IN CONVERSATION: Floral Image on Trump, Biden and Extinction Rebellion

IN CONVERSATION: Floral Image on Trump, Biden and Extinction Rebellion

Trump, Attenborough, the danger of cinematic tropes – Floral Image have opinions on all. How does Julien the drummer being a member of Extinction Rebellion feel about the ‘doorstepping’ of the aforementioned conservationist? Is Jonny dealing with a lack of live gigs? Find out in the following article as the Friday 13th music video release of single ‘Why I leave’ approaches … 

Hello again Floral Image. Your video is out later this week and you must be excited. How would you describe the sentiment of the song?

Julien (drums): From my point of view as a drummer, from the moment I played the song for the first time, it was the vocal line that touched me the most. I see what it expresses as something very intimate that asks to be projected towards the universe and tries to fill it. I see what I play as being the support and vehicle of the energy needed to do so. We started working on this piece in January 2020 during a writing session and the final version of the piece doesn’t change much in terms of structure, rhythm and intention. From the beginning this repetitive rhythmic pattern was really obvious (and requested by Jack and Ferg…the working title was “Motown”) but I wondered how to make it interesting and the best way I found was by imposing limitations on myself. I thought “whatever happens: don’t get out of that rhythmic pattern”.

Fergus (Vocals/Guitar) : I see this song as a person’s blunt assessment of why they find themselves falling foul of the same patterns of behaviour that always seem to come back around to bite them. A call to arms so to speak for the long embittered.

Jack (Keys, Vocals): Looking forward to people seeing the video and hearing the song! As Julien mentioned, we wrote the song almost a year ago and the majority of the parts came quite quickly – the chord structure, melodies and lyrics – which were mainly written by Ferg. For me this song covers the theme of toxic masculinity and the way our male ancestors tended to be shut off, cold and never spoke about their feelings. I hope that confronting this head on we can start the move away from that imaginary world of status, dominance and ego and into a kinder one, both with others but also with ourselves.

The song covers an aspect of mental illness. Can you narrow that aspect down for our readers?

Fergus (Guitar/Vocals): Well mental illness may be a bit strong, considering It could be about that isolating state of mind that 80% of the people I know drop into from time to time. Or maybe that’s just more a reflection on the company I keep. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if my own sample pool of social recluses was representative of most of the country.

Jack (Keys/Vocals): Lonely people of the world UNITE! The song is about those times when we go into our shell and cynically hide away from the outside world. Like a snail that has just found out that a 15 storey apartment block is going to be built over the road from them: Tribalism. Hate. Self-loathing. Isolation.

During the last lockdown, a DJ I know spoke of not wanting to get out of bed due to her function of being an artist effectively being cancelled. Can you relate, and is it healthy that we conflate skillset and functionality?

Mitch (Bass): It’s weird to think that so much of the world seems to be judged on a pretty binary view of ‘skillset usefulness’. The worth of a piece of art, music, whatever it be, is entirely decided by an audience’s enjoyment of the thing. Obviously there’s a degree of technicality in producing that thing- but judgement of it is so based on feeling. A clinical, uncaring kind of people are looking at the arts and pondering it’s expendable-ness! We have to get up in the morning to prove we are not expendable.

Julien (Drums): I fully understand this feeling even if I would not use the terms skillset/functionality. I did have a moment actually in the middle of confinement where I almost felt the symptoms of depression. I came to the conclusion that I was feeling this way because everything was losing meaning and especially my place as a musician/instrumentalist in a band. And then I read somewhere on the internet a question that said “when all this is over, what do you want to remember having learned, done, thought?” And so I understood that my purpose as a musician is to be on stage but I can be/do a lot of other things.

Jack (Keys/Vocals): I can certainly relate to that John. With the majority of live creative industries being on hold, us performers are having to deal with a loss of identity, let alone the absence of that feeling of getting on stage. Loss of identity can make us feel terrible at first, but it allows a chance to self reflect, reset the mind-cogs and evolve into a new person with a deeper understanding of themselves. So this is what I say all to performers at the moment…shed some skin, express your inner moon lizard, keep crawling out of bed and keep doing that thing you love. The dawning of the age of Aquarius is upon us.

Jonny (guitar): This feeling is all too familiar. Not being able to get on stage and express yourself and play the music you love to people is tough. Having something you crave and thrive off just disappear is so hard when you find yourself tied up with the uncertainties of life at the moment. Live music is a beautiful distraction and playing on stage is my form of escapism. Personally this time has above all allowed me to look at why I play and write music and what my purpose as a musician is. It’s been arduous at times, but I believe it’s all about making the best of the time we have. Not having live music has been insanely difficult for everyone but it has given us the opportunity to reflect, learn, reset and help each other along.

