Blonde Redhead ‘Sit Down for Dinner’ and a chat in Nashville

The trio known as Blonde Redhead formed in New York City in 1993, therefore just celebrated 30 years together with the release of their fall 2023 LP called Sit Down for Dinner, the band’s 10th full-length and first in nine years. Their 2024 American tour supporting this record included a stop at Nashville’s Basement East, where I sat down backstage with bandmates Kazu Makino and twin brothers Simone and Amadeo Pace. With opening act Squirrel Flower’s sound-checking audible throughout the interview, the members of Blonde Redhead reflected on their history as a band, the look and feel of their fan base, collaborating to pull this record together throughout and post-COVID, and also memorable meals.

Hear the full conversation and bits of songs here and on WNXP’s podcast channel.

On meeting in the middle (Italy) to write pre-pandemic

Celia Gregory: I believe you [Kazu] said you came back right in the nick of time before COVID, right, from Europe? And then that was a chance for you all to get back stateside together. So then when did the music start happening and how?

Kazu Makino: Kind of right away, because we started working on new songs before. They [Simone and Amadeo] came to Italy because I was living there. So they came to Italy a couple of times. But I was in Italy as Covid was starting to…we still didn’t know what it was. Everybody was getting sick. And then after that I came back and I did, like, ten days isolation. And then immediately I went and moved in with [Amadeo] and his girlfriend in upstate [New York] in the country house. And then we started working on music.

CG: So you’d already been collaborating virtually, I guess, trading some things with the intention to work on an album or just to continue to be in touch?

KM: We were meeting halfway — I was living on an island and I would just come onto the mainland of Italy and they would travel [from New York] to Tuscany, which was kind of closer for me.

Amadeo Pace: And we went to LA. [To Kazu:] Did you did we keep any of the songs that you sing from that time?

KM: Yes, before, I was like kind of working on my little experiment…I started making my solo album [2019 release Adult Baby] so I kept kind of occupied. [To Amadeo:] But you were working on “Snowman” for ages, right?

AP: I was working on pretty much all the demos for ages.

Kazu has “demo-itis”

CG: It sounds like yours [Amadeo] were almost fully baked and really loved on for a while. [To Kazu:] Did you have any left on the cutting room floor from your solo record? Or was it brand new material, the songs that you wrote [for Sit Down for Dinner].

KM: Attitude-wise, I learned a lot from that, I wanted to keep up the same feelings I had. Like, I had this such, like, irresponsible approach to music, which I really enjoyed. I wanted to continue on that path and not not lose sight of what I had felt, you know?

CG: What do you mean by irresponsible?

KM: Like, really impulsive and spontaneous. And then I also wanted to leave the songs a little bit more space. I don’t know if you can notice this, but, like, songs that I sing have a lot more space than [theirs]. I think that’s just our tendency — they’re not scared of, like, piling up tracks.

AP: We like to experiment.

KM: I also get quite bad demo-itis, so I don’t want to drift away too much from the demo version. “Melody Experiment,” especially, I had such bad demo-itis with that one.

On synchronicity as a trio

CG: I do want to think through the the synchronicity you all have had as a band for 30 years. That’s a lot of time to be together. But you [Simone and Amadeo] shared a womb first. So when it comes to just the two of you, is there anything on stage or even creatively, behind the scenes that you feel like is a familial synchronicity that you can’t replicate with somebody that’s not your blood relative?

Simone Pace: It’s a hard question, because we’ve always played together. I mean, this is the only band I’ve played with, pretty much, so I don’t know what it would be like to play with other people, if the connection would be very different for me. But I know that I can count on certain things at least, from Amadeo. And if things don’t happen, I get very frustrated because it’s like, that should be there and vice versa, I guess.

CG: Meaning he should just know, should just intuitively know?

SP: [Laughs] Yeah.

CG: [To Kazu:] Well, what’s that like for you, then? Playing with the blood relatives.

KM: I’m all on my own in my own bubble.

AP: No you’re not!

CG: It wouldn’t work if that were true.

AP: No.

KM: No, but I do live in a sort of parallel universe, I think. Sometimes I turn around and I see their expression, and then I realize there’s something wrong that I did.

AP: Or right.

SP: For me, with the drums, I have to hear them both, right? I have to get what’s happening all the time. Vocals, instruments, everything. Some stuff throws me off a little bit, so I need to keep it a little bit softer. But it’s almost like reigns for me — like I have one rein in each hand and I have to sort of go from left to right all the time.

On geography affecting creativity

CG: I was thinking about your geography and the places you’re from, the places you’ve lived… I wonder how much geography plays into your creativity, whether it’s, the places you’ve lived, the places you visited, the people you’ve met that have enriched your lives personally, maybe. How does that affect the music?

