An unedited account of, what are undoubtedly, one of the UK’s most exciting post-lockdown bands.
As I was trying to pin down a neat little sentence to introduce readers to this apathetically fun four-piece from Portsmouth I couldn’t help but realise the simplest way to describe them is just… very cool. I mean, to illustrate this I would recommend having a scroll through their Instagram, not just to acquaint yourselves with upcoming tour dates and new releases, but also just to see some seriously solid fashion choices. More to the point, pop to their Spotify as there’s an unmissable jacket/hairstyle combo that you need to see.
Anyway, another thought that comes to mind when trying to explain Flowvers is the phrase “flow forever”. I will let you read the following interview for more on this tidy little phrase (no spoilers here), however, I will say it is a very neat way to sum up how they create their sound as a band, and how they are as individuals. And, not only do they make super cool music themselves, they are also working to promote other unsigned artists with their club night (also named “Flow Forever”), currently based in their hometown of Portsmouth and soon to be popping up in Brighton next year. So if you’re down that way totally go check it out!
Right… back to the music! This year marks the fifth year of Flowvers playing together and they have exited the minor wasteland that was 2020 with their banging EP, “The Old Chapel Demos”, and their latest single “Far Away”.
Both of these releases showcase a deeper, darker direction for the band which is visually captured in the cover art for “Far Away” by artist Torin Rowe. It’s one of those images where the closer you look the more you realise how detailed and complicated it is – just like the Flowvers EP.
And, in terms of acute observational skills, we can see a shift in direction when it comes to their newer tracks. The “picturesque” and “collage-y” lyrics by vocalist Matisse remain intact, layered over a heftier bassline from Henry, more punctuated drumming from Connor, and more jagged riffs from guitarist Stan.
Throughout the EP you can hear elements of their earlier material like in the upbeat sound of “Daylight” and “When It Comes to it” or the echoey and dreamy quality of “What You Came for” and “Flowers”, but there is this tinge of ethereal melancholy mixed with grounded confidence to new the Flowvers sound, which is very exciting.
Now, let’s get down to what you’re all here for… If you’ve ever wondered what a pre-gig, curb-side interview outside a coffee shop that serves rhubarb margaritas and negronis, down a Manchester side street sounds like, you’re in luck because have we got one for you…
“One thing to know about Far Away is that it’s the most ‘us’ single to date, only because it was produced by us, well mainly Stan.”
– Matisse, Flowvers
It’s pertinent to set the scene here… we’d arrived early, and managed to sit in on the soundcheck. ‘Early’ can be defined as ‘time for a quick beer’ yet, there we were; dry-mouthed, clutching plastic cups of water that we’d persuaded the owner to dispense, on account of the bar not yet being open for business. I’d imagined a cozy cubicle where we’d sit and carry out the interview, though in reality, with another band already clambering onto the stage for their soundcheck, we headed off down the road with the band, in search of somewhere quiet… and with alcohol. Henry spots, what appeared to be, a quaint little pub (I thought it was a Chinese take-away) and we entered. And then exited… teeth still intact, bones unbroken… We finally settled on a bench, outside a coffee shop with the luxury of overhead heaters and a selection of cocktails, which seemed to please the lads…. already acquainted, and conscious of time, we jumped straight in…
I understand that your recent EP ‘The Old Chapel Demos’ best represents the sound that you’re heading towards now, what was the reason you’d decided to change your sound?
Stan – It wasn’t a decision, it was more just, all of the songs that we’d put out… it was such a long process from writing them to recording them. So, when they were written Henry was, like, 14 and me, Connor and Matisse were 16, 15 and by the time we actually got round to finish recording them we were 19. So, when you think about how much you listen to, and how much you get influenced around that sort of period of time. It’s just a natural sort of…
Henry – When we eventually got back to rehearsing after lockdown it was just, like, that was the music that we made. It wasn’t like a ‘let’s do this’, it was just, you know… what we’d been listening to, how we’d changed.
Connor – It was a very natural transition of just, moving on and maturing, and writing in a different way to what we were. We did start quite young, so that was a big change; college, Uni doing all that. You’re going through so much; it’s going to happen. It’s kind of inevitable really!
So you guys met at school? You were all at the same place?
Stan – Yeah, me and Matisse have known each other since we were four, so yeah. And then Henry and Matisse met when you (Henry) were 14 and he was 15?
Henry – Yeah, we met through a mutual sort of mate, we were all at school when we met but, we all went to different schools.
