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Big Sonic Heaven 7 – Bluhm

todayMarch 14, 2024 109 3

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Big Sonic Heaven 7: Bluhm

BY DANIELLE HENNES

Metro-Detroit natives, Claire Bluhm (vocals/guitar) and Cameron John Marion (multi-instrumentalist/producer) formed Bluhm in 2022 and have quickly made a place for themselves in the dreampop/shoegaze genre. And even though they have only played a few live shows including local shoegaze festival, Kalamashogazer they have gained a loyal following and recently caught my ear with their newest single, “Hello To Heaven“. They graciously took some time to answer some questions and talk about their writing process for the single, what continues to provide inspiration and what’s next for Bluhm.

1. Your new single, ‘Hello To Heaven’ feels like a special song, can you describe a bit of what it’s about and the writing process and the moment when you both realized with the song, “ok, this is it, it feels good, it’s done. Let’s release it.”
 
John: It started with the chord progression and guitar riff. I wanted to create a sound that felt like driving late at night. Like a dark and strange dream. Claire said she had a melody idea so she recorded some scratch vocals. Once I had that to work with I built the rest of the instrumental around her vocals and recorded the synth parts. It was the kind of song that kept developing and getting more layered. More guitar parts, more synth layers, live drums, and vocal layers. We always check final mixes in the car. So we went for a drive and listened to it super loud. Eventually, it felt complete hearing all of the elements that came together.
 
Claire: The lyrics are about an unrequited love, almost on the verge of obsession or stalking. Every time I write lyrics and melodies, it’s always a surprise to me what they will be about. I try to access something deeper in myself without really thinking about it and then I’ll assign meaning to it as I go back through my takes and try to make sense of what I recorded. Because we record in our home studio, I can do this as many times as I need to until I start to feel excited about what I’m writing. Once John starts to put together the initial mix, we listen to it together and we can always tell whether or not the song feels special to us. With this song, we knew right away and started making plans to record a music video. We already had a trip planned to New Orleans, so we decided to film the video while we were there. It worked out perfectly as a location because it ended up raining on the day we were shooting so we got some great shots of us walking around and me following John around in the rain. The video has this kind of gloomy/melancholy feel to it which I think echoes the emotion in the song. John finished the final mix when we returned from our trip and then I mastered the song. Since we work on everything together, we always have to agree on when a song is finally done. So with this one, we just kind of had that moment where we look at each other after checking it over and over again and we just know it’s done and we’re ready to share it with everyone.
 
2. Your early influences have been listed as Beach House, Portishead, Pavement and Elliot Smith- who/what continues to inspire you?
 
John: I have a pretty steady rotation of all-time favorites I listen to a lot, and then there are random things that just catch my ear in one way or another. I’ve been obsessed with a couple of Sparklehorse songs for the past year or so. Just like three of his songs that really resonate with me. Courtney Barnett’s latest album is a great front-to-back listen on vinyl while doing stuff around the house. Last summer we got on a Roy Orbison kick and it became our soundtrack for the summer. Neither of us had ever listened to a lot of Slowdive, but people kept saying our music had a similar vibe so I started listening to them. Their old stuff is really cool and I really like their new album. I feel like I can be inspired by anything, whether it’s “I want to make a song that gives me this feeling” or “I just love this song and it makes me want to create.”
 
Claire: Anything that moves me from an emotional standpoint. I could be watching a movie or listening to new releases but I’m always looking for that moment that inspires or makes me feel something. I’m attracted to powerful and unique voices so if I hear a song and the voice grabs me right away, I’m going to keep listening and those songs usually end up in my rotation for a while. For example, I heard “concussion” by girlhouse for the first time shortly after it was released and I had that song on repeat for over a year. I’ve listened to it well over a hundred times and it still inspires me and makes me want to create. Also, if you asked this question to us three months in the future the answer would be completely different because it’s always changing.
 
3. How do you define success for Bluhm?

Making music that moves people. It honestly means so much to us that some of these songs we’ve made mean something to someone out there. I recall the feeling of being lost in the world, and when a certain song strikes a chord with you. It can help you get by, or it can give you some hope, or it can just put you in a good mood in the morning when you’re driving to wherever you’re going. We think that’s true success as an artist.

