“Hey, you’re Blaise, right? Can I talk to you outside for a second?” It’s Goth Prom at Footlight and I’m ambushing Dahl Haus’s leading lady Blaise Dahl with zero chill and a nervous peppiness out of place for the event. We look (unintentionally) identical; blonde hair, sheer top (can’t lose?) but she’s far more composed than I am. And she’s boasting bubblegum pink heart-studded platforms, which she manages not to trip over after I grab her hand and lead her to the bar section.
That’s the story of how I got Blaise to have breakfast to me, or at least the fun, sexy, not-text-message-based version.
Incidentally, I know guitarist Daniel Kasshu—in a very intense, Best-Friends-on-Snapchat way—but I’ve never exchanged words (or pictures) with Blaise. Instead I’ve made assumptions from the sidelines: she’s 1999’s Jawbreaker personified (minus the homicide), she was deemed “precocious” ever since she emerged from the womb rocking blue eye shadow and a thundering bassline (probably half right), she has a sharp sense of humor and a strong sense of justice (true, see her entire Twitter presence).
What’s confirmed, though, is that Blaise’s voice is special: sultry, strong, used to croon lyrics that feel matured past her 22 years. It’s the glaze over the sometimes wavering/sometimes crunchy guitar, the bass with a heartbeat, and the drum machine that was not available for comment in this interview. Sure, you can hear certain influences: Garbage, PJ Harvey, Hole—and that’s her jamming with Court’s bassist Jennie Vee in this “Lips Like Sugar” cover—but most of all you hear Blaise Dahl.
So now we’re getting coffee at a booth in Williamsburg’s most infamous diner, her in a plum thermal and matching lipstick, me in a spangly gold minidress and fur-collared cardigan.
The Scene: For most, Kellogg’s is a hotspot for drunkenly sobbing at 3 A.M., but Blaise has more innocent associations. At age 16 she won a scholarship from ASCAP to attend the first New York-based Grammy Foundation industry camp for teens. They housed her in a nearby apartment, had the campers work out of Rubber Tracks, and Kellogg’s was always on the menu… like, in a bi-daily way.
“One time I might have ventured into french toast/pancake territory,” she says, but really, she’s an omelette girl through and through. As such, we order Mexican and avocado omelettes with coffee and wheat toast galore.
11:49 Blaise actually never went to prom. She ditched public school after ninth grade, choosing to finish her education via virtual private school. She was in the middle of an extracurricular life: dancing, figure skating, and low-key becoming a rock star. Eventually she picked up guitar at School of Rock and before long was touring arenas with their All Stars program.
I ask if she’s like me and feels that Pretty in Pink emptiness about it, before receiving the obvious answer: “No,” she says, laughing, “Absolutely not.”
12:06 It’s always been my conviction that you know you’ve made it when there’s a Barbie doll of you, so I can’t believe Blaise hasn’t made a doll of herself yet.
“I would love to,” she says emphatically. The closest she got was sandwiching her old Bratz dolls in her pedalboard for her 21st birthday show and posting it on Instagram. “And then a friend of mine commented, ‘Oh my god, you look really good here.’ So I probably should take the one that most resembles me and put it in a totally Blaise outfit like, ‘Here I am.’”
She’s psyched Barbie’s getting more inclusive and expansive, from the Ladies of the ’80s Debbie Harry doll to the differing body types introduced last year. But she acknowledges that as a child she never looked at Barbie’s proportions as something aspirational (same, mostly ’cause I already had the neck of a baby giraffe). Instead, playtime was an excuse to craft elaborate stories, likely inspired by her grandmother’s soap operas.
“She was watching The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful,” She recalls. “So I remember doing some really fucked up shit with them, like they were drugging each other, there was a murder plot. One was living out of their car.”
12:36 Delving deeper into our childhoods (we possibly had the same Playskool doll house), Blaise tells me about some early struggles of being a woman in music. That is, the time she got in trouble for wanting to excel at a school lip-syncing show.
At this point Blaise had already developed a work ethic from her dance lessons, and after becoming the leader for a “Get the Party Started” routine she was ruffling some elementary school feathers. Her teacher confronted her mother after school, stating: “Blaise is being very bossy to these children; she’s making them practice at recess.”
