This has been a productive summer for Blonde Redhead. The band released their eighth album, Penny Sparkle, this week, their third on record label 4AD. And just one month prior the soundtrack they scored for the Dungeons & Dragons documentary The Dungeon Masters was also released on DVD. Considering the band’s affinity for movie soundtracks, it seemed only a matter of time before the trio got to working on one. Nonetheless, with these two back-to-back releases, it’s an undeniably exciting time for Blonde Redhead fans.
After being lured in by the close proximity to his band’s rehearsal space and to his motorcycle garage, drummer Simone Pace moved to Greenpoint, where he currently resides. The Greenpoint Gazette recently had the opportunity to ask Pace about his favorite Greenpoint establishments, the band’s latest releases, and what he’s most looking forward to about their upcoming tour.
GG: Let’s start with some questions about your newest album. Penny Sparkle is whimsical and mellow in a way that’s refreshing, and a bit softer than some of your previous albums. What were you listening to or inspired by while making it?
SP: I was listening to a lot of this album called Third by Portishead. And a lot of Animal Collective, the last one Merriweather Post Pavilion. And Fever Ray. . . Bon Iver too, a lot of that. Some Brazilian music, and Colleen. She’s very good. The record is called Everyone Alive Wants Answers. And at the time we were writing, the [latest] Grizzly Bear record came out so we were listening to a lot of that too.
GG: You are about to release your eighth full-length album. After making so many records your sound is obviously bound to change and it has many times. Do you feel any pressure from your fans to maintain a certain consistency in your music?
SP: We don’t really think about what people are going to think too much because that could make things strange, you know? We’re trying to work on the record and we don’t want to be thinking about whether someone is going to like it or not. We just want to be able to make a record that feels right at the time and that we think will inspire [people]. We always think about what the next step will be but we never think about that in relation to the listeners. We just think about what that next step is in relation to what we’ve done before and what we should do now.
GG: You have two really different records coming out within about a month of each other—Penny Sparkle which was just released on September 13 and 14, and also the soundtrack for Keven McAlester’s Dungeons & Dragons documentary The Dungeon Masters, which was released on DVD August 3. What was it like to work on a film soundtrack as opposed to a studio album?
SP: We always wanted to do a soundtrack because we love soundtrack music, so we took on this project even though everything they were documenting, we have nothing to do with that part of culture. Dungeons and Dragons—we’ve never played it, I’ve never encountered it in my life, but it just seemed like such an interesting phenomenon so we decided to do it just because it was so, so awkward. And the director is amazing. He’s really smart and really great and he really knows what he wants so that was good in one way, but it was also difficult because he was very, not controlling, but opinionated.The music works well for the documentary but it’s not exactly what we had in mind. But we had to compromise I guess. And I think you can hear it.
GG: That’s interesting. So it wound up being a collaboration of sorts?
SP: Well, he didn’t write music. He was just very involved inour ideas when we were doing it. We actually spent maybe a week together in our rehearsal space, just knocking around ideas, working closely together. He’s amazing. He’s really a smart, interesting, guy.
GG: So you never played D&D, even to capture the right mood for the film?
GG: Since this is for the Greenpoint Gazette, when and why did you move to Greenpoint?
SP: I moved to Greenpoint maybe a year and five months ago. And I lived on Oak Street for like a year.The place was nice, but I really liked the neighborhood. I have friends here and I made friends and I have my rehearsal space, which is not far, and I also have a motorcycle garage right on North Fourteenth Street with a bunch of friends. I work on my bikes and I collect bikes—motorcycles. So, I sort of fell right into it and I liked it a lot. And then an opportunity came up to buy this apartment on Noble Street so I just bought it and I’ve been here maybe like four months.
SP: Yeah, so I’m still unpacking and working on it but it’s nice. I like the neighborhood. For now, it’s perfect, you know? It’s really close to the city and it’s not in Williamsburg. Even though there are a lot of nice people around, it’s quiet and it’s pretty cool, so I like it.
GG: What’s your favorite thing about Greenpoint that you can’t do or get anywhere else?
SP: There’s a little jewelry store on Manhattan, like a tiny one that has all these really Italian things that you can never get anywhere else, little gold things. It’s hard in the city to find nice little things like that unless you go to like Fifth Avenue and spend a ton of money. But here, they sort of weigh it on a little scale, and then you can choose what you want and it’s nice. But I don’t remember what the place is called. And then there’s also a place on Greenpoint Avenue called Brouwerij Lane—it’s a beer place.I like that place a lot too. I hate bars, so if I want to get a drink or something, I usually go to that place. They close at 9:30 but they have really nice beer, and sometimes I get pizza from Paulie Gee’s.
GG: Yeah, that pizza is really good.This is kind of a silly one, but people often have crazy things on their riders, like I read that Metallica has to have bacon available at every meal, and that Trent Reznor needs two boxes of corn starch at his shows. What’s the craziest thing on your rider?
SP: For a long time when we were touring with Unwound, we were dreaming about—I mean, more Vern, the bass player, than anyone else but—putting a Chihuahua on the rider. Like every time you go to a place, you get a new dog. Plus, he was dreaming that when he would get home, they would all line up and just wait for him [laughing]. But for us, I don’t think we have anything crazy. You want to make a rider according to what you really need. The stuff already gets piled up so we’re really careful about what we get.
GG: I just have one last question. Your album just came out and you’re about to go on a big tour. What are you most looking forward to about the release of Penny Sparkle
and the tour?
SP: I’m looking forward to playing the songs live and wearing them and owning them. I’m curious to see how they’ll do with the older songs, how they’ll mix in and how they’ll affect each other. I’m a little nervous to see how the record’s going to do, if people are going to like it, how the shows are going to go. I mean, it’s such a weird time right now for the music business. I just look forward to being out there and being put to the test a little bit, you know, see how we do. It’s good. It’s exciting, but at the same time it’s a little nerve-racking.
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