Insightful stuff, and I’m sure we’ll probe further on your answers in a future piece, however, I must get your take on how the US election is going. At the time of posting this article we still won’t know who the president of America is. What aspect of the election has grabbed the consideration of Floral Image?

Mitch (Bass): It’s a spectacle. A great, terrifying spectacle with human lives at stake whatever the outcome may be. I guess it’s grabbed our consideration just as it has any other person out there in the world. Big, big question there.

Jack (Keys/Vocals): I just can’t believe that many people are still voting for the orange-mop-frog. #fucktrump

Julien (Drums): On a personal level, I have become a drug addict of these elections. Cynically, it’s the ultimate reality show.  More seriously, given the place of the United States on the world’s chessboard, it is impossible to deny the importance of these elections for the whole planet. Today, because of Trump, the USA officially left COP21. If he is re-elected, the probability of keeping the temperature increase below 1.5° is low (And even without him these chances are very slim). That’s how important it is for us.

Trump’s denial of climate change hasn’t been a topic that Biden’s campaign has seized upon, let alone been a talking issue as opposed to say employment or medicare. Any thoughts on this?

Julien (drums): I disagree John. Biden is far from being the ideal candidate and he is certainly not the break-out candidate as one might have hoped (as Sanders might have been). But, I strongly believe that if Sanders had won the Democratic primaries, he would have lost the election. Trump would have pantsed him as a socialist (which he is) and it would have been over. The US now needs to unite (and the task is huge because it’s a long way from a landslide election for the Democrats). Given what is happening with the pandemic, people’s main priority is their health and jobs. But that didn’t stop Biden from thinking up the most ambitious climate plan in the history of the presidential candidates. He managed to get the message across that Americans’ jobs and health depend on it. It’s also important to remember that the way the electoral system works in the US makes Pennsylvania, for example, the most important pivotal state: it’s hard to tell coal miners that they’re going to lose their jobs in the current context (which reflects the fact that the race in Pennsylvania is so close at the moment).

Mitch (Bass): Thanks, Jules. And if I might add- I agree.

Would it be more factual to state that media coverage is keen to comment on say, the Latino vote, leadership through the pandemic or Medicare? The environment ought to have more coverage, wouldn’t you agree?

Jack (Keys/Vocals): They are all important topics to cover as they need addressing (the US is riddled with issues), however, the environment often seems to get overlooked by the masses. We need to wake up to the very real threat to human existence that is climate change.

Mitch (Bass): And who are we to say what would or would not be more factual? I’d rather not make any contribution to the current pandemic spread of cluttersome, mis-informed statements about World Problem Number one, two, three, or four, etc. Climate Change is the greatest current threat to humanity on a whole. Throughout the sub-pockets of smaller humanities all around the world, there are problems they face which might be as threatening. We’ll be here, making music, listening, thinking, and helping where we can.

Fergus (Guitar/Vocals): Doing our bit! that’s us John!

Staying on the environment for a moment, Julien, you are a proud member of Extinction Rebellion. How did you become involved in their cause and do you have anything to say about the ‘doorstepping’ regarding David Attenborough?

Julien (Drums): I study at the University of East Anglia and there is an Extinction Rebellion group there. With them, I took part in the different demonstrations in London in 2019 and also a few months ago. Spending time with these people really made me realise how much trouble we are in. How deep the inequalities are, even at the climatic level. We often think that climate change is something that belongs to a more or less long-term future. This is not true. People are already dying from climate change. They are dying now. And often in countries that have least contributed to the problem. Spending time with XR also made me realise that it is an organisation that is relatively decentralised. And I don’t agree with everything. This Attenborough thing is part of it: he is not the enemy of XR (and if he were our biggest concern, everything would be fine). I think it was pointless to make this kind of media stunt. There are much more important things to do than attacking him. On the other hand, I’m all for civil disobedience. That’s the way to change things. And so I disagree with him when he said that we must respect the law.

You term the current event with Attenborough a stunt, and given the man’s prestige if not a full on national treasure, wouldn’t there be merit in working with him than against him? Moreover, do you think the media was irresponsible in its reportage of the incident?

Fergus (Guitar/Vocals): Attenborough and his broadcasting have done great things to make the public aware of the beauty of this world- and make it known to all that it’s one worth protecting. The goal is the same, they’ve been working symbiotically as it is.