AP: I mean, we’ve tried to make music in other places, and it’s been a little bit difficult. Somehow New York has always been the place where we are most creative. We’ve tried to write in Italy, we’ve tried to write in France.

KM: It worked out in Italy!

AP: Yeah, it worked out. But most writing we’ve always done in New York City.

KM: But in some ways, I still feel like foreign, like when I’m in New York or like upstate New York. For me, it’s still like, I don’t feel like I’m from there and I feel like a foreigner, you know? So that feeling never leaves me, no matter where I am, actually. Even if I’m in Japan, I feel kind of like alien. So that that is something…it’s just the way it is. America was never going to be like my home. Like the feeling of “being at home,” I don’t have that. The places that I could really, like, put my guard down, I only have like one or two places I could be really, really comfortable.

CG: Home is everywhere because you’re touring for a living a lot of the times. And home is nowhere, too?

KM: Yeah, but I really like being on tour. I’m in denial if I act like I don’t want to, but I function super well on tour. I like being in a cozy place on tour, on the bus with people around and go to sleep with everybody talking and laughing, you know?

CG: So it’s still fun?

KM: Yeah, yeah.

AP: But coming back to music writing, it’s always really hard to explain where things come from. Yeah, she’s from Japan and we’re from Italy and I feel that some of the beginning years of our lives were influenced by something, and that’s still coming out [in the music]. But if you are asking any artist, any musician, they always give you the same answer — it’s in the air. You just have to grab it. Things come. You record it if you’re lucky because you might forget, you know, ten minutes later. Which makes it always very mysterious even for us to talk about.

On a growing, diverse fan base

CG: So I have a confession. The first time I listened to your music, somebody burned a CD for me in college. It was [2004 LP] Misery Is a Butterfly.

I thought about the arc of that and acquiring music at that time in the early 2000s, how thrilling it was. You know, at any age, music discovery, if somebody turns you on to an artist or a band, and then you can have a more productive and symbiotic relationship with that band later — I can buy tickets to your shows, support you financially by buying your music. Surely you’ve seen so much change over the course of your career. I wonder how you think about music discovery and how people find your band now, maybe differently than in the beginning.

KM: Nowadays, people seem to have no issue about traveling to a time…they will just grab what they like from whatever the era. That’s not even reason why they like you, they’re not liking us because we are from certain era. They just like the song. And so super young kids will come up and say, “I love this” or that, or like, “You’re pretty,” or whatever. I’d be like, “Oh my God, you’re so young.” But they have no issue. That’s pretty impressive. I feel like maybe back then you were more brainwashed by what “industry” wanted you to listen to, you know, the promo…certain people are directing people to listen. I think now you can’t control what people wanna listen to, you know? I think that’s really nice.

CG: And people can find your band so many different ways. A record from the early 2000s could be brand new to them. The entry point doesn’t have to be what’s on the [Spotify] Fresh Finds playlist.

KM: And they don’t seem to talk about, like, “What was it like then?” Nobody ever asked me to go there. They just think, you’re here now. Kids will be like “I love Kate Bush,” wherever they get it from, who knows. As long as they’re not worried about it, why should I worry about it?

CG: Have you seen your crowds change in terms of age and wherever you are, like they’ve grown with you, but also you’re seeing lots of young folks?

KM: What’s really interesting is that, like, when we were young, we were surrounded by the same crowd. Now I see younger kids, but it’s kind of the same, you know, like I just see me a long time ago. It’s like the same crowd who really loves music or depends on music. Sometimes you see kids who are having a total identity crisis and somehow our music is like keeping them alive or something.

CG: It’s high praise.

AP: We end up feeling kind of similar the to the way we felt at the beginning. We get on stage and, you know, we still feel like 20 years ago. We haven’t really changed so much.

On memorable meals

CG: The record Sit Down for Dinner makes me think about probably all the fabulous places not just that you’ve lived but that you’ve toured. Is there a memorable dinner, either because of the food or the company or the ambiance that you can recall?

SP: Yeah, I remember the one in Italy, Osteria Francescana.

AP: Did we go together?

SP: Yeah, we ended up in Pimentel [in South Sardinia], we ended up staying there and rehearsing there, we rented the Airbnb. We had the risotto with the red wine.

KM: Risotto made with red wine and raw meat. It was so good.

SP: We also had a meal in Texas, this steak. It was so bizarre. We hung out with all these cowboys in the middle of nowhere.

KM: It looked like this office room.

SP: Or a cafeteria.

KM: No windows. And everybody was like twice as big. Not fat, just huge cowboy boots and huge hats.

CG: Everything’s bigger in Texas.

AP: And the steak was huge. I think we shared one, half of one, between the three of us.

KM: I’m sure nobody knew how exotic that was for us. We were like “Wow.”