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Band of the Week: James Blonde 

MEET THE BAND: Neil Carson (bass, vocals), Phil Taylor (drums, vocals), Steph Mercier (guitar, vocals)

ALL ABOUT ONTARIO: This trio emerged out of the ashes of Xprime, a Niagara Falls, Ontario, group that performed at major festivals like Osheaga, Edgefest and Canadian Music Week. "We started in high school as a French band," explains Taylor. "We went to a French Catholic high school. We outgrew the Xprime name and parted ways with our old label, so we wanted to rebrand ourselves. We wanted a name that represented who we had become. We like the idea of a person's name. It gives the band a personality and identity, like Franz Ferdinand or Billy Talent. It just had a ring to it." James Blonde debuted on Jan. 1, 2017, opening the annual Niagara Falls New Year's Eve concert that featured Sam Roberts Band and Serena Ryder. Some 10,000 people attended the show.

HEARTBREAK LEADS TO A HIT: With the debut of their self-titled in 2017, the band picked up some momentum. "[After releasing our debut], everything fell into place, and we were putting the finishing touches on the record," says Taylor. "Our first show as James Blonde was a huge success, and shortly after that, everything started going into overdrive." The single, "Heartbreak," got some help from an unlikely source. "Starbucks picked up the song and landed on a playlist," says Taylor, adding that he wrote it at a time when he and his girlfriend were having issues. "It got played every day a few times a day. Our friends in the [blues rock band] Blue Stones were in Prague touring there, and they told us they heard it there while they were getting coffee."

WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR THEM: The band's new single, "Shitshow," features harmony vocals and a catchy refrain. It's a classic power pop tune in the vein of Sloan and the Posies. It came to fruition as the band was about to go into a writing session and was watching a TED Talk with Ryan Guldemond from the Canadian indie rock band Mother Mother. Initially, bassist Neil Carson started playing the chords. "He was having a tough week with things going on in his personal life that are outlined in the verses," says Taylor. "He had this chorus, 'love is a just big shit show.' We jammed it out, and we had an equal share in putting it together. Someone recently said it sounds like a modern Oasis tune, which I hadn't thought of, but that's a great compliment." The band recorded the tune in Brooklyn, New York, with Gus van Go (the Stills). Taylor says the band has written several songs for its new album and is waiting to see if it can get funding from Canadian arts grants.


WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: James Blonde performs at 10 p.m. on Monday, July 8, at Stella's Music Club.

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