Go With Your Gut: An interview with Flasher

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Flasher interview

Flasher aren’t the same band they were four years ago. That’s inevitable, not merely because of the logistical and psychological effect that two-plus years of a pandemic has had on everyone, but simply because of the passage of time. Change is simply part of growing up, an unavoidable side effect of being human.

But shortly after the release of the band’s 2018 album Constant Image, the then-Washington, D.C. based group began a significant period of transition, some of it unplanned and some of it that had been in the works for a long time. Not long after that album dropped, bassist Daniel Saperstein left the group, leaving Taylor Mulitz and Emma Baker to weigh whether to find a new full-time third member or continue on as a duo. Mulitz and his partner left D.C. to live in California, and then, of course, the pandemic happened, which caused even more uncertainty and necessary recalibration. But it also presented the group with a new opportunity.

“When everything shut down, we lost our day jobs and so we were all living on unemployment and were basically able to live together at Owen [Wuerker]’s studio, which is also his house, for a month, and we recorded this record,” Mulitz says. “We had our own very isolated utopia in June 2020, and it was pre-vaccine, so it was still pretty scary.”

On Love Is Yours, out this week via Domino Records, that evolution and realignment is reflected in the group’s sound as well. Its songs, though still loaded with big hooks and infectious melodies, are less agitated and dense, allowing more space and room to breathe between their anthemic choruses and guitar-jangle verses. It’s a record that feels bright, warm, even comfortable, in spite of some of the feelings of uncertainty, growing pains and escape that Mulitz and Baker explore throughout its 13 songs.

“I think of it as a summer record,” Mulitz says. “Some of the themes are heavy, but I think it’s pretty light-hearted and I like to imagine people listening to it, driving around with the windows down in the summer.”

We spoke to Mulitz and Baker via Zoom about being a bicoastal band, personal change and musical obsessions.

Treble: The two of you now live on opposite coasts—how has that changed how you operate as a band?

Taylor Mulitz: It definitely presents challenges. I’ve flown back here quite a few times to rehearse and get things ready, but I think TBD, as far as what it’s gonna look like moving forward. But Emma has two very close family members that live in the Bay Area, so you could also fly out there.

Emma Baker: Just set up the practice space and I’ll be there.

TM: It’s been, as you know from talking to people and I’m sure you’ve experienced this yourself, a bleak and uninspiring time. I mean, just within the past six months I’ve felt the creative juices have been flowing at all. And just in preparation for this tour, I’m coming back into some sense of self. So after we start to get in the swing of things, I’ll have a better answer for you.

Treble: You’ve also since been operating as a duo since the release of Constant Image. What kind of effect has that had?

EB: It’s changed the sound a lot, first and foremost. I feel the dynamic is easier, because when you’re in a trio, there’s always someone who’s left out or not in agreement with the other two people. That’s how it felt with a lot of Flasher before Danny left. But it’s felt easy writing music.

TM: There was definitely a scary moment in late…I guess it was summer of 2018. We played a few summer festivals, Pitchfork in Chicago and Pickathon in Oregon. Danny had already left the band but we were still in the last leg of the touring cycle. We had someone fill in, which was fine, but when we started to look at what the future of the band was, yeah, there was a little bit of fear. Do we keep going? Is this still the band? What is it going to look like? Luckily once we started writing, it all felt really natural and refreshing. Sometimes you need something to jumpstart a new chapter before things start to feel stale. But things change, and I’m glad we were able to adapt. 

Treble: It’s interesting you mentioned the change in sound. Constant Image felt very much like a product of the three of you all playing together in the same room, lots of kinetic energy. Where as there’s a wider range of sounds this time, more spacious and reflective, even. Do you think that’s a natural side effect of how you write together, or was it something you explicitly sought out?

TM: I think both, honestly, operating from a different set of influences and things we were listening to at that time. We’d already been writing individually things that are a little more poppy, not as frenetic sounding. Just looking for that reflective space in the music. And I think the process of us writing was a lot of demoing and playing in front of a computer instead of jamming live.

EB: I think the process had a big effect on making it sound different. Everything on this record is a lot more melody- and vocal-forward in the end because that’s what we were working with. With demos it was like guitars and then doing vocal ideas on top of that.

TM: That was more of the starting point versus the last record, where we’d have a full song written and structured and layered and then it would be like, “time to write vocals!”

Treble: You said you were listening to different music before writing these songs. I know I personally went through several periods of just going through deep dives on different music during the early days of the pandemic. Did you experience something similar?

TM: Yes, but honestly because a lot of this was written before the pandemic, it was just that stuff that was in the in-between period. But I will say, looking back, at first I didn’t listen to much music at all. All I could do was walk in the forest and play animal crossing. And what was that show? Tiger King

EB: Yeah, the first season of Love is Blind.

TM: But we both, at that time, were listening to Lily Konigsberg, who’s in the band Palberta. I listened to her a lot, Grace Ives. And just a lot of the music that’s just in constant rotation: Arthur Russell, Beach House, Lucinda Williams, Kate Bush, Broadcast, Stereolab. 

Treble: Did you learn something new in the process of making this record?

TM: Yeah, I think we’re both much better at using recording equipment. Before that, Danny was a very talented engineer, so we just let them take care of it. I feel like I have a lot more confidence in myself and the two of us.

EB: I can play bass now, I couldn’t before.

TM: Emma’s a total savant, she played everything! And we’re bringing that into the live set, which is exciting and scary. But yeah, I think the main thing is just to trust your gut, and try not to overthink the process. We definitely worked on these songs a lot and they changed tremendously.

EB: But I know what you mean, going with your gut and trusting your instincts. I think in the past we’d shut down ideas really quickly. 

TM: Sometimes there are things that seemed too obvious. But then again, sometimes things are obvious because they’re intuitive.

Treble: Do you feel you’ve changed on a more personal level?

TM: Yeah.

EB: Yeah.

TM: For sure. In a lot of ways. Physical realities changed. But I hope that we’ve grown as people. I don’t know. In a stage of figuring out what’s next, it still feels like there’s a lot of change to come and decisions we’ve made. I guess I’m kind of waffling on the answer because yes, I feel like I’ve changed a lot. This is just like a stupid example, but my DNA is so hardwired for the things I like. Like I’ll Shazam a song, and be like “I like this song,” and find out that I’d already done it. I’m just one person.

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