IN CONVERSATION WITH BLONDSHELL
Words by Anano Shalamberidze
Sabrina Teitelbaum, better known as BLONDSHELL, is an American indie rock musician. Known for her hauntingly melancholic but tenacious sound, Sabrina has recently released her first self-titled album. Numéro caught up with the artist prior to her Amsterdam London Calling show.
The inaugural song that introduced me to the sonic world of BLONDSHELL was none other than the enchanting “Kiss City.” Sabrina Teitelbaum’s raw vulnerability takes center stage with the track, leaving you wanting to know more – about the artist, her journey, and undoubtedly the story behind the “I think my kink is when you tell me that you think I’m pretty” line…
But before BLONDSHELL, there was BAUM. The decision to take her artistry in a different direction came naturally. As I struggle to pronounce BAUM while asking about the transition, there’s my first answer. Sabrina wanted a more identifiable name that people remembered. Beyond the practical reasons, she felt like a different artist, ready to step outside of her comfort zone and create music that resonated more with her indie rock sensibilities.
“If I were comfortable and I had time to sit and think about it, I could hide things. But you can’t really hide it in the moment on stage.”
Starting over meant embarking on a journey of self-discovery and crafting music that she genuinely enjoyed. Indie music had always resonated deeply with Sabrina, but she hadn’t experienced the life events necessary to create her new album until that point. “There’s so much intense subject matter on the new album that I had to live it in order to be able to write about it.” So, what happened exactly? Growing up is what happened.
The album, at first listen, seems to be fueled by anger and relationship vengeance. When asked about the public tendency of categorizing female rock music as exclusively “break-up songs,” she ponders: “People are quick to talk about anger in the same sentence as women, particularly in relation to female rock musicians. Since the ’90s and Riot Grrrl happened, people are familiar with women being angry in rock music, and that’s everyone’s instinct. People talk about rage and anger because that’s what’s been glamorized in terms of rock music and women.”
“It’s like, am I going to die because of all of these feelings?”
“I’m singing about childhood, being 20, and then being 25. I’m singing about something that covers so many months and years and themes of my life. So of course, it’s gonna be flattening when anyone tries to boil it down to one thing. That’s just kind of the nature of somebody writing about it, and I understand that. They’re trying to explain it to people in fewer words than 45 minutes. So I expect that in a way.”
It doesn’t upset her because there is a lot of anger; there is vengeance; there is rage. Where they get it wrong is that it is not only anger about dating or relationships. Sabrina uses dating as a vehicle to talk about other issues. Dating people who are unkind to us is a direct result of something much more profound going on within ourselves than just a hopeless romantic pursuit. Growing up, what kind of messages we get as women predict who we’re supposed to be dating, and these themes lead to other issues. “I saw this review of mine that mentions how my album is about dating dirtbags. And I’m like, ‘well no, it’s not.’ It’s part of it, but that’s just the surface.”
BLONDSHELL is an autobiographical album, derived from personal experiences, covering a huge chunk of Sabrina’s life. “I wouldn’t feel like I needed to write about anything if it weren’t the stuff that’s affecting me.”
Curiously, I inquire about Sabrina’s favorite track on the album, anticipating the typical response of indecision. Without hesitation, she names “Sepsis” as her favorite. This poignant song, the fifth on the album, serves as a conversation with herself about being in love with someone who isn’t good for her. It encapsulates the essence of the entire album, containing all the core concepts. “It’s like, am I going to die because of all of these feelings?”
Is Blondshell a character? Is it a front? Sabrina could never act. On stage, all her innate instincts come out. “If I were comfortable and I had time to sit and think about it, I could hide things. But you can’t really hide it in the moment on stage.”
Listen to BLONDSHELL’s new self-titled album here
“I wouldn’t feel like I needed to write about anything if it weren’t the stuff that’s affecting me.”
Photography JAANE JAIN @jaanejain
Styling ANANO SHALAMBERIDZE @underdressedkid
MUAH ELLEN VAN BERKEL @ellen_vanberkel
Photography Assistant CHARLES HARDY @clipppy