By Robert Wax
I’ve been following Blueflowers for over a decade. Each step of their journey, from the beginning to now, offers a wonderful “road” with plenty to see along the way.
Circus On Fire, the band’s latest release, is the moment Blueflowers “kicked in the four-wheel drive” and are traveling over uncharted territory. This is an exciting exploration and something worth listening to again and again. What adds to the listening experience is the knowledge that they can deliver the same energy and musicianship live! After attending one of their live shows this last fall, I knew I needed more information. Fortunately, lead singer Kate Hinote was willing to answer some questions
How did Blueflowers begin this journey as a band?
We began in 2009, when our prior shoegaze band, Ether Aura, had started to add more and more twang to its sound. We eventually had changed so much, including from the original Ether Aura line up, that on January 1, 2009, when we realized what we’d been planning to release as the third Ether Aura album was actually an alt-country album… we announced a new band entirely, The Blueflowers, and released Watercolor Ghost Town. We ultimately evolved into and were labeled “folk-noir” and released three more, progressively darker, albums under that Americana umbrella.
What artists inspire the band?
Too many to name, for certain. For a frame of reference for people that like to know what to expect before listening, we typically list Siouxsie & The Banshees, Chelsea Wolfe, The Cramps… We don’t know what genre we’re in anymore, really, and we’ve kind of been waiting for someone to tell us.
What connection and outcomes do you look for in music? Is it therapy, is it purely enjoyment, or something else?
Singing and performing have definitely become therapeutic for me over the years. I would say I didn’t even feel comfortable on stage until probably… oh, I don’t know, 4 or 5 years ago. Now I enjoy having that space as mine and having an outlet for some aggressive energy that I otherwise don’t get the opportunity to address on a daily basis. The songwriting part is a little less therapeutic for me, though still an essential outlet, because it doesn’t seem to come quickly or easily for me, especially when having to make time for it and then trying to find that creative muscle on demand.
Your new album ‘Circus On Fire’ was a departure from the feel of the last album. How was the whole journey from start to finish?
I don’t think there was a possibility of our fifth album being something other than a departure. During our first extended hiatus from Blueflowers, from the end of Summer 2016 to early Spring 2017, Tony and I had done a side project (Sound of Eleven) with some friends, that provided an opportunity to do some of the darker and heavier stuff we wanted to do, but more synth-based and programmed. Band transitions, the battles of the daily grind, and the current state of social media, faces in screens, actually creating and manufacturing our own miserable future as a species… that was an intense energy to play around with, so I think it felt natural to transition to some heavier and darker stuff when we started writing for Blueflowers again. We were pleased to realize that the darker and weirder it became, the more excited we all were about it.
Almost everything about the creative process making this album was approached differently. The music was written collaboratively in the space during hours of recorded jam sessions, rather than Tony writing and demoing riffs/arrangements alone, giving that demo to me to write to, and then presenting the result, mostly arranged, to the band. Marvin came in with a few ideas he had been wanting to finish, so that helped keep our momentum going. It was the same in the sense that demos were presented to me to write the lyrics and melody to, in private, but what I was given and what I came up with were more raw, so I could also come into the writing space with ideas to work out and ultimately help arrange the song. In fact, for the first time, I came to the space with a little lyric and melody I had recorded on my phone one day on the way home from a particularly frustrating day at work, and we were ready to start a new idea and that little 30 second voice memo turned into the first single from the album, Look at Yourself.
Recording was different too, in that the entire album was recorded in two fun and productive weekends at Tempermill Studios in April and July 2018. Our intention was to do things differently throughout, because we’re not the same band and are motivated and inspired in different ways now. It was a crazy and delightful ride for sure.
Which track is the one that you feel represents a good introduction to your sound?
As mentioned earlier, Blueflowers may record music in different genres, but can still be identified as the same band. How did you manage to keep your sound while changing genres?
Even though I may sound different on this album, and without harmonies, I think my voice and Tony’s guitar tie this to The Blueflowers of albums past. Underneath the new fuzz and angst, and in spite of the change in instrumentation (no more acoustic or keys), there is still a thread of surf lingering, and the melodrama has just been amplified, by being more exposed. Many of the Folk-Noir songs have transitioned into our new sound, some more easily than others, no doubt.
Is there a band or artist that some of you enjoy listening to that may surprise our readers?
I don’t think so because we have such a wide range of interests, but it may surprise people to know that Tony listens to jazz, or that Jim super loves Camera Obscura, or that I mostly likely happy indie music. David is a DJ at WXOU, and very likely has the most eclectic radio show on the airwaves. As for Marvin, I honestly don’t even know what he listens to.
Do you happen to have any advice to that 16 year old in his or her basement/garage trying to form a band?
I want to say “don’t take yourself too seriously”, but that would be hypocritical. I’ve always taken it seriously, because I believe if you’re going to do it, you should give it 100% or as close to 100% as you can without neglecting your adult obligations. I didn’t start this whole band/performer life stuff until my mid-20s and I’ve often wished that I’d started sooner (everyone I play with did), so my advice to that 16 year old would be have fun, work hard, don’t be lazy in writing or gigging, and be professional… even if your music isn’t.
What’s next for you as a band and where can readers find more information about your project?
We’re planning to get back to writing now that the album is out and we’ve had a second to breathe after all that goes into that process, plus we’ve got a couple of shows lined up in March. We’re playing Hamtramck Music Festival the second weekend in March and I can’t wait for that one. It’s always a blast and just an amazing opportunity to see loads of talented folks showcasing their talents. We’ll be keeping the gig schedule light, but hope to do a few out of town gigs this Spring. We want to spend our time writing more music while we’re still inspired to do so. Our website, www.theblueflowers.com, has more information about our music and schedule, or connect with us on Facebook www.facebook.com/theblueflowers, for the most up to date news.