I've been singing the praises of sorely underrated NYC/NJ act Peroxide Blonde for years now, and it seems that the group is finally starting to gain some long overdue traction with their brand of ever-evolving "alternative rock"—deemed such as it simply draws from too wide a range of influences to be packaged into any particular subgenre. Oft-described with gaze-related terminology that I don't particularly agree with, the band has been gradually shedding their grungier beginnings in favor of a tough-to-describe approach that tends to present U.K.-leaning undercurrents of post-punk or dream pop in a manner all their own—not only will you experience zero mimicry, but pay enough attention and you just might uncover the subtly technical layering and musicality that has always so impressed me about their work.
Stream the latest examples via double-single "Bright Manhattan" and "Kiss Me Goodbye" below (or via Spotify, YouTube, etc.), followed by a catch-up chat with guitarist/vocalist Johnny Poppke:
I was surprised to realize that it's been almost a year since the last single, "No Reason to Pretend," was released, but it looks like you've finally been playing a lot of shows since that time. How have things been falling into place on that front?
Yeah, we've been playing much more frequently and it feels like we're starting to build some momentum. I think that since COVID, people have been more eager to go out to shows and more open to hearing new bands. It seems like promoters and bands are more willing to put on shows with bands that play different styles of music, which works for us because we don't fit neatly into a subgenre. So far, the response has been great.
This new release was originally going to be more of a full EP, so what led to the decision to cut back to just two songs?
The third song was going to be a re-recorded version of a demo we put out a while ago. We view this song as one of our strongest, but it's been difficult to capture it in the studio. We weren't satisfied with the final version and decided to only put out the strongest material from the recording sessions.
There's quite a bit of contrast between the new compositions. "Kiss Me Goodbye" is an ultra slow build—droning and moody—while "Bright Manhattan" is more immediately energetic. It nods to some of your earlier work, but the drumming has more of a frantic feel, and the roving basslines offer a lush post-punk undercurrent that's really cool. What do you think these pieces say about the rest of the new material you're actively working on?
The three of us have varying tastes in music, and I think that's gonna really come through in our new material. It's going to be more dynamic, drawing from a lot of different influences. I think "Bright Manhattan" is a good example of this. Liam listens to a lot of U.K. jungle, which you can hear in the breakbeat-inspired drumming. The guitar leads are inspired by Johnny Marr's use of arpeggiation. The bass has a post-punk feel to it, while staying very technical. I think our new material is going to be melodically dense and intricate, and these songs represent the direction we are heading in.
For "Kiss Me Goodbye," we wanted to go for a more atmospheric, expansive sound. Bands like This Mortal Coil or Jesu that create kind of sprawling soundscapes have always inspired us, but it never really showed up in our music until now. We felt that our older material was missing a certain ambiance, so for this song we used samples, some synths, and noisier guitars to fill out the sound.
These new tunes were recorded at Gradwell House, right? What was that experience like, especially compared to your past efforts?
The process was pretty complex. We tracked drums with Jeff Rattay, who we've worked with in the past. Then we recorded all of the instrumentation through a DI box at home, trying to be as meticulous as possible. Liam created rough mixes with the DI and drums, and we brought those to Gradwell House to record vocals over. Then we re-amped the instrumentation and took what we recorded with Matt Weber [at Gradwell House] and sent it off to our cousin, Michael Matarese, in California. He produced these tracks as well as our last single, "No Reason to Pretend." These two new songs were mastered at Metropolis Studios in London, England by Felix Davis.
It seems to me that these songs were self-released primarily to satisfy a pressing timeline so that you all can follow-up with as many summer shows as possible. I know you're super eager to pick up the pace in general, so what are your hopes moving forward from here?
We had different ideas [than our former label] regarding the timeline and importance of releasing the songs, so we decided to self-release. Playing live and reaching new people are our main priorities right now, and we didn't want to keep pushing this release back. We're very happy with how these songs turned out and we're looking for a label that matches our energy and ambition.
We always keep in touch, but we haven't really talked about outside music much lately, and your responses always pique my interest, so what have you been listening to lately?
As far as more current releases, I've recently gotten into the Pain of Truth catalog. Liam and I saw them at This is Hardcore, and they put on a great set. I've also been listening to the new Lykke Li album. The first two songs have some great subtle guitar playing that I really enjoy. And I'm always listening to the same stuff I always do: The Smiths, E.Town Concrete, At the Drive-In, Interpol, etc.
Abigail's been listening to Boy Harsher, Dehd, and The Gun Club. Liam likes a bunch of different stuff, but recently he's been playing a lot of Goldie, EST Gee, and Dendrons—a band from Chicago that we played with recently.
The CD player in our van is broken, so we're always listening to WPRB (Princeton independent radio) when we're driving.
Download or stream "Bright Manhattan" and "Kiss Me Goodbye" via Bandcamp, Spotify, YouTube, etc. Snag t-shirts through Big Cartel. Also find Peroxide Blonde on Instagram.