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Informed by a plethora of undiluted underground influences, the current wave of British popular music is in its healthiest condition for years. Just a few years back, aspiring musicians would need to fork out for a range of studio instruments. Now an emerging producer can craft huge ideas from little more than a laptop and some software. Similarly, geographical proximity was vital: a factor that is now almost entirely irrelevant. All three of these concepts feed into the back story of electronic due BLONDE.Like so many others, Leeds-based student Jacob Manson was looking for an outlet for his production work which he created under the pseudonym Thieves. He drew up a list of like-minded blogs to approach and ultimately picked Eton Messy, a YouTube channel which existed to promote new electronic music in all of its guises – now it’s a mini-empire which also encompasses events and a label imprint as well as almost 290,000 subscribers. “That’s the one that I liked the vibe of the most,” he recalls. “But I didn’t really expect to get a response.”Down in Bristol, Eton Messy’s Adam Englefield liked what he heard and was impressed enough to post the track. The duo kept in touch. First, Manson was invited to remix Englefield’s production project Beluga. They collaborated remotely on a bunch of ideas together over the course of several weeks“We didn’t really have serious intentions towards getting signed or anything like that. It just seemed like a fun thing to do and we really enjoyed the music we were making,” recalls Manson. “We also realised that it didn’t sound like either of our projects at all, so we had to come up with a new alias for it.” And so BLONDE came into being.The overwhelming reaction to the first track they released, the Bieber-sampling leftfield house of Talk To You, showed that they had a project worth pursuing. There was but one catch: the two members of BLONDE hadn’t yet met. Manson left Leeds to visit Englefield in Bristol – ironically the city that he grew up in before leaving for university – where they met at the White Bear, a local bar linked to the city’s infamous Shit The Bed club night.“We had this weird little first date like we’d just met on Tinder and had decided to meet up,” laughs Englefield. “We had the same progression through music with similar tastes in both the past and the present. He was just the sort of person I’d have been friends with had we lived in the same city.”They both agree that Bristol is a huge influence from the welcoming nature of the local, multi-genre music scene to the accessibility of local residents including Massive Attack, Portishead and Roni Size. “They’re just very talented people with no pretentious to them,” adds Manson. “It’s a really inspiring place and spiritually somewhere that you’ll always have a connection to.”As BLONDE gathered pace, their music evolved in all directions – a little house, elements of R&B, an occasional garage influence and a whole lot more. As Englefield explains: “We wanted to do something more upbeat and happier but we didn’t really set out in any direction at all. We work at different tempos and in different time signatures. It’s pretty hard to pigeonhole us. Our music is more about the vibe rather than the genre and I think that’s true about a lot of acts right now.”Approximately nine months after debuting their first track, BLONDE signed to Parlophone’s FFRR imprint. “It’s a healthy gestation period. For a human baby. But quite quick in industry terms,” quips Englefield.Since then, the duo’s focus has been on creating material for possible inclusion on their upcoming debut album. Their reputation built with the FFRR singles ‘Higher Ground’ and ‘Foolish’ as they hit #1 at HypeM and earned extensive Radio 1 support from MistaJam, Annie Mac, Pete Tong, Danny Howard, Huw Stephens, B. Traits, Phil & Alice and Rob Da Bank. Their duo DJ sets soundtracked last summer with performances at festivals including Glastonbury, Wireless, Global Gathering, Secret Garden Party, Creamfields and Bestival, which they followed with Eton Messy’s sold-out autumn tour.Their dedication was rewarded in December 2014 when ‘I Loved You’ translated their underground acclaim into mainstream success as it crashed into the charts at #7.BLONDE continue to work on their debut album alongside their own scene of emerging vocal talent. In addition to Melissa Steel who features on ‘I Loved You’, there’s Hannah-Rei who Manson first noticed performing in a local bar; SonyATV songwriter Cass Lowe; Zak Abel, who recently signed to Atlantic; and Ryan Ashley who has joined the PMR roster alongside the likes of Disclosure and Jessie Ware. “It really exciting for us to be part of their journey,” they both agree. “There’s so much depth of talent out there at present.” The future is unwritten, but the forecasts all suggest great things ahead for BLONDE. For more info…

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