Hypnotic drumming, the mean baying of guitars, syrupy volleys of bass, and dominant, microphone searing vocals: these attributes would probably emblazon the scouting report of Brooklyn’s ferocious Fruit & Flowers, a band whose well-organized chaos is known throughout New York’s culturally rad music scene. Cinema Spartan was stoked to interview the band about their incendiary, warpaint dotted live performances; cool, unrelenting lyrics; and the ensemble’s upcoming EP. Ana, Caro, Lyzi and Jose talked about everything from the dopeness of Kill Bill to the enigmatic process of songwriting.
Rob Patrick: The band’s stage presence is kinetic, unpretentious, and boiling with a certain kind of articulate aggression. Basically, your performances are so good that the electricity manages to translate through live recordings. What, in your opinion, makes for a good show?
Ana: Wow… well dang. Thank you! The shows that have been my favorite to play are the ones when it seems like the audience is really having a good time. It makes me happy to see people dancing, and then I play better, and then the crowd is happier, and it’s a feedback loop of awesomeness. I try not to let the opposite happen when people are being stoic. Lyzi’s friend brought a piñata of a certain controversial politician to one of our SXSW shows and people moshed & destroyed it while we played. That show ruled.
Caro: Oh yeah, one time we played this warehouse in Nashville called Meal Ticket. It was a sausage festival or something and all the bands were super chill. Someone turned a smoke machine on in the middle of ‘Down Down Down’ and we thought we’d set an amp on fire so turned it off and Lyzi started playing Nirvana and then we figured out is was just a smoke machine and just kept playing. Being able to roll with strange stuff like that keep u on your toes. Element of surprise. You know.
Lyzi: Yeah, what they said. I feel like a lot or most of the time the audience doesn’t know who you are or what they want from you. So, you have to just give it to them. Tell them what they want! Eye contact, movement, confidence, control over the chaos. Gotta love the mishaps. I call them stage tricks.
What are three songs that changed the way you looked at music, and why?
Ana: Three songs? Just three? Let’s see… 1) “Blackbird” by The Beatles. I used to listen to it on repeat when I was 13 or so, and it taught me that music and life were meant to be woven together. 2) “I Found That Essence Rare” by Gang of Four. All of “Entertainment!”, actually. When I heard it for the first time I realized that what I thought music “sounded like” was just a tiny part of the picture, and it sparked a ravenous curiosity. 3) “Rid Of Me” by PJ Harvey, because I’d never heard female sexuality and aggression expressed in music that way before, and I frickin’ DUG IT.
Caro: Thats deep. Im gonna say “American Pie“, because my dad used to listen to it when I was four and five years old and I would stare at the stars out the car window and think about how many words and chord changes that song had.
Lyzi: Well, I find it hard to really pinpoint specific songs in that way, but I can definitely say that I’m heavily influenced by The Beatles, Sonic Youth, Nick Drake…shit..songs..uh..I’m going to have to over think that for a few more days. But I think Jose’s got this…
Jose: Led Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song“: This has been probably my favorite song for the past 9–10 years. The funny thing is that when I first listened to it I didn’t like it at all. I remember thinking it was too long and kind of boring/depressing. Fortunately, thanks to time and shuffle on my media player, without even noticing it one day I was already loving it. So, as well as it happens with the movies and other forms of art, through this experience I understood how a song can speak to us in different ways depending on the moment we listen to it, it is circumstantial. And when this happens unconsciously, the bounds you create with it are even stronger!
Simply Red’s “Stars“: I remember how – when I was around 20 years old – watching this song’s videoclip on VH1 (which by the way, is even more cheesy than the song) brought to me memories I wasn’t aware I had from my childhood. After several years without listening to it, I could remember that when I was a little kid, a radio show in Colombia called “La Hora del Gato” used to play this song a lot during weeknights (mostly, when I was in the car with my parents). So, this one basically showed me how having deep connections with songs transcends “musical taste” and objectivity. It was a really enjoyable moment produced by a song I wouldn’t normally like. As a matter of fact from that moment I started liking it a lot! (and this has happened to me with other songs, like “How Deep Is Your Love” by Bee Gees)
Son House’s “Grinning In Your Face“: Even though the song itself is absolutely amazing, it was Jack White’s explanation on “It Might Get Loud” about what it represented in his life, what really spoke to me on another level: A statement about art, creativity, and soulfulness. By the time I watched the documentary, I was starting to get increasingly interested on these concepts in regards to my way of understanding/enjoying music, so it was really inspiring, specially coming from a guy whose music have represented something pretty similar for me
I love the raw unpredictability, confessional abandon, and vicious instrumentation. You use the terms “Psych Surf Punk Rock” to describe your sound. How has Brooklyn contributed to the fabric of your music?
