For many people, college leads to all kinds of new starts. For Tess Condron, Rylee Dunn and Emma Troughton, their time at the University of Denver led to the formation of the indie rock trio Blankslate, which just released its debut album, “Summer on a Salt Flat.”
The group, which features Condron on drums and keys, Dunn on guitar and bass and Troughton on vocals, fine-tuned the songs at gigs around Colorado and beyond, according to provided information.
In anticipation of the album’s release, Blansklate answered some questions about their backstory, making a record and more.
Interview edited for brevity and clarity.
-Tell me a little about the genesis of Blankslate?
ET: Tess moved her electric drum kit into Rylee’s room in this chaotic frat house setting that had been turned into a live space for transfer students. Rylee obliged and suddenly they were met with the realization that they needed a vocalist. They texted our transfer living community group chat and I presented them with my vocals. Then we found a storage closet in the basement and did covers, and over time started honing in on a certain sound, and with much repetition; the genesis.
-What musicians/artists would you list as influences for Blankslate's sound?
RD: Honestly, when I first started writing music with Tess and Em, my goal was to write edgier Iron & Wine songs. I think we’ve moved well beyond that, but the idea of making sonically resonant folk music, remains at the core of what we do. I’ve always been super inspired by Neutral Milk Hotel and Taylor Swift; we all really love Big Thief, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Hippo Campus and MGMT as well!
-What was it like writing your debut album?
RD: I found that in order to write these songs, I had to ignore the album concept a bit. I wrote them all completely differently, and for the most part completely irrespective of each other. There are some exceptions; “Little Love” and “a fragile thing” are intended to be twins of sorts, “Creative-Nonfiction,” “if this is Monterey…,” and “2301 S. High Street,” are essentially three parts of the same story, and “Seacliff,” is a sister song to “Westcliff,” which we released in 2019. But they all had really unique writing processes, and the ones that are “related” grew closer as they developed.
-Where was the album recorded and what was the process like?
TC: The writing process is so stripped-down that it’s hard to expect what the studio will do to a song, so it ends up kind of doing something different to every song. The album was recorded with Tyler Imbrogno of Eldren at Daymoon Studios over the course of 14 months. I can’t imagine a project that has ever been more exhausting and rewarding at the same time.
RD: Performing in a studio brings a certain level of perfectionism and it can be hard to stay loose and play with feel in there, which I think was an area where we all grew a lot throughout the process. I’ve loved honing our live sound as we wrote these songs; all the iterations feel like they bring a lot of different dimensions to each song.
-Does the album have a particular theme or idea that you wanted explore over its tracks?
ET: It very much feels like the expanse of the album runs parallel to a lifespan.
TC: This album is designed to be relatable and an aspect of something being relatable is about its ability to go into detail. This album feels like it is about a specific time in someone’s life, but the details are different for every listener.
RD: I think there’s an idea of changing the ground you’re on and feeling mostly the same. All of the songs are set in really specific places, but the sentiment contained in them has common threads.
-All three members of Blankslate identify as queer - does releasing this album have any special meaning at a time when LGBTQ+ rights are under constant attack?
ET: A lot of the representation for queer people in most scenes, including music, is very one-brand, linear, archetypal, so it always feels really exciting to plant new seeds of iterations of queerness and how that can exist.
TC: The fact that queer bands these days don’t need to exist only at queer spaces. We show up at a lot of heteronormative shows and don’t really feel out of place. It’s more of a broad reach compared to how it maybe used to be, and that feels like a really cool way to provide representation.
-From your years together, what do you wish more people knew about Denver's music scene?
ET: Where there is a great stage, there are great smoked meats.
TC: Denver’s music scene can be really spread out and really intimate in some ways, and finding venues that can feel like home to you can be really beneficial, and we feel like we’ve found that at spots on Colfax.
-What do you hope album listeners come away with?
TC: I hope the album offers a comfort for people. The best thing ever that could come out of this album is if people create their own stories out of it that they can come back to and feel themselves in.
Listen to the album, find upcoming performances and more at https://www.blankslateband.com/.
Author’s note: Dunn is a journalist at Colorado Community Media newspapers.
Clarke Reader’s column on culture appears on a weekly basis. He can be reached at Clarke.Reader@hotmail.com.