Caroline Blind, former Sunshine Blind frontwoman has been releasing some great new songs as part of her new solo career. Her most recent single, featured last month on Vents, is a beautiful dark folk ballad called “Need To Say,” and it is the result of her collaboration with Rich W. of The Wake in guitar and bass, and it was produced, mixed and mastered by Gordon Young.
We had the pleasure of asking the band some questions ahead of their new album release, The Spell Between, set to be released on February 2020.
You recently released the single “Need to Say”. What’s the story behind the song?
Rich: The thing I love about this song is the honesty in its expression. I was going through some dark things in my life when I was drawn to this big beautiful baritone acoustic. After the shipper dropped it off I ran to my rehearsal space unboxed it, tuned it up and the beginnings of this song was the literally first thing I played. Almost a stream of consciousness type thing, very moving. I quickly worked through adding a second guitar line. Ran out to my car for a listen, loved it and immediately sent it Caroline….
Caroline: …It was short, just about two minutes, but I could hear it had a lot to say. I envisioned three weaving vocals running throughout it, to get all the thinking and feelings in, and I felt that the vocals would pop in and out at random points, like overhearing conversations in a crowd. I felt the music would carry the mood. In the end, I settled on the one vocal, and one of the other vocal lines I turned into a keyboard line instead…
The lyrics are simple- about the loss of someone you love, or a friend, or a lover… they came to me because of what I heard in the music, and because lots of my friends at the time were going through hard times… losing friends and family…it reminded me of when I lost my Dad just a few years ago. I would check in, and every time was just “will this be the last time?” and “it’s just a matter of time”. I feel it’s really appropriate that the song is short, and it sort of ends abruptly, and trials off, because it parallels how ‘time with our loved ones is short…’
This is the second single off your upcoming album The Spell Between. What do you consider the main difference between this album and your work with Sunshine Blind?
Caroline: Musically, the differences are obvious: Sunshine Blind songs are barn-burning guitar-driven rock songs with powerful, punching, or soaring Valkyrie vocals, and this new album is a somewhat- acoustic “Dark folk” album, sparse in instrumentation, noise or clutter, with very intimate and vulnerable vocals. Probably the most honest and raw vocals I’ve ever done.
Besides that, the main difference is that all the Sunshine Blind stuff was under the control of my partner and husband at the time, who was great at all the music writing, playing, producing, engineering and mixing. I did not play an instrument on, mix / produce or engineer any of the Sunshine Blind music. I only sang and wrote the vocal melodies and lyrics over the songs he wrote. I went into the studio and they recorded me singing, and whatever we got, we used.
My new album, however, started as a solo acoustic album, and even though I ended up collaborating with a bunch of different people on it, I did all the recording of my vocals myself, which has been one of the greatest things. I can sing, and record, and punch in and out a million times, until I think a vocal is just right, without anyone else in the room. I really enjoyed that part especially, I feel like I really was able to capture just what I wanted to.
I’ve also been able to try and experiment with playing and recording many of the instruments, keyboards, guitars, basses, and drum loops, and also experiment with using more vocals, harmonies, doubling, as many as I want… I’ve chosen the cover songs, I’ve written vocals and sang on other people’s songs, and, I got to work with a variety of people, which, after working with the same partner for so long, was very strange and new, but great!
So the main change is that, being free from what I’ve done before, and who I’ve worked with before, I’ve been able to do whatever I’ve wanted to do, experiment freely, and direct the entire project to my own tastes, which has been terrifying and wonderful! I’ve never been a control freak, and it’s not that I even ever wanted to control all these things at all, but, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and it was actually quite empowering being the lead on the project for a change. Nerve-wracking at times, but empowering!
Does the life in San Francisco influence your music?
Caroline: No. lol. Not at all.
As a child of a family that moved around a lot, and who were of an “International” mindset/ background, ‘where I am’ doesn’t play a big role in my music, and actually, a lot of my songs are about traveling, or wishing I were! A lot of my songs are about people and relationships, it only matters where ‘in my head’ I am at the time, and who I’m interacting with that determines my lyrics… that, and my experiences with those people in all the places I’ve lived and traveled.
The music sounds and styles that l like are influenced by bands I enjoy most and grew up listening to, and almost all of the bands I like are from the UK, so that is a bigger influence on me than San Francisco. Also, I grew up mostly on the East Coast, New Jersey/ Pennsylvania/ New York, and that is where we started Sunshine Blind, so the rest of my formative musical influences are probably from what people I knew were listening to there.
Where did you record The Spell Between?
Caroline: Mostly at home, late at night, in front of my computer. ( As you do.) I did some of the louder parts at my rehearsal studio here in San Francisco, but mostly I recorded at home. Not one of my collaborators on the album lives in San Francisco, we all traded files electronically, but I believe all of them recorded at home, as well, and sent me their parts ( although Gordon Young, who is an actual mastering engineer, would have a “Home studio” that is actually a professional recording studio, chock full of all the gear you would expect to find in one….).
Rich (guitarist for the Wake) is my main collaborator, and he lives in Ohio. We traded the most files, and both of us would set up in the kitchen of our homes… we ended up calling our labs “Kitchen Sink Studios”…. Rich introduced me to David Wolfenden (guitarist for Red Lorry Yellow Lorry), who lives in Leeds, England. Ashe Ruppe (from Delphine Coma) lives in North Carolina, and my “live band” mates Dave (The Dramedy) and George Earth (Switchblade Symphony) both live in Los Angeles, (some 400 miles from me). Gordon Young (Children on Stun/ Pretentious Moi? / Dream Disciples) lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, and he did all the mixing and mastering for “The Spell Between”, (as well as contributing playing of instruments and producing things).
