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Blonder Race Against the Clock on 'Blender'

Jul. 3, 2017
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Photo credit: Craig Risser

Eventually almost all bands reach a point where they have to admit that it just isn’t going to happen. The time commitment it takes to make a band anything other than a hobby is utterly daunting, and without the ability to tour and the resources to promote themselves, a band’s odds of making an impact—or their odds of even being heard on any real scale—are next to nil.

The scrappy Milwaukee indie-rock quintet Blonder came to terms with that reality years ago. Day jobs (or, given some members’ odd work hours, night jobs) had eaten away at whatever little time they’d had to dedicate to the band to begin with, and they were finding it ever more to even coordinate practice time, let alone play shows. If band members’ increasingly busy work schedules were the writing on the wall, then the decision of co-leads Mina Mirhoseini and Matt Nordness to move to Nashville, Tenn., was the nail in the coffin.

The band made the most of those final months together, however, buckling down to finish one last album, Blender. They worked on it down to the wire, tracking it in drummer Eric Risser’s basement even as Mirhoseini and Nordness were in the process of packing.

“We just want to do this album and feel good about it, and that’s that,” says Risser. “It was hard. While we were recording, we figured we couldn’t even play shows together because we needed to be concentrating on finishing this if we were only going to get one chance a week to meet up. A big part of recording it was being a secretary, just trying to get everybody together.”

In some ways, maybe it’s for the best that Blonder came to an early end, because they’re not really the kind of band you’d want to hear get old, anyway. Blender’s mix of lopsided, Pavement-esque lo-fi and shouty coed singalongs are the kinds of things that bands can only really pull off when they’re young—as bands age, those rough edges almost always get sanded away. A handful of prettier songs, like the violin-kissed “Heat and Secrete,” tease some of the directions the band might have pursued had they lasted longer, but for the most part, the band was uninterested in polishing their sound. They were always drawn to rawer recordings.

“There’s something magic about those first recordings from bands—when they aren’t really sure about what they’re doing,” Risser says. “We always enjoyed listening to demos of bands we like, since they capture the rawer end of things, and they show where all the ideas come from.”

Given their inability to tour or promote the record in any meaningful way, Risser knows it’s unlikely Blender will ever find much of an audience. Adding insult to injury, a few years ago, a New York artist also adopted the name “Blonder” and trademarked it, and he seems to be gaining some traction. Because of the name confusion, his tour dates sometimes display on the Milwaukee Blonder’s Bandcamp page, so “it looks like we’re constantly on a nationwide tour,” Risser say. It must be odd, watching another artist with the same name gradually erase your own online presence.

Ultimately, though, Blonder’s legacy will be greater than any of the scattered recordings they left behind on their Bandcamp page.

“Matt and Mina actually met because of us starting this band and are getting married next year,” Risser says. “So, even if only a few people hear the album, there’s still a lot of good that came out of the band.”

You can stream Blender below.

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