July 28, 2004

Interview: Flower Machine

Mellotrons are fun little toys, aren't they? When did you get your first, and is it required that any band that uses it must use a ‘Strawberry Fields Forever' riff in one of their songs?

Ah...if only we could afford to own them. As the band has only been working since august 2003, we can't yet afford such extravagancies. We borrow all sorts of gear when we're in the studio. For live shows, we use a vintage Rheem electric organ and a Korg synth to replicate the sounds. There's nothing like that signature Mellotron sound though - certainly required for SFF, not to mention the tracks we used it on. They cost thousands of dollars, and break down a lot unfortunately.

Sounds like your music has what we like to call a definite 'Sixties influence.' Confirm or deny?

Confirm. We are definitely students of that era. In fact, Jeff (our keyboardist) does a psych show on KXLU in Los Angeles on Saturday nights. He invited me to co-host one night, and I brought along rare Syd Barrett and early Kevin Ayers tracks, because those are my big favorites, along with Arthur Lee and Skip Spence.

Who is Sir Alfred Emerson Wensleydale?

Sir Al runs the Tea Cozy Mitten Company, which is based in Hazelmere, UK. Their involvement with us I think was a tax dodge, because British taxes are kind of high, and they thought investing in a pop group would confuse Inland Revenue. He's completely addicted to opium and walks around London wearing a top hat and a cape.

If you could pick the perfect atmosphere or setting to listen to your music, what would it be?

Easy--in a coffee shop in Amsterdam, with lots of plants and a skylight on a rainy day.

It also sounds like you're influenced by bands like Felt and Luna, but the one band I hear as possibly contemporary with you is the Clientele. Trying to out-mope Alasdair Maclean, then?

Actually, I've seen Alistair here in LA, though I only own one Clientele single. They're obviously an important group, though I can honestly say any parallels are accidental. I don't think of myself as being dour - in fact, I like to try to keep the vocals and the words sounding light and upbeat, though sometimes I come off sounding stoned for some reason.

You handle much of the performance duties yourself. Do you rule your studio with an iron fist?

That was just a function of the fact that I started doing the record as a solo when the call came in from Mike at Microindie Records to deliver a full-length CD, and the band only materialized around it slightly later at the finish. Actually, our very first official gig was the summer before the CD was released, supporting the Lucksmiths in Santa Barbara, CA. You get to see firsthand why everyone adores that group - they're the nicest people in the business, but they work much harder at it than we do of course.

I should think our next record will include performances from all the others, and certainly a song or two not written by me. I do know exactly what works for the Flower Machine, though I don't tend to be bossy or pushy about it. It's pretty organic, since we usually agree on everything we do anyway.

For some reason, from listening to your album, I get the feeling that you're most likely a record collector, especially of psych-rock. If this is the case, what's your favorite musical obscurity, and why?

That is exactly right - I own about 2,000 vinyl records, a lot of which is 60s stuff. Going through a bit of a Moby Grape phase at the moment, I’m listening to Moby Grape '69 and Truly Fine Citizen. I would say my favorite record of all time though is Syd Barrett's Barrett, from 1970. Everywhere I go, I start off looking for the record shops. I can recommend Subterranean Records in Greenwich Village, NY, and shopping at the Haight-Ashbury Amoeba is always a good way to spend an afternoon. Concerto in Amsterdam is a great shop too.

Is there anything you'd like to add about your music, music in general, or life in general?

In general I would say that music is like an artistic lottery, and it's fun listening to albums by other bands we know or have played shows with to see who's going to come up with the perfect masterpiece. Olivia Tremor Control's Dusk at Cubist Castle was that sort of thing to a lot of people, so like in the old days, it's still about trying to blow people's minds with sound, and expand the limits of what's possible on records. For those who care to try it, anyway.

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