Throughout their debut album, which was released last year via Fueled By Ramen, flor create a truly distinctive world of sound - vocalist Zach Grace’s stunning delicate vocals layer atop production from the group’s Dylan Bauld (who’s worked previously producing for Halsey), which paired with guitarist McKinley Kitts and drummer Kyle Hill makes for a captivating album, telling stories of worlds and true human emotion.
The four-piece hail from Oregon, and formed after meeting in high school together - a bond which continues to prosper now as the band have begun work on new music, telling us that “there’s a creative energy with all of us right now.”
We recently spoke with flor’s Zach Grace and McKinley Kitts about their debut album, creating worlds within songs, and new flor music…
...the worlds that we create in other people are the most beautiful part of life. To be there for other people, to be lifting people up, to be encouraging, I think that’s the purest pursuit we can follow.
COUP DE MAIN: How’s tour going so far with MisterWives and Flint Eastwood?
FLOR - ZACH GRACE: It’s been really fun actually. We didn’t really know the bands going into it, but we’ve grown to love them so much. Both of them have so much passion and intensity about what they’re doing, and it’s inspiring us to be passionate about what we do. It is kind of changing our approach to things a little bit - I think it’s important, every time you go on tour with someone, you learn a little bit. So we’re doing that.
FLOR - MCKINLEY KITTS: There’s also this tricky thing where a lot of bands kind of keep their distance and have a surface-level communication until the last week, and then all of a sudden you get really close, then it’s over. But I feel like on this tour everyone has bonded pretty early on, I think we’re only halfway through and everyone is really close and getting along really well. Yesterday we played a festival in Memphis, Tennessee, and MisterWives played the same stage as us, so being able to hang out with them and steal their WiFi was great.
CDM: I really love the melodies in ‘Warm Blood’, I think it’s one of my favourites of your songs. How do you guys go about composing melodies?
ZACH: That one was really interesting and special. I think it’s our favourite song collectively, as a band.
MCKINLEY: We feel like that song represents our sound and craft.
ZACH: I think we feel that way because of the melodies, like you stated. For that one, I had some chords, those dreamy, spacey, airy chords, and I felt like the only way to compliment them was with these cascading melodies. So really, all I’m doing is following simple scales, but it’s all about the phrasing that I use, and the spacing - where and how I decide to say the words.
MCKINLEY: And that’s kind of Zach’s thing. Other songwriters we’re friends with in L.A., whenever I’m hanging out with them and Zach isn’t there, they like to talk about the way he spaces his lyrics and his melodies. The pre-chorus, the “wait for me, I’ll be coming, slow down,” it’s spaced in such an interesting way, and the way he times each word is so unique and special.
CDM: How does the flor production process work with Dylan [Bauld]?
ZACH: It’s really nice because I start a song in my room, and then all I have to do is take a little USB out to the living room. I don’t have to sit in 30 minutes or an hour of L.A. traffic to get a song going. It’s made me a little bit lazy, I will admit, because it’s very hard to go out and work on music outside of the house now. But it really starts with a basic song idea from me - Dylan will peek his head in the room and say, ‘I like what you’re doing,’ or, ‘I don’t like what you’re doing,’ and then we go from there. He really takes the song from being an amateur piece of work that I’m working on, to making it a polished and beautiful final product.
CDM: Please thank Dylan for everything he’s done with Halsey - ‘Is There Somewhere’ is truly the best Halsey song ever, and he produced it.
MCKINLEY: That’s our favourite Halsey song too!
ZACH: We would agree. We’ll let him know that other people agree with us too.
CDM: I love the lyrics in ‘Warm Blood’, “Safe and sound here in our world.” Do you think that when people are in a relationship or a friendship, they live in their world?
ZACH: They do, and that’s really what I was trying to capture. It kind of plays into this idea that maybe we don’t live in one world, maybe we live in multiple worlds, and maybe we create the worlds we live in--
MCKINLEY: And you can travel between them.
