Floral is an instrumental two-piece math-rock duo from the CA South Bay Area. Ryan Fernandes sat down with Nate and Ty of Floral to talk about new music, doing it yourself, and making your own rules. You can hear some of their tunes at https://floral1.bandcamp.com/ and catch them at Slim’s in SF on 3/22/19.
Is incorporating vocals into the Floral sound something you’ve considered in the past? Or perhaps currently?
It’s something we have played around with a bit but not seriously by any means. I think the project is going to remain instrumental for the foreseeable future. Its an integral part of the aesthetic
I’ve seen you live many times and have been supremely impressed by your tasteful use of amps and pedals. Moreover, the guitarwork you pull off on the Daisy Rock guitar is utterly mind blowing.
I am curious to get a rough schematic of your current live setup. Please share!
My setup is rather minimal all things considered. From the guitar, I go through a standard Boss TU-3 chromatic tuner into a Boss CS-3 compression sustainer which stays on basically the whole time. Some people will disagree, but i find that compression really helps keep everything at a decent volume and allows me to play a bit more relaxed while still getting decent volume and clarity out of my tapped notes especially while switching from finger picking to tapping. From there, I go into a Radial ABY splitter which sends the signal out to an Orange TH 100 for my highs and a Mark bass 2×10 combo with an extra 1×15 cab which really helps hype up the low end. The only thing left is a Xotic Effects RC booster that I run through the orange FX loop just to give certain parts a bit more gain just on the highs.
Floral’s music is incredibly visual. Are there any blatant or intended imagery you wish Floral’s music to impart onto listeners?
I really like the idea of geometry in nature and the natural structures that living things take on. I think these structures and patterns also find there way into music on a macro and micro level. From song structure, to music theory, all the way down to simple oscillation of an object that produces sound. It’s all interconnected! While this isn’t necessarily what our music is about (in the sense that I don’t use mandelbrot sets or fibonacci sequences to write music) It’s just something that I find fascinating and I try to think about when writing (alongside just trying to write a good song). As far as a specific imagery goes, there isn’t much intention. I just think flowers and plant life lend there aesthetic well to the music we write.
Aside from your work in Floral, mmph, and Elaine the Singer, are there any past, current, or future projects we should look out for?
We are actually hoping to record an Elaine LP soon! All that music is written by Ty who is actually one of the most prolific songwriters I have ever had the pleasure of working with. He has a record coming out under the moniker, Winery, which is sort of akin to bands like Codeine, American Music Club, and Red House Painters. He has been sitting on it for a while now so i’m super stoked to start promoting it and for everyone to hear it.
MMPH is my roommate and good friend Sae Han’s music which I was lucky enough to play guitar for on tour. I had no involvement of the production or writing of either of his records but Sae has been a very important person in my life for the past 5 years and has influenced me as a musician and as a person in many ways.
I have a solo electronic project called nathanashersherman (you can follow me at @nathanashersherman twitter or insta) hopefully I’ll be dropping some stuff from that soon. I make a lot of electronic music and production is an art that I love very much. I’m hoping one day I can do that just as much as Floral.
Given the current DIY climate, do you foresee being able to pursue music as a full-time source of income?
Yes, but not just through one thing. I think having many income streams is pretty crucial for a DIY musician. I have been really lucky with amount of people that have supported us directly through bandcamp, shows or merch, as well as my parents who have helped me tremendously but it’s definitely still not taxable by any means. That being said, feel free to hit me up for guitar/ production lessons!
You have witnessed the technologically influenced boom in and around the Silicon Valley. Has this had any noticeable impact on the music/art scenes in that region?
Yes! While I feel as though there is a very strong Bay Area music scene there is definitely an uphill battle going on. A lot of the people that move here for business stuff aren’t really patrons of the scene which has some really negative effects. There are exceptions of course, as I have met some really wonderful people who work tech jobs in the Silicon Valley who love what we do and regularly see at shows, or even playing in bands. That being said, I have seen the demise of venus as well as musician that have to move farther and farther out as a result of rising rent. The scene always persits but even historical venues with regular attendees such as 924 Gilman have been affected by this. (Gilman actually has a patreon you can support them at https://www.patreon.com/helpgilman)
Have you dealt with performance anxiety? Or some other form of anxiety?
I always get a bit nervous before shows but for the most part I know what to do to deal with it. Being a musician in general causes me a lot of anxiety otherwise. I am sure I have a fairly mild case but i’m definitely always stressing about weather or not i’m doing enough or fully taking advantage of how lucky I am to be able to do this. I almost always feel guilty or depressed when I am not working on something or taking time to relax. It’s definitely something I need to work on.
I see you’ve been added onto a few of the Delta Sleep shows on their upcoming West Coast tour! That is awesome! Are there any other shows or releases we should look out for in the near future?
We are so stoked! Im hoping to have a new record out with a lengthy tour booked by next summer. On top of that, be on the lookout for the Winery release and nathanashersherman stuff!
Where does Floral plan on recording their new album? Do you have a particular studio, producer, engineer, label, etc you have in mind as of now?
