Blonde Diamond—or at least the band’s singer, Alexis Young—will likely already be on the radar of the social-media-savvy. Tapped by Lululemon for a marketing campaign in honour of the company’s 20th birthday, Young was one of five individuals to have her story of growth and adversity released as a 60-second Instagram video this past August. Alongside other clips from celebrities including Baron Baptiste, a performance coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, and undefeated world boxing champion Michele Aboro, Young detailed her journey in music, from volunteer at a South Asian orphanage to touring North America.
“I grew up in Calgary, and I really wanted to get out,” she tells the Straight on the line from a tour stop in Edmonton. “My best friend had a connection to India, so I went there, and that’s where I wrote my first song. Honestly, it wasn’t very good. It was really cheesy, and about my ex-boyfriend that I broke up with. I actually didn’t have any instruments with me at the time—I just sang it and wrote it in my notebook, and I would sing it repeatedly over and over in my head, all the instrumentation, so I wouldn’t forget it. When I got back to Canada, I went to Vancouver. My brother was studying recording arts and so we recorded it in his bathroom in his tiny apartment.”
Inspired by that songwriting experience, Young next joined local indie darlings Sex With Strangers, before striking out on her own. Calling up friends in bands, she poached four players and started an original group she dubbed Youngblood, after her childhood nickname. The newly minted five-piece, however, ran into trouble as soon as its songs began picking up traction.
“When you start playing music, you want to be successful, but I don’t think we thought it would take off as quickly as it did,” she says. “So I just picked a name that I liked, and it maybe wasn’t as strategic as it should have been for SEO [search-engine optimization]. Once we started becoming a bit more popular, people would try to find us on the Internet after shows. I would have to stand next to them and give them the specific URL.”
Biting the bullet to help increase hits, the group recently changed its name from Youngblood to Blonde Diamond—a moniker that Young believes helps encapsulate the band’s retro-futuristic sound and ’70s inspirations. Those influences are all over the band’s new EP, Fantasy Love. Released in mid-October this year, the record has begun to build a following for the group’s new identity, with six tracks filled with synth stabs and funk-fuelled bass lines.
“Fantasy Love has a little bit more of an organic sound, with more players on it, but it was recorded in the studio as well,” she says. “The songs are live off the floor, which is kind of what I wanted. I liked getting the inspiration from the recorded studio project and then the live sound. I thought it would be cool to be in control of the effects in the studio, and create, like, a soundscape and an atmosphere in the room, and then when you go to play it live you do it in a completely different way.”
Young is excited to travel with the new songs and plans to spend much of the foreseeable future on the road.
“That’s kind of the main focus,” she says. “It’s about just sharing the EP with the world.”
Blonde Diamond plays the Commodore Ballroom on Friday (November 9).
Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays