Blonde Revolver: A New Dose of Punk Glamour
Ahead of their performance at this weekend's Nag Nag Nag Festival, we caught up with members of the Naarm/Melbourne punk powerhouse Blonde Revolver to discuss the making of their debut album, their energetic live shows, and covering the theme song to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Good Girls Go To Heaven, Bad Girls Go Everywhere, an album bursting with venomous jabs of scattering guitars and guttural beats, is the full-length debut from Naarm/Melbourne punk band Blonde Revolver. What started out as a joke to be a Blondie cover band has since developed into a six-piece punk powerhouse that's composed of vocalist Zoe Mulcahy, guitarists Grace Gibson and Isobel Buckley, bassist Rebecca Allan, drummer Kayley Langdon, and keyboardist Emma Petley. The majority of the members have been part of their city's most important underground bands including Future Suck, Delivery, Body Maintenance, Alien Nosejob, and Carpet Burn. Gibson and Buckley also co-run the independent Naarm/Melbourne label Rack Off Records, which focuses on female-identifying and gender diverse releases. Whereas 2021's self-titled debut EP showed Blonde Revolver expanding upon their urgent live shows, their new debut album shows the band really hitting their stride, with their commanding presence front and center. Tracks like "Raise the Stakes" and "DOC NRG" are stacked with roaring guitar chords and sinister synth lines that rapidly dart around stomping rhythms while Mulcahy's biting vocals cuts through everything. The band is at full force with their playful manner on the smoldering early cut "Lipstick and Leather" that's charged by its buzz-sawing guitars and unapologetic chants. Ahead of their performance at this weekend's Nag Nag Nag Festival, we caught up with the the band to discuss the making of their debut album, their energetic live shows, and covering the theme song to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Paperface Zine: How did you all meet and form Blonde Revolver? Also, where did the band name come from?
Emma Petley: The origin story of BR is pretty much centered around seeing each other out at multiple gigs and wanting to become mates. Zoe drums in Body Maintenance and played a few shows with some of us and became friends through that. I think Iso once saw Bec at a gig kicking pint glasses off stage and instantly wanted to be mates with her. Kayley and Grace met at a gig and bonded over bands they were into and then I play pub footy with Grace and she introduced me to everyone else. Before Kayley and I joined BR, everyone in the band was Blonde and joked about starting a Blondie cover band and then the name sort of evolved from there. Disclaimer: we have never played a Blondie song.
PZ: Like Emma mentioned, all of you play in other bands around the Naarm/Melbourne music scene including Future Suck, Delivery, Body Maintenance, Alien Nosejob, Carpet Burn, and Gutter Girls. What's it like being part of such a tight knit circle and do you ever bounce ideas from project to project?
Rebecca Allan: It's awesome! I guess also the reason this band started playing together was from being fans of each other's other bands and attending the same local shows. That's how we all became mates and why we wanted to make music together. I wouldn't really say many ideas bounce over from other projects. I think for every member each different project serves a different musical purpose or we play a different instrument, but it is cool how it all ends up working together and coming out in how we all write for BR.
PZ: What's something that makes this lineup special and how have you grown since forming in 2020?
Grace Gibson: I think the coolest thing about Blonde Revolver is we're just really close friends. The relationships we've formed always come first and the band is just a cool extra excuse to hang out all the time. When we first started playing together, pretty much everyone was brand new to the instrument they picked up for this band so it was a really safe space to learn something new and feel confident with what you’re doing. I think that confidence has grown a lot over the last couple of years and it's really cool exploring new ways we can make all our instruments work together and build off what each other are doing rather than all just playing the same thing.
PZ: Back in February, you will released your anticipated debut LP Good Girls Go To Heaven, Bad Girls Go Everywhere. How did that album came together and what were the recording sessions were like?
Isobel Buckley: We started writing the album at the start of 2022 and gave ourselves a deadline of only a few months, locking in the recording sessions before finishing our first song. The deadline definitely served as a positive kick into gear as things had been very stop/start due to all of the lockdowns in Naarm from 2020 onwards. It was a fun process as we had a ‘no idea is a bad idea’ mentality, sharing riffs and ideas online and coming to practise to flesh them out together, thanks to some very funny caffeine and bagel fuelled sessions. We recorded over two weekends at Secret Location with the amazing Alicia Saye and Laura Hancock who were incredible to work with, feeling like family by the end of the process.