ZACH: Yeah. It really speaks to me, because I’m so visual, and in my life I am always looking for every experience. Every day I wake up and think, ‘Man, it sucks that I’m never gonna be able to be a soccer player, because that probably would’ve been an amazing life to lead.’ Or, ‘It sucks that I don’t get to be an actor because that would’ve been an amazing life to lead.’ So I find myself in these different worlds, and it can apply to something like a relationship, and oftentimes it does. When I’m touring with the band, it seems like a whole different world to when I’m home and not touring - touring with these guys feels magical and special, and hard, it has its struggles as well.
MCKINLEY: In ‘Warm Blood’ in particular, you kind of step into that relationship’s world, you’re just existing in this bubble for three or four minutes. It seems like you got the point of the song!
ZACH: <laughs> I deviated a bit there, but to get back to your original question, I do think that each relationship that we have with people is a different world. I really go into that idea, and when I thought about the world I was living in for this song, I thought about the calmness, I thought about restfulness.
CDM: It kind of reminds me of this thing I’ve seen going around online about how each relationship you have with a different person, you exist as a different character in their world - you think of yourself as a main character in your own story, but you actually exist as all these different types of characters.
ZACH: I was literally just having this conversation with someone two days ago. You can live selfishly, and you can live in your own world, or you can live as this supporting character infinitely in other people’s worlds. I think that’s a way cooler way to live your life.
MCKINLEY: Especially as artists, we travel to a new city every day, and we talk to a fan for ten minutes and we’re transported into their world - we’re living such a constantly moving existence. So the only way to stay sane is to travel in and out of these little experiences and snapshots of other people's lives.
CDM: In ‘heart’, the second verse touches on the idea of entertaining people “that we create” - what was running through your mind when writing those lyrics, and that song?
ZACH: That was actually a pretty angsty song, to be honest. It seems light and happy, but I was pretty ticked off when I was writing ‘heart’. I was tired of being told what to do, I was tired of our music having to fit a certain sound, or tie closely to a different artist that wasn’t working at the time. So that whole idea is that we build up these images of people in our own heads, we have an internal conversation with ourselves, and before we know it, we’ve created a whole different person who never really even existed, but now we hold them in this standard that we’ve created. It’s really just speaking out about the danger of that, you need to let a person exist how they say they exist. Your definition of them will probably never be their definition of them, and that’s gonna be okay, that’s how it should be.
CDM: What was it about ending high school, which inspired you guys to start making music together?
ZACH: We all felt like we really wanted to be musicians, we wanted to be in a band, and touring, and we came from a small town - so really, the four of us were the only ones from our town that wanted to dedicate their lives to that. So we got really lucky, because we like each other a lot.
MCKINLEY: There wasn’t necessarily a moment when we were like, ‘Oh, we’re not going to school, we’re going to do this,’ it’s just kind of a series of saying, ‘What’s next?’ One day we realised it had been a couple of years of taking the next step, and maybe you’ve gone far enough and got where you want to be. I think we just kept saying, ‘What’s next? This tour is good, what are we doing next?’ Then we signed a record deal, then we wrote an album. 'What’s next?' We toured on the album, we did a headline tour, and we’re still saying that every day. We wake up in our hotel rooms every day and say, ‘What are we gonna do next with this band?’
CDM: I really like the sentiment in ‘hold on’ where you sing, “Know that it's you / The reason that I come alive, come alive.” Do you think that it’s important for other people to help bring out the best in one another?
ZACH: I absolutely do. I think if you live a solitary existence, you’re gonna be very lonely. It kind of plays back into the idea of the worlds that we create, the worlds that we create in other people are the most beautiful part of life. To be there for other people, to be lifting people up, to be encouraging, I think that’s the purest pursuit we can follow. Our band has done a pretty good job of doing that, we’re always proud of each other and the different things we’re accomplishing. We also let all our friends know, and other band-friends know how much we love what they’re doing.
