Interview: Flowers Must Die
Belatedly discovered via Kommun2 some years ago, the hypnotic rumble of these free spirits became firmly lodged in my skull. Then more recently, another flurry of activity caught my attention. With the flowers in full bloom it seemed opportune to delve into their roots before they either wither away or are trampled underfoot. But much like the seasons, any changes in the cycle have been subtle and they come back, renewed, time and time again, brighter and bolder than before…
Flowers Must Die is a strong and feisty name! Are promoters ever afraid to book the band?
Well, promoters are maybe afraid of booking anything that doesn’t look or sound sexy, attractive or profitable these days. Our name comes from an Ash Ra Temple song and just that, a guideline for what kinda music we play or at least in which kinda vein we want to create music. The name also reflects the contrast that we try to present in the band: music that is free and psychedelic, hippie, prog or whatsoever and other times dark, noisy or just weird. And I think the name is simply perfect! It’s like you say, strong and feisty but it’s also just a very natural and simple meaning: everything will DIE!
Please describe the atmosphere of your last gig!
It was in Gothenburg in Sweden. The promoter, Höga Nord, who also released our latest 12” vinyl, hosted the night and we opened up for our friends Hills. It was a great gig and I think we actually nailed all songs with only one rehearsal. A weekend gig with about 400 people on a massive PA helped us play well and the audience was even dancing!
Which songs did you play or was it an improvised jam? How did they compare to those that appear on the records?
We opened up with the track ”Dimman” which is from our first vinyl and a classic track for us that we felt was time to dust off a bit! It sounded quite much as on the record. Then I think we played a new track with no name so far, the working title is ”Nya funklåten” and as the name suggests it’s a bit funky. Then we moved on to a cover of Sade´s “Why can’t we live together” but as always I don’t think people would say it’s strictly a cover! We just borrow the bass line and some other parts of the song. We have some recordings of it too but not one of them is perfect yet. We finished with the track “Montana” from the latest release and did a good version of that song.
To what extent does your live set differ to a typical rehearsal? Do you experiment with guest musicians or is the core band fairly steady and crucial on each occasion?
From the start, we wanted to be free and always like to think of ourselves as Amon Düül or Incredible String Band, as a big family that creates music all day long, while kids run around and bang on sauce pans! We have invited guests on vocals, electric Oud, Clarinet, flute and percussion at live gigs. The difference between our live and recorded tracks is that we at least decide which tracks we are gonna play when we play live, but often it’s only with one rehearsal and very often not with the whole band so a lot is based on jams and improvisation!
It seems that 2014/15 has been a prolific period! Beginning with the 7″ single, was it challenging to be comparatively concise to create songs that fit the format?
Yes, it has been, although at the same time, all tracks on both the 12” and the 7” were recorded some years ago! The new material that we recorded in 2014 and more recently in 2015 are for future releases. I am a big fan of 7” singles but for sure our music is hard to fit in that format. “Psykjunta” was around eight minutes so we just cut it. “Pärsonligt Söund” is also from a longer session. On the later recording sessions, we have actually managed to do songs around six minutes and even down to four minutes without thinking it should fit on a 7” or not!
The throbbing bass of “Psykjunta” really means business! It acts as a heavy anchor around which the guitars circle, ripple and spread. It must be a blast to jam out, speed up and slow down…
Yes, it’s a massive bass line! The song was a first take and actually just a jam to set the levels of the instrument when we were in a studio in 2012 (I guess). An improvisation without Jonas on guitar. In 2013, when we were invited to play at the first Psykjunta festival in Sweden we also got the offer to include one song around six minutes on a compilation tape for the festival. We choose this one and finished it with some guitar tracks from Jonas and cut it to the right format. Then Rundgång Records thought it was the best track on that tape and wanted to release it on a 7” single so we just kept the working name – ”Psykjunta”
”Parsonligt Sound” is a much stranger and spacey affair. When it heavies up, it does so with gusto! What was your intention with this intense trip?
This is from a long improvisation in the studio, which we called “Pärson Sound” song after the fact because it had the same nerve as the great Swedish band with the same name. In the first part of the song everything is just muted with only some guitar and saxophone, so you can actually hear some of the drums and stuff way back in the background. The intention, at that time, I can’t really remember but from my side I played almost only Saxophone and tried to create the same hopeless frustration as from Brainbombs!