Stan – And then, I played in like a cover band sort of thing, like you know, playing random songs. I rehearsed at this college, and it was a friend’s dad who owned it and he let us rehearse there and stuff, and that was when we first got Connor down to play drums with us. Obviously, we used to just do it round Matisse’s house then, we didn’t have a kit or anything. It was like the stone age back then.
Matisse explains that there was a 3 piece drum kit in the shed at the bottom of the garden, triggering Henry to recollect there being ‘the tiniest bass amp in the world that only had like, the rattiest tone’, sparking debate over the fact it only set him back twenty quid. Henry happily calls out that he’d first picked up a bass guitar (affectionately referred to as ‘the plank of wood’) at the first rehearsal, “yeah, I was like, you know what… I wanna be in a band”.
So you’ve come quite far – from meeting at school and hanging around together, and ended up playing the Isle of Wight Festival this year, how was that for an experience?
Connor – Yeah it was cool, it was kind of our first major festival outside of Victorious festival in Portsmouth, which is our local festival growing up, and we’d played there a couple of times. But it was our first, out-of-town, big major festival. Unfortunately, we were meant to be playing Truck but unfortunately, that got cancelled. So it was nice to be back in the festival scene after a year and a half, two years.
Henry – I think we definitely felt relief to be there, coz these are the gigs that we’d been wanting to play. But yeah, it was really good.
Matisse – And props to This Feeling for putting up a stage.
In your bio on Spotify, it states that your list of musical influences are “ever changing”, and as your new single, ‘Far Away’, has this much heavier quality to it, I wondered which one of these shifting influences (if any of them) informed this deeper, darker, scuzzier sound?
Matisse – I think most recently this whole post-punk, British post-punk scene is reviving, so definitely influenced by Fontaines I think. I think every single band should be kind of influenced by Fontaines. But we are less focussed on other bands and influences now, we’re much more internal, and we vibe of each other’s differences. I think we nurture each other’s influences a lot more now.
Connor – We’ve all got very different music tastes, all four of us have got our own tastes and our own influences which I think, indirectly incorporates with the parts we write. There’s no like ‘oh, we want to be like, say, this’.
Matisse – One thing to know about Far Away is that it’s the most ‘us’ single to date, only because it was produced by us, well mainly Stan. We had a great engineer, Richard Woodcraft at Warner, but he literally gave Stan the reigns it and I think, you know, we really did excel in producing ourselves.
As I was listening to the lyrics for Far Away, I found a relatable desire for a sense of escapism, like that of the first line “If I had the choice then I’d go out on the run…leave your thoughts and your money…” I think the line that stuck with me the most was “Take me far away, I’m far too young to have this much to say”, and I was wondering if you could speak a little about where these lyrics came from?
Matisse – Yeah, ‘take me far away’, it was sort of an idea pre-covid that I was not really… I was not really doing much in terms of my life. Not a lot of decisions had really been made yet. I knew I wanted to sort of maybe go to Uni and stuff, but I felt very enclosed, so it is this idea of a lot of anguish, a lot of… you know, not angry, I wasn’t really angry. It’s like this whole idea of just getting out there.
So, you feel like you’d missed out on all of those opportunities during that time?
Matisse – I definitely felt that later on, yeah. I mean Far Away, from where it was first written to when we were in the studio, definitely the lyrics for me changed, massively. I can’t really explain that.
I picked up on some lines from your 2020 single ‘Throwaway Generation’, which has also has this awesomely fun sense of apathy, where you talk about the “beauty of individuality” and my personal favourite, “I think you’re kinda cool but the style’s been taken” and I was wondering where this song came from and what informed the writing of it?
Matisse – Yeah, uhm, the lyrics for ‘Throwaway Generation’ were mostly rewritten during the studio. Like, we were in a space where I felt really comfortable and I managed to find a space, there’s so many rooms in Eve Studios that you can go into them. “I think you’re kinda cool but the style’s been taken”, yeah, it’s this whole idea that I’m always quite critical but I don’t really offer solutions, and some of that’s been picked up on quite recently so I’m gonna make sure that I, you know, try and offer some solutions in some of the new songs, but yeah it the whole, “I think you’re kinda cool but the style’s been taken”, it’s the flippancy of it, erm, I just think so many people that’s… pretty much ‘we always dress the same’. It’s very fickle, there’s not a lot of thought that goes into our own lyrics really, I write of the cusp. I write what I see and what I feel.
Something else that struck me was the reoccurrence of the phrase “Flow Forever” at the end of a lot of your Instagram posts. I was reading an interview from way back in 2016 about how that’s where your name came from, as it was the two words mushed together! I was wondering where the little phrase came from and if you could talk a little about what it means to you?