PZ: What were the sessions like compared to your self-titled debut EP?
Kayley Langdon: The album recording sessions felt more nerve-wracking as the stakes were higher. This time we were in a professional studio, whereas the EP was just recorded in a tiny studio I rent above a waterproofing company. We recorded over two weekends which felt really intense compared to the one day it took to do the music beds for the EP. In the time since our EP was recorded, as a band we have all formed stronger relationships with one another and to me the main difference was the comfort and ease at which we were able to provide feedback to one another or discuss ideas and execute the tracks. We also ate so many snacks.
PZ: How did you approach the songwriting on the new album and what sort of themes do you explore across it?
Zoe Mulcahy: We'd been working on some of the songs for quite a while leading up to recording the album, whereas others I was frantically scribbling lyrics for in the studio (whoops). In saying that, the record was a real collaboration within the band; bouncing ideas off of each other and focusing on our individual parts as well as how it all pieced together to create something bigger. We all prefer being able to do it that way, it's a lot more fun! From a lyrical perspective, I always try to draw upon experiences from my life so the album is a real snapshot of the past year for me. But of course, there are lots of other things mixed in too. It covers themes around mental health, bad housemates, and dating to name a few. But then there are songs about vampires and faux bushmen so I wouldn't read too hard into the lyrics [laughs]. The track "Warpaint" is one of my personal favorite songs and is about sneaking into my mums make-up draw when I was a kid. I'm probably going to have to buy her some things from Mecca to make up for it.
PZ: When the early cut "Lipstick and Leather" was released, I immediately added it to Paperface Zine's Selects playlist! How did this track come about and what did you envision when initially composing it?
ZM: Emma had been working on some more bouncier synth lines that we ended up writing "Lipstick & Leather" around — in my opinion the song sets itself apart from the album with brighter, up-beat verses, while staying true to our roots with more of a driving chorus. The lyrics were a half-baked idea I wrote out one night about the fluttery feeling of dating someone new. While that's what the song was initially about, it has a very different meaning to me now. After we filmed the music video, the song just makes me think of the Revolvers and how much fun we had messing around on camera. Weirdly, it has turned into more of a song about friendships and hot femme summers which is kind of the opposite of what I initially intended — personally I’m loving the transition the song went through [laughs].
PZ: What's the significance of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Blonde Revolver?
KL: We cover the theme song to Buffy. I spent 2020 watching it start to finish and, as I am prone to becoming obsessed with things, I was talking about it all of the time. I'm not even sure how it came about that we would cover the theme but we do. I actually don't think any of the other members have watched it, so now you know who the boss of the band is (bitchez). [I did try to watch an episode with Emma once when we got home from a night out and she fell asleep during the opening credits.]
PZ: What was the idea behind the cover art?
EP: We're huge fans of Phoebe Paradise's work and knew she'd design something incredible for us. We showed her the cover of Cher's single "Take me Home" and then asked Phoebe to design a goddess-like queen and gave her creative control. We're pretty obsessed with how it looks!
PZ: Grace and Iso, what has it been like growing Rack Off Records over the last year and a half? Also, can you give us a preview for the rest of the year and 2023?
GG: Rack Off Records has just been the best, most fun little project to work on over the last year and a half. When we started, we had absolutely no idea how to run a label so it's been a lot of learning and growing together. We're so stoked on all the releases we've put out so far and still can't believe we get to have our little label's name on them! Aside from ours, the most recent Rack Off release was Imperial Leather's debut EP which absolutely slaps so definitely check that out if you haven't already. We've got a couple more surprises planned that we'll announce a little later on.
PZ: Your high energy live shows totally makes me want to catch a plane and visit Naarm/Melbourne! How important are live shows to Blonde Revolver? Do you consider yourself a live band first?
