Houston Calling

Ten Questions for Flowers to Hide

February 20th, 2006 · 5 Comments

Local rockers Flowers to Hide count the likes of The Stooges, The Jesus & Mary Chain, T. Rex, The Afghan Whigs, 13th Floor Elevators, The Pink Fairies, Ride, Primal Scream, and The Church among their influences, but the modern Britrock often outweighs the garage influences. Their music is edgy, raw — guitar-heavy with the right amounts of emotion and onstage cockiness. The band’s new song, “Space City” (available on their MySpace page) is amazing — especially the wild guitars and jaded lyrics — and “Here Comes The Tide” is almost too catchy for its own good. Be sure to give their stuff a listen.

Flowers to Hide play live in Houston twice this week — the band opens an early show for The Warlocks on Thursday night at The Proletariat (9 p.m.). On Saturday night, the band plays with Southern Backtones and Slovak Republic at Rudyard’s.

I recently sent the members of Flowers to Hide — Stephen Anderson (vocals, rhythm guitar), Jonathan Espeche (lead guitar), Jason LeBaron (drums), and Michael Waller (bass guitar) — a series of questions for Houston Calling. They were kind enough to take time out of their recording/mixing sessions to answer them.

Ten Questions for Flowers to Hide

HC: What’s the story of Flowers to Hide?

JE: Stephen was playing guitar with Slovak Girl (now Slovak Republic) in 2000 and left because he wanted to do pursue his own thing. I was 16 and had dropped out of high school around the same time after having a nervous breakdown, I was in a really bad place mentally and starting a band was the only thing I wanted to do with my life.

One sleepless night at 2am or so in September of 2000, I was flipping through the radio and happened upon Jeffrey Thames’ Sound Awake show on KPFT. Stephen was on the show that night to do an acoustic set. He did two or three really cool blissed-out shoegazer songs a la Slowdive and I was blown away, not just by the music but by the fact that there was someone else in this town making the kind of music I wanted to make. It was the exact type of thing I wanted to be involved with. On air he mentioned that he was wanting to start a band. I said to myself, “Man, I’ve gotta get in touch with this guy,” and sent him an e-mail. We started talking on the phone and became best friends pretty much instantly discussing our favorite bands and what sort of direction we wanted our band to go in. We then got together in early 2001 and started writing songs together in the spare room of his house in Spring, TX. Being 6 years older than me Stephen was kind of a mentor to me, showing me a lot of great bands I hadn’t yet heard.

The next person to join the band was our drummer, Jason. Stephen and him were working together at the time and Stephen asked him if he wanted to be in the band. Jason is a very laid-back and easy person to work with, not to mention a great drummer, so it was the right match to balance out Stephen’s nervous energy and my perfectionism. So the three of us began fleshing out some of our first songs together. We needed the final piece of the puzzle, a bass player. Stephen was working with this cool skinny hippy/vegan kid who was leaving for New Zealand. It didn’t work out for him over there and so Mike, back in town, showed up on the doorstep one night asking if we still needed a bass player.

So in April of 2001, F2H was fully formed. We played our first show later that year in September, still very green, at Java Jazz in Spring, TX. Since then we’ve continued to hone our songwriting skills and played a ton of live shows. We are really starting to come into our own now. We have a strong chemistry together as a band, we’re all good friends. We don’t have careers or families or anything like that, everyone is focused on the band and getting where we want it to go. We all have a very working-class background and nothing has ever come easy for us. We’ve outlasted most of the local bands that were around back then and will continue to do so. We’re not hobbyists.

HC: I think your music (and your band’s name) gives off a good sense of some of the bands you guys are undoubtedly fans of — The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Stooges, My Bloody Valentine, early Verve. What do you consider to be your primary influences? How do you guys approach the songwriting process?

JE: You’re on the right track as far as influences go. We have a very wide range of influences but our sound is rooted somewhere in the realms of shoegazer, psychedelia, 70’s glam, proto-punk. It’d be hard to pin any one tag on us because every song comes from a different place and takes on a shape of its own.

As for the songwriting process goes…Usually I will have a guitar riff or a whole song and I’ll present it to the band and it will progress from there. Other times Stephen will have a riff and he’ll show it to me and I’ll add parts and we’ll build it up from there, or he’ll have a whole song and we’ll work out the arrangement with the band. There’s no set rule for how we work on songs. Stephen and I make for a pretty strong songwriting team, we kind of make up for each other’s weaknesses.