Mattise – Uhm, for those it was to do with. I believe that when we were coming up with band names we came up with ‘The Flow Forevers’ and then Henry went ‘Flowvers’ and we were like ‘yeah sure’, and I suggested it would be better as a tagline that we put everywhere, and Flow Forever is now the name of our club night. We’ve put a few of those on in Portsmouth and now we’re moving it to Brighton for next year.
Connor – We’re always looking for new bands and upcoming bands just like us to put on, and all sorts of music and stuff like that.
Henry – We hope to make Flow Forever our brand really, like club nights and merch and… yeah.
So what’s the idea there, when you guys are putting shows on, you’re looking for bands to play with you on the night?
Connor – It’s a night that we’re curating so we’re not necessarily going to play them all, uhm, we probably won’t play many of them, to be honest. We’re just trying to find cool bands that we like, give them an opportunity. When we did the Portsmouth ones we found… a lot of our mates are musicians, so we’ll get some of them in, we’ll get an out-of-town band in, so for the first one, we had Violet…. Uhm, just trying to bring people down to the south and give them an opportunity to play somewhere they may not have actually visited yet.
Henry – We wanted that starting out, and that was the thing like; it’s in a space where it’s not like a big venue, it’s like eighty capacity like, it’s not hard to pack it out. There’s no stress like you’ve got to sell tickets. It’s going to be a good night no matter what.
Matisse – It’s that classic thing as well, we’re tying to create something that we potentially didn’t really have when we started off. It’s just that really open, just yeah, ‘we’ll just get you down, we don’t care if you don’t sell tickets, just come down and play’, it’s just a really nice atmosphere rather than coming down south for the first time, stressing about trying to sell tickets.
This is kind of a weird question but I’m curious… the cover art for this single is also so, so detailed. Almost like something Jamie Hewlitt (illustrator, artist – Tank Girl, Gorillaz) would create but with a much more monochromatic colour palette! I found it fits so perfectly well with the very layered single itself, and I was wondering where the illustration came from?
Stanley – Yeah well, before like, most things we do, I do the artwork for but it’s normally like… before we’ve just used press shots and put a logo on it, we’ve not really massively thought about for it. We just wanted something that replicates the sort of sound, in a way. I don’t know if Matisse has touched on it, but the thing that me and Matisse have often spoken about is that Matisse’s lyrics are quite like, uhm, picturesque, like collage-y… so the artwork is done by someone that I know through a friend. I saw it when he posted it on his Instagram, and I just thought, ‘oh wow, that’s literally just kind of like, the sort of thing…
Henry – I think a lot of the stuff we do doesn’t really have deep meaning, we just really sort of see something and think ‘that looks cool… that suits the song…”
Matisse – It does kind of suit the song because it’s a really busy bit of art if you actually look into it, there’s so many things. Also, I think with the new sound, it’s just completely different… if you looked at our previous stuff and the artwork you wouldn’t expect that to be the artwork, and again… brand new sound, brand new image.
And it does seem to fit well; the intricacies in the artwork and the layers you’ve got going on in the music… seems to link the two.
Stan – Definitely with the production style that I like, I mean, it’s the first thing that I properly produced apart from stuff that I did at home or college etcetera, but yeah it was the idea of this whole layering up so there was multiple guitar takes that are chopped and changed, and all pieced together, that sort of thing. So, you hear an effect and it’s like ‘Woah it’s there’ and then you hear something else. It’s not just like you’re putting loads of pedals on and scratching around… I play three of four notes, apart from the solo section, it’s more about the layering of the effects. We re-did some of the kick patterns with the drums and stuff, and it was a very pulsing, like, we often said ‘industrial’, didn’t we, I remember Henry first saying ‘industrial’ and I was like ‘yeah’, it’s a very clangy sort of thing, and we wanted to have some of each thing. So like, Matisse’s guitar only comes in for the choruses, but when that heavy guitar comes in you really get it full-on, and you have the bass very separate from the drums, this big pounding thing.
Matisse – Just want to say one more thing about the artwork, Torin Rowe he’s the artist so shout out to him. He was very clever; he did a white background and then just this confusion of just black mess, and when you actually look at it there’s loads of little things going on, it’s very cool.
So this may just be me and my chronic interest in clothing, but I couldn’t help but notice when I was watching the video for ‘Throwaway Generation’ and also while I was scrolling through your Instagram, how very distinct each of your senses of style are! I am a big fan of the matching red hair and jacket with the furry collar on your Spotify banner as well, very cool. I feel as though music and fashion are absolutely and totally intertwined so I was wondering where each of you picked up your sense of style, and what inspires it?
