By Arih Struger-Kalkman
With a new sound, a new name, and a new album coming out, James Blonde packs a lot of punch for only three members.
Formerly Xprime, the group changed their name after parting ways with guitarist and vocalist, Gab Sid. There was a change in the sound, as well: “over the years we were writing poppy quirky stuff,” explains guitarist and vocalist, Steph Mercier, “and people always said… the heavier stuff, it feels more natural. So, this album being darker and heavier, I think they were right, it does feel more natural.”
Drummer and vocalist, Phil Taylor, adds that “becoming a trio opened the door to give us each more of a say in the songwriting – there are more lyrics, more words in our songs now.”
The group is a true collaboration, with all three members writing the songs. “We all work together to help finish songs,” says bassist and vocalist, Neil Carson, “it’s the biggest team effort we’ve done so far.”
The band worked with producer, Derek Hoffman (Fox Sounds) to bring their new self-titled album to life. Starting from a pool of nearly 30 songs, the band together with Hoffman whittled that list down to their best 10.
“It’s important to have an outside perspective,” says Mercier, “the whole album flows a lot better.” Hoffman was also instrumental in adding some new hooks and lyrics, according to Carson. “We would usually pre-produce at home,” explains Taylor, “this time we brought everything to the studio and re-pre-produced with Derek – we got to write and produce in the studio. It was also our first time recording with a drum tech; I want to shout out to Jordan Gauthier, he did an amazing job.”
The James Blonde album is scheduled for online release on August 21, with a release show at the Warehouse on August 23 with the Natrolites.
The three friends and bandmates agree on most things, but not their favourite song from the new album. For Carson, it’s Sea of Hearts, “it’s one of the first songs we worked on together, it’s a good group effort, and it’s got a good rock/pop feel, so I think it represents the album well – and I sing it.”
Taylor prefers Heartbreak, “not just because it’s the only one I sing, I really like the disco-vibe beat chorus.”
Finally, Mercier leans toward the first single from the album, Don’t Lock the Door, which is available now on Spotify.
After the album release, James Blonde are heading out on tour. In September, the band will be playing several shows around Ontario and in October, they head out west for a string of shows.
For more on James Blonde, visit their website: jamesblonde.ca