Interview conducted by Devon Chodzin ’19
Before Spring Break, I was lucky enough to sit down with all four members of the self-declared “friendship project” Florist, who came through The Horn Gallery on March 4th right in the middle of their North American tour. The band released The Birds Outside Sang in January and kicked off this tour soon after. In person, these four creative souls are as cool, calm, and collected as any group of best friends I’ve ever seen before. Frankly, if I were in a band with my best friends, we’d have zero chill whatsoever, but these four are the embodiment of good vibes. The band features the talents of Emily Sprague, Rick Spataro, Jonnie Baker, and Felix Walworth. Thank you all again for your time and your good vibes; I had fun!
Please enjoy our conversation!
Are y’all excited to be back? To play and show off some more?
RS: I’ve never been but yeah, again, like we said, we went to the dining hall. Really cool. I’m definitely excited to play.
JB: When we drive past here we sometimes come through just to use the dining hall.
So you’re fans of the dining hall?
JB: YES. Seems very easy to get into without being a student or, like, having a pass.
It is. If you look like you could be a student you can get in. But how is tour going? I’ve seen some of my friends posting pictures and they’re having fun. Are you having fun?
ALL AROUND: Yes!
RS: Last night fuckin’ sucked.
ES: Last night was a bummer because there was just some shenanigans happening outside in the world of the venue because it was a club and there was a dance party after our show which had a hard cap, a hard curfew to be over at 10:30. We had to be off the stage because the dance party was happening, and then, it’s just like, just stupid because we had to walk down three flights of stairs.
JB: And then when you got the the bottom of the stairs, people just start yelling at you.
ES: Yeah, yeah. Lots of people in Toronto just talking at you on the street.
RS: Very grateful to be there.
ES: Yeah, very grateful to be there, no shade on the venue-
ES & JB: Well, some shade.
JB: A lot of shade on the venue. I’d like to publically throw shade on that venue, personally, but I wouldn’t like to speak for the rest of the band. Tour has been good, though.
RS: Montreal was great. Montreal was, like, really good. It seemed like it might be kind of like a weird bar. It was like a video gambling place. There were a lot of video gambling machines when we got there. Pretty much the only people in there were using them. But at showtime, there were a lot of people there. People have been enthusiastic.
So you’re saying you came from Canada. How do you occupy yourselves on the car rides?
JB: I just bought Pokemon today. Pokemon Soul Silver. But mostly we just like-
ES: We talk a lot. We talk a lot about what we listen to on the cassette adapter.
What’s playing on the cassette adapter, usually?
ES: Mmmmmm, I don’t know.
RS: Usually like, a YouTube video. I feel like there’s a lot of that.
JB: What did we listen to today?
ES: Today we listened to…
JB: Earl Sweatshirt!
ES: Earl Sweatshirt, Mala…
JB: Yeah, we listen to our friends, mostly, too. Like our friend Jordan in Mutual Benefit. We listen to our friends’ music.
ES: Leonard Cohen.
Speaking of, your friends, I just want to talk a little bit about your collective, the Epoch. I’m not sure how it’s pronounced???
Sweet, thanks. I just wanted to talk a little bit about how that started, how y’all got involved, what the collaborative atmosphere is like, what kind of community it really is and what it means to all of you.
ES: Yeah! We basically just all became friends and all play music and all talk about it with each other and, yeah. We just love each other as friends and it makes it easier.
So it’s really kind of shaped your careers? That’s really cool. I’m a fan. When did that begin?
JB: (at Emily and Felix) You would probably know more about that.
ES: Um, yeah well, we met Felix and Oliver at a show maybe like four years and kinda became contacts with them and we were kinda doing Florist kinda still detached and we just kinda kept running into each other at shows and played together one time and asked Felix to play drums with us and it kind of just all went quickly from there. I moved to the city, Rick and Jonnie moved to the city, and that all just kinda happened and rolled into each other.
Solid. How did you kinda get started on your instruments? I wanna know how you started and what performance meant to you when you were younger.
RS: My uncle taught me oldies. He used to teach me oldies. He would play guitar, I would play ukulele because my hands were too small. I was also playing only one string because I was too young and totally incompetent. I think that’s the first time. Then I kinda like “bought” something later. And then I just kept buying things.
