In-depth interview : First Flush
Words by: Lea Sofie Preisler
Photos by: Mathis Schmidt
Experimental rock band, First Flush is well on their way with their fifth album. Knife met up with the band post-writing and pre-recordings, or in other words right in the middle of their creative process.
We had a talk about their process writing new music, having openness as a musical legacy, and how an increased sense of confidence might be part of the reason why their new album is less about morality, more about the bigger perspective, and definitely more inspired by pop music.
Since the release of their latest album, the critically acclaimed, Spira from 2018, First Flush's time together has been spent rehearsing and playing concerts rather than jamming and writing new tunes. In the beginning of summer this pattern finally changed, when the band went to visit Mads in Norway with a shared ambition to write new music.
After ten days in artistic residence, First Flush were done with the first draft of their new album. We start the interview talking about their inspiration, and how they felt getting into a creative process together after some time apart.
Mads: I had a feeling, like, do we even know how to do this again? Because it was also an option that we just weren’t going to feel inspired. For us, new music is definitely something that occurs in the room. There is always an open atmosphere when we play together, and therefore we have a lot of sessions where no one really contributes with anything super specific, and things just sort of emerge in the room. Luckily that was the feeling I had when we played together this time.
Jeppe: We just knew beforehand, that it was what we needed to do - create some new music.
Mads: We just needed to breathe in some new music.
Alexander: Yes, or to breathe out some new music.
Discussing their process, the band explains that they felt some pressure of expectations before their trip. In spite of having tried it many times before, the band says that they are continuously surprised by how time and space is key when it comes to inspiration.
Alexander: I didn’t bring a lot of ideas to Norway, and I was quite frustrated that I hadn’t been able to write anything. But strangely enough it changed as soon as we got up there and got into the zone. Then the lyrics also started to take shape.
Mads: It’s like you enter a certain state of mind where the lyrics start to occur, and then you want to work on them all the time. Sometimes we were sort of asking each other, like, “where is Alex? – “oh, he’s just out somewhere writing”. You were working on them constantly!
Alexander: I don’t think I even helped cooking at all.
The band laughs, but still emphasize that things more influence how their music turns out, besides the inspiration that strikes in the moment. Another important aspect is the music they listen to, which have a tendency to transcend into the music they play. Jonathan for instance went to Norway wanting to write an album you can dance to - an ambition he subscribes to being frequently exposed to Danish rapper Gilli’s radio hit “Vai Amor” throughout the summer. His bedroom windows facing towards inner city’s notorious party district, the high paced track has fled through various BMW speakers and right into his subconsciousness, maybe to find it’s resting place as a source of inspiration on First Flush’s next album.
In the past, First Flush have been known and loved for mixing genres such as rock, punk, hip-hop and folk. That and their excessive use of auto-tune makes their musical approach seem almost radical in its inclusiveness, or as critiques suggest, highly progressive. Not the worst label or inaccurate, but when Knife asks the band if it is a conscious choice for them to experiment when they play music, the answer is no.
Mads: I think having an open approach is something that’s been part of our way of thinking music through a really long time. We started out playing all these experimental genres, so it quickly became natural for us to approach music like that. And it wasn’t until we were confronted with people outside our environment, we discovered that for an example, “wow okay, maybe we do use a lot of autotune on this track”. I think it’s a general tendency that your preferences and the way you approach something becomes invisible to you after some time. It becomes a habit.
Jonathan: Back when we were younger, I think we were more conscious about having a certain legacy and coming from this specific musical background, where some were extremely avant-garde meanwhile others were into commercial pop music. We suddenly found ourselves being part of a community, where no lines were drawn between listening to the most broken, fucked-up minimal compositional music, and what was topping the charts. These two things could easily co-exist, and I agree that maybe this way of understanding music has become invisible to us later on.
With a somewhat more mature sound compared to earlier releases, First Flush’s latest album Spira could easily seem like the group’s main work so far. When Knife brings up this suggestion, Jeppe, who has been sitting leaned back in his chair silently for a while, suddenly sits up straight.
