Heartwarming Moments on Tour with flor
flor is a four piece group from Hood River, Oregon. The group signed to Fueled by Ramen in 2015. They released a promising debut EP "Sounds" and then hit the road supporting artists like Halsey and BØRNS. The group have been touring both Europe and North America taking a break recently to write and record their upcoming debut full length record. The group's sound has been described as colorful Synth-Pop and they have gained a reputation for their energetic live performances.
I caught up with flor and their brand of "Sneaky Pop," a genre I think we created during our conversation, at The Loving Touch in Ferndale, Michigan. flor is currently on tour and supporting the group, Great Good Fine Ok. They chatted with me during the wet winter's night in Michigan. I sat down with Zach (vocals, guitar), Dylan (bass), and Kyle (drums). McKinley had been banished to the group's van with bronchitis. Despite McKinley's sickness the group was in good spirits as we talked about their journey together.
How did the group get started and what are the biggest changes you've faced since you started making music together?
Zach: flor started years after we had all been playing music together. Dylan, Mckinley, and myself went to high-school together. They were in a group together starting Mckinley's sophomore year. I joined up with them two years later during our senior year. Pursing music after high-school felt like our clear path. We enjoyed making music and playing music so much we figured being in a group a shot was well worth our time. We skipped college and proceeded to write and record and tour as heavily as we could. About two years after graduating, we put out an add on Craigslist seeking a drummer and that's how we met Kyle. This was all build up to flor.
There never really was a single catalytic event that lead us to move from Oregon to Los Angeles and start fresh with a new sound and new look. It was, rather, many events and opinions and visions crashing into one another that gave life to flor. I was writing new songs unlike any we had done before; songs that never would have fit our old mold. We aligned ourselves with people who agreed that change was needed and were excited to help us be more true to our visions and brand ourselves in a way that allowed our music to breathe in a new, and ultimately, more real way. Being stripped of whatever preconceived notions people had of our earlier work opened doors, we never thought to look for.
flor had recently finished recording a new record and their excitement about their new music was tangible. They released the first single "Hold On" off the new record just a few days before the show. Sitting down with them I could tell there's a strong creative tension in the group to push new boundaries (usually by Zach) which then get's pulled back in (usually by Dylan). That creative tension served them well on their debut EP "Sounds" which is full of big hooks and sweeping melodies.
I understand you are working on a new record to be released this year. Can you talk about your approach for this record and what your process for writing looks like?
Zach: Writing is a very personal thing for me. So almost always, the bones of our songs will start with me locked away in my room. Inspiration often comes from story lines encountered in my life. Could be friends, the newest episode of Bojack Horseman, or a love story in the Witcher 3 (video game). Anything that speaks to me or gives me undeniable feelings of any kind. After I lay a foundation I'll take it to Dylan who polishes it up nicely and makes it look and sound a little more like a song and less like a crash course through Guitar Center. From there Mckinley and Kyle give their input on guitar and drum ideas respectively then we have some new flor art for the world.
The Sounds EP is a really catchy record with amazing hooks, but It seems like a lot has happened in the world since the Sounds EP was released. There seems to be a lot of fear and anxiety out there. Has that showed up at all in your writing or in your performances?
Zach: First off thank you very much. and yes, I don't know if this just comes with getting older and growing wiser, but the world seems to be filling up with a lot more fear and sadness than I care for. This unrest is definitely touched on, but my songwriting and outlook on the world steers the songs in a different direction than your typical protest song or moody ballad. I'm a firm believer in working on the darkness in your heart, and letting the love that fills its space overflow into the lives of those around you. Our song restless soul (not out yet) speaks out against the loneliness and sadness that can overwhelm me and works to remind myself that taking a step back to rest, and taking a breath can work wonders.
Having spent large amounts of time on the road since the debut EP released we talked about the importance of live music and how it allowed for a different kind of connection to the music. I shared about recently seeing Explosions in the Sky and they talked about seeing Foals. There's something special and unique about the artform of live music.
How has your experience touring been so far? Any specific places you are looking forward to playing or places you've played recently that you really enjoyed?
Zach: Touring is always, and I hope will continue to be, our favorite part of being a group. Aside from the cold and sickness and restlessness that inevitably comes along with being on the road. You can make music in your room all day and keep it to yourself, but it really takes on new life when you open up and share your art with the world. Don't get me wrong, the value of art that is simply made for yourself is beyond measure, but we have come to love what playing these songs live has done to the them and how it has positively affected our fans.
We always look forward to playing in Portland because it's so great to come home, but hitting cities like New York and Nashville is always exciting too. We never get to spend as much time as we want in other cities so we always look forward to returning.
I'm always interested in what artists are listening to particularly when they're out on the road for a while. A record can serve as a touchstone for times when there isn't much permanency and you find yourself in a new city everyday. A great record can help keep you grounded and help you process the weight of touring night after night.
What's been your go to record for this tour and why?
Zach: The record I've been returning to this tour is actually Phoenix's "Bankrupt!" I don't know why I've been drawn back to it so fiercely, but I'm really glad to be revisit some old favorites and discovering new things I can appreciate about it now. We love 'Big mess' by Grouplove too. Incredibly addictive album to listen through.
What struck me during our conversation is the earnestness of their artistic endeavor. There was a clarity in their purpose to making something interesting and beautiful from their music. It's easy as a listener to quickly gloss over Pop music and take it as something shallow and only surface level, but there's a depth to flor that is somewhat uncommon. A willingness on their part not to take the easy path but to push beyond just good and reach for something great.
The crowd who had patiently waited outdoors in the rain this night was a treated to a fantastic performance from flor. They played with a comfort and trust that only comes with time spent playing music together for years. A group could certainly be forgiven for keeping it relatively low key on cold winter's night in the Midwest, but flor seemed determined to get and keep the crowd dancing.
The high points of their set were definitely "Heart" and "Warm Blood" off the EP and "Hold On" the first single of their yet to be released full length. These particular songs seemed to take both the group and the audience to another level. Smiles could clearly be seen on their faces as they sang and danced along to the music.
It's clear to me that there's more to this group then the glossy pop sound you hear on their EP. This a group with room to grow and a real genuine desire to make meaningful music together. If their first single off the new record is any indication, I think you can expect a lot from their forthcoming record. Their live show is definitely not to be missed due to their powerful enthusiasm which is both infectious and welcoming.