HC: Stephen, I know you work at The Proletariat and sometimes at Cactus, and in doing so get to see a lot of the bands that Houston has to offer. What do you think of the local music scene? Do you have ideas to make it better, get more people out to shows, etc.? How have you as a band tried to overcome the sometimes difficult task of getting people out to your shows?

SA: It’s seems lately that there’s been a lot of talk of this. Ultimately it is up to the bands to get people to the shows. They need to promote, which is something we weren’t very good at. We decided a while back not to align ourselves with any crowd and instead play for anyone. Many of the Houston bands seem to be happy just playing to their friends or the same crowd. We won’t be satisfied playing for the same 10 friends forever. Terms like “success” and “making it” are heresy in the Houston indie crowd. They don’t want to reach out. There needs to be a feeling of togetherness.

When there isn’t a scene the bands must create one. There’s a feeling of competitiveness in Houston more than anything. Bands you play with always want the best slots for themselves, nobody wants to help anybody out.You play a show with some bands and they’ll pack their gear and take off without even watching a song of yours.

It’s tough, Wednesdays at the Proletariat are typically local band nights but you also have the Boys and Girls club over at 1415 which seems to be a place where all the scenesters go. For some reason kids would rather go dance the “Blue Monday” every week and their only goal is to get fucked up and get laid. Hell, you can do that at rock show…I have. It’s all about the party…you know, everybody wearing a Velvet Underground shirt and dancing to the Geto Boys in hip huggers with fannypacks and faux hawks? Sorry went on a bit of a tangent there. While working last night I read the Houston Press article on band suicide, which to me seemed to be all about Michael Haaga. Now I have heard his record and it’s quite good but he isn’t the only guy in town. The article did seem to point the finger at the Chronicle and the Buzz, but I don’t recall any articles in the Press that really touch on up and coming bands that aren’t JNL ordained. I’d like to see John Nova Lomax go to more shows and write about them good or bad.

JE: In all honesty, I’m interested in making it on a much larger scale than Houston. I don’t feel a responsibility to build up a scene here. If one could exist it would already. We’re not looking to this town to bring us success. It doesn’t owe us anything and vice versa.

Read the rest of the interview with Flowers to Hide below.

HC: We once talked about “image” and music — and how the two often go hand-in-hand. For good or bad, the look a band projects often has a lot to do with the fans the band may attract (especially among younger audiences). There’s a question here somewhere…what do you think about fashion and music and correlation between the two? Do you think stage presence is important? It seems to me sometimes that British bands often put more effort in a particular look than American bands — Agree? Disagree? Care?

SA: I Agree. First off I think in high school kids start trying to find out who or what they are. Their identity coincides with their music most of the time. It’s been that way since the fifties and probably before that too. People need that feeling of belonging to something. Music is a release for the bands and the audience, entertainment thru escape. When I was a freshman in high school I was really into the cure, U2, and R.E.M. and I dressed like a total dork. By my junior and senior years (’95-’96) I was a total Britpop and shoegaze kid, an anglophile whose style mimicked that of the bands I read about in the NME etc. It’s much the same today for kids as it was for me and I understand that. I was into the stylish bands like Suede and Pulp to the introspective bands like Radiohead and the Verve. Looking back it was my own subculture that made me stand out in my large suburban school. Most of my friends were into punk rock and pot and somehow we managed to coalesce. Some of them had bands but not to the extent of what I see and hear about now. Everybody has a band now and with sites like MySpace they become gods to their classmates.

So what I am trying to say is yes image is important. The way you appear on stage and the way you perform are an important part of how you are perceived as a band. When you are playing to a bar crowd at midnight it’s not always important that you played your tightest set. Now, I don’t mean play carelessly, but if you look like you believe in what you are doing people are going to believe in you. One thing I have noticed with our recent gigs is that the more animated we are on stage the better the reaction. It took me a long time to get comfortable with that.

HC: What I have heard of the new music is great — how is work on the new EP progressing? Where do you guys record?

