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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

It would be nigh impossible to find a band more deserving of being voted Best Local Band by the readers of this fine publication than The Flusters.

The “California dreamsurf quartet” ended 2016 by releasing a well-received EP. They played a wildly successful Coachella “4/20 Inbetweener” show at The Hood—a year after playing at Coachella itself. The group then mounted a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised an impressive $21,000. That money helped the band members quit their day jobs to prepare for their first national tour—which was a rousing success. And The Flusters are now working hard on a sophomore EP, slated for release early next year.

In other words, it’s been one hell of a year for The Flusters, who were voted Best Local Band for the second time in three years. They’ll perform at the Best of Coachella Valley Awards Show and Party at The Hood Bar and Pizza on Friday, Dec. 15.

I rode along with The Flusters when they recently headed to Hollywood to play at the Viper Room. The crowd loved them, with one person remarking that they will do very well in Los Angeles if they continue to play there.

In mid-November, the band performed in front of a nearly sold-out audience at The Hood to celebrate the release of the music video for “Everyday Dreaming.” After the show, we discussed their Best Local Band win.

“Frankly, we were surprised,” frontman Doug Van Sant said. “You go away on tour all summer, and we came back, and we had this post-tour blues going on. We were our own bosses for the first time. None of us had a job to go back to, and we were kind of twiddling our thumbs—and you think people have forgotten about you after you haven’t played a local show in seven months. But when you get talked about, win something like this, or have a successful show like we did tonight, it feels like nothing changed, and we weren’t forgotten.”

Guitarist Danny White said he felt gratified after returning home from the national tour.

“We were all extremely relieved to have completed the task at hand,” he said. “There was a lot of … what I wouldn’t call doubt, but people trying to put doubt in our heads by telling us what we needed to do and how we needed to do it, and people telling us, ‘When you get to here, this is how you’re going to feel.’ We talked about it nonstop, and we had to find peace within ourselves and realize we’d given up control over what’s going to happen. All we can do is do our best, get there and be on time—and it led us to the end.”

Bassist Mario Estrada discussed one of the tour stops—in Iowa City, Iowa.

“There were about two people in the bar when we started playing, and by the end of the set, there were a bunch of people walking in, who were all saying, ‘Our friends told us to come over and check you guys out. We just rushed down here. Are you guys still going to keep playing?’ We had already started packing up and had somewhere to go. They were all bummed out.”

Van Sant said he has fond memories of being on the road, including a regular occurrence when White and photographer/videographer Wolf Mearns would be driving and navigating at night.

“(Mearns) would hit a rumble strip, and it would wake me up. I’d feel a blast of cool air, smell a cigarette being lit, and hear the crack of the tab of a Red Bull,” Van Sant said with a laugh. “You should have heard some of the late-night conversations that (White) would have with Wolf. Wolf got some of them on camera, and they were some the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard in my life.”

The Flusters could teach other local bands a lesson on how to market themselves: They know what they’re doing, and are very creative while doing it.

“Marketing, to me—it’s presence and pulse,” Van Sant said. “(It’s important to) make yourself present digitally and through merchandising—and the advantageous thing through merchandising is it’s a two-fold thing. Yes, you can make some good money, but merchandising (means) your name is everywhere, and the advantageous thing about your name being everywhere is that you become a household name. All I do is create a presence for us where there is not one, and I think outside the box. I try to connect us as a band to things that other bands might not find interesting. For me, it’s just about being persistent.”

As the band sat in the green room of The Hood after performing at that November show, drummer Daniel Perry said the feedback on the show was almost entirely positive.

“A lot of people tonight told us, ‘I saw you at the 4/20 show the last time, and you guys have really improved, and you’re so cohesive. Everybody really thought you had achieved that next level.’ It’s amazing to see how our local support has continued to grow more and more.”

Perry joined The Flusters just two weeks before that 2016 Coachella performance.

“It was a flood out of the gates,” he said. “As soon as I joined The Flusters, one of the first shows I played was Coachella. It was amazing and one of the most anxious moments I’ve had in my life. … We’ve been doing nothing but leaps since then, and it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come since I’ve joined.

“I can’t wait to see where we go next.”

Of course, every band is going to have its critics, and Van Sant said after that Hood show that he doesn’t worry about them; instead, he focuses on his fans.

“We’re getting the corporate events; we’re getting the outdoor events, and that’s all good, but the people who were in here tonight—those are the people we really, really want to please,” he said. “The people who buy the tickets and have watched us since Day 1 and compare our shows—we try to give them something rad and new, and throw in some surprising moments.”

Published in Features

The Flusters have achieved big things locally. Now, the band is working to achieve big things beyond the Coachella Valley.