The Second EP was done with Jack Shirley from the Atomic Garden. We would love to work with him again! His studio has such a wonderful vibe and is really conducive to a stress-free, yet productive workflow. We have also worked there on a number of different projects so the experience is really predictable which really helps keep the energy level up and a clear focus on the goal.
I’m not sure about labels yet but our friend Joe Scala at Choke artist helps us tremendously with our physicals and merch. We will most certainly be continuing to work with him!
What are you currently listening to? Recommendations please!
Burial’s self titled album as well as the classic, Untrue, have been in heavy rotation for me recently. The way he is able to make something that is rather repetitive continuously develop and stay fresh is nothing short of masterful; not to mention the undeniable vibe and ambience that his music casts over the listener It’s super different than the kind of stuff I used to listen to which was mostly metal and other math-type bands. His music really gave me a new perspective on songwriting and production. On the more “band” side of things, I keep coming back to the record, Variations on Swing, by Meet me in St. Louis since I saw them headline ArcTanGent in 2016. I feel like they took all the best parts of post-hardcore and math-rock and wove them together into a masterpiece before people were even able to navigate those genres to the extent they are today. The way they write songs and lock in together is so unique and self contained in this way that’s really attractive to me. I have also been listening to this awesome Bay Area cyber-punk-grind-rap-metal-skramz duo called Vantana Row. They have a very eclectic and polarizing aesthetic but their music is so undeniably well crafted. I love that duality!
Do you recall the “A-Ha!” moment or listening experience that truly defined and clarified the sonic routes you would pursue and be influenced by as a now-experienced musician?
Experience is all relative! I have been doing one thing for about half a decade and have only been doing it seriously for a fraction of that. There are people who have been doing many different things for five times that length! I still feel as though I am very new.
As far as a defining moment goes, it definitely has to be discovering the “floral tuning” or alt-tunings in general. I was at a point where I was getting really frustrated by the system set in place to learn guitar from a traditional standpoint, especially while growing up as a dyslexic kid. Once I opened up the possibility of circumventing that system, the definition of what it meant to be “good at guitar” shifted dramatically. I really love the idea of cultivating my own set of “rules” for making music (not to say that my music is devoid of outside influence; it isn’t by any means) Floral is all about playing to my strengths as a musician and writing music that I ultimately want to hear!
I understand you are very inspired by electronic music. Could you see elements of electronic music seep into aspects of Floral’s sound?
At the moment, not really. The aesthetic for Floral is so set in place in my brain. Just drums and guitar. If i were to incorporate it, it would definitely take a back seat. Not to say that I won’t be experimenting with effects or even some featured artists on the next release. Another reason for this separation is that the electronic music I am making is just so different than what I do as Floral; not just timbrally and texturally, but structurally as well. I think once I release some of it the separation will make sense.
In an ideal world, where do you see yourself in around one year’s time? What about five years?
I’m really hoping to release another record by this time next year as well as to gain more traction with our other projects. I would also love to do some more lengthy tours and play places we haven’t before. Five years feels like a really long time so all I can hope for is that we have a considerably bigger discography and to have as many people hear it as possible! I also really want to establish myself as an electronic artist cultivate that identity to a higher level.
Your technical skill is seemingly unsurpassed. Please give me an insight into your past and/or current practicing regimens!
Unsurpassed seems a little hyperbolic haha. The core of it all is this:
- Write stuff you can’t play
- Practice it until you can play it
I also just try to play as much as possible even if it isn’t serious practice. Just getting comfortable with your instrument like an extra limb or something. I think one good piece of advice is that when learning something very new or difficult to avoid passively practicing or practicing in a distracted environment. You end up getting half as much done in twice as long. At then end of they day though, playing is always better than not playing so do what you have to do! In the early days of Floral I would throw my guitar in the trunk of my car and be that annoying guy who would always play guitar at social gatherings.
Anything you’d like to add?
Advice for up-and-coming artists/musicians who feel hopeless and/or stifled due to the amount of saturation within music and/or the current DIY climate?
There is no right or wrong way to navigate this landscape. Find something that is true to you and stick to it even if there seems like there is not an audience or you aren’t getting the same kind of reception others get. There’s always an audience and they can tell if something is genuine.The only thing that will always cause you to fail is to stop.
Also, in this time of over-saturation it really helps to know what you want to sound like. It allows an audience to gravitate towards to you for a specific kind of sound or aesthetic and gives you a clearer path to a goal.
What is your motto in times of grave despair, and in times of succulent joy?
When i’m not doing so hot I always try and move forward and not to dwell. A light-hearted example: If I mess up during a show I try to just forget about it and move on. If I think about it too hard, It will just take me out of the zone and I will mess up more. I can analyze my mistake later. When I feel as though I am in a good place I try to take it and appreciate it but again, move forward.
Congrats on selling out your vinyl-run of Floral EPs! Best of luck with all of your future endeavors and thank you for taking the time out of your awesome schedule to answer these questions.
Floral can be found at https://floral1.bandcamp.com/.