Members: Taylor Mulitz on guitar, bassist Daniel Saperstein and drummer Emma Baker
This past week I was put in touch with the band Flasher from Washington D.C. They just completed a tour including a show at The Earl this past June, and are planning a return to Georgia when they play at The Georgia Theater in Athens supporting Ex Hex as part of Pop Fest.
Here’s me interviewing the band about their music, politics in art, and the dream of being sponsored by Toyota (specifically a Lake Placid Blue Toyota Minivan).
Jason: Hey hey, thanks for taking time to talk with me. Who do we have on the call?
Taylor: Hey this is Taylor Mulitz on guitar, bassist Daniel Saperstein and drummer Emma Baker. We’re driving in Washinton State at the moment finishing up this tour.
Jason: Awesome, glad to have everyone here! Just tell me a little bit about the band, the things you are dying people to know about you, or maybe the things that would surprise fans to find out.
Daniel: I’m a like a pretty rigorously trained ceramicist.
Jason: Oh wow, that’s some pretty specific art skill right there.
Daniel: It’s what I went to school for, and you know, sometimes writing songs feels like throwing a mug.
Jason: …throwing a what?
Daniel: Throwing a mug, you know, that’s what it’s called…
Jason: Oh right right *laughs*, well yeah I can see how songwriting is similar to other forms of creative art.
Emma: I was tap dancer for 12 years, but I don’t really think it will ever come up as far as the band goes.
Taylor: Maybe we’ll record her tap dancing and it will make it on a record.
Daniel: Yeah, tap dancing is a lot like songwriting.
Jason: There seems to be a theme here…
Taylor: I do all the graphic design for the band; album art, website images, posters, flyers… working with a lot of layers in Photoshop can be a lot
Daniel: … like songwriting!
Jason: *laughs* I think I knew you were going to say that. So now that we have some of the important details squared away, what’s the inspiration for the name Flasher?
Daniel: It’s Taylor’s grandfathers middle name.
Jason: Really? That’s a pretty interesting name…
Jason: I’m guessing that’s not the real answer…
Taylor: *laughs* yeah, no. Band names are a lot like tattoos, at a certain point you feel like you like it and you just say fuck it and hope you’ll like it down the road. And then when anyone asks what it’s about you just make something up.
Daniel: My Bloody Valentine is my favorite band in the world and it took me like 5 years to realize how stupid their name is.
Jason: That makes sense, sometimes you just gotta go with something and hope it still resonates later on. If not, oh well there have been better bands with worse names. That being said, are you very intentional with meaning in your songs, or do you enjoy letting your fans project their own meaning onto them? Has there ever been a time where fans were projecting meaning that you didn’t like?
Daniel: We are intentional with fans projecting their own meaning.
Jason: So… “yes.”
Daniel: Yes. We aim to have a participatory experience when listening to our music. There’s a fascist mentality in an artist who wants to control the experience of others. Hopefully the record doesn’t stop with what we intended.
Taylor: If anything we don’t like what music writers have to say about the music, everything is so calcified and one dimensional. We want to explore ideas with the audience. So just because a song mentions drugs doesn’t mean we’re celebrating drugs. We want to talk about the ideas of using drugs to escape or heal yourself but by doing so ultimately cause more damage. Or we want to talk about anything and not feel like it’s taken literally to the exact words we’re using to explore a concept.
Jason: Yeah music writers are pretty lame…
Jason: I do like the idea that your art doesn’t end with “you.” How people receive and perceive art can be just as important as what the artist(s) put into it. I’m not sure everyone would agree but it’s a more generous way to think about what you’re putting out into the world. Speaking of things that are being put out into the world, what’s it been like living in the nation’s capitol over the last 500 days? It’s always been a punk hub on the front lines American politics.
Taylor: Well here’s the thing, people who are affected by our policies around the world feel much closer to the problems of our nation than the white gentrified people that live in the safe neighborhoods of DC. Just because we physically live here doesn’t mean we’re affected by the decisions being made here. A member of law enforcement at the local level that’s enforcing these policies has more of an impact on people’s lives than the proximity to where these policies are being created. Families being torn apart through militant deportation or loved ones being denied reentry to the country that they live in; these are the people that are being affected. The corruption of our democracy comes from the suppression of poor people and the disenfranchised. The existence of being a person of color is to have limited access of democracy, and we’re seeing more and more evidence of that.
