The Brimstone Blondes are straight outta Buffalo
Brimstone Blondes cover the Queen City in glitter and groovy jams
Brimstone Blondes is a glam-funk-surf-pop party. It’s almost as if Lou Reed and Talking Heads had a baby and made him go to parties at David Bowie’s house as a child.
Odd is an understatement.
“We acted odd, were the party squad / Back in the days where no such thing existed,” sang Matthew Danger Lippman, the lead singer and a sophomore at SUNY Purchase, in Brimstone Blondes song “Get Lifted.”
Although formally founded in 2011, Brimstone Blondes have been making music together for six years. Lippman, Joey Rambell and Alex Mersinger, all graduates of City Honors in Buffalo, spent their middle school days hanging out at each other’s houses around the Queen City and banging out pre-pubescent jam sessions on instruments they barely knew how to play.
Everything changed for them when Lippman saw indie/punk band Titus Andronicus live in 2010.
“It really occurred to me that we could kinda pull ourselves together and actually become a band that plays shows,” Lippman said. “So around sophomore year [of high school] we started becoming a real band.”
The band – which isn’t sure of the origins of its name (it either came from a Bible verse or a fever dream) – became an honest-to-God band in 2011.
They became a quartet when violinist, guitarist and fellow City Honors student Jacob Cohen joined a few years later. They began to play and record their music.
Although their practice schedule is irregular since they all go to different colleges in New York, they’ve been able to push out strikingly different sounds since 2013.
Brimstone Blondes’ 2013 debut EP When We Were Blonde delivers a lo-fi B-52s-esque vibe with noisy surf-rock guitars, heavy bass-lines, deep lead vocals and some strings put in for a unique four songs perfect for any beach party.
The band's sophomore effort, the aptly named Age of Consent, displays a musical and lyrical maturity developed in the year since they released their first EP. They said the change came in part from a love for funk music and a newfound appreciation for Prince.
“Sweaty funk jams became my passion,” said Mersinger, a bassist and SUNY Binghamton sophomore, about getting into Prince’s music. “Prior to that [my] bass playing was all very punk-based ... But after Prince-gate, my bass playing changed dramatically, more syncopation, more static harmonically yet much looser and unwound feeling. That change definitely changed the band’s sound, [and] it certainly helped push us in a different direction from where we were before.”
Recorded late at night in a liquor store basement and released in August 2014, Age of Consent throws around a lot of different sounds, keeping the jangly guitars, rich vocals and deep bass characteristic of Brimstone Blondes, but exploring some new sounds and a variety of themes anyone can relate to.
Tracks like “Get Lifted!” and “Do U Wanna Make-Out??”offer catchy punk playfulness reminiscent of The Rapture while “Afterparty” puts a unique spin on lyrics from R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix),” delving into the soreness of feeling out-of-place in the middle of a party with a slow, emotional Bob Dylan sort of sound.
“I kind of view R. Kelly’s ‘Ignition (Remix)’ as this Rorschach test of a pop song because it’s so utterly upbeat and fun and poppy ... if you’re hearing ‘Ignition (Remix)’ and you’re not feeling it, [then] you’re not in the right place mentally,” Lippman said about writing “Afterparty.” “I guess that came from this experience of like being in the corner of a party and thinking of someone and feeling generally kind of weird and bitter and drunk, and then ‘Ignition (Remix)’ came on ... and I [remember] wondering, Woah, I wonder if I could challenge myself to turn that into some kind of sad bastard country song.”
Age of Consent was the band’s first record released under its label, Admirable Traits Records.
Michael Moretti, one of the founders of Admirable Traits Records, said Brimstone Blondes is a band he sees “going places.”
“What really sold me on the Blondes was catching their show at The Ninth Ward in May 2013,” Moretti said in an email. “Matthew commanded a whole room that reminded me of a preacher in the Deep South delivering a sermon. His on-stage ‘persona’ and front man energy is incredibly impressive. It takes years and years to be comfortable and confident in your own skin on stage and some established bands would KILL for that type of presence [sic].”
The influence of pop legends like Miley Cyrus, Kanye West and Lil B the BasedGod as well as that of glam icons such as David Bowie and Iggy Pop comes through in the band’s aesthetic.
Wearing dresses, leggings, corsets, animal print and lipstick, dancing around wildly and, according to one anecdote, interviewing bar attendees with a wooden dildo thrown onstage, Brimstone Blondes are indeed “shameless.”
“I would say our newer songs are funner for everyone, crowd included. The ones where Matt can run around stage doing ... well I don’t know what to call it,” Rambell said. “Matt ... well he’s just absurd. And it works.”
But they are more laid-back and refined in their shamelessness, explaining their self-bequeathed genre slacker glam.
“I just love the brashness of modern hip-hop and pop music,” Lippman said. “I’d say in terms of presentation I [owe something to] just any pop stars and rappers that are willing to, I don’t know, really, really go big, I guess. Really be shameless.”
The release of their newest album hasn’t only shown a change in Brimstone Blondes’ sound. They’ve toured, been written about in a Barcelona music magazine and been played on the radio across the country.
The band just got back from its winter tour and has shows in Ithaca, Purchase and Pennsylvania coming up this semester. They’re also working on booking shows for this summer and are planning on recording some new music before fall 2015.
The Blondes’ music is available all over the Internet – Bandcamp and Spotify are just two of the band’s outlets. They also reissued a remastered version of Age of Consent on purple cassette tapes – including a bonus track not available online – which you can pick up at shows or on the Admirable Traits’ website.
What a way to revel in those sparkly glamour vibes.
“Brimstone Blondes are for the children,” Lippman said. “You hear us and you get deeply in touch with some past self that is sexy, and it is without gender or name. You transcend life and you become a beacon of glam-punk glitter sexuality. That is my promise to any listener of Brimstone Blondes.”
Grace Trimper is an arts staff writer and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org