Ana: My dad moved to Brooklyn when I was six, so it has really contributed to the fabric of my, well, everything. There was a record store a half block from my house that I hung out a lot in when I was a teenager. Without the tutelage of the record store dudes, I’d never have heard so much of my favorite music. I would’ve learned to play guitar listening to different stuff, probably way less interesting stuff. Brooklyn is integral!
Caro: I’ve been around the Nashville and Austin music scenes before I got to New York. There was this really funny stereotype in Nashville that New York musicians all just play their instruments really hard all of the time. Really hard and intense. But I’ve found the music scene up here to be fairly dynamic actually. And Tarra Thiessen from Sharkmuffin has just been so much fun to play with and learn from. It was really cool to move here and meet someone so focused and badass.
Lyzi: I came to Brooklyn 3 years ago from Amarillo, Texas. I’ve always find myself really experiencing and making music alone. It was a solo escapist thing even after moving here. I wasn’t sure what my direction in music was or how I felt about being in bands to begin with. But after we started this band about a year ago I feel like I’ve learned and adapted so quickly. That’s what I really love about New York – is how fast I change – but anyway, I feel like I’ve really found a family of friends I can collaborate and experience (our) music with. They encourage me to be better, dive deeper…and they helped me to realize that I want to be GREAT!
When are you finally going to “boost” your Facebook post that said “Hi” to reach up to 1,000 more people? Pressing questions.
Caro: When it costs -5 dollars. Or maybe just tomorrow.
Lyzi: No comment.
When can we expect a Fruit & Flowers and Sharkmuffin west coast tour? What needs to happen for this to become a reality? This was my ulterior motive this entire time.
Ana: We can expect it in our dreams. Every night.
Caro: Ohhh. Good, good question. late fall?!
Lyzi: I assume after we release our EP sometime this year. Ahem.
Do you think the advent of social media has made touring more comical, spontaneously revealing, and helpful? How has Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter factored into the aesthetic of Fruit & Flowers?
Ana: Social media on tour has been a little too good at spontaneously revealing my shenanigans to my family. Hi, mom!
Caro: Well, I’ve always loved film and photography, so Instagram has been really fun. As far as I know Instagram don’t screw with how people see your feed, thank god. Facebook has really become a pain for musicians in the last few years.
Would the band ever consider scoring a movie? If so, what would it be about?
Ana: That sounds like so much fun. I’m seeing Kill Bill in my head as I’m thinking about this question.
Caro: I love Kill Bill. Absolutely. My Bloody Valentine did such a nice job with “Lost In Translation”. But, really, I’ve always dreamed of scoring a film/films.
Jose: Yes! It would tell a love/death story that would have taken place in Egypt during the years of Giza pyramid construction, directed by Sofia Coppola.
Lyzi: Yeah that would be rad. Uh, I like pulpy, psychological thrillers? Kill Bill! Hell yeah, Caro!
Why is “Subway Surfer” called “Subway Surfer”? When will this mystery ever be solved?
Ana: Got me. Half the time even I don’t know what our songs are about. Caro?
Caro: Alright listen people. Sometimes when you are stuck in New York city you wish you were at the beach, surfing, okay!? And sometimes when you are standing on the train with no hands you feel like you are surfing. And only the skilled pedestrian can ride hand free without falling over.
Lyrically speaking, what makes a good phrase, line, or impactful chorus to you? Who are some of your favorite songwriters?
Ana: My lyrical style is pretty different from Caroline’s. I like to be direct and describe moments, and Caroline likes to write lyrics that evoke feelings but you’re not sure why. They remind me of abstract paintings. Caro writes most of FxF’s lyrics, though it is becoming more collaborative as time goes on. I love stuff like Delta 5’s “Mind Your Own Business,” just so direct and badass. And I like Courtney Barnett’s lyrics. Embracing the mundane. I’m into it. Also, I’m a sucker for a sweet, hooky chorus. Paul’s my favorite Beatle, which is probably pretty telling.
Caro: Oh the Beatles. Sigh. Yes. Courtney Barnett. I always thought of Conor Oberst as being a disturbingly prolific modern lyricist. Its actually interesting because a lot of really good songs say exactly what they want to say with so few words. That’s a real feat.
Lyzi: Yeah, my lyrics are pretty, um, poetic. Abstract and sometimes vague. Sometimes I leave things open to interpretation, sometimes not. The difference between Caroline’s style and mine though is my lyrics have more of a dark undertone, like the deeper parts of the Ocean, where her’s are more like how the sun reflects on the waves.
We typically end most of our interviews with this insignificant question: what is something that your band mates don’t know about you that you can reveal here?
Ana: Uh… I had a golden retriever named Jessie when I was growing up? I can’t think of anything else. They know the things.
Caro: Hehe, he, yeah. I know everything about you people. Hmmmmm. I started writing my first songs on the piano as a kid, sans lyrics?
Jose: I used to play snare drums on the marching band of my school. And when I was in eleventh grade, we even won the first place on a famous contest competing with other schools. I’m aware now it sounds pretty lame but at the moment it was really cool, I swear.