MCKINLEY: We try to have a system of constant reassurance and uplifting and support. That comes to our fans as well - whenever we see fans being creative with art or photos, we try to involve them as much as possible, give out photo passes for aspiring photographers, encouraging our fans to travel. We’ve had fans from Europe come over to our American shows, and from America to our shows over in Ireland, and that’s so cool, they’re people that maybe wouldn’t have been travelling otherwise - and now because of our family and what we’ve created around this album, they’re gonna cross the ocean and go to another country. I think that’s fantastic, and we’re constantly reassuring this family to be close and supportive.
CDM: I really love the lyrics in ‘Unsaid’, “Can't be my selfish nature, can't be my sin / Are these feelings I long for best left unsaid?” Do you think humans are naturally selfish? That it’s just part of our ‘nature’?
ZACH: I don’t think that anyone would decide that on their own. I think that it’s nature. I think it comes down to something as basic and evolutionary as, ‘How do you survive?’ Oftentimes you just have to be thinking of yourself when you’re making decisions. Every day, I think, is a struggle to remember that you need to be cognisant of everyone else.
MCKINLEY: It’s also habitual. It’s one of those things that if you spend a lot of time on your own, doing your own thing, or not paying attention to the needs and wants of others, you’re gonna slump into that sad little 'nitch'.
CDM: You were listening to some demos back in April when driving through France - what can you tell us about new flor music at the moment?
MCKINLEY: We like it, a lot.
ZACH: These next couple of months we’re going to be putting a lot of time and energy into the next songs for flor, and what that means. It’s going to be a lot of going back to those demos and listening to them, building on them, and building our new world. We have plenty of ideas and themes that we want to pursue - I don’t want to get too much into it because everything is subject to change, always, but we’re excited about what we’re doing, more than we’ve ever been.
MCKINLEY: There’s a bubbling creative energy with all of us right now. We’re on the road right now, so we can’t be in the studio as much, but I think everyone has snippets of ideas - whether it’s guitar parts that we can figure out at soundcheck, or lyrics being jotted down in the van. You can feel a little bit of--
ZACH: A buzz!
MCKINLEY: Yeah. When we get the break that we need from hitting the road at the end of the Summer, there’s gonna be some really special things happening, musically.
CDM: You guys are signed to Fueled By Ramen, who are renowned for cultivating a fanbase within their label. What have your experiences been like signed to FBR?
ZACH: We’ve really enjoyed our time with them. They are amazing. They’re hands-free, at least with us, which we really appreciated, and was something we wanted the most when we were looking for a record label. We were looking for someone that would really let our art exist in this world.
MCKINLEY: That’s one of the first things that they told us when we met them - they said it’s hard for a label to create a vision for a band. Manufacturing is so hard, so if they’re able to sign a band that has its own vision, then they can just support that and give them the financial backing to hopefully show the world what the band is capable of. I think Fueled By Ramen is really invested in the vision and energy that we have.
ZACH: But more than Fueled By Ramen, I think it’s the small group of fans that we started out with that really helped grow our fanbase. People were looking in at who our fans were, what they were about, how they treat people - and that’s what attracted more fans. Obviously, Fueled By Ramen’s reach is awesome, being able to put up videos on their social media platforms is really helpful. But it’s more about the fans we have, talking about us, and getting excited about us, and then not being exclusive about it, wanting to invite everyone into the flor family. I think that’s what’s most special.
CDM: Plus people are clearly connecting with the music.
ZACH: We’re so lucky that people are connecting with what we’re saying, because I think anyone’s vision is valid, but does that mean anyone else is gonna connect to it? I don’t think that’s a given in any sense, so the fact that we have that spark happening is really nice.
CDM: A fan-site recently conducted a poll about who gives the best hugs, and McKinley you won! Zach, were you unhappy with the results?
ZACH: No, I can live with that. I do think that my hugs need some work, especially in circumstances where I don’t really know where-- I can’t really feel out what type of hug they’re wanting to receive. You always go on Twitter and find people that are like, ‘Man, he hugged me way too hard or way too long,’ so I normally give a medium hug.
MCKINLEY: And to be honest, I hired a bunch of Russian bots to vote for myself. <laughs> This is off the record, right?!
flor’s deluxe edition of their album ‘come out. you’re hiding’ is out now - click here to purchase.
Watch the ‘heart’ music video below…