“I don’t even think I was necessarily rude about it,” Blaise says. That work ethic was already ingrained in her, and besides, she was way over playing tag at recess. Eventually the group performed the song, even managing to sneak in a curse word (it’s “ass,” guys) when the teacher couldn’t get to the boombox in time.
“And that was a very proud moment for me, that was my first kind of rebel cred,” she concludes.
“Very rock n’ roll. Also with the whole bossy thing, do you think they would’ve mentioned that if you were a guy?” I ask.
We joke about it until a dark silence settles over the table, replaced with patter about how we both love coffee. The waiter asks if we want more. “We’re good, but thank you,” Blaise says.
1:10 So it seems the Welcome to the Dahl Haus EP is potentially expanding to an LP in the near future. The material’s there, but she’s worried that the fleshed-out but lo-fi Garage Band-mixed songs won’t sound cohesive with her newer, Logic-mixed tracks, which loses some of that Sparklehorse-influenced sound. She has a million ideas she’s toying with, but the bottom line is that she doesn’t want to release music haphazardly, and that perfectionist streak has not worn off throughout the years. All of a sudden our table is getting cleared, save for 13,000 slices of bread.
“They’re trying to kick us out,” She says, and we start laughing nervously.
“I think we’re fine, we’re patrons, we have our toast,”
“I’ll probably finish it.” (She doesn’t, and I’m sad).
1:16 The Hole Pandora station, at least the last time I checked, keeps redirecting me to Nirvana, and I don’t know how I feel about this. Weird that a woman’s artistry is perma-linked to her husband? Uncomfortable for expecting ’90s girl acts to be lumped together? Maybe she can help me.
“I would assume they would give you Babes in Toyland, L7, or even Elastica,” she muses, remarking that the ‘90s had such a “girl power element” and those acts are finding this moment to be prime for reuniting. “I think we should celebrate women in music,” she adds, but admits she feels conflicted about how “female singers” has become some sort of category, because “‘Male’ would never be a genre.”
She’s especially concerned about how getting a female bassist is now trendy, “like having a trophy wife or something. And there are some people who write material where they want higher up vocal harmonies. But there are also a lot of people who think,” She puts on a slower, alt-bro cadence, “‘D’arcy Wrestzky looked really good in the original Smashing Pumpkins line-up, we want a female bassist.’”
And the coffee flows.
1:21 Blaise has bad skin to go with her doll heart, which I don’t see (my own bad skin is on full display) but she insists that under the magic of make-up it’s there. Tea tree oil usually helps with zit-zapping, but this time she had to go with one of those very Pinterest-y baking soda + water pastes.
Yes, it inflamed her very sensitive skin, but “the funny thing is that it actually kind of worked, and so I may go home and do it again.”
1:40 I’m recounting the night at Footlight and my caginess upon meeting Blaise, and she reveals that she secretly shares similar anxieties, despite that seemingly composed demeanor.
“I’ll always push my conversation to the side and try to be understanding of what other people have to do for that reason,” she admits. “But I also see how other people interact to get what they want and that’s not necessarily seen as rude.” Clearly this is an ethos on which Blaise has based her life. She’s always forced herself to get things done on her on terms and—
Aah, goddammit, they’re kicking us out.
2:50 We spend an hour killing time at Norman’s Sound and Vision, flipping through beloved movie soundtracks and adolescent favs (KMFDM reminds her of her “emo phase”) and dishing about our secret love for Marilyn Manson. She’s been remixing random songs for the thrill of it, and apparently “This Is The New Shit” aligns perfectly with “The Ketchup Song.” It’s a grand old time, with chatter at a rapid-fire Gilmore pace. Thanks, coffee.
But her dad finally comes to retrieve her, and as she’s leaving, she shouts that my outfit is fabulous, really “on point.” Huh.
Standing in front of Kellogg’s, I’m in awe of the ways Blaise has used her voice, has fought to use her voice, from the very beginning. I’m impressed she’s retained this strong sense of self from day one, keeping her from being just another “female singer” or the sum of her influences. And I’m also amused, because she never realized I (intentionally) ripped off her stage look from Don Pedro’s a few months back.
Blaise rides into the distance. A doll modeled in her image walks back up Meeker Street.