The Flavr Blue Talk ‘Bright Vices’ EP, Big-Up Seattle Scene
The members of Seattle's the Flavr Blue keep plenty busy with various side projects spanning the city's diverse music scene. They've collaborated with Macklemore and produced countless other hip-hop artists, but the synth-pop three-piece shines brightest when working together on records like the 'Bright Vices' EP, released late last year.
The group features producers and MCs Parker Joe and Lace Cadence, as well as Hollis Wong-Wear, noted for her co-writing and singing on Macklemore's 'White Walls.' In between live shows and heading back into the studio, the group answered some questions for Diffuser.fm about transitioning from hip-hop to electronic music, sharing songwriting duties and working with Seattle's best.
Coming from hip-hop backgrounds, how did you guys decide to explore more electronic sounds with the Flavr Blue? Parker and Lace, how did you first come together to start the group?
LC: I personally felt like, after rapping for over a decade, my creativity levels in hip-hop were tapped. Connecting with Parker and working in the studio was an opportunity for me to expand beyond the sound of hip-hop.
PJ: Lace and I have known each other for years… like maybe nine or ten. We collaborated together for the first time on my hip-hop group State of the Artist’s full-length SeaCal and started kicking it tough after that. We recognized we were into many of the same bands that were outside of our realm and pushing new sounds into pop music: Cut Copy, Savage Skulls, Miike Snow. We started crafting beats in the studio together just to apply our hip-hop knowledge to a new, four-to-the-floor style.
What about Hollis joining for the track 'In My Dream' made her seem like a fit for the group? Can you talk about how that initial recording happened?
HW: By the time the guys invited me into the studio, they were basically done with a first EP and wanted me to come in and feature on the last track. I was friends with the dudes from being in the hip-hop scene myself, and Parker had been my go-to engineer for a few years, but we had never collaborated. I had just started taking my R&B songwriting seriously after rapping and writing poetry for hella years and was open to any and all opportunities to work with different producers. I came through, sat in the little vocal closet with the beat for a half hour, and then we started laying down the vocals. It came together so quickly that it surprised us all. We were rather amped.
LC: The way the song came together effortlessly excited us, and we knew that adding Hollis’ dynamic as a vocalist, songwriter and someone who’s managed bands in the past and had a growing savvy would bring a whole new energy to our group.
What’s the biggest challenge of having three songwriters in one group? How are you able to split those duties?
LC: It’s a challenge we embrace. I’d almost say it’s easier to work and bounce ideas off of each other, check each other. It’s a much quicker editorial process when the three of us are in a room.
HW: I was a poet first, so I’m mad particular, critical and solitary when it comes to my own songwriting. It’s definitely been a challenge for me to open up my internal writing process, but it has definitely resulted in stronger songwriting!
I love the new soundscapes on 'Bright Vices.' Can you talk about recording the EP? What do you see as the biggest differences between this record and your previous release, 'Pisces'?
HW: Creating 'Pisces,' I think, was all about getting our bearings as a group. What are we capable of creating in the studio? We made straightforward house tracks, beautiful R&B songs, driving club anthems, pushing ourselves as producers and songwriters and musicians. I also honestly wasn’t in the room for half the songs on 'Pisces,' only the ones I sang on. It was made over almost a year of working together.
I’d say 'Bright Vices' is a portrait of who we are now, collectively. We were all there from the first note, present for each word and line laid down. We’ve also been performing with each other throughout the year, unlike 'Pisces,' where we only knew each other in a studio setting, so we’re much more gelled in terms of how we want to sound, what we know our people will respond to and what we’ll be excited to perform. And it came together in a couple of months, in the midst of festival shows and making our live experience as spectacular as possible. We put all of our sounds and sensibilities into each song on the EP, and weren’t worried about getting weird.
Why make 'Bright Vices' available for free download?
LC: Simple: We want as many people to hear the music we’ve made as possible. You can still buy it online through iTunes and other mediums, and our digital distributor Ingrooves has been amazing about getting our music out through digital platforms. But we were inspired by how the Weeknd did his thing with his first mixtapes: Go to his website, download the music immediately, have it at any moment, no second guessing. People bumping the music is more valuable than anything.
Seattle has such an eclectic music scene. Who are some of your favorite area artists right now? What do you think makes the Pacific Northwest a good place for artists?
PJ: I’d say our favorite Seattle artists right now are Kingdom Crumbs, Iska Dhaaf, Astronomar, the Physics, JusMoni, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. There’s so much amazing music coming out of Seattle and the through-line isn’t a similar sound or style but how we approach our music, create something to live by and push the production to extremes to define your own style.
There’s something about living in a city that allows for a well-rounded lifestyle and contributes to our music scene being wildly creative. I’ve lived in New York City as well and really responded to the energy there. We’re very DIY -- a lot of it is about being surrounded by resources and people that can help you produce your best art, and then building a strong organic network of fans that will support it.