And then just thinking about the latest album, which everyone on campus is obsessed with right now, The Birds Outside Sang, what are your favorite tracks and what do they mean to you personally?
ES: My favorite’s probably, uh, I don’t know, I don’t have, I guess a favorite, but, “1914” is important to me because, like, when we were recording it, we just decided to sing it all together, not as a plan, really; we just did it and tried it and it just sounded like it was so meant to be that way and that’s what that half of the album is kind of about. That’s what I really kind of like about the way that song is other than how it could be arranged in a more traditional way.
Way cool, way cool. Going back to your origins, I guess, who were your idols musically who got you to write the way you do or perform the way you do?
JB: Weird Al Yankovic.
RS: I think that was big for everybody.
Weird Al Yankovic was pretty formative for all of us, totally. I’ve got a very special place in my heart for “Amish Paradise.”
ES: eBay for me! “I Found It on eBay” was my gateway.
RS: I forget that one.
ES: It was like, The Backstreet Boys “I Want it That Way” but it’s like “I Got It on eBay.”
RS: Oh, shit. That’s genius.
ES: “Tell me why! I need another pet rock,” it’s like, he keeps saying all these ridiculous things you can buy on eBay and he’s addicted to buying stuff on eBay.
RS: What a master!
ES: I know! It’s amazing!
“White and Nerdy” was pretty formative for me because that’s when I first started using the Internet, really. Like, that music video from when I was, like, 11 or so, that was the pinnacle of art. It’s still up there. Hey, what are you star signs?
ES: Gemini, born and raised.
RS: Me and Emily are Geminis.
Word. I’ve met a lot of Gemini musicians who’ve come and played here. Lots of Gemini artists.
ES: That’s because we rise to the top.
RS: I don’t know if I stand by that.
JB: I’m a Capricorn, if anybody cares.
JB: No one really cares about Capricorns.
RS: That makes sense.
ES: Oh, that makes SO much sense!
FW: David Bowie.
ES: David Bowie was a Capricorn?
JB: Yeah, but he DIED.
FW: That’s not one of the immortal signs.
ES: Oh, God. It’s not an immortal sign. Felix your sign is immortal, isn’t it?
FW: Aquarius? Yeah.
JB: Oh, that’s true.
Yeah. Cancers die, I think. Cancers are not immortal.
JB: My mom is a Cancer.
I definitely identify as a Cancer. I cry a lot (no).
That’s what we’re known for, I guess.
JB: I love my mom.
ES: Yeah, I love my mom, too.
Aw, good! I’ll include that. Shout out to mothers. Also, totally different, but where did the name Florist come from?
ES: Um, it’s just everywhere.
ES: Yeah. Everyone thinks about us now. Trying to take over the world.
RS: We don’t even have to buy the signs.
ES: Yeah, we don’t have to buy the signs. They’re already up everywhere.
FW: There was a band that I used to play with in high school, not play in, but played shows with, but they were called Post No Bills which was excellent marketing, at least in New York. You ever walk around scaffolding and you’ll see it everywhere, that sign. Like, I think about that band to this day and I don’t even remember what they sound like.
ES: Oh, God. The future is not looking good.
And then I know that a lot of you are in multiple projects so what’s it like to juggle all of that?
ES: That’s your bag, Felix.
JB: Felix is in, like, every band.
ES: Felix is in, like, 25 bands.
FW: Four bands. (gesturing to Emily) You’re in two bands.
FW: I’m in four bands.
JB: I’m in, sometimes, other bands, but mostly just this one. Sometimes I play with Ricky and his project.
RS: You play in our fucking band!
JB: I didn’t wanna presume anything!
RS: You’re in the band.
FW: So you’re in, like, up to four bands.
JB: At any given time, though, I’m only committed to two.
RS: Yeah, two, not one.
JB: I guess it’s all coming out now.
RS: Just wanted to get it on record.
ES: Mercury Lounge, March 9th, Florist and Furs, Rick’s band, Furs, Rick’s band.
JB: OUR band.
ES: Rick and Jonnie’s band.
JB: I think we just said that. We JUST said that.
So what usually comes first when you’re writing, the instruments or the lyrics?
ES: Um, the lyrics always come first but then we all together make the instrumentation, yeah.
