Flora Greysteel – Interview

We discovered Flora Greysteel by accident a few years ago, and fell in love with their music at first listen. When the opportunity arrived to sit down and have a chat with them, we simply couldn’t resist!

By Jane Howkins

How has 2018 been for you? Any highlights?

2018 was a good year for us. We spent most of our creative time planning and recording our first full length album, but we managed to cram in a few festivals, as well as some gigs with wonderful musicians too – The Dyr Sister, The Cesarians, Mayshe-Mayshe and Fawn all spring to mind.

Do you have anything exciting planned for 2019, either in your personal or private lives?

2019 is very exciting for the band but more on that later. Simon’s looking forward to launching a podcast and gigging their solo show. Emily’s working on new songs for the band and a couple of other collaborations. We also both just started playing in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign that Emily’s partner is running, because, yes, we’re geeks and D&D is fun.

We hear you’re currently crowdfunding your debut album. How is that going, and why did you decide to crowdfund it?

Our crowdfunder on PledgeMusic is going better than we could have hoped. We hit our target in less than 3 weeks, so it’s now an album pre-order. Emily’s crochet foxes seem to be doing particularly well! We have always been a DIY band, we recorded our EP ourselves in 2016, and our music has built up a dedicated following. When we decided to record an album, we wanted it to be bigger and more flamboyant than the EP, something that wasn’t restricted by what we could perform live. So although we knew we would be doing most of the recording ourselves, we knew we’d need some funding to make the album we wanted.

We set up the crowdfunding campaign firstly to cover the costs of mastering the album and to commission an artist to make us an album cover, but since we’ve hit the initial target the rest of the funding will go towards the cost of printing CDs (we know we’re not the only ones who still like buying tangible music), making merchandise and going on tour. By the way, we’ve recently seen the almost-finished artwork and it’s gorgeous. We’re so excited to reveal it.

Crowdfunding is becoming more and more common nowadays. What are your thoughts on the music industry and the way it has changed over the years? Do you think the changes make it easier or harder to write and release music?

Wow that’s a question, we have loads of thoughts from ‘is it even possible to make money as a musician at all these days!?’ to ‘oh, I guess the old model of getting signed by a major label is still valid’. The most succinct answer would be that the industry has changed, drastically and in a short time, mainly because it’s now possible to record a great sound in your living room for (relatively) really cheap, and to disseminate it yourself, throughout the world. That has never happened before, and in one sweep cuts the legs out of a large part of what the industry was offering artists. On the other hand, streaming platforms and this proliferation of content mean that the value of a recording has dropped down to nearly nothing as well, in a lot of quarters anyway. Sorry, this was supposed to be succinct. The short answer is, that the industry has changed, and feels a bit like chaos, but in that chaos there are real opportunities to be creative and real potential to make things happen.

You recently released a new single titled (Afraid Of the Dark). What can you tell us about that, and do you have any more singles up for release?

Emily: (Afraid Of the Dark) was a track we wrote and recorded just before Christmas last year (2017) for a local charity album and we re-released it ourselves this December. It looks at the festive winter season in the light of growing up and losing a bit of that magic that suffused Christmas during childhood, especially when practical concerns like finances come knocking. Can you reignite the spark as an adult or find new traditions to bring some of that magic back in a new light? My sister was due to give birth around Christmas then, which fed into the idea of new light and life at the darkest time of the year.

Simon: It’s kinda funny actually, Emily came to me with 3 weeks to go and said “hey, so I would really like to do something for this Christmas album, and I think I have the start of a song”. Now, recording a song for a charity Christmas album is how the band started back in 2014 – it was the first moment Emily and I realised we worked well together – so I said sure, it should be fun. That set off 3 weeks of craziness, which included borrowing any spaces we possibly could, recording parts that weren’t quite written yet, breaking our firm taboo of ‘there shall be no guitar’, and me learning double bass. So yeah, I think it was after that that I told Emily I did want to record and mix the album. Before then we had been planning on paying for someone else to do it.

Do you have any other projects you are working on? We have seen Simon a couple of times playing jazz music before – do they still perform?

Simon: Yeah, I have a few other projects on the go at the moment. My funk trio Foreground Gorilla and band Gobbledigook are both worth checking out (all the guitar is welcome in those bands) and I have a pretty exciting solo project I’m working on called You Can Call Me Franky, which I trialled at a few gigs last year, so keep your eye out for that.

Emily: Most of my musical energy goes back into Flora Greysteel, especially with the album coming out so soon, but I’ve been asked to compose some music for one of this year’s Late Music concerts and am working on a loop pedal piece by local composer David Lancaster to be performed in February. Based on the popularity of those crochet foxes in our crowdfunding campaign, I’m also considering opening an Etsy shop!

Do you have any tour dates coming up?

We’re keeping the diary clear of gigs for the next couple of months, but once the album comes out in April we’re planning a tour. In fact we’ve just booked the album launch at FortyFive Vinyl Café on April 6th. Keep an eye on our website for more details.

Last time we spoke to you we chatted a bit about your influences with one of them being a favourite of ours too, Tori Amos. What have you been listening to recently, and have your music tastes changed at all?

Simon: I’ve been listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Adrianne Lanker, Bonnie Pink and the YoungBlood Brass Band.

Emily: I went back and looked at the influences we told you about last time and my music tastes haven’t changed much in the last couple of years. Amanda Palmer, Patrick Wolf, Imogen Heap and Tori Amos are still up there on my playlist, but of course I’ve stumbled across a few more musicians who resonate at my frequency since then: Eliza Rickman (gorgeous vocals, toy piano, glockenspiel and autoharp) and Phia (looping and thumb piano) are the two that spring to mind. Then again I’ve spent a lot of time with Paramore’s 4th album and the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat as well.

What can people expect from your music, and why should people come and
see you perform live?

We are all about the live performance! We’ve put a lot more of the theatre into the arrangements of the tracks for the album and they are thoroughly enjoyable to listen to in their own right, but we are still a live performance band. The thing that made, sustains and holds together the band is our raw chemistry on stage, and for the album tour we’re taking the performance element even further. If you want to know what we’re like then come to a show!

Any last words for the fans?

Thanks for being here with us on this journey. Some of you have been there right from the beginning, a lot of you we’ve picked up on the way. It’s still worth pre-ordering the album at https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/flora-greysteel, there are some special perks that only exist on there. Talk to us – we’re real people. And see you in April on the Album Launch Tour!