Flowers, on Their New Album, Encounters with Subcultural Icons, and the Meaning of “Indie Pop,” Among Other Things…

Although we first met Rachel Kenedy, frontperson of London trio Flowers, in August of 2014, during a recent chat she tells me that the band’s upcoming sophomore LP, Everybody’s...

Although we first met Rachel Kenedy, frontperson of London trio Flowers, in August of 2014, during a recent chat she tells me that the band’s upcoming sophomore LP, Everybody’s Dying to Meet You, in a lot of ways, feels like their first proper album.  Their debut, Do What You Want To, It’s What You Should Do, first dropped in 2013, on the other side of the pond, and in 2014 on this side of the Atlantic.  The album, produced by the legendary Bernard Butler, received both critical acclaim (I characterized it as boasting, “A brand of indie pop that is as whimsical as it is soulful and intensely delicate, while delicately intense. It exists in the space that’s a little too sincere for twee, but too unimposing for post-punk.”) and earned them a sizeable fanbase, but in our most recent conversation Rachel explains that she doesn’t feel like it quite captured the size of the energy that the band produces when they’re in the same room or onstage together.  However, she does have a lot to say about all of the amazing experiences the album afforded them and also tells me that Flowers are very excited to get back out and do it all over again with Everybody’s Dying to Meet You, which hits shelves February 12th, courtesy of Fortuna Pop and Kanine Records.

Izzy Cihak: So the last time we spoke was August of 2014, shortly before your debut hit shelves in the states.  What have been some of the highlights of the past year and a half and in the promoting of Do What You Want To, It’s What You Should Do?

Rachel Kenedy: Wow, I don’t even know what we did, a lot of stuff!  We got to tour with some of our all-time favourite bands, like The Wedding Present and Luna, and our dear friends Fear Of Men… And we got to go to New York for CMJ, which was amazing and a real whirlwind, we did our first ever headline tour of the UK, and we played some great festivals too… We played this great new festival called Rockaway Beach and we actually went on right after The Fall.  Someone dared me to “thank Mark E. Smith for being such great support” for £10 but I wouldn’t do it.

Izzy: I realize this is sort of a similar question, but did you have any particular favorite reactions to the album?

Rachel: To be honest we were just amazed the album went down so well!  We really weren’t happy with that first album; it came out sounding very different to how we’d wanted it, a heck of a lot cleaner and more polished than Flowers ever is in reality.  It felt more like a studio session we maybe got asked to do a long time ago, rather than a “definitive first album.”  So we just feel very lucky when other people like it… And I suppose one good thing about it is that we feel we’re a lot better live than we sounded on the first record, so one thing we got a lot after it came out at shows was, ” I liked your record, that’s why I came tonight, but you sound even better live!” which was lovely to hear!  We were a bit worried if people liked the record they might not like us as much live, as we’re a lot louder and more distorted and generally “bigger” sounding on stage.  Luckily everyone so far seems to agree with us that’s a good thing…. Except my parents.  I don’t think they can handle the noise.

Izzy: For that matter, have you noticed any patterns in the kinds of people who most like or best “get” your music?

Rachel: What’s lovely about our audience is that we have everyone ranging from children who come with their parents who are also fans and wish we played more under 18 shows, to over 60s, and everything in between, most commonly somewhere right in the middle.  Everyone we’ve ever met at a show has been amazingly nice, it’s a great advantage of being put in the indie pop category, everyone in the bands, the labels, the audiences are all really genuine, lovely people.

A lot of people are just looking for alternatives to mainstream, commercial pop and find out about us that way.  For the slightly older fans it tends to be that we remind them of the original “indie pop” bands. Indie pop is now a broad term to describe, literally, independent pop music, so you get all sorts of different sounding bands in the scene.  But when a lot of people say “indie pop” they’re thinking of The Pastels, or Another Sunny Day, and that’s the kind of music we listen to a lot and I think it shows out in our songs.  Amazingly for us, a lot of people in those original indie pop bands now call themselves Flowers fans, which is just insane for us because they’re our musical heroes!

