BLOND:ISH are Anstascia and Vivie-Ann, two inspiring and amazingly creative artists originally from Montreal. The pair joined forces years ago when they began organizing underground parties, encouraging people to come and get lost in music together. As DJs, their sound varies from groovy, percussive house music via spaced out journeys to more dark and provocative vibes.
You started BLOND:ISH as a party in Montreal in 2008, but you soon moved to London. Was Montreal holding you back?
Vivie-Ann: It’s the same in many cities, especially Berlin. You get lost in a loop – time goes by, weekend after weekend. I never really finished music, and I think a lot of artists have this issue.
Anstascia: We realised Europe is the place to be for what we want to do, and we moved in 2010. We’d go to clubs, Fabric, and warehouse parties in East London and really just understand this world, get inspired and then focus in the studio.
How long after that until your first real career milestone?
Anstascia: For two years, we locked ourselves in the studio and got creative.
Vivie-Ann: We were running out of money, might have had to leave London… Feeling like “Is this it? Shall we just give up? Are we not making good music? Are we crazy? Shall we just become accountants or fire attendants or whatever?” We were at the point of almost giving up… But we didn’t.
Then somehow the stars aligned, and we signed our records to Get Physical and Kompakt.
A philosophical one: Why DJ? What are DJs for?
Vivie-Ann: This is our job, I feel, to balance everything and spread love through music. It’s so cliché, but it really is because when we play, many more people are just happy – and I’m seeing that more and more now.
Anstascia: It’s to spread love for sure through music and positivity and give people, like, a moment in time to escape from their realities and transcend into some sort of other reality through music. I think that’s what everybody goes to rave parties for, to really just get lost.
As musicians and DJs, we have the power to bring forth our own powerful innate energy through music – like shamans when they give their medicine. It’s the same thing; it’s a transference of energy through music.
Beyond the dancefloor, how do people respond to your DJing and music?
Vivie-Ann: We get a lot of messages, like how we’ve helped people through this situation with their family or with their partner. It’s super-inspiring for us, and it helps them … And it’s just a loop. An exchange of energy. I feel like we’re people’s psychiatrists through music.
You could open a practice!
Vivie-Ann: Maybe, called Blond:ish.
Anstascia: Invoice everyone.
DJs know that crowd interaction is crucial – how do you achieve it?
Vivie-Ann: It’s funny you say that because yesterday I wanted a moment in our party where we all just look at each other, like, eye gaze. Everyone was smiling, and instead of looking at my equipment, I wanted to connect with them – and I did. That moment of connection, that one vibe everyone strives for in a party… You can probably get that with eye gazing in a few minutes.
Let’s talk tech! What’s your setup?
Vivie-Ann: We have four CDJs and an Allen & Heath or Pioneer mixer. Then Anstascia uses Traktor on one side and I have a Roland HPD-20 hand percussion on the other, for peak moments, different percussion, some noise or whatever. The Roland… his name’s Roro. Everyone feels like they can just touch Roro – everyone is like, “Boom, boom, boom!” No, you can’t touch him.
Can I touch him?
Vivie-Ann: You can stroke him.
Anstascia: If you ask nicely. Stroke him gently.
Any new gear you want up on stage with you?
Vivie-Ann: I want the Eventide, the effects machine. And I would like to get some modular stuff in there. I want to press more buttons or turn more knobs.
Everyone does it differently: How’s your music folder arranged?
Vivie-Ann: I sort my music by month. I don’t make special playlists. And I rate the songs – like, techno is five, because it’s really high level. Any song that’s ‘peak time’ is five, then four is a bit slower and three is just groovy stuff. So I know where to find stuff. But also, if the crowd wants more techno, I know that in the summer when we were playing in Romania or something, I would have more techno in that folder.
Anstascia: I do my playlist per show or event – so I’ll name it ‘Badaboom’ today. I’ll associate music with the place or the party. Also, we tag everything – we have a million funny tags so only us know what they mean.
Do you have any tricks for those unexpected moments where things are getting a bit out of control?
Vivie-Ann: The special trick I use is Roro. He’s pretty magical. There’s a noise thing – you put it on Roll and pitch it up, so that gives a reaction. If there’s anything going wrong with the music, it covers it up.
What’s the big advantage TRAKTOR gives you over CDJs?
Anstascia: Everyone’s like, “Why don’t you just use USB stick? It’s so much easier: you just plug it in.” I have night time blindness – when it’s too bright or too dark, it’s literally really hard for me to actually see, and in general, I can’t see close. I have to wear these huge glasses – I’m sure you’ve seen. Viv just got an eye laser surgery.
So, having a screen I can just look at as opposed to a smaller one I have to scroll through …
I’m just really, really comfortable with Traktor, this amazing tool to sort your music and everything, organise … You’re prepared for any type of situation, any type of set. I love it.
Do you use any controllers?
Anstascia: Yes, the X1 and it’s been great.
Do you have a favourite TRAKTOR feature?
Anstascia: Yes, looping is the best because you can switch back and forth, different size loops. It’s so immediate. The loop functionality on CDJs hasn’t been working. Like, it’s great for your eight-bar loop, but if you go to four bars, it has like a glitch, I noticed. You can’t go back and forth in different loops.
Vivie-Ann: I think the best thing about TRAKTOR is the history, so if you played somewhere in July in the after hours you can reference it quickly.
Which TRAKTOR effects do you use?
Vivie-Ann: We use the delay, the 316 with the Reverb, the T3 or whatever, a lot. I like that you can use multiple effects at the same time – that’s nice.
photo credit top banner: Valya Karchevskaya
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