilities of cosmic dance music with a string of two-song 12"s released throughout 2011. Those three records will soon be compiled along with two brand-new productions to create Blondes, the duo's debut long-player for RVNG Intl.
As Lindstrøm and Blondes seem to share more than a bit of sonic territory and are both releasing new albums at the start of this year, we thought it advantageous to have them chat about their work and varied musical backgrounds. The boys found plenty of common ground during their discussion, and talked about their mutual love for jamming, the differences between working alone and collaborating with friends, and why we'll likely never see either of them perform with a live orchestra.
XLR8R: How familiar are you guys with each other's work?
Zach Steinman: Pretty familiar. I've been following Lindstrøm since the first comp [It's a Feedelity Affair] in 2006.
Sam Haar: We also saw him play at Watergate in Berlin in 2008, which was awesome.
XLR8R: What were you guys doing in Berlin?
SH: That's actually where we started the band.
ZS: We just went there for a few months to hang out, check it out, go clubbing. [laughs]
SH: That's the only time we actually went to Watergate. It was crazy. Do you remember that show?
Lindstrøm: Did M.A.N.D.Y. play before me?
L: Yeah, I remember. That was kind of fun, actually. I just remember I was playing somewhere else the day before, so I was very tired, and somebody just took me to the club. I guess I was late or something. They took me there and everybody was screaming and I was just supposed to set up everything and start playing. I was kind of thrown into the party, but as far as I remember, it was the best gig I've had at Watergate.
ZS: How many times have you played there?
L: It's one of the clubs in Berlin I've played the most. Maybe three or four times.
"Deja Vu" from Six Cups of Rebel
XLR8R: Starting with the Feedelity comp in 2006, what do you think of the direction Lindstrøm's work has gone?
SH: It's definitely taken an interesting turn. At first, it was a lot more dancey and poppy in some ways. It's definitely gotten proggier.
ZS: It's a lot weirder now. [laughs]
SH: Yeah, like on the new record [Six Cups of Rebel], there's that second to last track with all the crazy MIDI horns just kind of going nuts for a while.
XLR8R: Yeah, the beginning of "Call Me Anytime" kind of reminded me of one of those "Shreds!" videos on YouTube, where it sounds like stuff being triggered randomly.
L: I know those videos, with the guitarists, but I haven't seen any MIDI ones. That part is actually a MIDI collage with twisting and turning drum arrangements, putting them into synthesizers and using horn sounds instead of drums. Doing a lot of crazy stuff.
SH: Are you actually a drummer?
L: Ah, no. [laughs]
SH: When I listen to your music, I feel like you might be, cause of all the live drum sounds and tom fills on the new record. A lot of the harmonic elements have that rhythmic feel. It sounds like you're a drummer.
L: Yeah, I mean, I know how to play drums, but I'm not a drummer. I kind of like just doing everything myself. Sometimes you can get more interesting results when you don't really know how to play an instrument.
SH: Sure, you don't get locked in to how you're "supposed" to play.
ZS: We definitely feel that.
XLR8R: Are either of you guys drummers?
ZS: Sam is a drummer.
XLR8R: Sam, do hear similarities in your approach to writing songs in Lindstrøm's work?
SH: A little bit. I guess it just sounded like the drums are such a focus on the new record.
L: Do you only do the drums in Blondes?
SH: We share everything. We both do drum machine, synths, whatever effects sounds... We both have our own style for how we treat them.
XLR8R: Lindstrøm, you mostly work alone, but often produce with other people, too. What kind of pros and cons do you find with each approach?
L: Usually, after working alone for an album or two, I just need to work with somebody else. I think there needs to be a balance. After working close with somebody else for some time, I really need to just lock the door and work alone, then I get tired of myself and my own ideas. For me, it's all about the balance, actually.
ZS: I feel like collaborating works best for us, but Sam has some other, like, production projects.
SH: Yeah, and some stuff that I do on my own is a different kind of voice, a different sound entirely, a lot more experimental or something. The kind of music that we do definitely comes out of working together. If we did it solo it'd probably be a lot different for both of us.
XLR8R: When you say "working together," do you mean, like, jamming?
ZS: Yeah, and the way we structure our whole process of making tracks. It comes a lot out of working together.
XLR8R: Lindstrøm, do you ever write music in that way? Your songs sound a lot like jamming sometimes.
SH: It sounds like you're just rocking out. [laughs]
L: It can be kind of interesting to just jam alone. You don't really need to be two people or more to do that kind of stuff. Usually, when I work on music, I sit and just jam until I find something interesting. I did the same thing with Christabelle and that's how I always work with [Prins] Thomas. We meet in the studio and then we just play together. I don't find that it's all that different from working alone, really. Although, every time I do something with Thomas, we kind of do the work we are best at. I'm good at throwing in a lot of ideas in the beginning, and he is really good with finishing something. When I work alone, I spend like 85% of the time finishing what I started. I don't know about you guys.
