Portland band BLOUSE composes exquisitely dark, swirling Goth-pop writhing with existential themes. Magnetic. Moody. Brimming with haunting vocals and dreamy, moody compositions. After putting some initial recordings on Bandcamp and garnering the attention from a popular music blog, BLOUSE received offers from several record labels and signed a deal with Captured Tracks. The band’s currently on tour with Dum Dum Girls. I spoke with singer/songwriter Charlie Hilton via phone from the tour bus.
Amy Steele: You have a really beautiful voice. How did you realize you could sing or what got you into singing?
Charlie Hilton: My dad is a musician. My entire family is musical. My parents bought me the White Album when I was 12. That was my first CD. Then my dad bought me a guitar. I tried to learn every Beatles song. I tried to sing. I didn’t take any professional instruction until I started this band a few years ago. We were playing a lot of shows and I wanted to have a gentle voice and protect it.
Amy Steele: I imagine there’s a lot of strain especially if you’re touring.
Charlie Hilton: (My vocal coach) tells you to sing 70%. You always want to feel like going all-out every night. I don’t know if I do 70%. I try.
Amy Steele: What do you like about being a singer?
Charlie Hilton: I’m a pretty shy person. I feel I can be pretty awkward in conversations when I’m talking to people I don’t know. I feel like writing music and songs are the most effective way to communicate. And it’s not a conversation but it feels like a wonderful exchange. It’s very real and I can finally say exactly what I want to say. When I was younger I used to like to be the girl in the room with the guitar singing people to sleep.
Amy Steele: How did the band get together?
Charlie Hilton: I met Patrick [Adams—bass/drums] first at Portland State. We went to school together. I was studying for a graphic design degree. We started playing music together. Jake [multi-instrumentalist/ producer Jacob Portrait] is Patrick’s best friend. We started doing some demo’s together and decided to be a band.
Amy Steele: How does the songwriting work?
Charlie Hilton: I write all the lyrics and depending on the song, I’ll just write a song very basic– just the melody and lyrics. I’ll never do any production on my own. Then together we’ll figure out the sound. Sometimes we’ve just jammed together and I’ll write on top of that. It just depends on the song.
Amy Steele: What inspires you? What I get from the songs is a little moody, a bit darker, I love that though. That’s most of the music I listen to. Where do you get ideas from?
Charlie Hilton: I turn to dramatic and darker themes when I’m writing a song. It’s a nice opportunity to communicate something potentially profound in a delicate way. I think about mortality a lot and the meaning of life. Time and the nature of existence are fascinating to me. When you think about those things you can’t help but get a little dark. I always think about those grandiose things.
Amy Steele: What challenges do you feel you have as a woman in the music business?
Charlie Hilton: One challenge that usually comes up is that I’m dressing for a show and people think I should dress sexy. They say “show your skin.” I don’t think that’s something I need to do. Is that going to help me out? I usually just wear what I want to wear. It’s confusing. I always want to wear the least sexy thing. I want that not to be part of my thing.
Amy Steele: What’s someone going to get seeing BLOUSE live versus listening to the album?
Charlie Hilton: We play pretty loud. I hope it feels there’s more energy. We add little flourishes to some of the songs. Our set up is simple. The songs feel more powerful live.
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MARCH/APRIL TOUR with DUM DUM GIRLS
03/15 – Houston, TX – Central Quad @ Rice University
03/16 – Dallas, TX – Spillover Festival
03/18 – Nashville, TN – Exit/In
03/19 – Birmingham, AL – Bottletree
03/20 – Atlanta, GA – The Earl
03/21 – Raleigh, NC – Kings
03/22 – Washington, DC – Black Cat
03/23 – Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s
03/25 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom
03/26 – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg
03/27 – Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall
03/28 – Montreal, QUE – Il Motore
03/29 – Toronto, ONT – Lee’s Place
03/30 – Ferndale, MI – Loving Touch
03/31 – Chicago, IL – Empty bottle
04/01 – Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock
04/04 – Vancouver, BC – Biltmore
04/05 – Seattle, WA – Neumos
04/06 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir
04/08 – San Fransisco, CA – Independent
04/09 – San Jose, CA – The Blank Club