JE: We’re going to be releasing a limited 2 song single for the timebeing while we continue tracking more songs, then we will most likely release an expanded EP with more songs. We’re recording with Joe Omelchuck at RBI Recordings and have been getting great results. He’s a really fun person to work with. He gets as excited as we do about the music.

HC: You guys will be opening for The Warlocks at their Houston show. I assume you’re big fans of the band. I have seen them a couple of times here — missed the last show at Walter’s though. Did you catch the last Brian Jonestown Massacre show here — what did you think of that spectacle? I was disappointed in the fact that, inevitably, half of the people were there because of Dig! (which is good for the band) but I hated seeing Anton (in my opinion) feel like he had to basically play a role for this new crowd. I think I might crumble under the success/hassles/pressures — what about you? I liked Innaway a lot though — great album.

SA: Yes, we are really excited to be playing with the warlocks. The first time Jonathan, Michael and I saw them left a big impression with us. As for Anton and the Mary Jane’s gig I can’t say I was disappointed. I have seen the BJM several times and it can be hit or miss. He lost his voice the night before and he could’ve cancelled but he tried to play and couldn’t sing. So instead they jammed these two 20-minute feedback drenched drones and the real fans stayed to listen. To be honest, I was more disappointed in the new Dandy’s album — complete poo!

JE: The first couple times I saw the Warlocks I was really blown away by their wall of sound. The last time at Walter’s I was pretty underwhelmed and left with the impression that what we do is as good or better. As far as success/hassles/pressures goes, I would welcome it all. I’m at my best when there is something at stake.

HC: If you could have any band cover any of your songs, what would it be? What’s the best concert you guys have seen in Houston?

No answer.

HC: How do you feel the internet has helped up-and-coming bands? Are you for or against digital music? Are you guys fans of iPods or no? I know some musicians love then, some hate them, and some are just slaves to vinyl.

JE: Places like MySpace are a great place to promote your music, but it’s also a spam-filled wasteland. Everyone is clamoring to get noticed. It kind of lowers the bar for quality because anyone can put up their music and, regardless of quality, add 10,000 people to their friends list. There’s so much noise going on that perhaps it makes it harder for a quality act to get noticed. Then again, when everyone is copying everyone else and starting a screamo band, it may just make it that much easier for people doing something different to stand out.

Digital music is a great innovation, iPods are great, we just can’t afford them. For a music obsessive like myself the concept of having that much music in such a small convenient place is a dream come true. On the down side, it has made things into more of a singles driven market. They’ll be trying to churn out as many one hit wonders as they can for the benefit of iTunes. The younger generation today is very different from that of 10-15 years ago. Much more fickle and ADD than ever before. You wonder if music and bands really mean anything to them anymore. It’s become commodity, the equivalent of aural wallpaper, life-style music. One song to the next, dispose of when the next new thing comes along.

There are bands and albums that define a certain time in my life. There were bands that I believed in. Bands you could depend on to make consistently make amazing music. You wonder if the same thing can exist in this environment.

By my estimation, hip-hop/rap is the disco/hair metal of today. Not to say that some people within that genre aren’t doing something with merit. But by and large — a pretty disposable genre of music. I think rock’n’roll will always have a place, it may not be the focus like it was in the past, but hip-hop/rap/pop can’t and never will come close to the power and energy of a great rock band performing in its prime. Mainstream music has for the most part always been dominated by fluff and fodder for the marketplace, going back to the 50’s. And like always there will be people and bands with something interesting and meaningful to offer musically. The cream will rise, but shit floats too…and there’s a lot of it.

HC: What’s next for Flowers to Hide? Are you guys trying to branch out of Houston to get your music heard in other places? I noticed your MySpace website has quite a bit of traffic — have you been getting good feedback from you music outside the city? You’re opening for The Living Things in March, right? That’ll be another good one…

JE: We’re going to continue recording and will most likely go on tour. We’ve discussed the possiblity of moving the\ band elsewhere. We seem to get really good feedback from England and other parts of the US, pretty much anywhere that isn’t Houston. We’re pretty sure that if we were from London the NME would love us. The response in Houston is generally apathy and indifference. It takes the rest of the world to show Houston what is cool. And yes, we’re opening for the Living Things March 22nd @ Walter’s on Washington.

HC: What are you guys listening to these days? Do you have any bands or CDs that you’d recommend?

