A Chat With: Blonder
We recently chatted with Constantine Anastasakis, the man behind the new Brooklyn based act Blonder. Mixing 80's inspired synths and sticky melodies, Blonder have created an irresistible sound that's perfect for driving with the windows down on a sunny day. Speaking of driving, Blonder will be out on the road next month trying out their live show on new crowds, and they've also got a debut EP on the cusp of release. Prior to the tour, we talked to Constantine about his start in music, how an ex-girlfriend inspired his band name, his collaborative songwriting methods, the best spots to eat in NYC, and more. Get to know Blonder now...
ANCHR Magazine: What inspired you to pick up an instrument and start writing songs?
Constantine: Well, the very first thing was this guy who lived on my block who I always thought was really cool when I was a kid. He used to skateboard, and he was into indie music. He used to skate with a bunch of guys from Supreme in the early 90's. He’s kind of like this cool, older figure. He ended up being a school teacher, and he had like a small skate company that he ran out of his basement. He had a bunch of gear and stuff. He showed me some rock’n’roll and then some jazz. I was more into nerdy music when I was younger, like jazz.
AM: Do you have any musical influences, like other acts that inspired you to keep creating music yourself?
Constantine: I feel like I have really weird listening habits with music. I get into like different time periods way later. Like I only really got into the Strokes and Interpol and that stuff like literally four years ago. Like so long after it happened. I just wasn’t even in that mindset when it was going on in 2000. I was pretty young too so I didn’t really get it. I guess, my friend Aaron Maine from Porches, we’ve been friends for the last 5 or 6 years. We just kind of remained consistent friends, like hanging out a few times a week when he wasn’t on tour. We were just talking the other night about how crazy it was that we’re still friends after so much has changed around us. His band had always been pretty inspiring to me.
AM: I was actually going to ask about your residency that you had with Aaron, alongside Dev Hynes too. How did that opportunity come up, and how was the experience?
Constantine: The residency was also along Frankie Cosmos as well. It was the three of them. Basically, I had been working on a record for like a really long time, but didn’t even have an Instagram account, or a Twitter. I actually didn’t even have a band name. It was pretty crazy, I actually mixed and mastered my entire album without a band name. It was really nuts, but I had been working on something for a really long time, and I would play it for Aaron and Greta [Frankie Cosmos], and even Dev sometimes. I see him less, but I still see him a bunch, and they were just always super supportive. Like “you have to release this, this is so sick.” I finally figured out what I wanted it to be, then I got a band together. I wanted to play some shows to bring attention to the band, and I said hey, I’m gonna play this residency at Elvis, do you guys wanna play? They were like “definitely!” It’s pretty much just on a super friend-level. Greta actually guested with me that night on my song “Lean.” It was so beautiful. We rehearsed a harmony for it.
AM: So when did you finally settle on the name Blonder then?
Constantine: I was actually dating a girl and the relationship was falling apart, as the story goes. We were getting older, and we’d known each other since childhood. There was a lot of pressure to have it be like the end all, be all type of relationship. It kind of just wasn’t working anymore. Anyway, while we were breaking up, we were still kind of seeing each other every once in awhile. It was not that much of a clean break. My whole record is kind of about that time in my life, and the romance and breakup. Basically all the songs were about this one relationship, and this girl knew that I didn’t have a band name. She called me really late one night and she was like ‘I’m with my friends, and I think you need to name your band ‘Blonder’.” I think her and her friends were having a few drinks, and she’s blonde, I feel like it was maybe some kind of joke. I just felt like the record was kind of about her and she’s an important person in my life, but it was super apt with the whole clubby, 80's sound of the record too.
AM: So it sounds like you have the whole album done then? Any plans to release it this year?
Constantine: I’m technically in the middle of my roll out. I recorded 10 songs at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys. And then cut 5 of them because I wanted the EP to be super like, every song was really, really good. I go back and forth with my record label a lot trying to figure out what the best way to go about it is. It’s kind of hectic sometimes. The next song is supposed to come out in April.
