Flyherder are a hypnagogic electronic duo from Philadelphia recording for End Result Productions. If you want to know their opinion about tarot, Sandra Bland and Jay Reatard, do not hesitate to read the following lines. You’ll feel relieved in a way…
Hi there. Just to begin, please introduce Flyherder to Last Day Deaf readers. Could you please define or rather describe the Flyherder sound?
Geraldine: Flyherder began as my solo project. I wrote the skeleton of the songs on the first release ‘Heliotrope’, and around that time met Lira and asked her if she wanted to hear what I was working on, since I knew her to be an excellent synthesist. Pretty much as soon as I played the songs for her, she started expanding on the melodies, and within a month I asked her to join the band and we released ‘Heliotrope’ as a collaborative effort. That spring we moved into a space where we could have our music set up all the time, and there we wrote our following release ‘Damiana Departure’ together. We’ve just finished writing the songs for our 3rd release, which Lira composed by herself for the most part, and I concentrated on lyrics and gave input on song structure. It feels like Flyherder has evolved so much in these three manifestations. We like moving on.
Lira: The initial Flyherder sound came out of what Geraldine was already doing with the electronics. The ‘Heliotrope’ sessions were best suited for minimal accompaniment. Not much was needed to achieve this minimal sound so we designed soft, dark melodic tones. For this we used a Casio VL-Tone and a bucket-brigade device. When we went to record we synthesized some additional percussion with a Eurorack system. As the electronics developed and the new batch of songs took shape, we moved into slightly more complex sonic territory, adding bass lines to the new tracks. As ‘Damiana Departure’ began to emerge it was more colourful and brighter than its predecessor, but all the while maintaining the thread of soft, dark tones and minimal arrangements.
What is your musical background? Are there any other music projects you are or have been involved in?
Lira: I studied the guitar from age 15 for almost 10 years. I also studied the classical organ briefly, which coincided with my interest in sound synthesis while at university. In recent years I have not been interested in the guitar. My focus now is to further develop my skills with synthesis and pursue more technical areas of knowledge such as production and engineering. I was in a band called The Bad Doctors for many years. It was new-wave/post-punk. I guess it was always difficult to pin down because there was a continual tug of war within the band about artistic direction. This eventually resulted in a split. Out of that split came Vivatape. This new project consists of my long-time collaborator from the Bad Doctors and another collaborator of mine (from a different avenue) who we joined up with. We play a kind of blend of minimal synth and post-punk filtered through the mixing techniques of Martin Hannett and classic dub reggae producers. I also record and perform solo as Einzelnen.
Geraldine: I have mostly just immersed myself in listening to music my whole life, like really obsessively listening to certain artists and genres, and that is where my musical education really comes from. Before Flyherder I was in a band called 2 Suns with a really incredible performance artist / bassist, Amalia Wilson. She inspired me to start singing. We were really into Maria Minerva, Geneva Jacuzzi, Kate Bush and Jay Reatard and that’s where a lot of our inspiration came from. We lived in a house that put on a lot of shows so we were lucky in that way, getting to open for shows at our house and gaining experience performing.
While listening to your ‘Heliotrope’ E.P., the track ‘Motherpeace’ caught my attention with its lyrics. Could you tell us about its lyrics? What are they about?
Geraldine: The Priestess of cups is an enchantress, who, like the goddess and her priestesses, fled from patriarchal invaders to sacred, secret islands. There, behind thickets and brambles, they continued to practice the religion of the goddess. ‘Motherpeace’ is a direct reference to the Motherpeace tarot deck (particularly the priestess of cups card), and the book written to accompany it by Vicki Noble & Karen Vogel. Their message resonates deeply with me and I regularly page through the book in a nonlinear manner to find answers and seek advice. We must work hard to undo the deep rooted internal misogyny that is programmed into us from a young age. I celebrate and adore feminine nature.
One of the most distinctive elements regarding your music is the hypnotic feeling the listener obtains. Would you agree with this? Please discuss…
Geraldine: If we have had a good set, people express to us this feeling of being hypnotized. Every song is deeply personal for me, so I think I must funnel a lot of my energy into the words and performance and maybe that is why people feel a kind of trance. We rarely perform songs from Heliotrope anymore and never the ‘Damiana Departure’ songs now because it is too much to relive the feelings. Maybe that gives an idea of how powerful the songs become for us.
Lira: The repetitive nature of the music also lends itself to the hypnotic feeling. With strong but few elements, the music has a robust feeling to it. The sound itself is full-bodied and voluptuous and its intellect feminine.
While trying to gather some information for this interview, I found out that you don’t have a Flyherder facebook page or twitter account. Don’t you think that the social media help you boost your publicity, or do you just not care?
