What’s that sexy, edgy, cinematic SoCal trip-hop sound Mexico City Blondesare making — and you’re telling me it’s from Santa Barbara? Yep! As Mexico City Blondes, dynamic S.B./Ventura-based duo of Greg Doscher and Allie Thompson craft a sultry, smoky kind of electronic rock in the vein of Phantogram, Massive Attack, and a touch of Beach House. It’s just the kind of stylishly underground sonic grit we need.
On Friday, May 3, Mexico City Blondes will kick off the first of this summer’s First Fridays festivities at the Hotel Californian (36 State St.). They’ll be celebrating the launch of their first full-length album, Blush, in celebratory fashion at the free-to-enter, all-ages-welcome event.
Beginning at 4 p.m., you can sip on complimentary rosé tastings by Malene and Veuve Clicquot and enjoy the accompanying sounds of solo songstress and indie dance pop artistYour Smith. Then, segue into a live set from Mexico City Blondes at 5 p.m. before they cap off the night with a listening party and cocktail party on the Serena terrace at 7:30 p.m. The band’s reemergence on the area music scene seems to coincide nicely with this First Friday as part of the Funk Zone’s evolutionary refinement toward a more substantively elegant kind of hip, or a hip kind of elegant.
Breaking old stereotypes of our city’s sound and offering up something exciting, fresh, and slightly more out-there, the two want to filter a bit of that SoCal sun into something both soft and hard, comforting and daring, chill and a bit unsettled. Mastered by renowned engineer Brian “Big Bass” Gardner, whose creds include Dr. Dre and Outkast, the Mexico City Blondes album packs plenty of bassy, rhythmic power, with an urban twilight groove. “We’re trying to help puncture that S.B. bubble,” Thompson said.
Natives of Washington and New Jersey, the two hail from colder climes and shape a sound that’s a mix of shadow and sun. “I wanted the instruments to have the texture of clouds like big, wispy ships, moving real slow,” Doscher said. “Lyrically, there’s a lot of reference to sun and brightness, sort of lamenting how bright it is, extorted and blown-out,” Thompson said.
Creatively, they “have a lot of complementary strengths, and enjoy different parts of the process,” said Doscher, who handles most of the production, and Thompson the lyrics and melodies. “It’s a sort of yin and yang. We give each other a lot of space, a lot of room to improvise and experiment.”
It’s not their first time around this block. Their first single, “Fade,” came out back in 2014 and was an immediate hit; but with hype came creative quandaries. “We got a peek at the sort of seedy underbelly of the industry,” Doscher said. “After ‘Fade,’ we had kind of a lot of people in our ear with advice on what kind of mold we should fit into. People wanted us to immediately pivot into something anodyne and safe, to strip anything interesting out of the original sound, package it, and make it something they can get on Spotify playlists.”
Now, they’ve nurtured their creativity away from outside ears and are ready to unleash a sound of individualized freedom. “We’re not out to please anyone,” Doscher says. Even the usually more rock-oriented Burger Records has taken to their confidently cool electronic vibe. “Maybe they sense our underlying rebellion,” Thompson said.
It’s music for either your inner rebel-rouser, your inner wallflower, or a bit of both. Soothe either soul at the Hotel Californian on May 3, through rosé-colored glasses.
CELEBRATE LIFE THIS CINCO DE MAYO: On May 4, the Grammy Award–winning Ozomatli headlines at the Taco, Brew, and Music Festival at Chase Palm Park (323 E. Cabrillo Blvd), starting at 1 p.m. Hosted by the Santa Barbara Response Network (SBRN) and the Coalition Against Gun Violence, this event not only sounds amazing but helps to support both gun safety and mental-health response in our community. S.B.’s Soul Majestic also leads a local lineup that includes Sismo, Sivoney, Sonora Dinamita, De Rocio Invasora, and R-15, plus food and craft beer.