On June 1, The Flusters began an all-or-nothing, 30-day Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 in “seed money” by June 30. The goal is to boost the band as the members leave their day jobs to embark on a six-week, 20-city national tour, as well as release the Flusters’ second EP in the fall.

The crowd-funding campaign has a lot of perks offered to those who donate, including new limited-edition merchandise and a copy of their new EP once it’s released. The campaign’s updates have included video footage of a private performance for a teenage girl, graduating from high school, whom band members called their “biggest fan”; the release of the music video for their song “Your Arms”; and a video of a mural of the band being painted by local artist Adam Enrique Rodriguez in their practice space.

As of this story’s posting, the campaign had received $14,308 in donations.

I recently visited the Flusters’ headquarters in Palm Desert before a scheduled practice to discuss the campaign and the plans surrounding it. Will Sturgeon, front man of Brightener, was also present and picking away on guitarist Danny White’s Fender Telecaster as we discussed the campaign. Sturgeon recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for Brightener’s new album; he raised $7,665, with an original goal of $7,000.

“All of our money goes to Will Sturgeon,” front man Doug VanSant joked.

Sturgeon smiled, nodded and said, “Time is money.”

VanSant continued: “The Kickstarter was something we had planned to do ever since our first EP release last year. We knew that we wanted seed money to grow our project to the next level, and had seen people like Will close in on a couple of successful ones himself. Our friends Kreg and Kelly at (Palm Desert restaurant) Wilma and Frieda’s also ran a successful one. It was something that we always had in our scope to do, and we finally did it. Will has been a huge help in doing consultation for this, and he’s been our co-producer. He plays keyboards with us, and very early on, we had meetings in phone and in person on how to do this. His knowledge is invaluable.”

The Flusters took a risk by running an all-or-nothing campaign: If the band members don’t raise the whole $20,000, they’ll receive nothing. It’s a risky endeavor; popular local band The Hive Minds failed to reach a crowd-funding campaign goal, despite a well-done video to promote it and a lot of great perks. Sturgeon also helped the Hive Minds with that campaign. VanSant said the Hive Minds’ experience proves that crowd-funding can be tough.

“I watched their video, and they had a great video,” he said. “They said exactly what they were going to do with the money, and they were clear-cut in their goals and offered great rewards, but it didn’t work. We backed that project, too.

“We have so many people counting on us,” VanSant continued. “The live venues are counting on us; our management is counting on us; and our fans are counting on us.”

The other band members expressed nervousness as well.

“To imagine doing this without all of that (crowd-funding money) is another terrifying thought; it’s like Russian roulette,” Danny White said.

Mario Estrada laughed and added: “But that’s also what makes it really fucking exciting!”

Meanwhile, the band continues to prepare for the tour and to head into the recording studio to record Extended Play No. 2. Drummer Daniel Perry explained that the recording will include some familiar tracks.

“It’s going to have ‘Elevator Dance,’ and our instrumental ‘Stinger,’ as well as a new song called ‘Everyday Dreaming’ and ‘Time Traveler,’” Perry said. “We are also going to finish it up with a song we’ve re-worked and re-titled ‘When Will Then Be Now?’ We’re going to do the new two in between synth instrumentals ‘003’ and ‘004’ as well.”

Similar synth tracks—a few seconds of strange noises in between tracks—can also be found in the form of “001” and “002” on the first EP. I asked VanSant about the reason behind them, and he responded that all will be revealed with the next EP release.

“If you read the project updates, you’ll read the narrative of EP 1. … That story gets continued in EP 2. EP 2 serves as the mirror of EP 1,” VanSant said. “Every song has a counterpart; every synth sequence has a counterpart; and (EP 2) picks up literally where EP 1 left off. There’s going to be a complete seamless transfer of all 10 songs across the board. When you get the double EP, there’s actually going to be a bonus track at a secret Web location, and we’ll release the location when you buy it, and it’ll be hidden in the sleeve. But you’ll have to get that sleeve at our live show, and you’ll have to hunt for it.”

While the EPs are linked, the band will be recording the second one at a different studio, with a different producer.

“We’re going to a place called comp-ny in Los Angeles to work with a guy named Be Hussey, who runs comp-ny, and he recently won a Latin Grammy Award as a producer,” VanSant said. “For tracking, we’re going to give this studio a shot, and we’re a band that tracks easily, because we have a pretty organic sound. Obviously, our comfort level is to mix with Will (Sturgeon), but we might mix with Be. We don’t want to fix what isn’t broken, but do things in a grander fashion.”