Jason: Maybe I misspoke, I guess I was thinking more along the lines of any current political resistance movements going on in our Capitol, but it sounds like the things to protest are far removed from the average person in that area.
Taylor: Yeah it’s okay, I’m glad you asked but want to help correct people’s perception. There’s more to do in your respective local communities than worrying about what’s going on in Washington D.C.
Jason: How do you feel that living in D.C. when the band got started shaped the band that you’ve become? As you get larger and see more of the world do you have a strong desire to stay true to those roots or do you want to evolve?
Taylor: We feel strongly connected and feel grateful towards the community we came from and we are a part of. But there’s only so much you can do with the resources you have available to you. When we got the opporutnity to put the record out on Domino it really afforded us the ability to grow and take in more of what the world has to offer.
Daniel: We spent a decade within one scale of making music, and wouldn’t have been able to do this without that, but we’re curious to explore the things we otherwise wouldn’t have had the access to. We want the new experience of working with an engineer, not at the expense of our home, but so that we can bring things back home to help it continue to grow. Staying true can be about entering into an uncomfortable space so that you can grow, and that’s the only way to grow.
Jason: So a somewhat similar answer in that D.C. had an impact, but so far as any local community has an impact on artists. At some point you get bigger and think of a larger portion of the world as your community.
Daniel: Pretty much.
Jason: That being said, is being political with your art something that’s important to you, a key feature of the band?
Taylor: Trying to be an artist is a political act. We try to reveal the fact that everyone’s already politically connected, it just matters what choices they make.
Daniel: Trying to be an artist in a society that devalues the artist is in itself a political act. To be able to have the opportunity to have a voice like this (in a band), to manage that contradiction, we don’t want to feel entitled, we have to critique our own experience. We want our listeners to look inward as opposed to pointing out problems to attack. Acknowledge the things outside of your control that got you to the place you are.
Jason: It’s interesting that you say being an artist is a political act, I hadn’t thought of it in such a matter-of-fact way. Based on what you’re saying there seems to be similarities in the way political and musical/artistic communities function. It’s easy to look up your similar artists to see you’re compared to Ought (coming to The Earl on September 9th), you’re previous band Priests, and Atlanta’s own OMNI; do you think these accurately reflect the music scene you see yourselves a part of?
Daniel: First and foremost we identify and feel most connected and indebted to our home music community in DC. We love seeing our friends and creating things that they think is cool. Being in our community is so much more visceral than being a part of some larger community of similar artists.
Taylor: Seeing people at a house show a few years older than me was way more inspiring than seeing Green Day in a stadium when I was 9.
Daniel: We’re trying to live up to the expectations of the people at home, not random people on the internet.
Jason: What are the bands that you care about that you think deserve more attention or recognition?
Daniel: At home there’s a band that Taylor’s label is putting out called Ultra Beauty, they are playing Athens Pop Fest, Gauche (Danielle from Priests, also works with Taylor at Sister Polygon), Downtown Boys, Hot Head. Knife Wife, best band that I’ve seen in DC in a long time. One band not from DC, Darto should be famous (from Seattle), basically all the bands we’ve been on tour with. French Vanilla from LA, one of the most exciting bands I’ve ever seen.
Jason: How’s tour life been for the band?
Emma: Touring is hard, I’m constantly trying to figure out how to function.
Jason: What are you driving on this tour?
Taylor: A Lake Placid Blue Toyota Minivan.
Jason: Oh wow, that’s gotta be a tight fit for a band.
Daniel: It’s getting better, trying to be positive, we’re getting more comfortable, but how do you take care of yourself and your relationships when you’re not there>
Jason: I guess you can’t really.
Taylor: You sacrifice a lot of what keeps most people happy when you’re on the road this much.
Emma: Luckily Taylor’s done this a bunch already so there’s less of a learning curve for us.
Jason: Have you been able to get any sponsors to make life easier?
Taylor: A few, but we have most of what we need.
Daniel: I’ve been pushing for a Toyota sponsorship.
Jason: That would be pretty sick! Any vehicle in mind?
Daniel: Yeah, a Lake Placid Blue Toyota Minivan. I want us to each have one.
Jason: Now that’s a dream to aspire to *laughs*. What’s next for Flasher?
Taylor: Going to Europe in this fall, gonna start writing that new new in November, and something very special happening in December. Subscribe to all our channels to find out what that is.
Band: Go to Pop Fest in Athens. ATLANTA TOURISM YAY!