Photos and interview by Tamim Alnuweiri.
Reflecting on my interview with Chain of Flowers, I realize how honest and willing they were to speak frankly on whatever I threw at them. In the past couple of months I’ve come to the grating realization that most bands and people in general have become nervous and overly cautious in interviews. I know, maybe I’m a really horrible, boring or unwelcoming person to speak to and I’ve considered this before but by talking about myself I’m not talking about myself, think about some of the shit you’ve read lately. Anyways, Chain of Flowers! Honestly one of the most likable bands in the last year or two. They are regular guys and not in the Buffalo John heart of America kind of way but in the yes regular dudes with regular lives with regular teenage/young person experiences.
This is maybe why it’s so shocking (or maybe exactly why it’s potentially not that shocking) that Chain of Flowers are such a solid band. They’re smart, they care about music (which is less of a given than you would think) and they’re interesting in the average-experiences-creating-impressive-pieces-of-art sort of way. Their debut self-titled LP felt like a punch in the gut the first time I heard it. There’s no easing into it, it’s just immediately in your face. It’s loud but soothing, overwhelmingly melancholic in a way that makes you feel just okay to be alive (and that is a compliment above all else). “Post-Punk” as a label is almost useless because it really signifies nothing but for once it works and feels right. Chain of Flowers feel like an alternate timeline of the post-80’s world, like if the misguided optimism of the ’90’s had never happened. During their brief pre-SXSW fling state-side Josh and Dan sat down to discuss some real shit.
So is Chain of Flowers a reference to The Cure song?
Josh: No. [laughs] That song is great but I didn’t even know it, cause it’s a B Side. I picked it out of a Nick Cave book, I was reading a collection of all of his poetry and we years ago even before we started this band, Dan and I were touring with another band we were playing in and we were just like this is a good name for a band. When we ended up coming to do this, we straight away were like yeah Chain of Flowers lets do it. There’s also a Sugarcube song “Chain of Flowers” which is wicked.
Yeah The Cure thing made sense to me because that song is pretty sad and seems fitting given your music
Dan: For the first few years that was all any kind of press said, named after The Cure song, influenced by The Cure… we were like not really but we’ll take it, it’s fine.
Yeah I actually said that too [laughs], I just assumed given the British connection and the post-punk thing. But let’s talk about your last release, Part Time Punks. Chain of Flowers seems to do a lot of these limited releases that only exist physically. What’s the impetus for something that’s…
Josh: That’s tangible, yeah. Well it’s exactly that. I like buying records and buying tapes. Everything is just so throw away now, in a time where streaming sites are one in a million, they don’t give people a true chance to fall in love with the record and have that physical art. Dan is also really handy, he handles all the design and stuff and I like to think that the physical copy means a lot to us. We haven’t ever just done a song and put it online. When it’s a tape people are sometimes say “oh what the fuck are you doing tapes for I’ve got to put this in my nans car” but I just like having that physical entity.
And the limited aspect? It’s really cool, I think it makes the intent of the music really pure.
Dan: I think its just a means of existing, we didn’t do an LP until like two years of being a band so we just kept putting stuff out like that. It’s just easier to fund. We didn’t really know how many people liked us really. We would never have pressed like thousands of records before when we don’t really know what our reach is.
Josh: I do love tapes myself as well so it’s just nice to work with formats that you enjoy yourself. If we had enough money in us we’d probably press 7 inches but cassettes are a really straightforward easy means for us. I don’t think tapes are going to have a resurgence in the way that vinyl has. The cassette version of the LP, we’ve done another run of those, but other than that we’ve never done a second run of the tapes. They’re kind of there and then people pick them up. It hasn’t gotten to the point where people are selling them for insane money or anything, I hate that.
What’s the timeline on new music considering that the process for the first album seems like it was really…
Dan: Torturous [laughs]
Josh: The whole situation with the LP was just highly frustrating. The person that we actually recorded the record with ended up taking it hostage and wouldn’t release it
Dan: He wanted all of the royalties signed to him for every single copy sold and he just wouldn’t give us the songs. It was just someone that we thought was a friend. We really wanted to do the album and we weren’t getting paid money to do it or anything we brought all our time and money into it and then someone just does that
Josh: Greed is a funny thing. We didn’t know how we were putting it out the time, we didn’t have a label, so we were like this just isn’t an option. It went pretty far down the line, things were going to get pretty ridiculous so it kind of sucked. The record didn’t come out until a year after we recorded it so by the time we did release it, we were onto the next thing and working on new songs. It was quite a frustrating situation. But getting it out was also the biggest relief because at points… it just didn’t look like it was going to happen. We tried to move quite quickly since that. We’ve got another 7 inch that’s just been mixed at the moment which we’re hoping to push out by May. And we’re ripe for an LP, so hopefully the wait wont be as long as the last one and hopefully the situation wont be as torturous as it was.
