Blondshell makes cathartic alt-rock to die for
100%: We quiz Sabrina Teitelbaum on pasta sauce, The Cranberries and her toxic addiction to WebMD.
Talking about feelings never came naturally to Sabrina Teitelbaum, let alone singing about them.
“I had a lot of feelings,” she says, clutching her morning coffee as she Zooms in from her Los Angeles apartment. “[But] when I heard people singing songs about longing, anger, love, things like that, I was like, what?! On the one hand it seemed so awkward, but on the other, I knew I needed to do it. I had an instinct to make my own songs so I could start expressing those things, too.”
This week, the 25-year-old known as Blondshell released her new single, Veronica Mars, a simmering, guitar-laden rebuke to how films and TV shows can condition kids to grow up too fast. “Veronica Mars /2004 /I am disturbed /Gimme shelter,” she sings languidly, before the song erupts into a full-blown rock ballad.
It turns out Teitelbaum is quite the student of satisfying sonic build-ups. Before Veronica Mars came out – the first track she’s released under Partisan Records, also home to IDLES and Fontaines D.C. – she self-released three anthemic tracks, all of which start off slow before crescendoing into powerful vocals and scuzzy guitar riffs.
There was Olympus, a poignant meditation on a toxic relationship (“At your house, sweat out the drugs all through the summer /Let my heart sleep in the gutter”); the gentler, sexually-charged Kiss City (“Just look me in the eye when I’m about to finish”) and Sepsis, a shame-fuelled track about longing for a guy that isn’t worth her time (“And I believe in getting saved /Not by Jesus, validation in some dude’s gaze”).
For Teitelbaum, these songs functioned both as an exercise in songwriting and an emotional exorcism after years of pushing it all down. “I wrote Olympus, Sepsis, and Kiss City without thinking anyone would ever hear them,” she says. “I was working on other stuff at the time, but I really needed to write those songs for myself, alone in my apartment over lockdown.”
All of this bodes well for a potential debut album, we say. For now, Teitelbaum’s been booked to play next year’s Primavera Sound festival in Madrid and Barcelona, and she’ll support model and musician Suki Waterhouse on the US leg of her tour before heading out for a string of solo shows across the UK and Europe next spring.
Until then, stream Veronica Mars and get your 100% fill on Blondshell below.
10% Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?
I was born and raised in New York. I’ve been living in LA for the last six years.
20% What kinds of emotions and experiences influence your work?
A lot of the heaviest, most intense things I feel are what show up in my music. That can be any emotion: anger, sadness, feeling overwhelmed. What doesn’t come up a lot is happiness. I’ve always thought of music as a therapeutic outlet. If I’m feeling great about something, I don’t feel any urgency to write about that, because I’m busy living it. Also it ends up being cheesy.
30% If you could travel back in time to see an iconic music act perform, who would it be?
The Cranberries in ’95, when their first two albums were out.
40% If you’re cooking food to impress someone, what will you make?
Oh my god, I would order in. I tried to cook for my boyfriend when we started dating, and he was like: “It’s so good!” but I found the meal in the fridge later. I got the message. I’m good at pasta though.
50% What sauce?
Oh, I don’t make the sauce from scratch. I’m just good at the steps. I know what the right texture is and that you’re supposed to add the pasta to the sauce, not the other way around.
60% What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?
I called my friend when I was trying to decide whether to put these songs out, or if I should release another set of songs that I’d written. She was like, it’s pretty simple: put out the songs that you would be proud to show your friends. That really stuck with me.
70% You rule the world for a day. What went down?
If somebody gave me that power, I would find someone more qualified to rule the world than me and hand it over to them. I’d delegate. There’s nothing on my resume that fits this job description.
80% What’s a bad habit you wish you could kick?
“I bite my tongue, it’s a bad habit!” That’s the song that just came to mind. But I wish I could quit WebMD. I’m so bad. Everytime I go to the doctor, I’ll come with a hypothesis, like: “I think it’s this.” I have polio. I have leprosy. And every time, they’re like, it’s absolutely not that. I’ve had so many brain tumours already, apparently.
90% Love, like, hate?
I like Thursday nights. I love Saturday mornings. I hate UTIs.
100% What can artists do to help save the world?
I think artists have the power to make people feel like it’s OK to feel really big feelings and express them. It takes the shame out of really big emotions, which is so important. That’s what music did for me.