Fluxus: Blonde Redhead and the Art of Perception
A conversation with the band about their process at their FLOOD Gallery performance
There is a unique calm to Barragán, the ninth record from Blonde Redhead. Sparse but textured production envelopes listeners as fingers audibly press on steel strings, changing chords. The title track fluidly transforms into the warm, full sound of “Lady M,” and after that one-two punch, the album is flying. This is a new sonic frontier for Kazu Makino and brothers Amedeo and Simone Pace, but the New York trio treated the recording of their 2014 album the same way they embrace life—organically.
“There are a lot of insignificant moments that are supposed to ease you into the album,” Makino explains after an intimate FLOOD Gallery show. “At first, we went into the studio with very little preparation and, actually, we wasted a lot of time, but the idea was to record everything, even the moments when you aren’t doing much.”
While Barragán was more free-form than the group’s previous efforts, working without a concrete plan is nothing new, especially for the Pace brothers. “It’s them!” shouts Makino playfully, pointing to her twin bandmates. “They have a really big tendency for change.” When the pair shoots Makino a teasing glare, she doubles down on her claim, “You guys just like to not respect the rules!”
But it’s that disregard for the norm that has driven the music of Blonde Redhead, and serves as inspiration through the work of some of their favorite artistic pioneers and outliers. “I saw an exhibit [in Berlin] that blew my mind,” begins Makino, who lights up, despite a nasty cold, when she’s talking about art. “It was all art made by psychiatric patients. Everything was tiny.” She almost completely pushes her hands together as she explains. “They were all thinking differently, in this micro-world. The exhibit just got under your skin.”
The band is on the same motivated wavelength when they talk about the power of visual art, much like their deep connection onstage.
“It definitely gives you good energy,” insists Amedeo.
“We get totally inspired by people whose calling is art—especially that energy, excitement, and love that they have for their work,” adds Makino.
Being open to the impact of other forms of creativity continues to push Blonde Redhead in unusual and rewarding directions, like performing at Sundance, the Andy Warhol Museum, or a gallery in Los Angeles.
“It’s refreshing to be doing something different, going into unknown territory,” Makino stresses, with affirmation from Amedeo and Simone next to her. “We’re just available to listen to the project and dive into the uncertainty. It’s quite exciting to just do things like that.”
Having the freedom to look at the world with a fresh perspective has protected Blonde Redhead from becoming jaded after twenty-two years. “It’s good to be open and put yourself in a different situation, even if it ends up being totally shit, because then you adapt and become a little bit better because of it,” Amedeo says. Makino is right there to back up the positive vibes: “You just need one good reason to do anything.” FL