Songful siblings: alt-pop twosome Blondfire keeps it in the family

By Dana Getz

Some kids get their parents’ eyes, others their sense of humor and knack for entertaining. Bruce and Erica Driscoll, however, inherited something of a different genetic variety: a musical ability that landed them a slot recording in a big shot NYC studio, launched their single to number one on the iTunes alternative chart and earned them the soundtrack for the 2012 Honda Civic commercial.

Born and bred in Grand Rapids, MI, the two began piano lessons at an early age due to their persuasive musician mother. As they got older, the pair developed their own flair for music, teaching themselves guitar and writing songs in their homemade studio. By high school they had started a band with their older sister, but eventually branched off to move to New York and pursue music as a full-time career. The siblings now produce synthy-sweet pop-centric music under the moniker of Blondfire, grabbing the attention of music veterans and bloggers alike with their dark, dream-like melodies and electro-laced rhythms. We caught up with Erica a few days before their Lollapalooza show to discuss family dynamics, youth and trying to stay normal amongst the chaos.

So what made you decide to start a band with your brother?

It’s funny because I feel like it was just so natural, just because we were both so into music. We’d get really cold in Michigan, so we occupied ourselves a lot of the time with music. We had a little studio set up where we would just write songs and record, and that was, like, fun and kind of entertainment for us. It was just a natural progression.

Can you tell me about your journey as a band and your transition from Austaire to Blondfire?

Well, we moved to New York and decided to pursue music. We had a connection with this guy, Andy Chase, who works with this band Ivy. We knew that he owned a studio there, so we sent him a demo that we’d been recording and went out there to record with him. He had a studio that was also owned by James Iha, from The Smashing Pumpkins, and Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne, so it was a big deal to us that they liked our sound and wanted to work with us. We knew we either had to go to L.A. or New York, so we went to New York first. We were pretty young, and we toured opening for Ivy all over the states and Canada, and with this other band Stars. So we were doing pretty well with the band name Austere, but apparently Fred’s widow didn’t like the fact that we were using the name, so we unfortunately had to change it. Which was hard, because when you have a band name for awhile and you think that name represent you, it’s hard to come up with something else. But now I’m pretty happy with the new name, so it worked itself out.

When did you first realize “Where the Kids Are” was going to be big?

We were in Texas at our first show with Awolnation, and we just got back in our van after the show and heard it on the radio. It’s a really cool feeling to be somewhere that’s not the city you’re from and know that you’re playing there.

So what’s it like being in a band with your brother?

It’s really fun. It’s cool, ‘cause I feel like when we write together we’re coming from the same place. Growing up we had similar experiences and influences in music, so when we go to write a song it’s just a natural thing we do together. So it’s fun, and we have a special connection with each other.

Which one of you usually wins the arguments?

Oh my gosh, it depends. The funny thing is we can fight or piss each other off, but within five minutes we forget about it pretty much.

Let’s talk about your upcoming album. What most influenced you while making it?

Well, I feel like it’s a little more leaning toward, like, dream pop and it’s a little bit softer. When we were in the studio we were just trying to write the music and just work on finding new sounds and stuff. We just thought it would be cool to go and try to find like an edgier side to it, even though our music’s not hard or anything. We were just kind of trying to push ourselves in a different direction a little bit. We wrote “Where the Kids Are” and the song “Young Heart,” which just kind of set us on a path for the whole album with the vibe we wanted to create. I feel like once we wrote those two songs we kind of had the vision with where we wanted to go with it. We didn’t really set out with a vision lyrically, but I feel like as we wrote stuff a lot of the songs seemed to have an underlying thread about just living in the moment and enjoying life. Just feeling young and living like you’re young I guess.

Why do you think this was an important message for you guys to get out now?

I don’t know, it wasn’t really planned. It just sort of came out naturally, but I think it’s a good thing to live by. You know, life’s short, so you gotta enjoy it.

“Where the Kids Are” was kind of a surprise hit for you guys. Are there any songs on the new album with the same sort of potential?

I mean, I hope so. All of the songs have a pretty special theme, so I think that because of that we’ll probably get a good response and people will really like it.

Do you have a personal favorite?

It really changes all the time, but I really love “Young Heart.” It just has a very kind of dreamy quality and the lyrics are very spacey, I just really like the vibe of that.

You’re playing Lollapalooza’s BMI stage in a few days. What are you looking forward to about that experience?

I’m really looking forward to being included in such a cool festival, and being included with bands that have been so important to me is a cool feeling. It’s a big deal to be listed as playing the same events as them, you know? It’s a cool accomplishment for us.

Do you have a favorite song to perform live?

Yeah, I really love playing the songs that people know, like “Waves” or “Where the Kids Are.” It’s such a cool feeling when we start playing a song and people recognize it, and when people sing the lyrics back to you.

Your life seems to be jam-packed with performances lately. How did you stay calm amongst all the craziness?

It does get really crazy. I think the main thing I do is just try and be comfy, and just be active as much as possible so I can feel semi-normal, ‘cause a lot of times you’re just sitting in the van late into the night. I try to go for runs as much as I can and do workouts and that sort of thing. I try not to each too much pizza late at night.

What do you want to accomplish in the next few years?

I think we’ll be touring a lot, and I just want to keep writing a lot and putting out new music. I love writing songs, that’s probably my favorite thing about it. I’ll be doing some more collaborations—I’ve been collaborating with a couple DJs—and just kind of exploring different cavities of songwriting.

Is there anyone you’ve been dying to collaborate with?

Oh, there’s so many. I think the biggest one for me would be, like, bands I’ve been listening to since I was young, like the Pet Shop Boys would be amazing for me. Definitely Depeche Mode. Tom Petty would be amazing. I’m a huge Tom Petty fan.

BLONDFIRE WILL PERFORM SATURDAY, AUGUST 3 AT LOLLAPALOOZA.