Local York band Flora Greysteel are releasing their E.P. this Sunday at the Fulford Arms. So we caught up with them to discuss their style of music, influences and the music scene in York.
By Jane Howkins
You’re in a duo named Flora Greysteel with Emily Rowan. What can you tell us about the band, and how did you get started?
It all started when I decided I was going to be Emily’s friend. It was fresher’s week at uni and I stumbled into a room with a band practising, it was the first incarnation of Emily’s band: What the Cat Dragged In. That’s when I decided we would be friends and it only took a year before Emily agreed. When their drummer left I joined (the second incarnation of) What the Cat Dragged In, and have been working with Emily off and on ever since. That was around 2009.
You’re releasing an E.P. on the 24th April (with the launch being held at The Fulford Arms), what can you tell us about that?
We’re very excited about the E.P.! We’ve been performing and writing for a while now, and we have some great ideas for an album already, but we didn’t have any that worked out. So we knew we needed an EP so we chose the songs that really capture the variety of what we can do. We were thinking about going into a studio to record it, but I felt confident I could do it myself (and relished the challenge) plus I am a big believer in the DIY ethic. Sometimes the creativity you need to overcome limitations (in our case of space, and equipment, and editing know how) can really add to a sound, and sometimes (though not always) outweigh the imperfections. We’re not a clean band live, and I feel like we did capture the rawness and vitality of our live performance whilst still keeping the edit-ability of multi-tracked recording. I’ll probably hate it in a year (as our ability increases and we look back from there) but for now I’m pretty proud.
Your music is alternative, with it being described on Facebook as ‘punk cabaret’. Would you say you have quite an eclectic music taste?
Yes definitely, we’ve both been through an education in music, and for all its sins the one thing it definitely does is open you up to a wider variety of music.
Who/what are you most influenced by, and why? We heard quite a range of influences in there when listening to your E.P.
I can’t really speak for Emily on this, but I’m very influenced by early 70’s guitarists, and the punk ethic, and pretty much everything about funk. But mainly I love any music that feels like the artist is expressing from the inside; that’s where the art comes from for me, all the technical stuff and getting better at your instrument comes second; and that’s very much the approach Emily and I take with our playing, and recording.
I’m an improviser through and through, so the primary thing to me is always what’s happening in the moment. Emily and I are really committed to creating sounds together, what shape that takes is the joy of doing it – the fun bit!
Are there any bands/artists you recommend our readers check out if they like your sound?
The first answer has to be the Dresden Dolls, they’re pretty much the only other female vocal, lead piano and drums duo I’ve ever come across, not to mention THEY’RE AWESOME. Local band Vesper Walk are well worth checking out, Marc McGarraghy of Yellow Mustang Photography booked us in for a double headline gig just before Christmas which was fantastic.
This sounds cliché, but I haven’t really heard anyone that sounds much like us, so here’s a list of bands Emily and I really like:
Amanda Palmer/Dresden Dolls, Imogen Heap, Patrick Wolf, Moulettes, She Makes War, Tori Amos, Santana, Queens of the Stone Age, Esperanza Spalding, Brett Dennen, Joanna Newsom, Bright Eyes, Bobby McFerrin.
What do you think of the music scene in York? It seems to be quite a creative place to live.
I think it’s a great place to be a band starting out. There are numerous open mic nights to suit all styles and tastes, and there are a good number of venues willing to take a punt on a band whose fees aren’t so much that a fledgling band will be put off. There are also a good selection of larger bands who pass through giving great support slot opportunities. There is a LOT of variety in the kind of live music you can hear. That said, for the most part the music scenes in York are quite conservative. It’s been a great place for Flora to grow here, but I think we might need to look further afield to thrive.
You’re in a band called Gobbledigook, as well as Flora Greysteel. What can you tell us about that?
Yeah so I’m most practised as a lead guitarist (which is why I play drums like one) and Gobbledigook is the place I get to live out my Santana fueled dreams. We’ve also been recording recently and will have something out in the summer. For more info check here http://www.gobbledigooktheatre.co.uk/ and click music, or come down to the Hop on a Sunday night where we run the open mic.
You also run the Funk and Soul night at The Nook on a Thursday. How do you find the time to balance so many different projects?
Doing music is what I do full time, even so it’s a constant balancing act but I find that the different projects feed off each other and keep me excited and interested in what I do.
Why do you think people should come to one of your shows, and what can they expect?
We make music from the heart, and the joy of what we’re doing suffuses the sounds we make. The songs we play are at once heart wrenching, beautiful, humorous and witty. You can expect to hear the joyful sounds of folk/jazz ensemble the Bramble Napskins, and the exciting new project from Chris Mather (and band).
Any last words for the fans?
We are looking for gigs in exciting places (so don’t be afraid to book us for your living room, we might not say no), and are looking forward to performing widely (while quietly getting on with writing our album).
Flora Greysteel are playing at The Fulford Arms, York Sunday the 24th April 2016.