Matisse – We just want to be the Beatles basically. I’ve always been like, dressed smart, you know… dress smart, think smart. I dunno, it’s just the way I’ve been brought up. We actually decided we don’t all need to dress the same, a lot of bands feel the need to dress the same.
Connor – If anything, we got more diverse after that, because yeah, we had a conversation about ‘why are we…’ and ‘we could do this…’ and it’s like ‘no, why don’t we just all do our own thing’ and again, we’re four characters of Flowvers.
Matisse – As generic as some elements of this band are, I think, yeah, the image is very sporadic. I think we owe a lot to Connor actually because Connor joined the band, I think we had an image early on, and….
Connor – … and I ruined it!
Matisse – … and then you came and dressed like absolute shit. And I’m thinking…
Henry – Connor has looked the same for the six years that we’ve known him!
Connor – You’ve gotta COMMIT!! I’m committed and I’m there… I just… I don’t really think that I’ve got… I haven’t a specific style, I just look at stuff and think ‘oh that’s quite cool’, I don’t overthink it. Just look at it and it and think ‘Yeah! that’s quite sick. Wear that!’
Stan – Interesting that you say that, as I’m quite interested in ‘60s and ‘70s fashion like, I just find it really cool. A lot of bands, not necessarily my favourite bands, but bands I like a lot, I think are cool, that’s how they all dress and that! I like a lot of uhm, shoegazey stuff, bands like Dive and….
Matisse – We went through that whole stoner phase, we had our long hair and that and now we’re all a bit serious and cool, and we all listen to cool music and Henry listens to like experimental electro and stuff, and we’re all like ‘yeaahhh!’
I think it comes across though, that you don’t take yourselves too seriously…
Henry –I’m glad it comes across like that…
Matisse – We are all into clothes, we talk about clothes a lot, wherever we’re going we like to look a clothes and stuff. It’s nice to see people pick up on it!
It’s hard to talk about new music and live events without mentioning the pandemic. A lot of artists we’ve spoken to have said that they’d used that time to focus on writing new material – During those many months, did you each find yourselves creating more on your own? How did you find collaborating on new music while being stuck indoors?
Stan – Exactly the same for us.
Matisse – That’s such a shame you’re saying that because we thought we’d be the cool ones… I think we thrived during lockdown.
Henry – It was perfect for us, we completely wrote an entire new set during lockdown. We even got to the point where we considering like ‘do we just change the name’ and we thought ‘no, let’s not be that extreme’ but that’s how, sort of, different we were by the end of lockdown! It was a long period of time!
Connor – We came out of lockdown, basically a new band.
Stan – Yeah, when you actually think about it we were 16 to 17 when we wrote our previous songs, about up to Throwaway Generation, at that age. Then we were instantly in the, you had to play gigs all the time, and you gig and you just do the same set constantly, and then you come away from it, and then you’re not gigging, and it’s like ‘well what do we do?’. You realise that you’ve played those songs for so long, and ‘this is the set we play we rock out’… and it was like, ‘we actually have time to do a whole new set’.
So now you’ve been playing the new set for these recent shows – going from nothing during lockdown and not being able to gig, to now – How does it feel to finally be back on stage and what have you missed the most?
Matisse – It’s why the EP was so important, to get that out as quickly as we could because we wanted to get material out as a block to present to our listeners, ‘this is the Flowvers you’re going to be seeing live’. We don’t play any old material now. It’s sometimes hard for listeners to understand that, when we were 17, we were writing Throwaway Generation, and although we’d stand behind that, we didn’t record it until we were late 17/ 18 and then when we were 19-20 pandemic happened, so that was another year. So, there’s been such a long amount of time. What literally happened before was that we had such a process between writing a song, for like, a month, then playing it live for 4-5 months, then recording for two months, and then mixing for three months. You know, now with this stuff; this is why we wanted to go to the studio, one day we spent at the studio and recorded six demos, put out five of them.
Henry – We love playing this set. We love this set, we’re so comfortable with it like, it’s so nice to finish this tour and be like, we found a set that we can actually enjoy playing every time. We hope it’s being received well. I mean, people seem to be enjoying it!
Further to the brief time we spent with them, before their last gig of the tour, it’s very clear that Flowvers have a very clear idea of what they’re all about and, have sprouted out of lockdown with not only a new setlist but infectious energy that can only be experienced live. Absolutely recommend going to see them next time they’re gigging and would be really surprised if they don’t blow up over the coming year or so.
Setlist for Off The Square, Manchester, October 16th, 2021: She Don’t Talk About It / When It Comes to It/ I Know / Far Away / Daylight / What You Came for / Flowvers.
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