Amanda Blank: A charming chatterbox
Mon 7th Dec, 2009 Featuresin
Amanda Blank is a charming chatterbox. When ITM catches up with her, she’s on the road, in the “middle of nowhere America” touring and promoting her new album with the Spank Rock DJs and indie-rock duo Matt and Kim. In many ways, Blank’s personality is ostensibly contrasting. On the one hand, her songs often express an attitudinal, don’t-fuck-with-me bravado, in the other; she’s warm, friendly, and downright goofy. One thing for sure, her vibe is as upbeat as her music.
Having worked alongside the likes of Spank Rock, M.I.A., Santigold and then some, it’s now her debut solo album, I Love You, that’s making all the headlines. Confessing that the album is “a bit for the ladies”, Blank advises not be fooled by the seemingly sentimental album title because, “you’d think it would be all really soft love songs or something, and it’s definitely the opposite”. Indeed it is.
Lyrically, the album is wonderfully dirty and nasty with the exception of, A Love Song, which borrows the first verse of LLCoolJ’s hit track, I Need Love. Stylistically, her raps flow effortlessly along to the bass-thumping hip-hop electro beats courtesy of XXXchange, Switch and Diplo. The result is an anthemic, banger of an urban-meets-pop dance album that may coax you into brushing the haters off your shoulders; a sentiment in which Blank stated was the inspirational force behind this record.
I Love You, she claimed, was born from the not-so-great experiences she had encountered over the last couple of years. The album is not so much about what those experiences were but “more about who the record was about”. “The people who were inspiring these songs,” Blank explained, “whether it was somebody I totally and absolutely fell head over heels for…or people I loathe or people that make me angry.” In a way, this album is her way of saying, “’thank you’ to [those people]”. Whatever the case may be, it seems her debut has been well received.
Since embarking on her U.S. tour, Blank expressed the “amazing and mind-blowing and unreal” experience of performing her new tracks to an appreciative audience. She states, with genuine disposition, that she can’t “even describe that feeling” she gets when, “kids scream after hearing an intro to a song like they’ve been waiting for me to perform it”. To say the least, Blank loves touring and who wouldn’t if you’re travelling around the world with your best friends doing what you love to do. In fact, Blank claims that one of “the best moments of my life” occurred some years ago at a festival in Brazil.
During that festival, she recalls an after party hosted by the enigmatic songstress, Bjork. According to Blank, Bjork, (whom she describes as being “the coolest woman on this planet”), threw a post-show party for artists to “blow off some steam and all the energy that you have after you come off stage”. During that one particular dressing room party, Blank retells the story of how Bjork and her performed a karaoke version of Destiny’s Child’s, ‘Say My Name’ – a song that not only Bjork knew word-for-word, but chose to sing also. It was a moment in her touring life that Blank humourously reflects on with child-like awe and conspicuous star struck-ness.
Hailing from Philadelphia, the multi-talented Blank can rap, sing and write songs – talent she attributes to having grown-up in a household anchored around music. Born Amanda Mallory McGrath, she got her pseudonym from a character named Jerri Blank, played by Amy Sedaris in the 1999 Comedy Central series, “Strangers With Candy”. Blank’s father is a musician, as are her brothers, all of who played a part in introducing her to a wide range of styles, from “hippy-rock” to “Madonna to Janet Jackson”. The diverse influence on her musical taste is apparent.
Aside from her solo work, Blank is also one-third of the art-rock band, Sweetheart, and is currently working on another project with disco-house DJ, Eli Escobar called Iffal Towerz. And though music is her first love, she admits that she’s feeling “a little overwhelmed by all the things on my plate”. To that end, she’s considering dabbling in horseback-riding as she reckons, “it would be really fun to do something that is totally unrelated to music and the music world and anybody else”; a sentiment I find hard to believe considering the fact that she’s a self-confessed workaholic. Swiftly after mentioning her equestrian pipedream, Blank revealed: “I get kind of antsy if I’m not working on stuff, so, when I’m done with this tour…I’m going to go back in the studio”.
Though, I Love You was released less than two months ago, Blank is already working on a follow-up album. In terms of what to expect from her sophomore release, Blank hinted that, “in a lot of ways it’s going to be a natural progression of what I’m doing now but definitely different”. Furthermore, she said: “I really would like to expand on what I made with Dave Sitek from TV On The Radio, which is not on the album but I think would make for a really good second album.”
In terms of what the aforementioned songs sound like is a mystery beyond Sitek and herself since, “people didn’t really hear that song”. However, she assures us that, “people will hear it eventually – I’m always performing songs that aren’t on the record”. And it seems Australia might just get the chance to listen to those new tracks of hers as Blank gleefully confirmed, “we just found out… we are coming in December, it’s going to be so good!”
Amanda Blank’s album I Love You is out now through Downtown/Inertia. You can catch the lady onstage touring Australia in January:
Dec 29-31 – Falls Festival, Victoria & Tasmania
Jan 1 – Field Day, Sydney
Jan 7 – Corner Hotel, Melbourne – w/ Diplo
Jan 8 – Killer, Sydney – w/ Diplo & Heaps Decent side room
Jan 9 – Southbound Festival, Western Australia
Jan 11 – Beck’s Bar, Sydney