ZM: Wow that is a very big complement (tips hat), live shows are super important to us! The energy we have and give to each other on stage is straight up addictive for each of us. Blonde Revolver shows also mean a night out with the girls, which we are always here for. While we all get a lot out of performing live, the creative process that happens off-stage is equally as important. There's nothing quite like a Sunday morning bagels + writing sesh (shout out to Everyday Coffee for curing our hangovers with cream cheese). Also the recording process for the track "Good Girls, Bad Girls" was both incredibly fun and intense. It really changed the way I look at writing songs within Blonde Revolver and shifted my mindset away from prioritizing live performances as our main output. But really, at the end of the day, it's all about collaborating with mates and making something we are all excited about regardless of whether we are on-stage or off.
PZ: What was it like playing Down South Fest especially alongside fellow giants like Amyl and the Sniffers and Stiff Richards back in February '22?
IB: That was one of the funniest shows I've ever played. It was such a fun weekend away with the band and a really great opportunity to meet and catch up with some of the other amazing bands on the bill. Everyone was really getting around each other! We came home very shakily (thanks to these delicious vodka raspberry slushies) and belted out pop-punk bangers the whole way home. Iconic weekend, would relive forever.
PZ: Back in December '22, you played Chopped, Victoria's one-of-a-kind cult hot rod, motorcycle, and music festival. It had an insane lineup that featured, Amyl, C.O.F.F.I.N, Parsnip, Split System, Smooch, etc. What was that like?
GG: We had the BEST time at Chopped. Honestly didn't know we liked cars that much! Was just the best getting a weekend away to hang out with some of our favorite people. We absolutely love the Smoochies, Splitties, Amyl, Hot Tubs Time Machine, and C.O.F.F.I.N fam so was very fun getting to hang out on the back of a truck all weekend with them. Bella [Kranjec] from SHOVE came along as an honorary BR member so we got to go full rat bag with her too. It's really cool seeing local festivals evolve to have such cool, diverse lineups and we feel super lucky to have been asked to play. We'd play Chopped every year forever TBH.
PZ: What was it like opening for the Murlocs last month and the Northcote Theatre?
EP: Opening for the Murlocs was heaps of fun! It was actually our last gig with all six of us for a hot minute, since everyone is heading overseas for band tours and Euro Summer '23. Playing at Northcote Theatre has definitely been on a few of our venue wish lists and it did not disappoint. It's such a sick building and was a pretty cool experience being able to get on that stage. Our pre-set hype up was probably our best one yet. Iso got control of the remote and played a lot of naughties emo hits. I've never seen her more in her element. Plus our darling friend Daddy Fizz hooked us up with a few slabs to really get us pumping. We absolutely loved watching Beans and the Murlocs sets afterwards. Was so cool seeing them on that big stage! They both absolutely nailed it, was so good to watch!
PZ: What shows are planned in EU over the next couple of months?
GG: So Blonde revolver isn't heading over this year, but almost every member is going across with another band they play in over the next few months. Catch Bec playing in Delivery pretty much from now until the end of May with shows mostly in the UK, France and Germany. Iso and Zoe are touring EU with Alien Nosejob from June 22nd to July 15th, and Zoe stays on to play with Body Maintenance from August 3rd-19th. Then Kayley and I head across with Future Suck from September 8th-29th. Emma will be along for the ride until August too! So a very busy few months for everyone and BR will be having a little break until we're all back at the end of the year. Check out the band's Instagram's for the exact dates and locations too.
PZ: What are you looking forward to playing Nag Nag Nag this weekend? The bill is stacked!
IB: We can't wait for the whole thing! Keen for a weekend away with the girls, and with the amazing Bella from Shove filling in on bass duties while Bec is touring Europe with Delivery! We're so excited to see a bunch of pals play like Split System and Modal Melodies, and see heaps of bands we admire like G2G, Kitchen's Floor, and the Cannanes. The organizers of Nag, Greg [Clennar] and Steph [King] really go above and beyond and create a super sick weekend with incredible lineups that we're so excited to be a part of!
Good Girls Go To Heaven, Bad Girls Go Everywhere is out now on Rack Off Records.