October 17, 2017

Interview: Florist

Talking to Florist about their healing and light-filled new record.

One afternoon I went shopping with a friend for new shoes. It was a normal Sunday like any other, but even years later, I recall the little things. From the sun’s waning glow that lit each stretch of sidewalk we covered, to the creeping layer of haze cooled in the air, to the fresh rain that hit the road’s dry red brick and hugged its curbs in newly formed puddles. At random times, these moments flood back into my mind acting as brief snapshots of my memories there to remind me of where I’ve been. 

In their new album If Blue Could Be Happiness, Florist delves deeply into these passing snapshots. Working through the album’s rich and thoughtful tracks, vocalist Emily Sprague expands upon on the small moments: the colors, sights, and feelings of her experiences, and weaves their mounting significance into each melody. From the slow-burning “Fear of Losing this” to the airy snapping of “Glowing Brightly,” every track remains embedded with bits of Sprague’s memories, packaged and presented with incredible sincerity and composure. It’s ultimately this calming assurance that allows Sprague’s to continuously carry her words further, coaxing those not only willing to hear, but to listen and reflect upon their own experiences. As Emily and I walked down a busy Burlington street this past September we talked about the experiences that shaped If Blue Could Be Happiness and what she hopes her listeners to gain from its release. In between our talk of its recording process and its emphasis on color, we also took the time to get to know Emily’s favorite vinyl picks and how she unwinds on tour.

The Le Sigh: I’ve noticed from your Twitter, that you’re a big vinyl collector – what’s the best find you’ve gotten recently, and what’s your favorite in your collection if you could pick one?

Emily Sprague: Recently, I found a Karen Dalton record for $5 that’s worth like $300 and it’s just that kind of thing that never happens but I found it at a record store [filed] away in a $5 folk bin and it was just like the kind of thing that somebody who doesn’t really know that she [now has] this huge cult following was probably just like, oh this is just some generic girl folk shit. So, definitely, that was my best find recently. And, my favorite in my collection is probably Plantasia by Mort Garson, it’s like an all Moog synthesizer orchestrated record – it’s music for plants. And it’s amazing sounding, it’s one of my favorite records ever.

TLS: Is something that you play for plants – like to help them grow?

ES: Yeah! The copy that I have comes with the original booklet and every track is named after a different plant [as] a sort of like an ode to that plant and in the booklet, there’s care tips for different types of plants. You are supposed to play the record for your plants but it’s beautiful music 0 it’s like so amazing sounding.

TLS: If you were going to have a listening party for the premiere for If Blue Could Be Happiness in your living room, playing it on vinyl, and you could invite any one person dead or alive, who would it be? 

ES: Hm, dead or alive? Oh man, maybe Pauline Oliveros. She’s deceased but she was a really amazing composer and also just had this really beautiful philosophy on listening. She wrote the book called “Deep Listening” which is one of my favorite sort of music, sound philosophy meditation books. It’s kind of like sound meditation through listening to your surroundings. So, she is a big inspiration of mine and I feel like I’d want to invite someone that was into sound healing.

TLS: The album was recorded in a schoolhouse close to the Catskills where you grew up, how was that process different than The Birds Outside Sang? And did you prefer this more secluded environment? 

ES: We definitely had way more space when we recorded this new album—it was basically one floor but we had the whole open floor plan of this space to set up and do our recording. When we did The Birds Outside Sang it was in a lofted area of some practice space type thing and we couldn’t even stand. I could stand but Johnny and Rick could barely even stand and we basically recorded it all sitting down. The process of recording the new album was definitely better, we had a better experience. We didn’t live track as much on the first album and that was something that in the long run was more beneficial for the recordings and the arrangements. So yeah, it was a really great experience recording this new record, it was fun recording the last one too, but this one was definitely special.

TLS: Color as a motif plays a big part in this record, especially on tracks like “What I Wanted to Hold.” You say that song talks about the things, colors specifically, we associate with parts of our life. What colors or words do you associate with the new record? 

