There’s no single path to becoming an artist. Carina Allen – going by rlyblonde as a singer-songwriter – started as a sought-after videographer, photographer, and creative director who gave visibility to New York’s top independent acts. She’s since started establishing a name for herself – after teaching herself guitar and songwriting – and makes her official debut on EP Fantasy.
Dropping on June 2, Fantasy took two years to develop and features some of rlyblonde’s already-released tracks, like “Spiltmilk” and its title offering, along with three new songs.
Fantasy, too, serves as a coming-of-age journey – both through the narrative that Allen crafts about following dreams and reconsidering life choices and the transformative creative process that resulted in the singer ultimately re-engaging with her own life again.
How did you transition from being a photographer, videographer, and creative director to being a singer-songwriter rlyblonde?
Being around other musicians all the time must’ve just really given me the bug! I worked so hard to surround myself and my life with the stuff I loved, and I realized eventually it was all just music. Plus, once you make something your career, it loses a little bit of the sparkle it used to have. I think I’m good at my job, I still like to work and shoot with other creatives, but music let me open up a whole new creative outlet that felt 100% me.
How did you initially start making music?
I’ve been writing and noodling for a long time. I finally took a songwriting class that really helped me think about my process in a new way and unlocked something in my brain a little bit. It took a lot of shitty songs and rewrites before I finally landed on “Fantasy,” but something about the tone and themes of the song really clicked for me, and I knew I was on the right track.
Your sound seems to be a mix of folky, raw pop-punk. How would you describe your sound, and who inspires you?
I guess I’d call it indie-pop-punk?? I’m not even sure to be honest! Alt pop? Recently, I was buying a record online and it was listed as “Bubblegrunge” under genre and I was like, ah, yes, that’s what I am. I’m really inspired by ‘90s artists right now. I always name drop Liz Phair as my favorite, but she is really such an icon.
I like her attitude in her music; that was something I kind of wanted to emulate. Vocally, I just love a song that I can put my whole chest into, so that’s where my pop-punk influence kinda comes from. I had a really late phase in life with Paramore, Flyleaf, Avril Lavigne.
Your first two singles saw support from The Luna Collective and Enfnts Terribles Magazine. How did this feel for you as an artist?
Luna Collective specifically is a magazine I’ve worked with and shot for many times before, so it felt super surreal and special to be featured as an artist. Sophie, the editor over there, is just fantastic. She’s created such an amazing platform and community of creatives and artists.
I’ve connected with so many great people through Luna, and I am always excited to see what she’s up to next. All the press overall has been really cool to see, and I’ve been working so hard just to even produce the music and finish all the visuals that I barely even thought about what it would be like for the music to actually be out. I’m glad other people resonate.
Coming of age is the theme for your debut EP. What’s your unique take on this familiar theme?
I guess it’s a bit corny and overdone but it’s not that I set out to make a “coming of age” record. This is just the truth of my life right now. Deciding to pivot to music, as well as realizing I was queer at a later age, sort of was the perfect concoction for a full “identity crisis” over the past two years of my life.
But the beauty of music is that you can channel that into something. I’ve come out the other end of this project a totally new person, not just as an artist but as a human. I feel really connected to who I am and who I want to be right now, and that’s a really new feeling for me. I hope people can feel that in the music.
You mention that your EP took about two years to put together. What was your process for writing and recording?
I wrote all the music at home, hanging out in my living room. I spent a lot of time alone in 2021, 2022. I felt like I needed to just hermit-up a bit while I figured out my life. On nights when I went out, I would go to a lot of shows alone.
I just needed to relearn who I was, what the city had to offer me, etc. I would come home and pour it all out on my guitar and make shitty GarageBand demos. Finally, a friend connected me to my producer, Will, who totally understood the sound for these songs.
We basically came into each session and just retracked each demo, most of them sounding pretty solid after one session. The final track took a bit longer for us to figure out, but once we finally nailed it, we were like “Yeah, this is the sound.”
All things considered, it was pretty seamless once I got through all the early stages of writing. I think I needed to do a lot of it on my own, feel like it was something coming from me, that I wrote it myself, that it was saying what I wanted. I needed to feel confident enough in the music on my own in order to spend the time and money to make it into a final studio version.
You have also been producing and directing your music videos. How did you come up with the concepts and visuals?
To me, the visuals are nearly inherent in the music-making process. When a song clicks, I get a vision of a video nearly immediately. The “Fantasy” video came to me super early on and was this sort of pipe-dream thing that kept me going through the whole project.
It’s so over the top and insane that I almost needed to do it, not only to share my vision as a director but to sort of step into being the “popstar” I had been living as every night in my room for a year and a half. Visually, I wanted to keep a sense of sarcasm or humor in all my visuals, because the EP itself is quite sarcastic.
Both the “Fantasy” and “Spiltmilk” videos are also serving as examples of work that I can show to other clients as I start up my own production company. “rlyblonde” definitely has a specific style and world she lives in, and I’m interested to explore other artists’ worlds visually, as well.
What plans do you have for the release? Will you be touring or performing anywhere?
We had a release show on June 1st at Pianos NYC! I was super excited to be playing with a full band for the first time – it was a real treat for anyone who has come to a previous show. I’ll also be playing at the Sad Girl Hours showcase at Heaven Can Wait in NYC on June 22 with one of my best friends, Matty Marz. Working on lining up some more NYC shows this summer and maybe even an LA date in October.
What are your hopes for your career in both the near and distant future?
Truly, I just want to keep doing what I’m doing, but maybe with some more help and without being so exhausted! I’m excited to work on new music, I have a new project in the works, and I’m just eager to try some new sounds and ideas.
I have grand music video visions already! A girl can’t stop. I’m excited to see what other artists I’ll be able to connect with this year to work together in other capacities. I feel like this is the beginning of a new chapter for me, and I’m just happy to see how it all unfolds.