To Erica Driscoll, Blondfire’s ethereal vocalist, guitarist, and keyboardist, its invention was happenstance. “We were driving around with friends and someone said ‘I smell a bonfire,’” she recalls. “We thought they said ‘Blondfire,’ and at first we kind of jokingly said it should be our name – but it stuck. We liked the fact that it was masculine and feminine at the same time. It represented who we are in a cool way.”
That push-pull of elemental forces is fundamental to the band’s sound, which marries Driscoll’s winsome, melancholy vocals to massive melodies, jagged shards of guitar, and propulsive beats. You might think of any number of strong, female-lead dream pop heroines from the golden era of indie rock (The Cardigans, Ivy) and you wouldn’t be wrong, but Blondfire is a modern and unique musical hybrid. On their Modern Art/Warner Bros. Records debut, Young Heart, Driscoll offers infectious pop tunes with real punch.
The formula has resonated strongly with listeners and helped Blondfire build a loyal following. They made their name in 2008 with the indie release My Someday and a series of residencies in their adopted home of Los Angeles. Local radio stations KROQ, KCSN, 98.7, and KCRW provided early support and helped them become the first unsigned act to hit the No. 1 spot on the iTunes Alternative chart. They also became one of those extremely rare, unsigned artists to be added to the Sirius Alt Nation playlist. This feat was largely due to the strength of the evocative, bouncy, and irresistible “Where The Kids Are” and its eccentric, charming, and panda-filled (yes, panda-filled) video. “I submitted that song to a few blogs and it just took off online,” Driscoll marvels. “According to Hype Machine, we became the number one most talked-about band on the internet!” “Where The Kids Are” is now the lead single on Young Heart. Their music has also been heard in the films Besties and Get a Job; on TV via ESPN’s Australian Open Tennis, The Client List, MTV’s Awkward and The Collection, and in an ad for Ecco shoes.
Driscoll and her younger brother Bruce co-wrote and recorded the album in about a week at their home studio and at Hollywood’s historic Wax Studios (formerly TTG). The children of an American father and a Brazilian mother, the Driscolls grew up in a musical family (dad played guitar; mom is a classically trained pianist). Their home rang with hard rock, ’80s pop, Bossa Nova, and atmospheric film soundtracks, the latter a favorite of Bruce’s (“My dream was to score a Batman movie someday,” he remembers) — all of which found its way into the band’s music.
“There isn’t much to do in Michigan, especially in winter,” Erica says, “so we just holed up in the basement, writing songs and recording them on our four-track machine.” They began gigging locally soon after as the duo Astaire, until a note from the Fred Astaire estate put the kibosh on that. And while Blondfire has come into its own in Los Angeles, with Erica as the outstanding front woman, there’s still an element of their Brazilian-American childhood in the mix. “You can hear it in the way we use melodies,” she says, “and in the way that Bruce likes to put all kinds of variations into his beats.” Bruce adds that he leans toward certain chords that lend a melancholy feel one could trace back to Antonio Carlos Jobim and other Brazilian songwriters. “It’s not obvious,” Bruce says, “but it’s in there.” And just part of the one-of-a-kind recipe that makes Blondfire sound like no one else.