AM: So definitely new music soon then?
Constantine: Definitely, yes!
AM: So what is your songwriting process like then?
Constantine: The way I work is pretty...I would say a little collage-y. I’ll sit on a song and I’m not afraid to change a song way after the point of it being written. I also like to work with songwriters. I like to have sessions with people and work on music, like trading ideas. Rather than staying in my room alone. Some people are really amazing at making stuff alone. I found that it winds up being really counterproductive to do it all myself, so I would work with a bunch of people. I wrote a bunch of songs on the record with Aaron [Maine]. I also wrote a bunch of songs with some dudes out in California that I’m friends with, that kind of do that type of thing for a living. They have publishing deals and they basically write songs all day. I was kind of on the left-leaning indie side of it cause they’re my friends and we weren’t ever doing it for more than “let’s make some music together.”
AM: So talking more about your live show, I know you’re doing some dates in April. Is that your first tour with Blonder?
Constantine: Yeah, it’s the first tour for Blonder. There’s a 3 day stint with WET, and then an 8 day run with Methyl Ethel.
AM: Are there any cities you’re particularly excited for?
Constantine: Honestly, all of the dates are really cool. I’m really excited that we’re doing 7th Street in Minneapolis and The Empty Bottle in Chicago. We’re playing in Toronto. Randomly, a couple people in Toronto have hit me up like “I really like your music,” so I think it will be really cool to play there. Then the rest of the Methyl thing is basically Boston, DC, and Philly, so back home-ish.
AM: What are some of your favorite spots in Brooklyn for music, or just for going out? Any recommendations?
Constantine: Yeah, I usually I tend to hang out in Manhattan more because that’s where a lot of my friends are basically. I just kind of live in Brooklyn. My girlfriend lives like 5 blocks away from me in Brooklyn, so I’ll see her there, and everyone else is basically in the city. I’ve been eating this crazy, super cheap Chinese food for dinner called Spicy Village, it’s in Chinatown and it’s crazy good. Spots in New York, there are a few that are kind of always going to be there. Like that bar Sophie’s in East Village. That’s a good spot to just go an have a drink, it’s unpretentious and easy. I also go to this restaurant called The Smile a lot because my guitarist is the manager there. So I like to go there, they have good drinks and really good food and I basically know every single person that works there.
AM: So talking more about the tour again, how would you describe the live show? I’m sure you’re rehearsing now, so are there any songs you’re particularly excited to test out on the road?
Constantine: Yeah, we’ve been rehearsing. We were just in there til really late last night and it’s sounding amazing. I’m really excited. There’s this song that I don’t think is even going to come out on the EP. It was a b-side from the recordings and we last minute wanted to throw that one in. So we’re playing a 7 song set. It’s at like 30 minutes flat. It’s called “Just Because”, and it’s the first song that we open the set with, and it just feels really good. It feels really like punky, and wirey. They’re all feeling really amazing. We’re gonna close with “Lean” every night because that’s everyone’s favorite song right now.
AM: Cool! So last question, are there any other newer bands that you’re really into at the moment?
Constantine:I have a Spotify playlist, called $5 Playlist, which is actually the name of my EP. I kind of update it every once 2-3 weeks with songs that I’m super into. I’m trying to think of what might be a new band that I’m genuinely listening to. Let’s do two songs...one, the newest Methyl Ethyl single, I actually really love. You know, it’s crazy because I feel like bands are pressured to like other bands because they’re going on tour with them. They released this song and I was like oh my god, and I listened to it on my own free will. It’s amazing. It’s got a French title, it’s like the something something of sorcery in French. It’s so amazing, and then I really got obsessed with this one song called “The Woman That Loves You” by Japanese Breakfast. It’s such a great song, it’s off their record that came out last year. There’s that. Alex G just dropped two new songs today, I just listened to those before this interview and they’re really beautiful. Also Lorde! I’m such a huge Lorde fan. I thought Heroine was just the smartest pop record.
Blonder's $5 Playlist