I am a Flipron addict. Their three previous albums (available from CD Baby) are all must haves, and their new single “The Comet Returns” has been in my heaviest of heavy rotation for weeks. They’re absolutely amazing. Take all of your favorite music and toss it into a blender. Pour the result into your iPod and what you’ll hear is Flipron.
Guitarist/vocalist Jesse Budd was kind enough to entertain a few questions. Here’s our little chat:
WIM: Tell us a little about Flipron — when you started, where you’re from, etc.
Jesse: It’s hard to say really. We never really formed as such, just sort of mutated in a rather clumsy way from being people who were not in a band into people who are in a band, like some kind of slowly growing bacterial culture in a petri dish. Except that we were largely unobserved and not exactly deliberate.
Perhaps ‘evolved’ is a nicer way of putting it. Anyway the first tender tentacles emerged from Somerset in the south-west of England in the mid 1990s and began shaping into a proper band in the early 2000s in London.
We signed to Tiny Dog Records in 2003. We released our first album (Fancy Blues and Rustique Novelties) in 2004. That’s when we started to take it more seriously. We then followed our drummer Mike back to Somerset shortly after that, where we’re based now, in and around Glastonbury, near where the festival takes place.
WIM: Your music is decidedly English. I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but I think of you guys as sort of a British Flaming Lips. Can you give an American audience a little insight into the roots of your sound?
Jesse: I think raiding other cultures and stealing all the good stuff is something that the English have done for centuries, so in that respect we’re very much an English band!
Between the four of us we have a broad taste, and the doors are always open for us. Other ways of playing and writing, other flavours are always welcome in what we do.
But to answer your question there is definitely a love of English music at the core of Flipron’s influences: The Kinks, Small Faces, Madness, Syd Barrett, Bowie. But other key elements would be 60s psychedelia (not just British), old-time records like Hawaiian, blues, jazz and country from the 20s & 30s onwards, 70s new wave, glam rock, a touch of 2-Tone, a nod to Charles Trenet, Jacques Brel, Alex Harvey, Sparks, a pinch of Bollywood even. We like to call it “Musical Promiscuity,” a pretty shameless term, but there we are.
But words are important too — poets like Kenneth Patchen and Basil Bunting have had an influence on Flipron songs. Those are writers whose tone seems to my ear most musical. Words make their own music as well as meaning, and the marriage of music and meaning is something that we struggle for with the unfolding Flipron libretto.
But writers who can conjure images appeal too. I’m thinking specifically of Lee Harwood, the English poet, but Lorca, Trakl, Rimbaud too. I have been obsessed with Lee Harwood’s poems for years. His work is the direct opposite of a Flipron song though — it’s spacious, uncluttered & unhurried.
Obviously we’re writing pop songs rather than poems, but you have to look around at people who really know what to do with words or you get trapped in pop world forever.
Anyway, I like songs best that fire little bullets into me when I’m listening. By that I mean pictures and stories and lost glances and tragic rages. You have to have the words properly compressed to make that happen. But steeped in colour and spices and moods. That’s what we aspire to.
WIM: Neville Staple from The Specials guests on your new album. How did that come about?
Jesse: Neville is also a solo artist and has a regular band and our keyboard player Joe has been in Neville’s band for a number of years so they’re good friends. We had a twangy guitar instrumental with a sort of skippetty off-beat ska feel and it needed some kind of vocal encouragement. Nobody does this sort of thing quite like Neville Staple and,well, he’s a nice man and said yes and we couldn’t be more delighted with the result. He is a huge personality and when he performs he gives to it all that he has. He does the business for us in the video too!
Jesse: Rat is a wonderful human being, an excellent musician, a raconteur, a poker player, a lover of good wine and a celebrated Grail hunter. So obviously he’s good company and fun to work with.
We’ve known him for a number of years and he produced Gravity Calling, our last album, as well as our new one. He is a good producer in the standard sense that he works hard to find the right sound, the right performance, timing, tuning and all that stuff, but what I think he really brings to a studio is that he will always push you to go much further than you thought you could.
You discover new things about your own musicality working with Rat. He’s not afraid to experiment and that’s definitely made the new album a much more bold and confident record than it would have been otherwise.
But the Grail hunting stories and rock & roll tales are worth coaxing out of him! A good bottle or two of southern French red will usually help. Before you ask it would be doing a disservice to the stories to try to relate them now….
Jesse: We’re playing as much as we can. We’ve got a number of dates in the UK lined up until the end of the year, with more dates booked already for next year.
I think we’re in the process of trying to arrange a tour in Germany in the late Spring, maybe France and Spain as well. Wherever the audience is.
We toured briefly in the US in 2010 and then played SXSW last year and we really did fall in love with America, so we’ll have to come back soon. The only thing holding us back is that it costs so much for a band to do. If you’re just one person with an acoustic guitar then touring is easy and cheap. But having to get hold of drum kits and keyboards and amps for every gig, beds for four or five people every night, not to mention visas, it all adds up.
We’re not kids either so we can’t just drop everything and disappear into a world of rock’n’roll for six months. We have families and responsibilities and we don’t want to leave our loved ones for long periods unless we’re earning enough to justify it… But certainly we’ll come back as soon as we can!
Jesse: Well I’m afraid that I don’t know who One Direction’s Harry Styles is! I haven’t heard of One Direction. I just asked my wife and neither has she. Have you made him up? David wins anyway. He wins because of ‘Fantastic Voyage’ & a number of other songs. I think music of that kind of intensity can knock anyone down, chainsaws and everything…
WIM: You had me at “I don’t know who Harry Styles is.” One last question: Why does music matter?
Jesse: Well, why does my liver matter? A liver is a vital organ, same reason for music. Music is a vital organ and I think it is for a lot of people.
Flipron’s new album, Firework Shoes, will be out November 5 on Tiny Dog Records. And here are some tasty links:
Band website: http://www.flipron.co.uk/
Official Facebook Band Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Flipron-Official/397739733607013?ref=hl