Do you think that the UK arts and music scene is more hospitable for rising, underground or indie artists?
Josh: We got a fair few friends and stuff out here which is great but a lot of people said “touring in the US is this cold thing, people aren’t as receptive and people are just too fucking cool” and all of this x y z shit. We found it was the complete opposite. That whole tour we did last year was so humbling and being able to come back and do it again, playing the USA and New York and shit like that is so cool. But the UK is great at the moment. I do think rock bands do better in the UK than they do here. On the level of festival headliners and stuff like that, the UK isn’t really turning out anything groundbreaking but on an underground level its really cool and its doing really well. Though the mainstream is fucking burning and dwindling, its weaker than its ever been. It’s been quite interesting for us in some places were playing bigger venues in the states than we would be at home.
The UK is pretty rainy and dark and shit right. What would Chain of Flowers sound like if you were recording somewhere like LA?
Josh: I don’t know if we’d be happy clappy by any stretch. The sort of music that we play, using post punk as a sort of broad term, geography does play a real part in our sound and our makeup and who we essentially are as people. I’d like to think that we wouldn’t sound like some twangy garagey surf rock band if we were from LA.
Dan: There’s just not a lot to do where we’re from so you end up just investing time in listening to music or creating stuff. Especially when you’re younger, theres just a lot of time when you’re doing nothing so you’re delving into finding new stuff or listening to music. If you could see where were from like literally villages and small towns and stuff, it would be insane to see where we grew up because its so so small town and nobody from where we’re from would do anything like this.
Considering at least the first LP the songs are pretty melancholic and morose, performing them makes you lighter?
Josh: Yeah! It totally is a release. We haven’t played a lot of shows in the last few months and I find myself sometimes wound up. It’s also highly exhausting when you go away for a month like we are this time. You’re just pummeling yourself night after night after night but it is very cathartic. I don’t know what I’d be doing without it, it helps.
What’s the relationship between drugs and music for you guys?
Josh: On a performance level not so much, we definitely get pretty drunk before and after we play but with me especially, drugs do play a part in the creative process. I don’t know whether it has to but it’s just something I’ve always done by default. Recording, definitely alcohol. Recording sober is hard because at some points it brings out certain emotions in you, so it can help you just become a little looser. But yeah drugs…
Yeah the music industry or at least media has gotten a little sterile, no one talks about drugs or alcohol honestly anymore. Everyone’s doing everything but are lying about it like oh it doesn’t help at all
Josh: So they say. But alcohol, I’m not promoting alcoholism by any chance but we’re a pretty drunk band, we’re a pretty fucked up bunch…. on a lot of levels. Again it comes back to that sort of small town place where we’re from, there’s not a lot to do so you do your find yourself at a very early age experimenting with drugs and drinking loads of alcohol and that was something we did before we did this band and then the two fall hand in hand. I think it aids, I would say for me, it definitely aids it.
Yeah it just seems really intense and hard to confront yourself like that in front of a room full of people
Josh: Yeah it definitely is and i think that little bit of lubrication like alcohol and drugs do help.
It’s also gotta be hard to hear your own voice
Josh: Yeah I hate it. I don’t hate it, I find it very difficult. Someone from Swans once referred to songs as used condoms because you have all of this enjoyment going into them, recording them, tracking them and then its just like oh, the thrill is gone.
Dan: I can’t remember who said it but someone said that obviously when you’re writing music and stuff you’re really excited and trying to work it all out then once you realize what it is, it’s not really exciting anymore.
Where do you guys stand on the divide between British and American Punk, as in the late 60’s through to the 80’s.
Dan: That’s the hardest question. Definitely when it gets the 80’s, when hardcore bands started, thats where America has it. But in the 70’s, fuck because america has proto-punk like all of the bands before punk especially in New York. When it’s actually punk in the 70’s i would say the UK, but before and after punk the US.