Geraldine: We have a soundcloud and a bandcamp and each of us has a personal facebook & instagram, which feels like more than enough to me. Soundcloud is definitely my favourite medium for posting music and finding other people’s music. I like the simple, straightforward interface. I don’t think we would gain anything from having a facebook page or twitter account for our band; I never look on either of those places for information about bands, so I have never considered doing it myself. Today we are so inundated with self-promotion and advertising that it’s refreshing to step back from it when you can.
How did the collaboration with End Result Productions come about? Are you satisfied with this so far?
Lira: I came to meet Justin, the founder of End Result Productions, when they agreed to release a tape for another project I was involved in called Decade. I was very impressed with the release and the aesthetics of the label. End Result are dedicated to supporting the Philadelphia music scene, in particular, electronic and noise artists. We approached Justin to do a physical release for ‘Heliotrope’ six months after we had released it ourselves in the digital format. They were more than happy to work together on this and we were particularly satisfied with the product.
Geraldine: Justin exceeds all expectations. So young, so professional and such good taste. I’ve loved working with them. End Result recently had a showcase in Philadelphia and it was top notch.
Lira: It was a banger, mate!
Your latest release ‘Damiana Departure’ is more uptempo & less hypnotic than the previous one. Would you agree with this? Please explain…
Geraldine: I agree with DD being more uptempo, but we still got the “hypnotic” comment when we performed DD songs. Maybe ‘Heliotrope’ feels more hypnotic to you because I wrote those songs while I was under a spell. DD was written during the breaking of the spell.
Lira: The version of ‘Sent Here’ that made it on the album was recorded only a couple of months after the production of Heliotrope, and bears a close resemblance to the vibe of those earlier recordings. Furthermore, ‘Sheet Metal’ was a song that was written and recorded immediately after the release of ‘Heliotrope’, and was originally a much longer and more hypnotic song. We feel that the essence of the song was maintained in the more recent recording that made it to the tape.
Are you familiar with 18+ sound? Which other artists/ bands are you listening to at the moment?
Geraldine: I’m not familiar with 18+ sound. Lately I have been listening to copious amounts of radio while I am driving around in my truck (98 Mazda B2500), my 3 favourite presets in order are POWER99, BOOM107.9, and AMP96.5. I missed out on pop radio when I was younger and it’s hitting home pretty hard these days. When I’m at home I usually listen to music on youtube or soundcloud. Some recent favourite tracks: ‘Fruit’ by Abra, the whole ‘Drunken Babble‘ mixtape by Kali Uchis, ‘Basic’ by DJ Haram feat. Moor Mother Goddess, ‘Liminal Break’ by CMOV, ‘Live at Trans Pecos 12-3-15’ by Via App and ‘We Can Have It All’ by Profligate.
Lira: Lately I’ve been listening to Molly Nilsson, Broadcast and Lana Del Rey a lot. I always keep New Order and Xeno & Oaklander in heavy rotation.
A tricky one now… 2016 has been a really bad year so far, regarding lost musicians. Which were the most significant for you and why?
Lira: I am not really affected emotionally by the loss of prominent figures in music. As long as we still have their work and their legacy then there is no need to cry, only to celebrate. However, regarding true loss, there are quite a lot of issues that I find disconcerting about American life in 2016. We are experiencing a complete disregard for the most fundamental human rights. In the south there have been new bills passed that strip transgender individuals of their right to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity, and furthermore there has been incentive given to “expose” those individuals to authorities as if they are criminals. What I find most troubling is that after hundreds of years we still see black Americans being treated as less than human. There is a deep seated passion for hate and propensity for violence in America. It is a lack of love.
Geraldine: Yeah, the loss of prominent musical figures did not really register with me either. There is a war against people of colour being fought in America by a racist police system and institutionalized racism that penetrates every aspect of life. Now that everyone has a camera phone, we witness these atrocities more clearly than ever. A significant loss we had this year was Sandra Bland, a 28 year old black woman who was pulled over for allegedly not signalling while switching lanes, was harassed by police and ultimately her life was taken from her in police custody. It is essential to remember her story, say her name. The police need to be filmed constantly and held accountable for their brutal crimes.
What are your plans regarding Flyherder?
Lira: We plan to record a 4 song E.P. with maybe a remix or two. We like to dissect our recordings and put them back together again to create something very strange and unusual.
Geraldine: We are recording said E.P. the following weeks and then I will be leaving Philadelphia for a year to study with herbalists in rural North Carolina. I’ll be sending Lira tracks from the mountains, but we will be spending our time on solo endeavours. We expect the tape to come out in the summer, which will be fun for me since I will probably be homesick for Philadelphia.
Photo credits: Eva Wo