Where’d you grow up? And how’d that environment shape your views and love of music?
I grew up outside of the city in Westchester, NY. The proximity to NYC certainly was a plus and I don’t think I realized how unique it was that I was able to go to concerts in the city. I don’t think I utilized that as much as I should’ve but I do have some great memories of going to Radio City as a teenager. My family has always been pretty musical though, particularly my Dad. I was always encouraged to pursue photography / music / performance, at least in a practical way, which I really appreciate.
When was the moment you first fell in love with music?
Listening to my Dad’s music on long road trips hits me as a really formative thing or nostalgic memory. He used to play a couple specific live albums that I still love. I loved hearing the audience singing along in the background, the clapping at the end of each song. It felt like I was there with everyone. Being a child, lulled to sleep by a moving car through the night, hearing “live” bluegrass in the background; that’s a feeling I don’t think I’ll ever quite get back.
Which bands/artists have been your biggest musical influences?
A lot of my influences for this project in particular are these classic female artists that have a bit of edge to them. I discovered Liz Phair super late but was instantly taken with her music and feel hugely influenced by her. Avril Lavigne, Paramore, Marina and the Diamonds, Courtney Barnett, etc.
You’ve had experience as a photographer, videographer, and creative director, what made you want to start your own musical career and how have those other creative endeavors helped you on your way?
I have loved photography since I was a teenager, so it became the natural path for me to take as a career. I had always enjoyed it, but the moment things really clicked was when I started working with musicians that I really got along with, artists whose music I genuinely loved. I think deep down I’ve always wanted to make my own music but just didn’t have the skillset or confidence to do it. I had a lot of doubts about “starting music too late” or having missed my window of opportunity, but in retrospect I feel that my network, artistic background, skillset, and emotional growth have all contributed to me being able to execute the final “Fantasy” EP project + visuals in the way that I really wanted to.
How long did it take for you to sort of learn the process of being an artist? From learning the guitar, songwriting, and everything else that comes with it?
I picked up my old guitar again in 2020 and started teaching myself how to play, after never really knowing much beyond 4 chords in high school. I took a songwriting class in 2021 that really unlocked something in my brain, prompting two of the tracks on the EP – “Fantasy” and “Alone.” Once I had those songs I felt like I finally understood my own sound and tone as an artist. I wrote full demos of everything at home and finally brought them all to my producer, who a friend connected me with. It took about a year and a half to fully produce/record all the music in the studio, plus throwing in producing/directing 2 music videos at the same time. I’d say overall it was about a 2-3 year process.
How’d you come up with your name, rlyblonde? Any meaning behind it?
It’s really just been my moniker forever. My first Instagram account ever was “rlyblonde,” my Tumblr, my Flickr. It was just my little internet identity. At one point I started sharing my work professionally just under my full name, but I knew I wanted something more cheeky, something more anonymous, especially if I was going to put out music eventually. So I pivoted back to “rlyblonde” and haven’t looked back since.
How would you describe your music? What do you want listeners to take from it?
I’d describe it as cheeky, bratty, and uniquely NYC. For me, the project is about finding myself, realizing my agency in my own life, and using frustration to fuel curiosity. I hope whoever hears it feels similarly, that they can have the life that they want, even if they don’t know what that looks like yet.
What’s your general process when it comes to crafting a song?
Most of my music I write alone in my apartment. I start with guitar or lyrics and build from there, making garageband demos of what I want it to sound like. From there I bring it to my producer and we flesh it out in the studio. It was a very private process for me for a while. I’d like to maybe expand in the future, possibly working with new people or writing in a session instead of always working alone.
Congrats on the release of your EP Fantasy! How has the response been so far?
Thank you! It’s been strange, for sure. There’s a lot of positivity and love from my circle and from other folks who have found it and resonate. I think a lot of people may be confused by the pivot, but I am accepting that there’s always going to be some risk when you make a big change. It’s the small things for me right now, having even a couple people say that the music speaks to them is enough for me. Playing shows for my friends and family is enough for me, at least for now.
What was the experience like crafting the album?
