Produced by Bernard Butler, London trio Flowers’s debut album captures the intensity of being young in 14 deceptively simple pop songs that take their power from their brevity, elevated by Rachel Kenedy’s extraordinary voice. Flowers are Sam Ayres (Guitar/Synths), Rachel Kenedy (Vocals/Bass/Synths) and Jordan Hockley (Drums), brought together by Sam’s advert for a singer to make music like “Madonna through a broken tape machine”. The three of them immediately moved in together and spent the following weeks writing pop songs, practicing daily in their living room and recording through the night, barely sleeping with the excitement of it all and amassing a huge collection of over a hundred songs in demo form.
When they posted the results of their feverish recording online, word quickly spread and within weeks they were touring Europe with The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, despite never having played live before. More shows followed, including a support for Young Marble Giants in London at the behest of another fan who had discovered them via the internet, YMGs guitarist / songwriter Stuart Moxham. Appropriate first supports, as Flowers’ live performances draw a line between the joyous fuzzpop of The Pains and the minimalist brilliance of YMGs. The reception at the shows was nothing less than rapturous, with audiences blown away by their intensity and compelled by their sparse beauty: Jordan a physical yet inventive presence behind the drum kit, Sam a constant blur of kinetic energy on guitar and Rachel utterly still. The shows would often end with the stark and mesmeric “Stuck”, with Rachel alone, accompanying herself a one-string bass guitar, soul laid bare.
It was clear that Flowers needed a producer to help them capture the emotion and simplicity of their live show and that search led them to the door of Bernard Butler, whose track record and love of the Cocteau Twins marked him out to be the perfect choice. That and his love of the Gibson ES-355 guitar that Sam also plays. And so it was that Flowers’ very first foray into a proper recording studio was at Butler’s 355 Studio – a daunting prospect for a young band, softened by Butler’s sensitive production and access to his collection of beautiful analogue synths and Vox organ. Band and producer worked in harmony to produce a set of songs much cleaner and clearer sounding than anything they had recorded before, dispensing with the “wall of sound” that characterised their home recordings and providing the clarity to allow the songs to breathe. Across these 14 songs, Flowers explore the gamut of emotions that come with youth.
As Rachel says, “We were young writing this album (we still are I think!), so all the songs reflect the emotions of being young, which covers just about everything to the extreme; loneliness, happiness, rejection, love, torment, excitement… “. For every song about the carefree, halcyon days of youth (“Young”, “Forget The Fall”), there is another about the pain of relationships (“Drag Me Down”, “Lonely”). The album closes with a run of 3 exquisite numbers: “Be With You”, “a song of reassurance, about knowing that everything will get better somehow, because it can’t not, some things are too good to ever end.”; “Plastic Jane”, “about someone who wears a facade with nothing underneath” (lyric: “Your plastic pain / just like Novocaine”); and the aforementioned “Stuck”. Most of the songs weigh in at less than three minutes, a deliberate strategy for a band that seeks strength in simplicity. “Our songs tend to be quite short – if there’s something that doesn’t need to be there, take it out! Just leave in the best bits”, explains Rachel. “We love all kinds of things, Ramones, Madonna, The Misfits, Iggy & The Stooges, Joy Division, all sorts! The album doesn’t sound too much like any of those, but the songs are short and simple pop songs, and all those artists we love write songs like that.”
Indeed, Flowers’ genius is in their ability to convey a remarkable amount of emotion with minimal instrumentation. Rachel possesses one of those beautiful pop voices to die for, with echoes of Elizabeth Fraser, Hope Sandoval and Harriet Wheeler, whilst Sam’s guitars chime and churn with an incredible intensity and Jordan’s drums rip right through with urgency and precision, resulting in a beautiful album that conjures up a strange and entrancing sort of magic. Haunting, mesmerizing and intense, this is an impressive calling card from a sensational new band.
“A little Jesus And Mary Chain, a lot of Black Tambourine, and one hell of a voice.” doNYC.
Tracklist: Young / Forget The Fall / Drag Me Down / Worn Out Shoes / Lonely / Joanna / If I Tell You / Comfort / I Love You / All Over Again / Anna / Be With You / Plastic Jane / Stuck
Fortuna POP! FPOP164