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08 Jun 2020

Unfamiliar Territory: New Single 'We Were Young' Features The Flusters’ Sound—With a Synth-Driven Twist

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Psychedelic, dreamy, trance-inducing music performed by four cool guys in suits has been The Flusters’ trade for more than five years now. The band’s unique approach to surf and indie rock landed the group a 2016 spot at Coachella, countless awards—and even a national tour.

The band is now shifting gears just a bit with new single “We Were Young,” The Flusters’ first release since debut album Dreamsurf, which came out early last year. It’s a synth-driven, ’80s-style tune that would be perfect for an opening-credits sequence. However, this is still very much a product of The Flusters, as trademarks from the band’s unique sound, such as waves of reverb and danceability, carry over into “We Were Young.”

I spoke to Doug VanSant and Mario Estrada about the new song.

“When we released Dreamsurf, all of those songs and our name had already been established in the valley,” VanSant said. “We were getting hired for a lot of corporate-level things; people liked The Flusters’ style and approach, even to cover songs. We were getting a lot of L.A. gigs and corporate gigs, and were even a part of the ‘Find Your Own Oasis’ video made by the (Greater Palm Springs Convention and) Visitors Bureau. (“We Were Young”) has been played live a few times. We put together the recording this last year, and have been waiting for the right time to release it. We figured we’d release it now, right at the start of summer.”

This new sound is the result of a more collaborative effort in creating The Flusters’ music.

“It was a new approach for us, because I had brought a lot of the early Flusters ideas into the band with stuff that I had half-started,” VanSant said. “This (new song) was the product of Mario starting a bass line, me laying rhythm and vocals, Danny (White) hitting some beats, and (Daniel) Perry creating a beat electronically. It was much more of a calling-all-corners-of-the-band writing process.

“The song is also very pop. I’ve been wanting to write new-wave for as long as I’ve been wanting to write surf music. It’s interesting to see how everyone’s musical background is fitting into that. It’s been a bit of unfamiliar territory for all of us, but it’s been a lot of fun progressing as a band into the style.”

VanSant’s unique vocals and guitarist Danny White’s style remain big parts of the new sound.

“As much as this is a new style, it’s very Flusters-imprinted,” VanSant said. “As much as we are a surf band, we go into a little bit of post-rock and shoegaze; we’re a very washy, vibey band. Our songs are all over, whether we’re playing a sort-of indie, Band of Horses sound like ‘Lake St.,’ or some straight Tarantino surf with ‘When It’s Late at Night,’ or doo-wop style with ‘Everyday Dreaming.’ Now with ‘We Were Young,’ we still have those Flusters sounds of washy and dream-surf-y; just now it’s filtered through a new-wave, pop approach.”

Added Estrada: “It’s something that’s changing and evolving while we’re playing. We all have different musical headspaces, and come from different areas of music. It all comes together to create this Flusters sound.”

I was curious whether this single represents a transition for the band.

“We’re not scared to fall out of what people know us as,” VanSant said. “For a while, we thought we had to write ‘Flusters’ songs, and not just songs. We just got to the point where we realized that we don’t have this glass ceiling holding us within one genre. It’s really cool to move from album to album through different genres, and to explore—if you are that type of band that comes from different genres and musical backgrounds, like us.”

“We have another single coming that holds somewhat of the same style. I’ve been toying around with some funkier sounds that fall more into a synthesizer-driven pocket. We’ve all been writing on our own due to COVID, so it will be really interesting to see what happens when we meet creatively again. We’re not scared to throw in any left-field style, because we know we can pull it off.

“YouTube musician Marc Rebillet said it best: ‘No one gives a fuck about your artistic integrity; just make shit!’ I like how unafraid he is, and I want to use that as a mantra in my writing. I want everyone in our band to be able to express their style, because we can make it work. It’s gonna be interesting to meet to write again, because I’m not afraid of rejecting any style from anyone.”

A main part of the band’s image has been the black suits. In some of the band’s more recent pre-pandemic shows, however, The Flusters were beginning to simplify the look.

“I’ve always thought that it was cool showing up to a venue, and everyone knowing who the band is,” said VanSant. “Dudes like Louis Cole who show up in their pajamas are great, and I respect them, but I’ve always enjoyed the showmanship aspect of music. The suits were to establish a theme and create this multisensory experience with our live shows, music videos, etc. Now it will be interesting to go to the drawing board again, costume-wise, and see what our new style will be based on the new sound. We’re the kind of band that pays attention to those details. We have gone a little casual while we redesign our look to move in a progression—just as our sound has.”

When VanSant is not leading the Flusters, he is often creating with Tracker Studios, his production company.

“We are planning to do a music video—but things are a touch challenging to finish that project right now, obviously,” VanSant said. “It’s going to be made by my production company, Tracker Studios. We live in a world where music begs for a multimedia experience, and being able to do that with my studio means we’ll really be able to take off.

“It’s good to have my seat in both pools; they work together like peanut butter and jelly. We own and operate a rehearsal space with a fully loaded back and frontline for local bands to come in and rehearse. We are for locals. by locals, and half the price of a typical rehearsal space.

VanSant said the band planned on directing proceeds from the first several days of sales of “We Were Young,” which was released on June 5, to social-justice organizations.

“It’s a very interesting time to have a single release scheduled,” VanSant said. “We were actually planning to pull the single, but through our distribution agreement, we were unable to do so. We go through a boutique distributor out of New York, and they are working on a playlist pitch for the song. Pulling it would’ve been extremely difficult on the administrative end.

“It is really important for us as a band to take action and recognize what is happening right now, and to not distract from the point trying to be made by activists. … We take this situation very seriously. Our hearts go out to everyone, and we have decided that all the proceeds that are made from (the first weekend) of our song sales will be donated to several social-justice organizations, such as ActBlue, Equal Justice Initiative and the Loveland Foundation, to name a few. I say this not because I want to brag about how charitable we are; I say it because you should be fucking doing it, too.”

For more information, visit theflusters.com.

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