Jeppe: It’s not!
He looks around in disbelief, laughs, and continues:
Jeppe: I really want to establish that it is not! It’s only been distributed in 300 copies!
The thought of Spira as a big commercial success makes everyone giggle. In spite of this, the band agrees that the album has a certain grown-up-ness to it – something Mads explains also came as a surprise to themselves when the record first came out. But when asked if they are moving even closer to adulthood on their next album, it becomes obvious that the the band doesn’t follow a linear growing curve.
Jonathan: I have a sort of youthful feeling about our upcoming album, actually. I’m not sure why but writing the new record I just wasn’t very interested in having anything to do with playing underground music. I didn’t feel like it was so exciting anymore. But then again, I’ve just been listening to Gilli every night this summer, so maybe that’s why, haha.
Jeppe: I think that this time we haven’t been scared of being a bit more oriented towards pop music and play pop-inspired melodies. We’ve sort of allowed ourselves to use some boring chord progressions, where I think, earlier, we might have felt like we needed to play something more complex. That it sounded too simple. And our new music does sound simple at some points, but I think that's cool.
Mads: But I don’t think it really sounds like pop music though, it’s more of a difference in our approach.
An openness towards pop music has not only influenced First Flush's musical expression, the simple motives of the genre has also sat its mark on the lyrics. To Alexander and Jonathan, this means their narrator making an entrance on the dance floor.
Alexander: I think in my new lyrics, I’m writing from a sort of dancing perspective. But you know, it’s more complex than just being out on the dance floor.
Alexander smiles, pauses, then continues:
Alexander: I think that in my writing, it’s obvious that the scene is set on a dance floor for instance…but it might be that actually you are not on the dance floor. That maybe it’s really about the relationship between two people.
The band laughs, maybe because Alexanders assurances about maintaining a complex narrative seem needless. Critically acclaimed and recently published in book form, Jonathan and Alexanders lyrics reflects an original and curious approach to existence, engaging in themes such as honesty, memory and moral. We move on to talk about morality, and whether the concept of morality is still a theme on their new album.
Jonathan: I don’t think we’re interested in morality in the same way as before. Or have you become more morally engaged, Alexander?
Alexander: I think I’ve been more about morality earlier than I am now. But I still feel that it’s extremely important to be political.
Jonathan: I haven’t thought so much about the concept of morality this time around. But recently I’ve been very preoccupied trying to think about our lives in a much larger perspective, especially in regard to climate and climate change. This was also something we discussed a lot when we were in Norway, sort of our importance as individuals compared to for an example geological time. Really just time as a concept as well. And I can tell that this way of thinking, trying to see yourself as the most important thing in your own life, but at the same time extremely unimportant, blends into my writing.
In spite of them being fond of pop and making their entrance on the dance floor, claiming that First Flush are on the edge of a second youth seems like a false accusation. Trying to pin down the band’s evolution has shown to be a hard task, and maybe not that important after all. As the last thing before we part, the band take guesses on what has defined their development up until this point. The word confidence comes up more than once, and this is where we land.
Jeppe: When I think about who we are as a band now compared to five years ago, I have an idea that we trust ourselves more now than we used to do. I think that the fact that we have played together for a while, and also have gotten some recognition, definitely helped us develop a sense of confidence. And it’s really nice to be in a place where we can just play music and trust in what we do. So, in that manner, I definitely think that we’ve grown into a different perception of ourselves. Maybe we’ve all become a bit more confident.
First Flush's new album will be released through Konkylie Recordings in 2020
The band can be caught live during winter, when they go on tour with Danish trio Jenny. They will be playing at Posten in Odense on December 5th and as part of Konkylie Label Nights at TAPE in Århus on December 7th. Finally, First Flush will end their tour in Copenhagen, performing an extraordinary concert at Hotel Cecil on February 29th, 2020.
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