Izzy: The last time we talked you said that your sound kind of came together a little haphazardly and that the band would just begin writing a song when they wanted to write a song, without necessarily having a goal of a sound you wanted to achieve, and that you also all listen to enough of a variety of things that you suspect your own sounds will be forever evolving.  So I’m curious how you feel like your sophomore effort compares to your debut, whether in sound or just in your approach.

Rachel: We still write songs in that way, just playing around with things until something sticks and turns into a song, definitely not overthinking anything, or even thinking at all most of the time.  But I think Flowers’ sound has established itself now that we’ve been a band for a few years. We’ve spent a long, long time working to get everything sounding as good and cohesive as possible.  Sam has gone through every valve in his amp, every bit of every pedal on his board, to get the best sound he can for Flowers out of it all.  So for this album we just wanted to really capture that sound.  As I said, we felt unhappy with the sound of the first album. It didn’t put across our identity, even if the songs themselves were very much Flowers songs.  This time around we recorded with Brian O’Shaughnessy, and he was amazing to work with.  He’s such a lovely guy, and he really took the time to get to know what we sounded like as a band before going into the studio.  He listened to loads of our home demos and came to see us rehearse, so by the time we came to record he really just tried to help us capture our sound rather than change it in any way.

Izzy: While we’re on that note, out of curiosity, what have you been listening to recently?  Anything been in heavy rotation, whether recent records or “classics”?

Rachel: I’m glad you said “recently”, that’s a good question!  Often people ask us what our favourite records or musicians are and it’s just too huge a question!  We always say a few names but necessarily miss out hundreds of other equally great things and it’s very hard.  “Recently” puts some sort of limit on it, which is great, thank you!  So yes, recently, as in the last couple of weeks, we’ve been listening to lots and lots of Violent Femmes, The Misfits, David Bowie (We always listen to him a lot but because of his tragic passing we’ve been listening extra much.), Psychic TV, The Clean, and actually a lot of our new record because now that it’s coming out so soon everyone’s starting to talk about it and ask questions about it and we hadn’t heard it in a long time (We had to listen to it countless during the mixing/mastering process so that had the effect of making us not want to hear it at all for a while.)

Izzy: I noticed on your Twitter that you “follow” Belle & Sebastian (and that you don’t “follow” a whole lot of people), who are my favorite band of all-time.  So I have to ask, what’s your favorite B&S record, or records? I think I have a three-way tie between “Expectations,” “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying,” and “I’m Waking Up to Us.”

Rachel: I know, we’re really awful at Twitter.  We used to follow Stephen Fry exclusively.  Then after a year or something we thought, “This is ridiculous,” and we randomly added a few of our favourite bands and things, and then we forgot about it again.  So we’ve neglected to follow a lot of our very favourite bands/musicians. It’s not some hierarchy thing, we’re just awful at Twitter.  We do love a lot of Belle & Sebastian though and “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying” is indeed a favourite.

Izzy: I’m really into the new album, but “How Do You Do” specifically is one of my favorite songs of the year.  How did that particular track come about? It reminds me of somewhat folky, somewhat psychedelic ‘90s alt rock, like Belly and Throwing Muses… who I realize aren’t mutually exclusive…

Rachel: Thanks so much!  It’s a really, really fun song to play.  It’s one of the first songs we wrote after I upgraded to a four-stringed bass (up from one), and it felt so great to play the bassline along with Sam and Jordan. Singing along with other instruments is great, but there’s a sort of separated feeling, the melody flows around the other instruments.  Whereas bass is really with the drums, and with the guitar, it has the same groove.  And it feels great to play all together like that.  So when we wrote that song we were all having so much fun playing together and making this big noise that you can really hear the excitement in the song we came up with, I think.

Izzy: And finally, what’s next for you?  Any chance we might get to see you here in the East Coast of the states sometime in the near future?  What are you most excited about in 2016?

Rachel: We’re definitely going to come back to the East Coast as soon as possible! We love it there so much!  We’ll be back in the US this year for sure, we’re just figuring out the best time to come at the moment. There are a few different options and scenarios we’re looking at, but the result of whatever we decide is definitely that we’ll be back over there soon! Honestly, that will probably be the most exciting thing we get to do this year!  We’re also really looking forward to touring more of Europe, and we’re hoping to play some more festivals over the summer, which is always really fun.

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.