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Interview: NEON BLOOM
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Jen: I became interested in music as long ago as I can remember, largely because I grew up in a very musical household. My mother is a musician and my dad had a great record collection he would always play. We had a piano, guitars, percussive instruments, harmonicas, etc. so music was always something that was accessible and encouraged. My mom was able to teach us if we had any questions. I was also just naturally very drawn to it. It's hard to imagine not having music as a major part of my life, but if I hadn't gotten into it I would probably have put my time and effort into acting or filmmaking instead.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Jen: When I'm not playing music, I'm mostly reading and writing. Reading influences me through inspiration (some of my favourites are: Sylvia Plath, Dostoevsky, Dylan Thomas, Toni Morrison, Michael Ondaatje, Chuck Palahniuk), while writing aids my creativity by allowing me to organize and formulate my thoughts and feelings. Much of my free writing and poetry ends up being used as lyrics, so writing is probably the most fundamental part of my creativity.
How long has your band been around?
Fred: We played our first show (in a backyard garage) in the summer of 2017. We've been together almost five years now.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Fred: We are Toronto-based. It's a supportive community, but also competitive, in a good way. I think that this city challenges artists to be good and to be creative, in order to stand out in the midst of so much talent. There's a vast area of variety and diversity in Toronto. Many acts specialize in genres, but the city also accepts fluidity. I think this shows in our writing. We incorporate elements of disco, punk, electro, and hip hop.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
Simon: I recall Fred and I were eating at Sneaky Dees when the name first came about. We already liked the word Bloom as it signifies new beginnings, new chapters of life, and growth. Our live shows have always been really high energy so we wanted to include something that hinted at that too. A few pints later and we started saying Neon Bloom and it felt pretty right for us.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
Fred: While on tour in Europe with a band called Hedgehog Eyes, we played a rocking hot-spot club in Prague called Chapeau Rouge. It was a cavernous club with a great vibe. While touring in Taiwan, we stayed in a backpacker hostel one night. The club we were playing there wasn't that big. We invited all the travellers from the hostel to come to the show, and they came, filling the place. It was a great time!
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Fred: We had the great opportunity to play at Toronto's newly renovated El Mocambo. The sound and lighting were incredible. Of course, we always love to play Toronto's legendary Horseshoe Tavern and Lee's Palace. We've had great support from the staff at Hard Luck Bar and the classic Sneaky's Dee's. We'd love to one day play Danforth Hall or Axis Club.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Simon: Red Hot Chili Peppers once did a tour with Nirvana and Pearl Jam as the openers... I would do anything to be in one of those shows let alone that line up!
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Simon: Start jamming with different people as much as possible. Even if the group you play with isn't a "band", you'll learn so many new skills and develop your ear in ways you just can't while practicing in your bedroom.
Jen: If you want to start making music, just start. Don't wait around for anyone to invite you to play with them, just start playing. Use whatever you have at your disposal and don't over think it. Be prepared to be terrible at first. Keep going.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Simon: Buy Bitcoin ;)
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Simon: We have a new song called Say When that always hits me really hard. I remember we recorded a demo of it in June 2020 when the world was still kind of upside down with covid, and I had personally been coming out of a really rough time myself. My part in that song is really noisy and kinda reckless. So plugging into 2 cranked amps in the studio with tons of feedback felt really cathartic after months of not playing together, or playing alone quietly with headphones.
Jen: 'Take' and 'Say When' are two of my favourites. I often write lyrics from a personal place, so those songs each deal with specific events that were extremely difficult. Being able to express them, put them to music, and perform them is like a form of - if not exorcism - then at least therapy. You get to revisit those emotionally charged moments again and again, but in a controlled, powerful way. It gives you a new perspective each time and allows you to work through some heavy stuff in a productive, fun way.
Which songs are your favourite to play and which get requested the most?
Jen: When we play live, I would say that 'Take Us Back' is one of our most requested songs. For some reason, it just translates best as a live-performance type of song. Probably because it's very dramatic and story-like. There are also a lot of dynamics as it shifts between quiet, waltzy doo-wop and loud thrashy rock music. It lends itself best to performance. 'Full Fathom' (which we usually close with) is a really fun live song as well. We throw in a long build up and outro during our performances, which kind of shift around, depending on feedback from the audience.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Fred: We often come up with ideas just messing around in rehearsal. Many times someone will show the others a little riff or idea they had, and then we bat it around and see where it goes. Jen often writes ideas, and then brings them to the band. During the pandemic days, two or three of the guys were often getting together to write and record song ideas to share with the others.
Jen: I think, in terms of inspiration, the great thing about a group is that everyone has their different reasons for being in a band and various sources of inspiration. I definitely come at it from a storytelling perspective. I like to share stories and connect with people. That's what drives me. The songs are the stories and the live shows are the telling of them. I always hope that there is some essential element in each story that will resonate with someone else.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
Jen: While many of the songs are about serious issues (depression, loss, health issues, sexual assault, a potentially apocalyptic future, relationships, etc.), there is ultimately an underlying message of hope and perseverance throughout, which as a band, is an important message to us. The lyrics are told from a female perspective, so that definitely influences the messages being expressed. I imagine this creates different messages and stories than those we usually hear from male-fronted rock bands.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Fred: Trial by combat.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
Simon: We're currently working on recording some new singles and music videos that will be out soon! We've been working with Ross Citrullo of RHC music and that has been a blast for us.
Jen: As well as working with Ross, we're finishing up a recording of 'Take' with producer Rob Sanzo. I'm really looking forward to that recording and working on the accompanying video. One of our goals, now that things have opened up more again, is to get more music recorded and released.