The Zeon Light cassette is a very different experience altogether! Were these songs recorded near or in the mountains to which you paid homage? How and why did they inspire you? Perhaps fond memories of childhood walks up Helags…
(Laughing) No, these tracks are actually recorded in a country house in another county from where Berg and Berga are located! The track names are more a game of words. Sure mountain is called “Berg” in Swedish but “Berg” and “Berga” refers to two towns, suburbs in the county of Östergötland where Linköping is in. The cover art is from a painting from Maria Segersäll, It’s a big collage with crayons, wool and paint and when I saw it I immediately thought it should be on a tape cover. She had an exhibition after she had a residence in the mountains of Norway
It’s difficult to imagine how a mountain might be captured in song although I have to say, I love the gentle shimmering guitar lines of “Berga” with residual synths at the back of the palette…
The tracks are not at all inspired by either the towns or mountains when they were recorded! But the last part ”Berga” of the tape reminds a little bit like the band Kebnekajse which took their name from a mountain in Sweden. As for our titles, we often found a theme after they are recorded, and rarely have we a title prepared before a recording. Often the title refers to where we have found our inspiration and it can often be very nerdy, like on the first album, we do a Angelic Upstarts “cover” of their song “Police Oppression” and on the single release of that song the other side contains “The Murder of Liddle Towers” so we paid an honour to both him and Angelic Upstarts and called the song “För Liddle Towers” !!!
Was the acoustic shift six and a half minutes in intended to be celestial? Another layer of heightened trance, per chance, aided by hand percussion?
I’m sorry that I have to let you know it’s not like that… The tape is really three songs recorded separately, so the first four minutes of “Berg” is the same song as the first six minutes of “Berga” so not some higher forces making cosmic things happen! Maybe just good mixing? (Laughing!)
Listening back, where does the trail of reflection take you?
Hard to say! All improvisations and a first take on this particular song! I think we started with Sven playing the flute and went from there, probably with some idea of doing something more folky. At this session, we also recorded “Sally free and easy” in the vein of Trees version. That and being surrounded with only woods we probably felt the call of nature and created some shamanistic folk music.
Whilst the very beginning of the a-side shares some common ground, “Berg” is an odd and minimalist synth journey. Why such an unsettling detour?
All those tracks come from the week of recording in a country house where we had the idea of not play our “usual” instrument on all songs. We brought loads of instruments, both acoustic and quite a few synths, so at this track, three of us play synths. Most of us are very inspired and listen to a lot of synth, ambient and kosmishe music so at times we like to improvise with fewer guitars!
Hopping between formats and labels, your brand new recording is a 12″ picture vinyl! Having not yet heard the side-long jaunts please describe the background to these sessions. How did they happen and to what extent were they improvised rather than composed?
The first track, “Montana” is one we have played live many times almost like a standard (for being us) but we have never recorded it properly (we thought) so when Höga Nord asked us to release a 12” in their series of picture discs we dug through our recordings and realised we actually did have one good recording of this song. We just added some small things, like more synths. The title name refers to Jonas Hanna Montana guitar, which creates that oriental vibe to the song. We also thought the name Montana sounded a bit exotic, because we often use Swedish titles. ”Nusrat” is a cover idea from Sven, and as the title says, it’s a “cover” of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Also there we had two-three recordings and thought none had “IT”. But again we got the master tracks from the studio recordings and just had to add the lead guitar and then it was another hit!!!
Please describe in detail your impressions of “Montana” and “Nusrat” respectively! Do they provide light and dark contrast like the single and cassette before them?
Well, I think of them as light and positive tracks. The tape might be darker and weirder but then the last track of “Berga” is more similar to the “Höga Nord” release. The 7” is more intense and the track “Pärsonligt Söund” is dark and mystic. I think most people will think both “Montana” and “Nusrat” are more direct and easy to like with loads of melodies. They are even dancy! “Nusrat” begins very laid-back with a drone sound like in a Raga and with Djembe, it builds up with some guitars and a bass line which again is basically the only thing taken from the original song. The intro is six minutes long and then it explodes with four or five guitar tracks and some handclaps like a true Qawwali song…
The Flowers Must Die canon is undoubtedly vast and diverse. I would generally suggest readers begin with “III” DLP for the scale and scope. What would you recommend? Why?
Yes, you get most music for the money then! (Laughing) It’s certainly a good start. It’s like all of our records so far, recordings from different years and studios. But with longer playtime, you get almost all the kinds of music we play from the opening track of minimalistic motorway rock to Sabbath style Hard Rock to Swedish hippie-folk music to improvised No-Jazz and Oriental weirdness to the Hawkwind-ish encore!
But as always, bands would recommend the latest release and for this time too, I think it’s the first time all of the members are so proud of all (yes, only two) songs!
Talk me through the lack of vocals in your songs. Not that I feel anything is missing! But was it a conscious decision not to make use of this instrument from the beginning? Do you feel words distract and clutter?