JE: I’ve been listening to a lot of obscure 60’s/70’s psych-rock lately. One band I’ve recently discovered and been blown away by is the Pink Fairies. Their first record, Neverneverland is one of the best albums I’ve ever heard and has been a big inspiration to me lately.

Thanks to Jonathan and Stephen from Flowers to Hide for taking the time to answer these questions. Visit the band online at www.myspace.com/flowerstohide.

Be sure to check out the band live this Thursday night at The Proletariat (opening for The Warlocks) and on Saturday night at Rudyard’s (opening for Southern Backtones). Check back for more information about the band’s EP later this year.

See you out and about.

Now Playing: Arthur Yoria — Something Must Be Wrong EP

Tags: Music

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Nick // Feb 21, 2006 at 9:59 pm

    “By my estimation, hip-hop/rap is the disco/hair metal of today. Not to say that some people within that genre aren’t doing something with merit. But by and large — a pretty disposable genre of music. I think rock’n’roll will always have a place, it may not be the focus like it was in the past, but hip-hop/rap/pop can’t and never will come close to the power and energy of a great rock band performing in its prime.”

    For some reason, that quote really rubs me the wrong way. It seems almost a condescending attitude towards a legitimate artform and thriving culture that the speaker obviously has no real connection to. Kind of a Eurocentric sentiment if you ask me (yes, I know African American pioneers paved the way for rock n’ roll as we know it today, but still). Calling hip-hop a disposable genre of music displays an ignorance of the struggle and conditions that birthed some of the most revolutionary records ever made, reaching back to the late 70’s…including racism, civil unrest, and economic inequality. THOSE are rock n’ roll values – ‘fuck tha police’ isn’t too far off from ‘stickin’ it to the man.’ Hip-hop as an artform is heavily influential of even other genres of music – countless rockers have cited hip-hop artists as their influences.

    Need something challenging and inspirational? Look no further than the beats of the late, legendary producer Jay Dee, who left us two weeks ago. Or what Stones Throw Records is doing. I don’t need to mention The Roots, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, or creative geniuses like Kanye West, DJ Premier, and Dr. Dre with crossover appeal. Even if it’s only hardcore/gangster rap that you can’t get with, don’t quickly dismiss it as garbage. There’s something going on in that world that speaks to so many people who have been through similar conditions, and YES, there is creative genius and real talent that goes into the making of that music as well. We even have some living legends in our hometown – Scarface is a fucking genius. I can understand maybe ridiculing The Black Eyed Peas or 50 Cent for cashing in on MTV hoopla and making inane records with vapid content, but don’t dismiss an entire culture and genre of music just because you can’t largely identify with it. Yes, the Golden Era may be over, but there are still plenty of innovators and pioneers in the hip-hop world as there were in the 80’s. Trying to compare entire genres of music on artistic merit is an exercise in futility…there is no standard or litmus test by which one can make a comparison. And I don’t know why anyone would want to, because attempting to make a conjecture on it just reveals one’s biases.

  • 2 DAC // Feb 22, 2006 at 6:50 pm

    I see your point — although he did say that some hip-hop artists are doing something of merit.

    I appreciate the comments.

    (and I like aspects of both disco and hair metal…)

  • 3 stephen anderson // Feb 24, 2006 at 3:28 pm

    we are actually fans of some of the artist/bands you mentioned. i love groups like the roots, outkast, digable planets, and even some 8 Ball and MJG. i think what jonathan was getting at was the domination of rap and hip on channels like MTV by bands that no more than manufactured one hit wonders. i love it when bands blur genres and challenge their audiance much like what the beastie boys did 15 years ago. most hip hop is cookie cutter much like most rock, indie, and hot topic music. something needs to happen to the music industry on a whole.

    stephen anderson vocalist/guitarist for flowers to hide


    kanye ruins a really great curtis mayfield tune and lyrically he’s pretty stale.

  • 4 Nick // Feb 26, 2006 at 2:23 pm

    Thanks for clarifying. Yeah, I agree – Kanye isn’t really doing anything lyrically but he’s not a bad producer. His work pre-rap career was solid. Jon Brion didn’t have anything bad to say about him either.

  • 5 buy cialis // Jul 3, 2006 at 3:21 pm

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