M: Can you two (Jonnie and Ricky) sing?
JB: Yeah, we sing.
ES: They sing great!
Nice. I don’t/can’t.
RS: We used to sing a lot more in this band
JB: Yeah, we used to be kind of like a vocal harmony band.
RS: I don’t know why!
ES: It sounds good though. I think I would like to have more vocal harmonies. I thought that that was good.
JB: It was fun!
RS: It was, like, a stack of our dumb voices.
Do you all watch a lot of movies? What kind of movies are you into? What else in pop culture are you a fan of?
JB: Video games.
ES: Video games! All the way. Sci-fi.
ES: Sci-fi, fantasy, vampires,
Twin Peaks? (For those who missed the show, Emily made a Twin Peaks joke during the performance)
ES: Yeah yeah yeah.
RS: Anything easily consumable on my end or anything that I can consume.
ES: Fantasy or role playing. Fantasy RPG. Swords, shields, capes.
RS: Oh yeah!
JB: Crystal swords?
ES & RS: Crystal swords!!!
ES: Bow and arrows, magic, wizards, dogs-
JB: We love puppy dogs.
RS: I really like cats.
JB: I love cats, too.
ES: I’m allergic to cats.
JB: But I really love puppy dogs.
ES: I don’t get along with cats. LOVE dogs.
Are you on any of those Facebook groups about dogs like Dogspotting or the Cool Dog Group or anything like that?
JB: There are some good Twitter accounts which post cute puppies.
ES: Yeah, I follow Cute Emergency on Twitter.
JB: Yeah, Cute Emergency, @CuteAnimals.
FW: I hate looking at cute animals.
JB: I respect that.
RS: What if it’s like, an exotic one, though?
FW: I’m just not interested in it.
JB: You don’t wanna just fantasize about hugging them?
FW: No, sometimes I see like, a funny looking one, like, that’s very funny. But, yeah, I’m not moved by like a puppy or like a baby.
RS: Yeah, babies are actually the worst. Actually, no, I love babies.
ES: I could take ‘em or leave ‘em.
What did you get to eat at the Village Inn?
ES: A cheeseburger. No other way.
JB: A veggie burger.
FW: A veggie burger.
RS: We had some sides, too.
JB: Oh, yeah, I got sweet potato fries with my veggie burger and pepper jack cheese.
FW: I had a salad. A Caesar salad.
ES: My side was the house salad.
RS: I had a veggie burger with carrots and hummus. It was cute.
ES: We got spinach and artichoke dip for the table. Waters with ice.
JB: Oh yeah. Incredible.
RS: Waters with ice, yeah.
Yeah, the VI is kind of like, the campus restaurant now. We had another place that delivered in town.
ES: Yeah, we heard about The Great Shutdown.
Oh yes. Where to next?
RS: Grand Rapids. Playing at a place called Witch House.
ES: It’s a house show. First house show of the tour. I think the second total house show. As in there will be two house shows of this tour and this is the first one.
Lastly, what are your opinions of Cleveland? I’m from there.
JB: I don’t have an opinion.
RS: Like, the sports team or the city? I’ve never been there. Wait, actually I have. I went to a punk bar called Now That’s Class. It’s pretty well known yeah? I liked that.
That’s, like, 20 blocks from my house.
RS: You can buy, like, 40 ounces in the bar.
ES: That’s cool.
RS: I can get behind that.
ES: I don’t even think I’ve been in it enough to have any idea.
RS: Are we playing there later in this tour?
RS: That’ll be the first time we’ve ever had there.
FW: Are we playing at Mahall’s? That’s the only place I’ve ever been in Cleveland.
ES: Yeah, we get free bowling. I really like that. It’s a bowling alley.
Word! That’s at the end of my street. That’s my hangout place.
JB: Will you bowl with us?
I’d be honored. I’ll bring my personal bowling ball I purchased at Value World.
JB: It’s probably in, like, six days, isn’t it?
Word, maybe I’ll make it! Thank you all so much, I know I’m tired and you might be, too. Thanks for coming. The show was sick!
UPDATE: I did make it to the show up in Cleveland, where they played with Key to the Mint, Kurt Tail, and Small Wood House. It was a banger.