Well, not really a decision! When Jonas and I started the band we were heavily influenced by bands like Sir Lord Baltimore, The Heads, Loop and Hawkwind and Jonas must have sang in most of his bands before so it wasn’t anything we said wasn’t going to happen during the first jams. But I think with that kinda massive Psych-Noise-Punk music we created, in the early days, we had a hard time trying to fit in some vocals, even if I tried sometimes. You can hear a example on A-side and the last song the tape on Rev/Vega Recs https://flowersmustdie.bandcamp.com/album/rvr-tape
Also for me, even if I listen to music with words I actually like instrumental music the most and if not instrumental I enjoy music in languages where I don’t understand the lyrics. I just hate music when people say, “It has such good lyrics” and then the music sucks! For sure, if combining great lyrics with great music I’m totally knocked, like Tim Hardin, Nina Simone or Scott Walker for example. Then saying all of this, I must inform you that we have got a singer in our band! Lisa Ekelund has sang and played electric violin with us for a month and we have recorded some new tracks together. She sang in the mighty band Katla before. So you will definitely hear some more songs with vocals in the future…
Is artwork also an important part of presentation?
Yes, when we started to talk about artwork for our first self-released vinyl, we decided that none of us should do it. We are all in some form interested or are doing some art, so it was easier to give it over to the hands of a sixth part. Also we wanted to have a signum for the covers so people can recognise them, like Derek Briggs and his art for Iron Maiden.
In the past, Danilo Stankovic was very much responsible for your colour sleeves yet you, your brother and Maria Segersäll have taken charge of the single and cassette. Going forward, will you be more hands on or is it really a release by release decision?
Like I said before, everyone in the band is an artist in some way, Lars, our drummer, is an art teacher and has been an artist since early ’80s. Jonas is a multi-talent and has both done some live videos and the cover art for the “Ljudkassetten” tape. Sven and I met at the art school where Lars is a teacher and Martin is really into old print techniques. We wanted Danilo to do all three covers for the Rev/Vega Recs releases. We all love Danilo and his work. We have already described him as a sixth member. But he has been doing so many other psych covers lately we felt it was important to strike out in different directions and will continue to invite collaborations with other artists…
How does Flowers Must Die fit in the local scene now compared to six or seven years ago? With which bands do you enjoy sharing the stage? And what are favourite venues? Any special regular festivals?
I think it’s hard for us to comment on the local scene when being split between two towns and now even three towns and two countries! But if we look into Linköping where we formed and where four live now, it’s a small town with two or three venues and then some art places. The bands now and six to seven years back are into Hard Rock more than experimental acts, which we are more labelled as when it comes to genres. The scene is the same with not many original bands around and hardly no record shops. As Lars used to say about the crowd who goes to concerts “Rogga people” referring to a name of a country man going into town to get drunk as hell and yell loudly with (at least) one beer in the hand while shaking the hands up and down in front of the stage and for sure has a huge lump of snus under his lip (yes, it’s always dudes). But there are some good things too. The record label, Gaphals, has put up some great live shows and releases loads of records, Ljudkassetten, who released our live tape, is based there and the art gallery, Passagen, is really good.
For Malmö, where I lived for almost eight years, I would say it’s the opposite. The only difference is that people are poor and don’t wanna spend £4 on three touring bands from the abroad. But it’s a vibrant city where the underground culture is big, many venues and many bands. Although the last one or two years, it’s beginning to be harder to get shows and people to go to the shows. Some live venues are doing less or stopped doing live shows and are focusing on disco. With bands, there are some really good ones out there both now and before, some that I have worked with and have supported since their start, such as Ved, Technicolor Poets and Skeppet and then we have the mighty NOS/Noe Spagato which is a legend in the Malmö area, he is truly a one of a kind.
About sharing stage, I would say the ones mentioned before and for Swedish bands overall, I really like Hills both as a band and as persons. Favourite venue is Truckstop Alaska, simply a great place, food, drinks, sound, the aura of the place and even the accommodation. Also the gigs we have done with Klubb Kristallen have been great even if the venues have not been so good all the time. And for sure my own place singsang in Malmö, just the best place for shows!!! And for festivals we have only played at one in Sweden but it’s also the best, Psykjunta!
Living in London, have the cities much in common for fans and budding musicians?
Hmm, maybe too early to answer? I have only been in London since March this year. But what I have noticed here is that people are willing to pay for an entrance and are curious about hearing new music. Sometimes in Sweden, people are afraid that the music isn’t cool or hip enough. People there are very sensitive and nervous.
Flowers Must Die must be due their overseas debut! Any truth in the rumours that you will play the UK in and around Halloween with a well-known Japanese combo?
(Laughing) Yes, we hope so! We are aiming for three to five gigs in the UK as well as opening up for Acid Mothers Temple in Glasgow on 30 October this year.
What else will Flowers Must Die accomplish before the end of December?
Hopefully, one more release will see the light of day! We are planning some more recordings with Lisa but also have hours of material already so might do something with them too.
Thanks for the insights, Rickard! Anything we missed? Final thoughts?
Thanks, it has been a fun interview with good and interesting questions! Nothing missed. But we are hoping that more people will get to know about us and that we can come out and play more regularly. And as Lars used to say “soon we lie there in the eternal sleep” meaning it’s better to do stuff while we are up on our legs!