Relax on North Lancaster with Blond and Maddie Pinney
Sitting cross-legged on a porch swing on North Lancaster, I met with local indie surf pop band, Blond. Jamie Scott, vocals and guitar, sat to my right sporting his long dirty blond hair in a bun with coke-bottle glasses next to Connor Stratton, the bassist with wiry blond hair and buzzing blue eyes. To my left sat lead guitar, Ethan Wehrly, another long-haired dirty blond. And in the corner, a meek but sweet Rory Papania, who is coming into the band soon after their current drummer, Eric Jordan, leaves for China. It was September 20, the day before they opened for Shilpa Ray and She Keeps Bees at The Union. There was an easy sense of camaraderie resting in the air on that sunny day as they drank their PBRs and goofed around. Blond has roots in Yellow Springs, OH, and it is sort of synecdoche of bands past and present. Jamie, Rory and Connor were once in the band Wheels until they broke up when Rory went to France. Jamie and Connor had a duo called Great Guys. Now Rory is back, sliding onto guitar in Blond. But on that Friday afternoon, it was just a group of friends smoking on the porch. We got to talking and found some common ground: the love of Athens and the love of live music.
How long have you guys been a band?
Connor: A year-and-a-half.
Ethan: A year.
Connor: A year?
Jamie: I don’t even think a year yet.
Ethan: Point-one-two-seven-five years.
Connor: But we played Fall Folk Fest last year, so even a little bit before. I think it’s in Hanover in September. We’re, like, right on our anniversary. Let’s make tomorrow the anniversary show.
Ethan: Roses and candles, what the f**k!
Connor: Roses and candles.
What’s your favorite part about the Athens music scene?
Connor: That there’s not too much happening is my favorite thing. There’s not. It’s not overwhelmingly packed full of music, there are not that many bands. Like when I’m putting together shows, and I’m, like, shocked at how hard it is to think of local bands if we can’t do it. There’s not a really heavy scene here. It’s like a focused niche scene. It gives you a chance to shine through it.
Jamie: As a band, when there’s nothing going on in the town, if you can play a good show, people will like you.
Rory: Athens is overwhelmed with garage rock and DJs, so when you have a band that actually has melodic concepts and really solid songs, it’s something that really sets you apart.
Jamie: We’re just like, jacking ourselves off right now though.
Connor: I’m not even meaning to, it’s nice. It’s just a nice thing. It’s f**king sweet. And also when shows are happening in Athens, you know about them, and you probably know who it is and you can strike a relationship or friendship with those people.
What’s your favorite place to play here?
Unanimous: The Union.
Ethan: It’s got the best sound system and we always have an awesome crowd there because all of our friends are really supportive.
Jamie: We’re friends with everyone that works there. Literally everyone that works there is like a good friend.
Connor: Scott [Winland, promoter at the Union] is like my mentor. That dude has taken such good care of us. We owe a lot of our high-tailed success to Scott Winland of The Union. He totally put us in a spotlight. He gave us a lot of chances really early. I had been learning from him personally about booking shows and stuff, and he heard some stuff I had been recording and he was like, “dude, you guys need to, like, do some stuff.” He invited us to a show that weekend and since then, literally always we’ll be the first person he’ll call to see if we can play. That’s what he did with this show. He texted me last Wednesday and asked if we wanted to open for Shilpa Ray and She Keeps Bees and I was like “F**k yeah, like are you f**king crazy, that’s gonna be the best show all semester.”
Do you guys see yourself touring anytime soon?
Connor: I think we have a lot of growth to do before touring.
Jamie: That’s always the tentative plan. We’re not really in a place to start making moves on that.
Ethan: We’ve been going through a lot of change, our drummer is moving to China to teach English over there. So then Rory is now coming into the band. It’s a whole musical chairs. Connor is moving to drums, I’m moving to bass, Rory is sliding in on guitar, and Jamie’s still just doing his thing.
Connor: Just singing the songs.
Where do you see yourself in a year?
Jamie: Dishwashing, living in a 20-by-20 apartment.
Rory: Living in our dirty-ass house.
Jamie: Scrounging for weed crumbs in the couch.
Connor: I would say in a year hopefully touring. The thing about touring is that it is shockingly expensive. Before you ever want to really tour you have to not only have a home base established–which I would say we do in Athens–but you also want a taste of regional success before it’s appropriate to tour out of the state. You want to be able to say, “Hey, if we play a show in Columbus people will come, if we play in Cincinatti people will come and they’ll see us.” You’re starting that whole process over again, that’s why you tour. For every new city you go to on a tour, you’re a nobody all over again. It takes time and you lose a lot of money. You could be a big Ohio band, like Wheels was, and make a bunch of money every time you play a show. But if you take that to Brooklyn, you’re going to playing to nobody and for free, and then have spent $200 to go to Brooklyn. It’s a really long, arduous process. In general, it sucks and it takes a long time to develop it.