It’s like a Hitchcock film come to life, or something. Joie Blaney, once the leader of NYC’s Dead Blonde Girlfriend, now celebrated Los Angeles solo artist, has morphed, again, into Dead Blonde Girlfriend.
“It’s schizophrenic marketing” Blaney laughs. “I started as Joie Dead Blonde Girlfriend, years ago, then it was Dead Blonde Girlfriend when the band came together, then it was just me when I moved to California.”
“I never really played under my real name before the last record,” Blaney says thoughtfully, “but it’s always been under the one umbrella… me, and I don’t think there will be any other incantations, although who knows what might happen next. It’s me and me only, trying to work out all these conflicting artistic personality traits.”
“The band name, Dead Blonde Girlfriend, originally was a coping mechanism that turned into something more for a relationship gone wrong- the kind of stupid things guys, and maybe especially band guys, say to each other, about a relationship that imploded, probably because of me. I ended up writing a bunch of songs about a girl I loved, who then left me, which pretty quickly changed the tone of, well, everything, but especially the songs.”
The new album, “Love Letters & Suicide Notes,” released on Future Wax Records witnesses Blaney moving away from his recent Acoustic Punk phase, and back to a fuller sound of a band, but is more likely just a richer spectrum of Blaney’s own personality. Regardless of the specifics, his talent as a songwriter certainly shines through. He still wrestles with his own boundaries, trying to figure where to put them, if at all, but is his own muse, trying to find his art organically, instead of putting on whatever guise society, his fans, or either coast might try to force on him.
Lesser songwriters continue to try to anticipate what a fickle marketplace might want, making disposable product, while Blaney stays true to himself, and wherever his art might take him.”I don’t write what sounds cool,” he says seriously, “I write what’s honest. If someone asks me if it’s good, I tell them it’s honest. Is it a catchy record? I don’t know, it’s an honest record. So if being honest is cool, then I guess I’ve cornered the market on it. It’s about the universal truth we all know and can’t deny. I want to evolve as both a person and as an artist. One feeds off the other. There’s a continuity to all the other things I’ve done, but It’s about evolution. There’s money out there to be made writing songs for strippers masquerading as popstars and talking about the good life,’ but that’s not who I am, so why would I want to. Everything, good and bad, on the record is just me.”
“My audience I can’t really define, but I’m sort of the king of the misfits. I’ll get my own island eventually, from which I’ll then want to escape,” he laughs. “My music has become Bob Dylan ate the Ramones, while listening to The Replacements, and I’m not sure people get it yet. The whole music scene now is about money, and how much you can bring in, and I don’t approach things that way, so it’s been really hard to find a scene here in L.A., and I’m not sure I want to be in a scene anyway. I just want to do what I do.”
Will he need to pin down his own identity, in order to survive, and flourish, without a scene to feed off of? Blaney laughs, and shrugs off this kind of thinking.
“On the earlier records I wasn’t able to be as musically vulnerable, to be as sonically honest as I am now. I just played fast, and turned up the volume, but I’ve gotten to be more introspective, and that feeds the music I make now. I like to explore all the different perspectives: Mine, yours, and the truth. I leave a little bit of hope in a hopeless world. Live who you are. People say love is all you need… no, no, pain is the universal language, it’s what we all understand.”
His need to find his own way came about after becoming part of scene that defined itself more by what it wasn’t than by what it was, or could be.
“What I play is born from a genre in New York City called The Antifolk scene. I never liked the name,” he laughs, “but I liked the people. It’s lyrically driven music, that was about the truth, that didn’t allow the music to overwhelm everything. The scene helped me get through the part at the start where I wasn’t really very good.
“Antifolk quickly morphed into other things, and pretty quickly I knew I was done, because I didn’t want to follow that crowd, or any crowd. In the people I liked, there was sort of an unconscious permission to do what I wanted to do, using what I’d learned as a base. The scene became more gimmicky and clever, and I would rather kill myself than write ‘gimmicky’ songs. I’m putting the deeper parts of me into songs, not forcing a clever wordplay onto people- that’s awful.”
Blaney is fearless about using what he likes, and refuses to hide behind anything. The result is deceptively simple, allowing the lyrics to pull in his audience like few others can. It’s always the simple things that are the most difficult.
“What I like to do hasn’t really been done before to this extent. I’m more interested in exploring what’s real. Who I am on-stage is who I am off-stage, well, except louder,” he laughs. “I never understood what ‘being cool’ meant, I’ve done all that, and a dozen other things, and now I just want to be true to who I am, find my truths, dispell the myths and those things generally find an audience, that touch people in the most profound ways.”
Blaney is quick to add that these things have to happen naturally, or people will see right through them.
Much of what he does goes back to what he listened to growing up, and then adding to that as he goes along. “If you take adolescent rage…” he begins, before typically changing gears right away, “I listened to three records growing up, in my family’s house, Johnny Cash’s “Live at Folsom Prison,” “The Best Of Bread,” and Richard Harris reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I have no idea how I got to where I am from those things.”
With all these conflicting inspirations, it’s little wonder he creates something so unique when he makes music.
“Love Letters & Suicide Notes” is another fantastic entry in Joie Blaney’s musical diary. He’s invited us to join him again, in places great artists take us to- where fear resides in the dark parts of life we all know, but are afraid to look at, talk about, or certainly to sing about.