INTERVIEW: The Ramona Flowers

INTERVIEW: The Ramona Flowers



When the Bristolian five-piece The Ramona Flowers unveiled the first track
from their forthcoming debut EP a few weeks ago, little was to be found about them bar a support tour slot with Mancunian trip-hoppers Lamb. Even inquiries to their label result only in the barest of perfunctory details. With Dismantle and Rebuild picking up favourable airplay and a quiet buzz building around their big chorus lines and glitchy electro-pop hypnotic tones, it would seem that this is one band who look set not to be kept off the public radar for much longer.

We talk to Steve (vocals) and Sam (bass) for their debut interview on the flowering of the Scott Pilgrim namesake.

Firstly, the name ‘The Ramona Flowers – which I would hazard a guess is something to do with Scott Pilgrim? – what’s the story behind it?

Sam: It is, yeah. The film is based on a comic and I loved the idea of this mystical, unattainable super cool female character. She’s now quite a cult character and we love it as a band name.

‘Mystical’, ‘unattainable’ – is this in some way how you see TRF?

Steve: I would say that a lot of the sounds we use could be described as mystical but ‘mystical’ and ‘unattainable’ are not what we are trying to be. I guess we can be seen as a bit of an ‘enigma’ at the moment as there isn’t a lot of information about us just yet, but hopefully this will change once the album is released and we start touring a lot more – which we can’t wait to do.


Tell us a little about the band. How did you all come together? I kno you are from Bristol, so were you all friends from uni or did you meet on the Brizzy music scene?

Steve: Dave [keyboards], Wayne [guitar], and Sam have known each other for years playing in bands around Bristol and decided to start a new project together and needed a singer. Dave had met me from doing a bit of session work in London and gave me a call. Ed [drums] was the last one on board the guys had seen him playing in a few bands around Bristol and thought he would be perfect. And from that, TRF was born!

How long ago was that?

Sam: Almost two years, exactly.

So why have we only now started to hear of you? Was it intentional to keep a low profile?

Steve: Well, we’ve been working on our first album for the past ten months or so and only recently finished it. We were not intentionally keeping a low profile but at the same time our music has been a work in progress and we didn’t want to put ourselves out there until we had created something we were all really proud of.

When did you first perform live as TRF – can you remember that first outing? Has your style changed at all since then? Do you feel at ease now in live performance, or is it still a ‘work in progress’?

Steve: Our first gig was about a year and a half ago in Bristol and it was great for all five of us to play on stage together for the first time, but we knew there was something missing. So after that our style did start to change as we started playing around with lot of different sounds until it developed into a sound that we liked. When we started working on the album with Andy Barlow it developed again into a sound we now all love.

You’ve recently supported Lamb around Europe and Andy Barlow is producing you. How did that relationship strike up?

Sam: I’ve always been a massive Lamb fan. I few years ago I saw that Andy was looking to produce bands. I decided to send a CD to his management. When we started this band I just felt that he would be perfect, his production is phenomenal!

You seem to have a sound that is focused around soaring choruses and multi-tones – is this to be a trademark of TRF?

Sam: Yes, I think it probably is! Dismantle and Rebuild was the first song that we wrote for the album and we decided on that title because this is how we seem to write. We play as a proper band and we write as a band. The song and melody are the most important things and once we have this, we start to strip everything back and then rebuild the song on the computer so that we can start to layer the sounds. We love using textures, but you have to have a powerful melody otherwise you have nothing.

Who would you say have been your musical influences and how far have these influences been incorporated into TRF’s sound?

Sam: When we started the band we were all totally blown away by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ album It’s Blitz. They just seemed to effortlessly fuse a live band with  electronic production so that you almost didn’t notice. The songs sounded fresh and exciting as a result. Phoenix did a similar thing really well and the sound was unique with beautiful textures. It’s very hard to combine a real band with electronics and get it to sound natural. Both these bands were a huge influence when we started and we were aiming towards this kind of thing. Lamb do it really well. There’s also an artist called Baths who we’ve recently been influenced by and who totally rocks, though that is more on the electronic side.

How does the writing process work for you?

Sam: When writing, the song normally starts with a guitar idea or something done on the synth or piano. That is normally done by me or Dave. Then, if everyone gets excited by this, we develop the idea as a band and Steve will work on melodies. We’ll cycle this for a while, and whilst Steve is singing he’ll ad-lib some vocal lines. Quite often he’ll sing a lyric which has some sort of hook which will end up being the basis of the lyrical content of the song. Steve writes the lyrics and melodies, but the band sometimes chip in with ideas as well.

I gather you have been working on your debut album – anything you can divulge at this stage?

Sam: I can tell you that the album is finished, but we don’t know when it will be released! Hopefully soon as we’re all really excited to release it to the world.

You’re not giving much away then!

Steve: Okay! It was recorded at The Distillery in Bath – which is a great studio to record in with a great vibe. I think it was the ideal place for the band to be creative. I can’t tell you the date of release – because we don’t know yet ourselves!

How did you first come to the attention of Distiller?

Sam: I think it was probably down to Andy. We were really interested in Distiller as a cool independent label and I think they were initially interested because of Andy’s involvement.

Was it important to you to sign to an independent label?

Steve: Yeah. It was always important to us to have a label that firstly loved our music and trusted us with creative freedom. Distiller has always been really encouraging and supportive with us, and we’re really happy to be on their roster.

How much say have you had in the direction for TRF plan to take in so far as product? Is it vital for you to keep some control, or are you happy to hand over that side to others and leave you free to just record and play live?

Sam: We’ve all made mistakes in the past with other bands so we were all really focused on getting this right. Actually, the identity of the band seems to have happened entirely on its own, maybe because we’re so sure of the music and our sound. The artwork was done and inspired by a photographer called Barry Cawston who is based near Bristol. I have a couple of prints of his and we just loved his so very in control style!

The first single Dismantle and Rebuild which although not out until November already seems to have been picking up favourable airplay and comments.

Sam: We’re all shocked and excited by the early reactions, fingers crossed…

Steve: It feels great that people are reacting in such a positive way to the single, and even more so with this song in particular as it’s been one of the hardest to write: it took a few different versions before we got to this one. But we all love the final version we’ve ended up with.

The EP contains remixes of Dismantle and Rebuild by D/R/U/G/S and Amirali. What can you tell us about these and how these artists became involved with TRF?

Steve: The whole band was always really up for having some remixes done and D/R/U/G/S is someone all of us had heard and really loved. Amirali is someone we’d not heard too much about, but we had a listen to what he was doing and it blew us away. We were lucky enough that he loved the track and wanted to do a mix. Both remixes came back sounding amazing!

Any plans for a TRF remix of anyone? Is there any artist whose stems you’d like to get your hands on?

Steve: There are no plans in the immediate future, but I think it’s something that we’d love to do. Yeah, if I were going to say someone, then I’d say maybe the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

What can we expect future-wise from TRF?

Steve: We are just concentrating on the launch of the single and then the album next year, and playing it to as many people as we can.

Dismantle and Rebuild is released on 5 November on Distiller Records.

You can also download a free Mp3 of When Vultures Call (Demo) from the
band’s website here:

Soundcloud link to Dismantle and Rebuild

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.