He had the huge job of making the album sound cohesive, and making us all sound like we were in the same room. He probably does that a lot for rock or industrial bands he works with, but to make that work on an album that has so much space and acoustic instruments can’t be easy!
This album features collaborations with Rich W. of The Wake, and Gordon Young, are there any other collaborations in the horizon?
Caroline: Like I mentioned above, I’m used to working in a group, or with at least one main partner, and I am not really interested in making music on my own. It’s just not something that works for me, so yes, I will always be working with someone, or I won’t be making music!
In the past two years, I got a lot of offers from people, and I tried a lot of different things, but some just didn’t work out, which is bound to be the case, try things, some things stick/ work, some don’t… The ones I really clicked with are on this album. I hope to continue working with the people on this album, especially Rich. We have written a couple songs that are not on this album, that are more in a traditional guitar/ bass/ drums vein, and I’m pretty excited about them, so I’d like us to get to those, time and space permitting, but he, and all of my collaborators have their own projects, so we’ll see if it’s in the cards or not. The way it works right now, I have some people I do studio things with, and some that I play live with, and they are not the same people… it just evolved that way. I don’t know where it will go from here, but as long as I’m able to make music and get it out there, I’m happy to work with as many people as it takes, as long as they are into it, too!
Would I like just to settle down and focus on one band/ project? Sure. If something comes together (or continues from here) that is as great as I feel this album/ group of people is/ are, I would be totally happy staying there and exploring and evolving that project, yes. For the moment, though, just following the signs and seeing where it all leads….
What’s your favorite piece of gear in your studio right now?
Caroline: That is a great question, and I wish I had a great answer, but my studio is still pretty sparse at the moment. My favorite pieces of gear tend to be guitars and their effects/ accessories, because I am obviously fascinated by these strange devices (the people who can actually play them!) HOWEVER, so as not to disappoint any gear nerds out there, (since I am also one at heart,) I am going to let Gordon Young answer the question, because I love hearing about all the gear, too! :
Gordon : Favorites depend on the project, but we’ve used all kinds of tools on this record – old and new. From the latest cutting edge DSP (band passed slew limiters that could never exist in the real world), to processing individual mix elements with modulars (the 4ms Spectral Multiband Resonator shows up more than once), or even using a classic Teletronix LA2A to tame the vocals. (The LA2A is an optical circuit meaning the signal is converted to light and the intensity of that light is then registered by a sensor which controls the compression.) Like a lot of classic studio tools, it technically isn’t perfect, but those imperfections make it beautiful.
Are you planning on playing any of the new songs live? If so what’s the difference between the live version of the songs and the studio one?
Caroline: Also a good question! It depends what configuration I’m playing in. I did a run of acoustic shows with Dave the Dramedy on acoustic guitar with me, and we did these cover songs and acoustic versions of Sunshine Blind songs. Two guitars, no backing tracks, just voice and guitar. We played a few dates with Ego Likeness on their tour of the Northwest US, and it was fun- that was what spawned the idea to do an album, because people asked me where they could get the versions I was playing, and I didn’t have any recordings of me playing anything acoustic.
So I was like, “Okay, I’ll just record what Dave and I are doing, and put it out, so people can get it”. I figured it would be easy, maximum four tracks, sure I could mix it myself…. I set about recording them, but my skills weren’t great, so I asked some people to help me record it, and then, unexpectedly, it became this “Stone Soup” scenario, where I started with my “water and stones in a kettle over a fire” – just my voice and guitar, and then all these people started showing up, going “Hey, this is great! You should add some of this!”, and adding yummy ingredients, and now it’s this fabulous soup of pretty much filled-out songs with more instruments, that I will likely not be able to reproduce by myself live, (laughs) so I have a bit of a dilemma!
Backing tracks are no doubt the answer, if I want the live versions to match the album versions more closely, ( but do I ?) so I need to go back to the drawing board with my live band guys and brainstorm up a plan!
Meanwhile, I added George Earth on electric guitar, and Dave moved to playing bass, so we could play as a live version of Sunshine Blind; Sunshine Blind songs, just as they were, full electric. I always add (or close the show with,) my acoustic version of Swans’ “God Damn the Sun”, which people have really love, so there is that, but yes! How am I going to combine full electric rock songs of Sunshine Blind and this new album of Dark Folk Acousti-goth songs? It’s a very good question! I guess you’ll have to come by a show and find out!
What’s next for Caroline Blind?
Caroline: Releasing “The Spell Between” in February, planning more live shows, (I just booked my first-ever show in Mexico, in February 2020, so I’m excited about that… and I have some offers for festivals in Europe in 2020 as well,) and generally following my muse.
I’m not as driven to pursue any music industry metrics or play the game of the music industry, or even to put out albums, as much as I am driven to work with fantastic people and make great music, and have fun playing it. If people like it, great, then they become a part of what happens in the musical Spell Between us all, and I’m happy to just live in, enjoy, and contribute to our musical scene, now that it finally seems to be on its way to flourishing again…