Interview with Flowers

Flowers By Ami Barwell

Hello Rachel!  It’s such a delight to catch you at this moment in time while you’re preparing for your debut album release this fall.   You’ve had the good fortune of being noticed online where you posted some of your demos early on, which led to touring Europe with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.   Was it a shock to go from studio (Well, bedroom/living room) recording to playing in front of a live audience?

Hello, and thank you for catching us!  It wasn’t really a shock to start playing live, no… We’ve all played live a lot before, especially Sam and Jordan in previous bands, so it wasn’t so strange to be on stage, and we spent a long time rehearsing every day before our first gig to make sure we were as prepared as anyone could be for a first gig (which isn’t very much, you can’t prepare for most things that happen live!).  The biggest shock for me was how fun it was playing live with Flowers… I’d only ever performed solo before, and it was a totally different experience.  Playing with Sam and Jordan is more fun than I could ever have imagined!

What was the motivation for forming/joining Flowers?

Flowers was Sam’s idea… His old band came to an end and he’d always wanted to make a band like Flowers, making pop songs in the way we do.  Jordan’s motivation for joining was a lot of beer bought by Sam!!  And mine was the ad he put out for a singer… He’d listed loads of great artists on it, so I replied and was sent some of his demos to try singing on as a sort of audition… They sounded so great already, I was desperate to be accepted into the band, and luckily they liked what I wrote and sang on top so I was asked to join Flowers!

What are your touchstones, musical or otherwise, that inform your sound and/or vision?

We always say we just love writing simple, catchy pop songs… “Always” by Erasure is a prime example of this… Every sound and every part of the song is just so good you can’t wait for the next bit!  We always hope to write songs that do that.  We’ve been placed into the genre of “Indiepop”, and we do love the old Indiepop greats like Brighter and The Field Mice… We love the contrast of happy sounds and sad songs in that style of music.  But then again, we love nothing better than dancing around to The Misfits, so who knows where that comes through in our songs!

Is there a main songwriter in the band or do you all share in the songwriting duties?

Me and Sam write pretty much all the songs together…  Sam usually starts off writing a drum beat and the basis of a guitar part, and while he’s doing that I’ll sit and write lyrics and a melody over the top, and then we record it all while we write it (mostly to try and remember what we’re doing) and that’s how all our demos come about!  Neither of us has written with someone else before and we really love working this way… We’re both equally as surprised at what we come out with!

You were looking for a producer who could capture your live sound in all its intensity and clarity for your debut and you found him in the form of the renowned Bernard Butler.    How did you end up connecting with him and what was it like to record with him?   

We don’t know how it came about actually… We weren’t looking for anything so much at the time, we were kind of bewildered at how fast everything was going, at the time we’d only played our first gig less than a year before and suddenly everyone was asking when our album was coming out and we weren’t sure what to do about it really!  We already had hundreds of songs written, but how to form an album out of them we had no idea… Then the owner of our UK label, Sean, said he’d had a meeting with Bernard and for some reason he wanted to work with us!  He’d heard a demo of “Young” apparently and really liked it!  So it was a big, unexpected surprise, and it scared us a bit at the time, but it was a wonderful experience working with him and we’re so glad it came about!

Did Sam end up using a lot of different guitars and/or sounds or did he stick with his Gibson ES 355?    Did Mr. Butler have other types of drums for Jordan to play?

Sam used a few of his guitars for the recording (his Fender Jaguar does all our demos at home, it records so evenly and beautifully we brought it to Bernard’s studio too) and a few of Bernard’s guitars too, like a lovely Gibson 12-string he has… That 345 (it’s like a 335) Sam has is perfect for live but doesn’t necessarily suit recording so well.  And Jordan used the kit Bernard had already set up as it sounded great already, but he swapped the snare for his own, which is a bit broken and weird but in a way that makes it sound really great for no fathomable reason!

From what I’ve read, Mr. Butler also supplied you with analog synths and Vox organ.    Do those instruments feature prominently on your album or would you say your sound is still guitar and drums-based?    Who played those instruments?

Yes, he had some great analog synths at the studio, which was fantastic for us as we really love using them.  I wouldn’t say they’re prominent on the album, as live we never use synths and we recorded this album the way we play live for the most part.  We used them to fill out the bass end of our sound in songs that don’t have bass guitar, and just generally enrich the whole sound, rather than playing any lead parts on them.  It’s pretty much what we do here at home with our demos too, we’ve always written and recorded our demos with synths and old drum machines, we just don’t use them in our live set.  I played the synths on the album, but at home Sam’s the one who gets the most fun out of them usually!

