Blond:ish's Vivie-Ann and Anstascia are a curious pair. Are they spaced-out psychonauts? Or is it all a Sasha Baron Cohen-style satire of dance music culture? Are they taking the piss out of the entire scene? I still don't know, and I guess I don't care.
Originally from Montreal but now based in London, the duo burst onto the electronic music scene with last year's Lovers In Limbo EP on Kompakt. Full of fluid, organic textures, it was kaleidoscopic house music for the dazed and confused. Their love of '60s psychedelia shines through on each of their releases, and you won't be suprised to hear about the duo's recent pilgrimage to seek spiritual guidance—and peyote buttons—from a shaman in Tepoztlan, Mexico.
In our meandering Skype chat we talked about their new EP, spiritual tourism, and the sunrise DJ set they're planning for the Mayan Warrior Art Car at Burning Man this year. The two have a tendency to complete each other's thoughts in a ping-ponging, half-finished fashion. It got a little weird.
THUMP: You just dropped the Inward Visions EP. How does it differ from your last one?
A: When we made the first Kompakt EP, we didn't know what label it was going to be on. For this EP, we targeted it more for Kompakt, but maintained our own vibe, too.
V-A: We wanted to kind of take it to the next level: make it more club-oriented and a bit more techno-y. We really wanted to tell the next chapter of the story and evolve musically from the first EP. Too many producers get stuck in their particular sound, and find it hard to break out of it.
"No Place Like Gnome" has this futuristic techno vibe, but is also dark and mysterious at the same time. Can you talk about that track?
A: We used a lot of live instruments, like live drums, along with a mixture of analogue synths. We also love to record objects and sounds we find in the studio such as squeaking doors and glass bottles. We find the most random sounds if we just open our ears.
V-A: We never want to conform to any one genre. In fact, we're actually not good at working within them. There is a dichotomy between the future and past on the new EP, though. In other words, we wanted to create a consideration for both the past and future—to show that everything in life works in cycles. So, at the end of it all, somehow something from the past will sound futuristic and vice versa.
A: The past being more live instruments, a bit of a more psychedelic '60s feel, which was quite a bit more relevant to our first EP. And then we used some elements that made it a bit more futuristic.
V-A: Futuristic techno, like you said.
You mentioned psychedelic sounds. Were you trying to move away from approach a bit on this new EP, or just let things unfold?
A: We just went with the flow, spending hours looking through sounds and playing around. With "No Place Like Gnome" we wanted a song that someone could play in a club at peak time—something more energetic. I think that our music will always have some sort of organic vibe to it. We want to connect with our crowd emotionally, and hopefully they would be able to take something from it whether it's a good time or some sort of motivation in life. And that can be psychedelic or not. Actually, thinking about the psychedelic nature of our sound might be somewhat involuntary now.
V-A: We spend days going through samples and sounds. Occasionally we record some stuff in Mexico. We love oddly detuned sounds—the weirder the better. We've also realized that usually if we set out to do a certain type of track, whether it be a specific genre or general vibe, it never ends up the way we intended it. So, we've just learned by doing. We just go with the vibe of that particular day and see what happens.
A: We also wanted something we can play at Burning Man. Something that could make you get lost in a trance.
V-A: Burning Man is about the journey, so we wanted the song to be like that.
A: An epic song. Epic.
V-A: Epic is a good word.
Yes it is. Now, did you record the EP in Mexico?
V-A: No, but we are going to record a full album there.
A: We're going to be recording live instrumentation for the album with the shamans.
I take that to mean Mexican psychedelic shamans?
A: Yeah. [Laughs]
Are you two just going to waltz into the jungle and bend your minds?
A: Yes, into the jungle and desert.
V-A: We went to Tepoztlan on a field trip with a bunch of other artists. It was a collaborative effort. We basically just jammed out there and talked music. Kind of like a think tank.
A: And then we went to Real de Catorce, which is a desert and the only place in the world where peyote actually grows. [ed's note: Peyote grows in several regions of Mexico and Texas, but let's give the duo this one.] We have a lot of friends there and they know shamans in that area. We're going to go and hang out with them. They all play really cool instruments.
The other track on the EP features vocals by someone who goes by the name Beyou. Who is this person?
A: He's our friend Boo Boo from Mexico City. He's a really talented musician, vocalist, artist, and DJ. So we asked him to do some vocals for us.
V-A: He's good friends with Pachanga Boys, and he's the one who organized the collaborative effort. So, it seemed natural for him to do vocals on the track.
The vocals seem warped and distorted. I think it's fair to say that Beyou, or Boo Boo, or what have you, just made vocal sounds, and that there was no lyrical content, correct?
A: Obviously, they don't make any sense. We just wanted something trippy and weird and wonderful.
V-A: We did some vocals on it, too. The things in the breaks that go, "Ahhh yaahh." The trippy background things.
A: The oohs and aahs. We didn't want anything really structured, and we didn't want the vocals to make any sense. We wanted them to be really haunting.
Are you self-producing the album?
A: All of the concepts are going to be ours and we'll shape the album with different vocalists. We're just going to jam with the shamans and a group of very unique instrumentalists. It's the best way to do it in our case. Always just catching a vibe, keeping it organic and loose, not so structured. We've usually always been happy with the results.
V-A: We will get grooves and demos going with specific parts, then when we're happy and want to move to the mixing stage, we'll go into the studio to get it all mixed up properly and sounding big.
What are you looking to do style-wise for the LP after you've interfaced with the shamans?
A: Underground country mixed with R&B and trap.
V-A: I think we want to work on a grand scale, and we want to tell a story. So, we've been making a lot of different demos to piece it together. We're not finishing full tracks right now. We're creating a soundscape of sorts. I like indie tracks, too, so we want to cross over on a few tracks maybe, while keeping our artistic integrity to our scene as well. We just don't want to be confined to clubs with 400 people.
A: It's going to be a mix between like trippy, psychedelic, futuristic, indie, techno—
I think that about covers every possible angle of sound. What sort of instruments are you going to use?
A: We're definitely going to use some crazy instruments, but we don't know what they're called. [Laughs] Crazy shamanic instruments.
V-A: We have some of them at home but I have no idea what they're called. I should know, shouldn't I?
A: We definitely should know. Maybe the theremin. I like the theremin. But, we need to find one.
Were you just running water?
A: We're taking a bubble bath together [laughs]. Sorry, I didn't mean to give it away, but the bubbles were running low.
V-A: That's our Canadian sarcasm.
A: There definitely wasn't any water running. It was a reference to the DJs Having a Bath Tumblr meme.
Maybe I'm hearing things. Any upcoming gigs?
A: Burning Man. We're going to be playing there.
V-A: Also, Australia in October for a mini-tour, and then the Kompakt 25th Anniversary party.
What can fans expect at your Burning Man performance?
V-A: We'll be returning to spread a lot of love through our music on the Robot Heart bus on the Thursday of Burning Man. We're also going to be doing an extended sunrise set on Tuesday night on the Mayan Warrior Art Car.