‘We never know what we’re doing’: Blonde Redhead have been figuring it out as they go for 30 years

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‘We never know what we’re doing’: Blonde Redhead have been figuring it out as they go for 30 years

Blonde Redhead
Words by Andrew Handley

For three decades Blonde Redhead have evolved their sound while remaining at the forefront of indie rock.

Compared to the early days, the band’s output has lost its sharp edges to become dreamier without losing its emotional punch. This is true for the band’s triumphant 10th record Sit Down for Dinner, released late last year, which they’ll showcase at their upcoming RISING performance and Australian tour. 

As to why the band has lasted 31 years, guitarist and singer Amedeo Pace says, “That’s a hard question to know the answer to,” with an Italian accent softened from living abroad for many years.

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“I think we all still feel really excited about making music with each other,” he contemplates from his Brooklyn home. The others he speaks of are his twin brother Simone on drums and lead singer and guitarist Kazu Makino. 

The pursuit of writing a perfect song also propels Pace, which he says is yet to happen. “Maybe I’m being too critical of myself, but it always feels like that,” he admits. “You want to write things that are timeless… and I feel like we’re still searching, at least I am, [for] how to do that.” 

Blonde Redhead’s long and praised career is also one of resilience. Originally a four-piece, their bassist left the band after their second record and the band has continued as a trio since.

Then in 2002, Makino’s face was trampled in a devastating horse-riding accident which required extensive reconstruction and rehabilitation. Their following record, 2004’s Misery Is a Butterfly beautifully reflects on the trauma of the accident and remains one of their best. 

Makino and Pace were also in a relationship during the former years of the band, which mercifully didn’t end when their relationship did. “We used to bring work home, as they say, and have arguments about it,” recalls Pace. “Spending so much time writing together and being together was really intense and I felt that both her and I were getting exhausted from the whole thing.” 

Though the band’s sound is archetypal of New York City, none of the members are from there. Amedeo and Simone grew up in Italy and Makino in Japan. “We never really fit in any kind of scene,” recalls Pace. “We were really experimenting and seeing what kind of music we wanted to play, but also trying to fit into a system in New York.” 

Despite their musical differences, Pace says they orbited towards heavier bands like Fugazi and Unwound in their early years. “We felt really good with them and would spend a lot of time with them, but even then, it was like we were trying to be a part of something,” he explains. “I think when you do it long enough, the good thing is that you become something yourself.” 

Pace says it wasn’t until their fifth or sixth record that the band truly discovered their sound. “Slowly, we just started to figure out what we really wanted to do, starting with Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons into Misery Is a Butterfly,” he says. Speaking of their earlier work, “We started figuring out things didn’t feel right anymore… almost like when you’re wearing a shirt that you used to wear as a teenager and it doesn’t fit you anymore.” 

Despite this Pace says he loves some of their earlier songs. “I wish we could play more of them, we really should, but we forget music so easily and also lose the feeling,” he explains. “We are who we are now trying to play the songs that were written so long ago… seeing if we can keep some of that feeling.”

The band doesn’t go into the recording process with a direction in mind says Pace. “We never know what we’re doing,” he admits. “We sometimes say, ‘It would be nice to try and have a song that sounds like this,’ and then we never end up getting to that because other forces of life come into play.” 

“It’s more about the three of us and how each of us is different and how that comes together in an album,” continues Pace. “We never have an idea of what we’re going to do until it’s finished because so much can happen during the recording.” 

With nine years passing between their ninth and 10th record, there was no guarantee Sit Down for Dinner would be made. On a break from the band, Makino released her solo album Adult Baby in 2019.

“She really wanted to perform on her own and be on her own and it made her really happy,” says Pace. “We’ve been doing it for so long, so it gets really complicated and hard at times, so I think it was good for her to try and experience something new…. lighter and fun.” 

After “falling into making another album together,” Pace is unsure what the future holds for Blonde Redhead. “I don’t want to think of it as the end, but it would be nice to end on a good note if we did,” he reflects.

“Now that we’ve made one more album and it feels good, maybe we could stop.” Thankfully he adds, “Maybe not, maybe we’ll keep going.” 

For tickets to see Blonde Redhead at RISING on June 14, head here.