ES: The album is obviously largely blue, that was the biggest feeling or [representation] of color. Red is also a big part of the album, as well as yellows and golds.

TLS: Mostly primary colors? 

ES: Yeah, primary colors and grays.

TLS: So, my follow-up question, associating a color with yourself, if you were going to be a crayon, which color would you be? Could be in a 64-color box, even a 152-color box. 

ES: Man, I don’t even know if I know the names of the colors. It’d probably be a color that is somewhere between blue and like right on the edge of green – almost like a seafoam.

TLS: Almost like a teal? 

ES: Yeah but like minty, but more blue than that and then super-whited out, like very very light. I’ve gone through so many different color phases [but] my favorite color has always been some shade of blue or cool thing like that. It’s gotten to the point now and I was a crayon, it’d have to be something like that.

TLS: Your record also makes so many references to “light” in past records and with for If Blue Could Be Happiness plenty of which are in the names themselves such as “Understanding Light,” “Eyes in the Sun,” “Glowing Brightly,” “Thank you Light.” Is there an importance behind this symbol of sun and light in the record? 

ES: Yeah, light is very much the comfort thing, but light on the record is also something that has control over itself and is sort of the idea of appreciating the things that you have but knowing that like light, like when there’s a beautiful light being projected on your wall or something, you see it and you’re like oh man that’s so nice, it’s coming through trees… and that you look at that kind of thing and you’re just like wow I love that and maybe you try to take a picture of it, but it’s always going to change and it’s always going to go away because the light is always moving and [it’s] always giving and taking. You wake up one morning and it’s sunny, you wake up one morning and it’s overcast.

All of the things that you think of when being warm and being in the light—they’re all good things, but it’s also like having that other eye open and being aware that light is also going to take away what it gives you. Yeah, that’s sort of my relationship with light. Light is on the last record a lot too. It’s just one of those things, I don’t know, I love the way it feels to talk about light and talk about emotions.

TLS: You’re going to be on tour for the next month or so—when you’re on the road do you have anything you do to not burn out or go insane? 

ES: Yeah, this tour I’m doing yoga. I’ve never done that on a tour before, but I recently just started in the last six months doing it in my normal life. I did it earlier this afternoon when we first got to the venue and that feels good. Yeah, I don’t know, I try to drink a lot of water and I stopped drinking coffee on the last tour. Years ago, we used to go on tour and it was more like house parties every night—all DIY shows, all house shows—and I used to kind of party every night and I don’t do that at all anymore and it really helps me.

It’s mostly just physically taking care of myself. That’s usually a huge factor in why I’m experiencing anxiety or even moodiness is usually very animalistic like, I need protein like right now.

TLS: What’s your go-to snack on tour? 

ES: Either a Larabar or beef jerky.

TLS: I like the question if you were to have to eat your way out of a pool of a certain food, which food would it be? 

ES: I think it’d have to be blueberries. I feel like I could do that—I don’t think I could do anything else.

TLS: Beef Jerky would be a little hard.

ES: Yeah, I definitely could not eat my way out of a pool of beef jerky.

TLS: Is there anything you want listeners to know before going into the record? Or something you want them to take away or learn from it? 

ES: Yeah, I mean, I guess just that the record was for me, while I was writing it, very personal and a very necessary transitional and healing experience. My therapy with it is over, and now I just want everyone to know that it’s for everybody and all the songs have personal details about my life but it’s meant to be very transient and meant to be very accessible for anyone.

Just like the last record, if you’re listening to it and are in any way finding peace with whatever hard situation you’re in or any standard life thing that happens, that’s all I really want for the music I write, and the music that we as Florist record and give out to everybody. It’s a universal album, it’s not just about one thing, it’s not just about grieving or just about change or just about loneliness. It really is about the whole concept of just what it all feels like.

Listen to Florist on bandcamp.

Amy Garlesky is a philosophy/political science student and freelance writer based in Cleveland, OH and Burlington, VT. Follow her ramblings on twitter @ayygarl.