Julien (drums): The most important thing is to convince people to come together and I think XR’s strategy had a bit of a divisive side. But I think XR’s arms are wide open for Attenborough: the symbol they used was the olive tree… I didn’t analyse the media response though. I can only say that obviously the murder tabloids have jumped at the opportunity to criticise XR for this case and there is no denying that they have an echo chamber as big as Donald Trump’s ego.

Perhaps we can talk more about the media response and dissect Extinction Rebellion’s logic once you’ve had fair time to research the dialogue. For now, last but not least, your music video is about to be made public. It would be good to have some insight into the conversation between the director and the actor in the clip. What kind of chat was going on there and how did it relate to the track?

Fergus (Guitar/Vocals): Alberto Allica as a director showed himself to have all the cunning motion picture prowess he could surely ever need to draw out the best from his actors. Making that video was a right hoot for all involved.

Jack (Keys/Vocals): We had a lot of fun…paint was spilt, tears of laughter were shed and cults were formed. Alberto’s direction to Nell and Ross – the actors in the video- was inspiring and freeing, which highlighted the benefit of harmonious and expressive collaboration. He really brought the narrative of the song to life – the self-loathing of a weathered soul being revealed and mirrored by the child-like qualities within us all.

Mitch (Bass): Because of Alberto and Carmen (our DP on the shoot) I now love Spain. I didn’t before, because I’ve never been – but now I do. Thanks!

Can you relate some of his direction to us? Some specific conversation and suggestions as par the course?

Jack (Keys/Vocals): I was in the room for the “fucking get on with it” scene at the start of the video. Alberto was directing Ross to shout more and more aggressively and in his beautiful, soft, Spanish accent roughly said, “You hate the world, you don’t know or care who this band is, you are lonely and this is your only chance to let out your inner hate.” The room was alive with testosterone and masculinity…enough to make my inner child quiver.

Julien (Drums): Nell was also a little shy at first so Alberto had to learn how to coax her to feel comfortable and to let go of all her childlike strength.

Mitch (Bass): For the outdoors shoot, Bert’d shout things out loudly to us. Acton, he’d say, and suddenly everyone would start running around and stuff. The cameras would go around and take pictures and then later, it would just stop! It was really stressful, but we did it, and now it’s done. I really love Alberto. I love him!

Sounds like fun. Is it true what they say about working with children, or are those people cynical-stick-in-the-mud’s who’ve been unlucky not to work with young Nell? How old is she?

Fergus (Guitar/Vocals): Nell is eight and hell bells…there’s a spirit to break any cynic!

There’s been a long history of misanthropic men and young female characters in cinema. A recent example would be Logan, further back being Leon. Why does this work and were you aware of this convention during the planning stage of the shoot for ‘Why I leave’?

Jack (Keys/Vocals): No, we weren’t aware of it and that wasn’t the aim. We didn’t want gender to have any relevance to the story really. We definitely wanted an older person with someone young, displaying how we tend to get more serious, closed off to new ideas and out of touch with nature as we get older.

Mitch (Bass): The video was scripted a-genderly, yeh. Utterly to do with age, youth, reflection, more than anything. I wouldn’t try and impose any movie tropes on it. That’d be reductive. Dangerous stuff, tropes.

Fergus (Guitar/Vocals): Availability dictated the casting in the ever changing landscape of Covid too. You know- maybe this song is about Jean Reno actually, now you say it!

You all have so much to say. Feel free to talk of the danger of tropes in the context of the music video before we end our chat. Go for it!

Julien (Drums): Some time ago I had a really interesting conversation about film with a friend from Ghana who works on black community issues in the UK. As a black woman, she opened my eyes to many of the tropes that are present in film in general. The one you are talking about here John is interesting, it never struck me before. But it’s our job to see them (even if they are unintentional) and reflect on them. Cinema in general can be a vector of evolution or a vector of reproduction. I hope that we will never be on the side of reproduction. In any case, we have the will to do so.

More on ‘the vector of reproduction’ in a future interview, for sure. Where can people buy your music guys?

Mitch (Bass): You can find our music on our Bandcamp- and on all yer normal streamy streams through Catch 21 Records- Tidal, Apple Music, Yoot-Yoob, all the rest! Hey, have a listen! See what you think!

Thank you for your time guys. May your video launch this Friday go well.

Jack (Keys/Vocals): Thanks!

Fergus (Guitar/Vocals): Yeh thanks John!

Julien (Drums): Please, listen somewhere other (Like Tidal for example) than Spotify because this platform tries to destroy the little creators.

Julien (drums): Goodnight, and good luck.

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