4. How has your reception been in the Detroit music scene?

We’ve honestly been pretty reclusive in terms of playing out. We kind of set out two years ago with the intention of focusing on writing, recording, and producing the best songs we could possibly make and just putting them out there, then see what happens from there. We didn’t really worry about playing live as we’ve both done plenty of that throughout our lives in other projects. So up to this point, we’ve only played a few shows as Bluhm. But now it seems there is some growing interest and we’ve also been itching to play these songs live, so this summer we’re gonna play some more shows. Expect a couple of Detroit shows, an Ann Arbor show, and maybe even some out-of-state stuff.

5. Your music has this cozy vibe where when I listen to it, I feel like I’m having a conversation with a good friend. It’s intimate and vulnerable. Are you writing lyrics from personal experiences?

Claire: I’m really glad that’s how it comes across and that it gives you that feeling. All of my lyrics begin as a spontaneous recording. I plug in the microphone and listen to one of John’s instrumentals and just try to access a place of not holding anything back. I hit record and I document everything. No filter, no agenda, I don’t know the story or what I’m going to say. So it’s kind of like a conversation with myself. Or, a conversation with a memory. Or, a conversation with a feeling or a story. I’m attempting to tap into the subconscious and access feelings that might be just under the surface of everyday life. It could be a personal experience of mine, or a friend’s, or a fictional character, or a mix of all of the above. If I’m being honest, there’s always a grain of truth in each song, something that is deeply personal to me.

6. What are five albums that changed your life? (Individually or collectively as Bluhm)

Claire:
Different Light – The Bangles
This is the first album I owned and held in my hands. “Manic Monday” was the first kind of moody song I’d ever encountered as a kid and for me it was the first time I felt like it was okay to be sad, depressed, or emotional. “Walk like an Egyptian” showed me a lot about how music can be fun and you can get completely lost in it for a moment if you need to escape and just dance and move your body.

Teen Dream – Beach House
I remember distinctly the first time I ever heard Victoria Legrand’s voice. Her strong female vocals belting out dreamy emotional lyrics truly changed my life. It was my introduction to modern dream pop and it felt unique and different than most of the music I was hearing at the time. Once I knew about Beach House, it completely shifted the kind of music I listened to. It also deeply influenced me as a vocalist and songwriter. It made me realize it was possible to be experimental and not follow a particular mold and still have pop sensibilities and catchy lyrics.

Both of us:
Drive Soundtrack: Just amazing vibes. The movie is amazing as well but the music stands on its own. Kind of shows you how cool and weird “Pop Music” can be. The space and textures, the beautiful strange sounds. Lots of synth. Ryan Gosling is awesome too.

John:
The Beatles – Sgt. peppers
Feels cliche but I believe I am one of the biggest Beatles heads out there. I learned to play guitar with a Beatles chord book. The first time I heard them at 8 years old I was hooked. Listening to their music made me want to be a musician. As a teenager, I once spent a whole night listening to all of their albums in chronological order. Their musical influence and innovation is unparalleled. “Strawberry Fields” has a special place in my heart and soul. It feels like being alive. Also “A Day In the Life.”

Daniel Johnston- Hi, How Are You
I first learned of Daniel Johnston while in college. I immediately began writing and self-recording songs in my dorm with a $70 USB mic. His music is as lo-fi as it comes, but he puts so much heart and feeling into it. Kind of made me realize you don’t need a studio to make music. There’s no right way to do it. Use whatever is at your disposal and put your heart into it. His lyrics are amazing. “Walk the Cow” was an anthem for me for several years. He has a lot of great music across all his releases.

7. What’s next for Bluhm? Is ‘Hello To Heaven’ part of a full length album coming out? Do you have any live shows coming up?

We are working on another collection of songs, which “Hello to Heaven” will be a part of. We’re not sure how many songs will come together so it might be a full length or an EP. We’re writing and recording daily so it just depends how our new songs fit with each other. I know we will put another single out from this collection in April. It’s called “Evil Heart” and it’s a very danceable and moody but upbeat track. We are EXTREMELY excited to share it with everyone!
In terms of live shows, we have a couple of things in the works that will be announced soon for spring and summer, leading up to a show at The Loving Touch in Ferndale on August 9th.

You can hear “Hello to Heaven” and/or purchase this song or any of their other songs at their bandcamp.

We thank Claire and Cameron for taking time to chat with us and look forward seeing you at The Loving Touch on August 9th. (Check closer to event date for tickets)

Written by: Danielle Hennes

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