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Blondshell with Hello Mary

Wed Aug 2nd, 2023 at 8:00PM

The Roxy Theatre
9009 W. Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069

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In the past few years, 25-year-old Sabrina Teitelbaum has transformed into a songwriter without

fear. The loud-quiet excavations that comprise her hook-filled debut as Blondshell don’t only

stare traumas in the eye—they tear them at the root and shake them, bringing precise detail to

colossal feelings. They’re clear-eyed statements of and about digging your way towards

confidence, self-possession, and relief.

Teitelbaum grew up in a classic rock-loving household in several Midtown Manhattan

apartments, raised primarily by her single dad. During an era of sleek teen radio pop, her most

formative childhood obsession was the Rolling Stones. Piano and guitar offered a means of

processing the instability around her. “I had a lot of really big feelings, but I had learned as a

child that I couldn’t really express them,” she says. “Performing and writing ended up being the

only place where I could get any feelings out.” In high school, she discovered new indie-rock

bands by scouring the websites of Bowery venues with her fake ID in hand—teen fascinations

that instilled in her a love for lyrics with specificity and intensity, particularly as learned from The

National, whose lyrics “informed a lot of the way I write.”

But when Teitelbaum moved to Los Angeles for music school in 2015, she began forging a

different path. Entering USC’s Pop Program, she was swept into a context where the brooding

pop legacies of Lorde and Lana Del Rey reigned. She dropped out after two years, but

Teitelbaum studied classic and jazz theory, the art of harmonies, and found herself writing songs

inside the world of pop studio sessions.

The biggest gift the pop machine gave her was the stark clarity of realizing that she didn’t quite

belong there. Her music was increasingly too raw and intense to easily categorize, and after

finishing her last full-on pop EP with producer Yves Rothman (Yves Tumor, Girlpool, Porches) at

the start of the pandemic, she gave herself permission to write without expectation. She began

penning songs just for herself, with no thought that she would release them. The process

emboldened her. Subtracting self-consciousness became a catalyst for the lucid songs of

Blondshell, on which her experiences all coalesce to form her truest expressions of self yet. “It

was me, as a person, in my songs,” she says. When she showed a few to Rothman, he

encouraged her to write an album, joining a chorus of friends saying, “This is you.”

This moment of creative self-reckoning was the tip of the iceberg for Teitelbaum during a season

of profound change; she had also gotten sober in early 2020. “There was a rush of really

intense emotions,” she says. “I was going through a lot of things that put me in a position to be

as honest as possible.”

That bracing honesty charges every note of Blondshell. With the world at a screeching halt, she

recommitted to guitar and revisited the galvanic 90s alt-rock of Nirvana and Hole, absorbing

their simmers and explosions, the crests and contours that made their abrasive version of pop

so potent. Immersing herself into books, too—particularly the writing of Patti Smith, Rebecca

Solnit, Rachel Cusk, and Clare Sestanovich—she found patience and permission. “I loved how

seriously she took her own experiences,” Teitelbaum says of Solnit’s Recollections of My

Nonexistence. “It helped me not trivialize the things I was going through.”

Powered by brilliant, crystalline melodies, Teitelbaum’s eloquent writing takes root in the

concrete: every line is literal, a keyhole to a bigger truth. “I think my kink is when you tell me that

you think I’m pretty,” she sings on “Kiss City,” a witty expression of learning to state desire; “I

think you watched way too much HBO growing up,” goes “Joiner,” a blunt address of formative

damage. Blondshell is about learning and unlearning, about untangling the ways we’re taught to

accept bad behavior, about peeling the layers back. These intelligent songs often contain the

epiphanies of therapy sessions more than pop sessions, even when the hooks are simply a

blast. “The lyrics are really vulnerable and they were scary to say,” she says. “I feel like the

shredding guitars are a protective shell.”

When Teitelbaum sings “Logan’s a dick/I’m learning that’s hot” on the explosive opener

“Veronica Mars,” there’s a subtly-stated depiction of how the media conditions us as kids. Later,

in the gigantic chorus of “Sepsis”—“It should take a whole lot less to turn me off”—she offers a

concise, mic-dropping summary of how those ingrained standards play out later in life, as the

song chronicles the process of learning self-respect in the face of toxic behavior. (“It was about

how it shouldn’t take as much gross behavior for me to be turned off,” Teitelbaum elaborates.

“After one or two negative experiences with someone, I should be like, ‘OK, going to move on

now, that’s too fucked up and disrespectful.’”) And when “Olympus” arrives at its refrain, “I want

to save myself/You’re part of my addiction,” Teitelbaum vividly captures how addictions can be

transferred from substances to people.

For all its complicated, soul-baring subject matter—processing post-lockdown social anxiety, her

relationships with men as well as with women—Blondshell is a comfort, and its songs often

contain the perfectly-calibrated humor and levity we need to survive. “There were a lot of things

that I was running away from—mainly loneliness, self-esteem stuff,” Teitelbaum says.

It all left her yearning to make the kind of music that has helped her feel empowered

herself—and the way there was in telling the truth. “I always want to make people feel like they

have more power and control and peace because I know what it feels like to want that for

myself. I know how music has helped me get there,” she says. “What I’ve realized I need to do

is write realistically, and try to not bring shame into the writing. Each song gave me more

confidence. I hope the songs help people in that way, too.”



9009 W. Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90069 (Get Directions)

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