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Lead-off track “Young” has been released and it’s a beauty, full of longing, sweetness, and vulnerability, but also directness.    Is this song representative of the other songs on the album or is it more of a one-off?

Thank you very much!  I think in the way you described it is representative of the other songs, yes.  They all try to be simple and direct in saying whatever they’re saying!  That’s partly why we chose it as the track to announce the album with… Also it felt like a good “introduction” song… It builds up more and more towards the end and hopefully leaves you wanting to hear the next song afterwards!

You album title, Do What You Want To, It’s What You Should Do, is very hopeful and direct and is all about ‘the spectacular now’.    Is that sentiment reflected in the run of your songs, or do you also ruminate about the future and get pensive about the past?

The sentiment’s very much reflected in the songs, yes… The title is actually straight from the lyrics of one of the songs on the album Forget The Fall.  We didn’t go into the studio with that theme in mind in particular, but we came out with it…  The whole process of recording apart from anything else was just doing what we wanted to do. Regarding the individual songs, I always write about how the sound of the song Sam’s playing makes me feel at the time.  We never sit down together and say, “Right, we’re going to write a song about this!”… Sam just plays what his hands feel like playing and that makes me feel a certain way and I write about that, sometimes it reminds me of something in the past, sometimes about the present, but we never know what’s going to come out until he starts playing guitar.

Your songs are mostly under the 3-minute mark and you’ve professed a love for specific pop-song artists, yet “Young” doesn’t quite fall into that category.  Maybe it’s because of your lovely, but aching vocals, Rachel, which lift “Young” into something more emotionally complex than what comprises a typical pop song.    What is the reason behind the desire to create such short songs?

Whenever we listen to songs, we always skip to the best bits… If a song has a long, dying end we skip forward to the next one or back to the chorus of the last one again!  So when we write our own songs naturally we write the bits we want to hear, not the bits we don’t!  So they just always tend to come out short!  Maybe we get bored easily.

Is London a hometown for you all or did you grow up in other areas of England?    You’ve also supported the Young Marble Giants on tour.    Have you played in London yet and if so, what was that experience like?

Sam and I are from London, Jordan was born in Essex and moved around a lot but now we all live in London, it’s the best place to be for music and just about everything!  Yes we played with Young Marble Giants here in London, which was really amazing… It was a sold out show and YMG sounded spellbinding as always.  And we’ve played a LOT of other shows here too… There are so many to choose from here, you could do a gig here every other day if you wanted to (we don’t because we think we’d bore everyone pretty fast if we did, but we nearly did at some points last year!).

Are you and/or Mr. Butler putting any finishing touches on the album before its release on Fortuna Pop! (U.K.) and Kanine Records (U.S.) in September?    Why such a long wait?    We’re desperate to hear your album now!

No, we finished the album in December last year in fact!  What took the longest for us, as we write and record very fast in general, was the artwork and press photos!  We all absolutely dreaded having our photos taken, and we really wanted the artwork to be perfect, and it’s very hard to sit down under pressure and just come out with something really perfect!  But we got that done in the end too… The reason the album’s not coming out until September is simply that that’s the time that’s mutually best for both our labels.  We all decided it’s better to wait and spend time giving this release the best chance we can, rather than rush to meet deadlines and regret not having done things better.

What are your future plans?    Will you be shooting a video or going on tour soon or around the time of your album release?

We’re in the process of making a video for our next single from the album… As we said before we hate being in front of any kind of camera so it’s a little challenging but we think we’ve found a way around the problem!  And yes we’re planning some shows to coincide with the release, and then in October we’re heading to New York for CMJ, which we’re very excited about!

Sorry for the possibly silly question, but pertaining to your band name, what are your favourite types of flowers?  Mine are peonies.

It’s not silly!  It’s hard not to ask with the name we have!  I always like wild kinds of flowers rather than the cultivated ones… Poppies for example are very beautiful I think, I used to try and pick them when I went on walks as a kid with my mum, but after only a few moments they’d droop and die because they’re so incredibly fragile.  It made them even more beautiful to me though, the fact I couldn’t just take them home and look at them forever in my bedroom, I had to go for another walk to find them in a field somewhere!

Lastly, can you please list your official site(s) where we can find out more about you and your music?

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  1. […] EDIT: A nice interview with band member Rachel can be found at DOA – adequacy.net […]