Driving in Ibiza on our way to catch the legendary sunset views of Cafe Mambo, Tatiana Simonian, Director of Music Relations for Twitter, was dispersing sage professional advice on the power of music to change the world and why in the stratosphere of social media, Twitter matters the most. But it was after listening to The Blonde Names, the nom de tune of Tatiana, that I began to understand where her soul actually lives. With her torching vocals and melancholic sound of her keyboard, the Armenian/Brazilian signer-songwriter has created a sonic world that conjures up the ghosts of past lovers and the catharsis in sharing the ordinary and mundane with those we love. Returning from Ibiza, the Los Angeles-based Simonian shared with me her musical influences from David Bowie to Liz Fraser of Cocteau Twins, dating within her “religion”, and empowering women to write their own damn love songs.
When did you start recording tracks under the nom de tune The Blonde Names?
I started using The Blonde Names for my work about four years ago. I felt uncomfortable using my own name as a solo artist because I like the idea of having something to hide behind. To be honest, I’ve probably listened to too much [David] Bowie and am too obsessed with the Thin White Duke.
Who is The Blonde Names?
The story behind The Blonde Names….all I can say is it came from a drunken, cigarette-laden conversation many years ago with an old pal Bob Mustachio of the Warlocks. It has to do with the myth of who we think people are before we know them and sometimes before we even see them. Particularly in the digital age, we create illusions about the identity of others before we know them and sometimes that illusion is sweeter than the reality. That being said, I don’t drink anymore so I’m not quite that esoteric about the name these days. I think it’s just a nice hiding place.
Who are you speaking to in your songs?
My exes and women I want to inspire. Two disparate groups, I know. I find songwriting through the process of love and loss terribly cathartic because writing songs from pain is far easier for me. However, I am thoroughly consumed with writing songs that convey a sense of agency as a woman. I hate nothing more than this trend of female singer-songwriters writing about how they “need” a man and how devastated they are when he leaves. There are plenty of fish in the sea: buy some new heels, get your hair done and move the fuck on. I want my songs to convey power and to make women feel empowered. I am not the dainty flower hoping he’ll write me a love song. I can write my own, thanks.
Are you planning on recording an album?
Yes, it’s going to take awhile and will probably start with an EP but it’s in process.
Who are your musical inspirations?
It starts with the Cocteau Twins. I sound nothing like Liz Fraser, but she’s the queen of my universe. Lyrically, I love Jeff Buckley and Ryan Adams. Stylistically, [David] Bowie and Depeche Mode. Oh, and Julie London. I wish I was her. My sound is obviously a bit torch music inspired so Julie and Billie [Holiday] naturally have a part in that.
And your favorite novels?
Don Delillo makes my world go round. I love “Life After God” by Douglas Coupland. It’s such a tiny book but so evocative. I like all the historical-set trendy ones, “Devil in the White City” [Erik Larson] was fantastic and I’m currently reading “Rules of Civility” by Amor Towles.
Where do you consider your most inspiring hideaway?
There’s a Benedictine monastery I go to in Santa Barbara to chill out that I quite like a lot. I lived in Brighton, UK for awhile and I will always feel like part of my heart is there. Anything that involves trees, clean air and spotty reception generally sounds like a good time to me. Nothing like a dark, dingy studio at 3 AM also.
Why do you sing?
I sing because I have to. It is not a want, it is a primal need. I started playing keys at age seven and knew by ten that this was what I was supposed to do with my life. My entire life has been consumed by music both artistically and professionally. I don’t approach the subject like a normal person who ‘likes everything’. I’m an addict. I can talk gear, chords, song structure, vinyl for hours and hours. It is my life. I had a friend once comment on my penchant for dating musicians, “It makes sense for you, music is your religion and you can’t date outside your religion.” He was right, although I’ve gotten smarter at who I choose to date in my religion. I hope.