The first chapter in Blonde’s career delivered the kind of success that sets the foundations for a long-term future. After scoring two Top 10 hits with ‘I Loved You’ and ‘All Cried Out’, their Craig David collaboration ‘Nothing Like This’ ensured that they have accumulated 3 x Gold Records and over 120 million streams at Spotify as well a combined total of over seven months in the Top 40. And if that wasn’t enough, their instinct for a natural pop hook was also in evidence as co-writers on the hit Rudimental / Ed Sheeran collaboration ‘Lay It All On Me’.
That chapter came to close with ‘Nothing Like This’. From the outside, it looks as if the Blonde camp has enjoyed some downtime since but the truth has been somewhat different: two tours of Asia, one trip to America, a summer Pacha residency as guest to Martin Solveig, UK festivals from Glastonbury to SW4, a long-running monthly mix series, and featuring with Sigala on Imani Williams’ track ‘Don’t Need Money’.
So that downtime? “It would be nice to have some time off!” says Blonde’s Jake Manson, clearly only half-joking. And even that isn’t the extent of it, given that Jake has also been working as a songwriter on a variety of emerging pop projects including the next Craig David album. Meanwhile, his Blonde cohort Adam Englefield delved back into his underground roots by forming his own Nightbeast Records label to nurture the best of the hordes of young artists who would send him their tracks on spec.
Yet the most vital part of the past year, says Jake, was to take some time to reflect on where they’d come from but, more importantly, where they’re heading. “When we first started I was still at university. Getting to travel and play our music to people all over the world has been an incredible experience. We’re always developing as people and the music reflects that. It would’ve been easy to continue doing the exact same thing, but we wanted to freshen up, and keep it exciting for us as well as everyone else.”
That evolution has been very natural with new influences being a core factor (Adam cites The Weeknd and Drake as examples, while Jake dug into SoundCloud to uncover a passion for Ekali and Joe Mason) as well as their experiences outside of Blonde. Jake has been contributing live instrumentation (primarily guitar) to much of their new material, and their desire to renew their sound even extended to him designing new synth patches from scratch.
Blonde 2.0 therefore is “more encompassing stylistically” according to Adam with varying genres, tempos and vibes. “With Blonde there’s an incredible song at the core of everything we’re doing. We wanted to make sure we traverse genres and do things different every time, but wanted to make sure that people would recognise it as being us too – the uplifting vibe, the lyrical content, and the warmth of the production.”
All of those traits are present in their bold new single ‘Just For One Night’ which Jake wrote with the hotly-tipped newcomer RAYE. Both halves of Blonde are suitably excited for its release, with Adam describing it as being “so different from anything else we’ve done.”
Part of that difference is the contribution of guest vocalist Astrid S whose distinctive tones provide a poppy immediacy with an ethereal edge. “As soon as the song was written I knew that Astrid would absolutely kill it,” says Jake. “She felt like the perfect fit because she’s got that Scandinavian coldness to her vocal. It’s edgy, cool and very strong, but it’s also got a vulnerability to it. All the Blonde singles have had really distinct vocals – Alex Newell, Melissa Steel, Craig David – and Astrid is the perfect continuation of that.”
‘Just For One Night’ commences a period in which Blonde plan to drop tracks on a much more regular basis than before. While they both aspire to release an album, they both recognise that the trend for streaming requires a smarter approach. As Adam explains, “I think people would rather have an album’s worth of material but released in quicker succession because that’s how people consume dance music. You have to go with the flow and be true to how people want to hear your music. But who knows where the industry will be ten years from now?”
Every step of Blonde’s journey has seen audience react to Blonde in a big way, whether that’s with a rammed tent at Glastonbury, inspiring huge crowds to singalong at SW4, or encountering utterly devoted fans as far afield as Jakarta and Seoul. Adam asserts that the experience never grows old. “You’d think by the twelfth or twentieth time it happened, the impact would be lessened but it never is. It’s always that same amazing hairs-on-end feeling. When you’re in the studio bouncing back ideas, never do you think that same melody would be screamed back at you by thousands of people.”
With ‘Just For One Night’, Blonde have prepared the groundwork for such scenes to be repeated far and wide. These two young musicians should expect those melodies to be returned to them in waves for years to come.