Bay Area rock band The Blondies have grown up together, working their way up from summer camp stages to venues like the Stork Club in Oakland and Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco. The members, some freshly graduated from high school, are navigating the adult world, and it’s reflected in their music.
The Blondies released “Just Another Evening,” a self-described “coming of age album,” earlier this month. The title track is a comment on rape culture and the pervasiveness of sexual assault and harassment.
“Unfortunately, I see that kind of stuff going on around me all the time and I was really fed up with it,” said lead singer and songwriter Simon Lunche, who graduated from Berkeley High School this month.
The band members who are already in college were disturbed by the level of sexual assault and harassment on their campuses as well. The five members of The Blondies, all male, felt compelled to make a statement about it.
While the lyrics in the catchy “Just Another Evening” are not explicitly about the subject matter, the accompanying music video portrays a typical incident at a party. The band members’ friends acted in the video, and emotions on set ran high because the narrative was familiar to everyone, said lead guitarist Isaac Roth.
With “Just Another Evening,” The Blondies join a national conversation that is getting louder. There has been a surge of college activism surrounding sexual assault in recent years. High school students, including a group at Berkeley High, have been vocal about their own experiences. In 2014, Berkeley High students created the group BHS Stop Harassing to educate their peers and to push for changes to the school’s sexual harassment policy.
“People talk about it a lot at Berkeley High because of situations that have happened in the past few years,” Lunche said. The conversation is reactivated when there is a new public incident, but dies down after, he said. The song is The Blondies’ attempt to put out a message that will have lasting power.
The video elicited an outpouring of positive comments. Listeners have flooded the bands’ social media accounts with lengthy messages, thanking them and sharing their own stories.
The Blondies’ plan is to bring the message across the country. They will perform in New York later in the summer, and will tour the album locally and nationally over the next year. Meanwhile, they already have a few new songs in the works and expect to release another album within a year.
“We’re preparing to really go 100% with everything,” said Lunche, who was eager to finish high school and have more time to dedicate to the band.
The other Blondies went to different high schools in Oakland and San Francisco, but all studied under Berkeley-based musician Chris Solberg, a former Santana member. They record at 25th Street Recording in Oakland.
The band’s name is an abridged version of their original, the Artificial Blondes, selected when they all had bleached hair. “The Blondies” is not a reference to that other band with a similar name—but their influences are from past musical eras.
Like many before them, they draw serious inspiration from the Beatles, and the odd and varied noises and sounds sprinkled throughout their songs. The experimental beat on “The Prince,” a track off The Blondies’ new album, is evidence. On the same song, the band reversed the audio files for the guitar part so that the sound slowly swells to a climax then abruptly cuts off.
The band plans to incorporate more unusual rhythms and styles like jam rock into the new music they’re working on, and will continue to explore themes that resonate with them during their young adulthood.
“This album was our transition into putting some intense, real emotion into the songwriting,” Roth said.
Most of the members have been playing together since they were what Roth calls the “littlest of tikes.” They were the youngest band to be named Gibson Guitar Artists. But The Blondies transition into an adult band with its own identity has been an organic process, the members say.
It will still be a few years, however, until they’re allowed to indulge at the bars they where they headline.
The Blondies are Paul Davis, Jerry Feist, Frank Klopotowski, Simon Lunche, Isaac Roth, Elias Williams. Their music is available online.
BHS anti-harassment student group wins award, celebrates with Patricia Arquette (06.12.15)
School Board adopts interim sexual harassment policy (04.10.15)
Feds launch civil rights investigation into BUSD response to sexual harassment claims (02.10.15)
Students target sexual harassment at Berkeley High (11.21.14)
Op-ed: Sexual harassment at Berkeley High must stop (11.17.14)
Berkeley’s The Blondies: youngest-ever Gibson artists (03.22.13)
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