ZS: Sounds the same for me. That's one of the reasons I like working as a partnership, you actually finish stuff. Otherwise, I could just be sitting on half-done tracks for months.
"I Feel Space" from It's a Feedelity Affair
XLR8R: Let's change gears a bit. Lindstrøm, I'm curious if you've noticed a kind of shift or trend growing over the years with American producers being influenced by the style of dance music you've been releasing for about a decade now.
L: I'm not sure if what I've been doing here in Norway has been affecting other bands. I know that after LCD Soundsystem started the disco-punk thing, they influenced a lot of Norwegian bands. The journalists in Norway talk about the unlikely fact that Norwegian disco is some of the most internationally known music abroad, and how that could happen. But it still feels like it's only me and Thomas and Todd Terje and some more people doing it.
ZS: I feel like in 2008 and 2009, when there was that whole spike in electronic music in the States, a lot of people were getting into more space-disco stuff. That was definitely influenced from the stuff you guys were doing. I don't know how many of them lasted though.
SH: I mean, disco is just generally not as popular as it was a few years ago. And there's nothing disco-y about your new record.
L: It's annoying that every time people refer to my music, it's always about disco. I don't really mind, but it can be limiting. There's probably some people out there who read "disco," and think, "Oh, disco. I don't really like disco." So they won't even give it a listen. But I'm not trying to spend too much time thinking about it. I'm not really trying to follow up anything with this album. This is just something completely different from what I've done before, and that's basically what I want to do with music. I want to do it most of all because I find it fun and enjoy experimenting when I'm working music. And even though I might be digging my own grave by doing weird stuff and stuff that people don't understand or aren't expecting, I think it's important for me to do. I don't want to give anybody what they are expecting, if they are expecting anything. After a while, if you kept doing that, your music will become less interesting for people.
ZS: Just make "I Feel Space" 10 more times. [laughs]
XLR8R: Something that seems to stay consistent—and I see this in Blondes' music, too—is how long your guys' tracks are. How deliberate is that versus it being sort of a byproduct of your influences and your methods of production?
SH: Like what Lindstrøm was saying earlier about "jamming," I think that's probably what it comes out of. We really just make our music by going in the studio and jamming a lot, so I think a lot of the length just comes out of that. When you're doing that, you're working with a longer time scale. It's not like eight-bar edits, really fast like that. It takes more time to grow and develop.
ZS: Yeah, it takes, like, four minutes to get anywhere. [laughs] You can't really stop the flow, you know.
XLR8R: What about you, Lindstrøm? Sometimes your songs sound a little more deliberately orchestrated.
L: I really like it when the music slowly evolves. Working within 10 or 20 minutes can be really interesting, because you can do a lot differently. I like doing stuff more orchestrated, too. The thing is, I just get tired if I do the same thing over and over again, so after doing something really long, I have to do something really short. When I do something really simple, I have to do something really weird and complex. But I really like long tracks, like Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, those kind of musical traditionalists.
XLR8R: Blondes, do you guys ever see yourselves working much with vocalists?
ZS: I just don't really know how that would work. It would be such a dramatic shift. It would just be a totally different thing.
L: There are some voices on that first track, the "Lover" track. I really like that one.
SH: That's a Meredith Monk sample.
L: Oh, it is? It works really good.
SH: Yeah, we'll use, like, a cut-up vocal, but as more of a texture.
XLR8R: Lindstrøm, do you ever work much with samples?
L: When I started doing music, my computer wasn't powerful enough to do much, so I bought my first sampler and started with that. It was cool in the beginning, but I realized the limits after a while. If you have a sample with one chord or beat, it's kind of hard to change it. I just needed more flexibility. After the computers were powerful enough to be used more or less like a tape machine, I started just playing everything myself, really.
SH: Have you ever thought about working with a live band?
L: Well, not really. [laughs]
SH: I feel like some of it could be orchestrated for a big band. That'd be pretty amazing, I think.
L: I don't really like to work too much on music I've already recorded and released. I just die for working on new music. Every time I'm travelling and playing, I'm always looking forward to going back home and starting on something new. I can't stand the thought of spending like half a year practicing with an orchestra or something.
ZS: That makes sense. [laughs]
L: I'm pretty sure it'd be really nice once everything is working, and I'm there on stage being backed by a big orchestra or band or something, but I'm not sure it's worth it. [laughs]
Lindstrøm photo by Lin Stensrud / Blondes photo by Shawn Brackbill
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