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Blondshell: Meet the Alt-Rock Sensation Heading to Laneway

Rolling Stone AU/NZ caught up with the New York-raised, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter ahead of her Laneway appearance



Sabrina Teitelbaum, a New York-raised, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter, is a must-see act at Laneway 2024.

With a musical career that began with a pop-leaning style under the name BAUM, she transitioned into indie rock glory as Blondshell, writing songs that explore the raw experiences of her twenties.

Recognized for her 2022 breakout hit “Olympus'”, as well as her self-titled debut album last year, Teitelbaum’s songs as Blondshell dive bravely into themes as important as toxic relationships, sobriety, social anxiety, and heartbreak.

Raised near Madison Square Garden in New York City, the 25-year-old has always been surrounded by music, and she now channels ’90s grunge influences from artists like Hole and PJ Harvey in her sound. Teitelbaum now counts Lorde and Lana Del Rey as fans, and she’s also shared stages with Suki Waterhouse and MUNA.

In conversation with Rolling Stone AU/NZ, Teitelbaum gave us a glimpse into her creative world, discussing songwriting surprises and the joys of performing live.

Laneway 2024 takes place in February. Find tickets and more information here

Congratulations on the new album! What has it been like performing it live?

It’s been so fun and special. Before the music came out, I played a lot of shows, trying to introduce myself and share my music. It’s hard, I think you’re asking a lot for people to come to a show and not know any of the songs. It’s such a relief to play shows where people know the music and are showing up because they know the record and they connect to it.

You’ve also released an extended version. What did you want to show with that? 

There were other songs from that time that I couldn’t get done logistically. There was a song that I wrote a day after we finished recording and another that I wrote about a month later. They were part of the same time in my life, and I wanted to categorise them that way. 

This was a chance for me to get those songs out and have it still feel like part of the same era. Another thing was a lot of these songs started as ballads and we ended up making them into big rock songs. But this was a chance for me to sort of show another, softer side of the songs as well.

Tell me a little bit about where these songs came from. What was going on in your life that sparked them? 

I was going through a lot of change, and there was a lot of internal conflict. It involved a lot of change and internal struggle. So, I think a lot of the album was not about saying, “I figured this thing out,” but rather me being like, “I’m so confused.” The only way I could try to understand it was by talking about it.  The songs are me trying to understand how I felt about relationships and stuff in my life.

Writing-wise, was there anything that surprised you? 

There’s a lot that surprised me. I was figuring out so much about how I felt while writing it. I mean, with “Salad”, I didn’t sit down thinking, “I’m going to write a murder ballad because I’m so angry.” I didn’t have any intention like that. I just sat down and that stuff came out. It’s sort of like having a dream where you wake up, and you realise you’re really angry at that person or really attracted to that person. Songwriting, for me, sort of is like that. You don’t always know how you feel – it’s subconscious.

How did you feel after making new songs like “Olympus”?

I had been trying to bridge the gap for a long time between the music that I was making and music that I listened to. When I wrote “Olympus”, it felt like, “Okay, finally, this is a song that feels like what I would listen to.” I was so excited about that and tried to make more songs in that same category.

How did the lockdown environment shape the album? 

Well, partially, it was a discipline thing. I had more time to be disciplined, practice, and, as I told myself, try to get better at guitar during lockdown. Yet when I would sit down to write or practice, I often found myself writing instead. Lockdown forced everyone to confront a lot of things we were running from. You’re just there with your thoughts and feelings, having to face things. So, in that way, I think it impacted the music.

Aside from music, what else helped you during that time?

Therapy and friendship were crucial. I wasn’t in a relationship at the time, so my friends and I were very much depending on each other. I was also in therapy, which was really, really important for me. 

A lot of these songs are really conversational in that regard. 

Exactly. The way I try to write is the stuff I would feel most comfortable saying alone, or with the people I’m closest to. 

What was your approach going into the studio, recording this with a producer and with the band, capturing the raw energy and the intensity in some of these lyrics?

Some things were very intentional. Like, I love that low buzzing sound in “Salad”, obviously a song about violence against women. I wanted it to feel scary and creepy, taking ownership of the anger I felt. 

Other elements just happened organically during the recording process. Joe Kennedy, who played keys, suggested adding a twinkly sound at the beginning, which felt like a lullaby but also eerie and creepy. So it was a combination of intentional choices and spontaneous ideas that came about because we were really confident in the people we decided to work with and trusted each other. 

What were some formative music experiences growing up? 

Growing up near Madison Square Garden, I went to a lot of big shows. I was always obsessed with recorded music but it was a big deal for me to start seeing live music. My parents would take us to MSG shows but once I was of age and able to go to my own shows with my friends, it was just so easy to get around. Being in New York there are just so many shows every night of the week. 

And what did you grow up listening to? 

The first thing was just classic rock, what my parents listened to. In high school and a bit earlier, I started finding a lot of bands that I loved on my own that were in the indie rock space. I remember going to so many shows at The Bowery, seeing The Black Keys at Hammerstein Ballroom, Haim and Local Natives at Terminal Five, and Cage The Elephant, among others. That era, around 2012, felt like a really special year for indie music where so many incredible records came out. There’s a band called The Generationals that I listened to a lot, and Foals, all these bands that I loved in high school. That’s definitely really formative for me.

Thanks for your time. We’re so excited to have you in New Zealand soon. 

I’m really excited. I haven’t been before, I can’t wait!