Like I said, it was a pretty private process for me. I really had to sit with the project for a while and feel confident about it before I even brought anything to the studio. I didn’t want to get stuck in a place of feeling really overwhelmed by other people’s input or ideas, so I sort of had to have a rough project done already before I started truly recording everything properly. I think it was the right process for this project but maybe things will change in the future. I’m a little more open now, to collaborating, or at least trusting my own ideas and skills in a group environment.
Any special meanings behind the title?
“Fantasy” is obviously the title track, she’s my baby and the star of the project. But in retrospect, the entire project is really about me creating a Fantasy world for myself, building a life that I’ve wanted and dreamed of. Romanticizing my current life until I find that real “Fantasy” that’s out there somewhere. For me, it was my “Fantasy” to even be a music artist, to have my own work, play my own shows, and be the star of my own life. The whole thing is my Fantasy. It’s all very intertwined in a way that is kind of beautiful.
What are some of the driving themes in the album?
Finding your independence and enjoying the freedom of being alone, carving out your own path, finding your own community, finding humor in big feelings, being yourself, and following your dreams.
Your sound certainly has touches of pop-punk throughout it, and the genre is definitely experiencing a mainstream resurgence at the moment. Did that inspire you to want to go that direction with your sound too?
It’s definitely coming back into the mainstream, which I love. Admittedly I wasn’t even a huge pop-punk kid as a teenager, but the past few years of self-discovery, coming out as queer, pivoting my career to following what I really love, etc. has all cumulated in this sort of second puberty chapter of my life, topped off with an obsession with some of these classic pop-punk artists. All the angst and frustration of a teenager, all the confusion of someone grappling with their sexuality, all the emotions that come with a breakup, it’s all in this project. To me, the pop-punk sound perfectly emulates all of those feelings, hopefully in a way that can translate and resonate with listeners as well.
And what do you think about the current state of the genre?
Music inevitably goes in phases, much like fashion, and a lot of pop-culture things. You see stuff get recycled and brought back into popularity all the time. There’s this huge obsession with nostalgia, ’90s/2000s aesthetics and music right now. I think we’re all sort of longing for a simpler time, all sort of looking for something that brings us back to a place of innocence, or youth. I’m not a purist by any means so I don’t feel super strongly one way or another, I think it’s cool to see people do their own take on things. I’m just enjoying the things that I enjoy right now. I also have always planned on exploring different genres through my music, so I don’t feel tied to this always being the sound. I think there should be room for experimentation in music.
Do you have a favorite song off the EP? Any that you love playing live the most? “Fantasy” and “Spiltmilk” are definite standouts for me.
“Fantasy” will always be my baby, along with the video, it’s really my proudest accomplishment. “Hot Girls Always Win” is super fun to perform because it’s just a feel good song, it’s fun to dance to. It’s my real pop-star moment on stage. But I think my favorite off the project right now is “My Way” just because it’s my most sentimental. It really represents what this was all for, for me. Plus I can look at my life now and be like, wow, I really got everything I wanted. A year and a half ago this was just a dream, and now I’m really living it. It puts everything in perspective.
You also have really great visuals. Is that you tapping back into your other artistic passions?
Thank you! I care a lot about the visuals, for me that’s where I get to have fun with the project. It’s a full package to me, if every song could have a video, I would do it. I’ve never stopped making visual art, the vision has just gotten bigger. I also hope that other artists will see what I’m making for my own music as a reference for what we can create for them. I’m sort of using myself as a trial client, as a big portfolio piece.
We like to say that to be creative and put yourself out there in the public eye, you have to be fearless. Do you agree with that?
100%. I mean, it’s hard to truly “be fearless.” It’s not like I don’t have fears or anxieties, I absolutely do. But I think to “be fearless” is more to acknowledge your fears or anxieties and to put yourself out there regardless. You have to have a thick skin to put your heart on the line and I think it’s a practice. The more you do it, the more you get used to it. Big risk, big reward.
Any special plans for the future? Tour? Shows?
I have a show on Aug. 24 with @sadgirlhoursnyc at 3 Dollar Bill in NY! I’m really excited, it should be a fun summer show. Hoping for an LA show mid-October but we’ll see. For now I’m taking a bit of a break to celebrate all I’ve worked on, enjoy my summer, and live my life so I can write the next project.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.