The Flusters’ tour will include gigs in VanSant’s hometown of Philadelphia, and White’s hometown of Jackson, Miss. The band had help in mapping it out from Sherpa Management, a Los Angeles outfit put together by musicians and for musicians.

“We had Sherpa Management schedule the whole thing,” White said. “They’ve been extremely supportive and helpful. We couldn’t ask for a better team in our corner. But as far as people showing up, it’s going to happen, and probably not going to happen. It’s just going to be what it’s going to be. The main thing for us is getting that experience on the road to get ready for the next tour.”

VanSant said he’s a little worried about mishaps that come with touring.

“The logistics worry me a bit,” VanSant said. “Is the bus going to crap out? Is the sewage pump on the bus going to work? Will any of our gear break down? Are we going to get held up somewhere? These are things life throws at you. Having cultivated a strong group mentality of, ‘Let’s get through this,’ and, ‘Let’s be solution based’ when challenges and adversity come across our plate, we don’t bicker at each other. We’re working together, and the Kickstarter is proof—and we’re right on target.”

VanSant said the goal after the tour and second EP is to focus on writing more music, and working together to keep reaching for more success.

“We already have about five songs for our full-length album. We’re starting to book shows through November and looking to do some pretty big-ticket shows coming up here,” VanSant said. “It’s going to be a mixture of playing new markets, playing bigger venues in the same markets, and promoting those two EPs—and leveling up and staying busy. We believe we need to give ourselves six months, a full trial of focusing on The Flusters. That means jumping in the bus and going to another market for a week or two, setting up a residency to play that city, and then bouncing to another city.

“A lot of bands can’t level up, because they can’t chase the opportunity. Everybody scatters to the corners to their day jobs and tries to pay their bills, and we’ve decided to work together to pay all our separate bills. The solution is within this band. If we can play one gig and pay Daniel Perry’s car payment, that’s worth it to us. If we can play one gig and pay my rent for that month, that’s how we want to make our living. We’re going to go find the gigs—and they’re out there.”

For more information on The Flusters, visit www.theflusters.com.

In 2015, The Flusters were voted the Best Local Band by Coachella Valley Independent readers. In 2016, the band played higher-profile gigs—including Coachella—and released a well-received EP. What will 2017 bring? Stay tuned to find out—and visit www.theflusters.com for more information. Catch the band on Saturday, Jan. 28, at the Saguaro as part of “Moonlit Mojave.” Flusters bassist Mario Estrada expressed interest in taking the Lucky 13, and here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

The Big Four: Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica. It was great!

What was the first album you owned?

The first album I asked my parents for when I was a kid? Millennium by Backstreet Boys. First album that really made me love music? Ænima by Tool.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I’ve been listening to a looooot of Mac DeMarco. Can’t put him down. The new J. Cole is sick, too. Everyone should check out Yuck, and Palma Violets if you haven’t yet.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Country. I don’t have enough experience with driving tractors, drinking shitty beer and chewing big red.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Tool. I’ve never been able to see them live. Or The Doors.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

If Billy Joel is considered a guilty pleasure, definitely him. If not, it’s got to be Rod Stewart. It’s my mom’s fault for playing him when she would wake us up to clean on Saturdays.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Hmmm ... so many. I’ve been playing shows and seeing shows since The Hood used to be in its old location, so probably The Hood, because I’m so used to it.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“WELL, I JUST GOT INTO TOWN ABOUT AN HOUR AGO!” from “L.A. Woman” by The Doors. I actually just thought he screamed, “WELLIDABADABADABADABA HOUR AGO!” I have to look up the actual lyrics every time.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Tool. I never really appreciated music for what it could be until my tio, Chuy, played them for me for the first time. The first song I learned to play on bass was “Forty-six and 2.” If not for them, I think I’d still just listen to whatever was on the radio.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I’d ask Alanis Morissette if that song really was about Dave Coulier. It’s just so hard to believe that Uncle Joey could be that much of a douchebag.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Who Let the Dogs Out?” by the Baha Men. Nah, just kidding. “Why Judy Why” by Billy Joel.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Hmmm. Rock album? Ænima by Tool. Rap album? The Chronic by Dr. Dre. It would be Cold Spring Harbor by Billy Joel, but they messed up the mastering on it, so it’s sped up, and he sounds like a chipmunk on it. The re-master fixes the speed issue, but it still feels a little off. But every song on that album hits you in the gut.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Tomorrow Is Today” by Billy Joel. Or “Freaking Out the Neighborhood” by Mac DeMarco. Take your pick. (Scroll down to hear the songs.)

Published in The Lucky 13

It’s been a remarkable year for The Flusters. The band has taken the stage at both Coachella and Echo Park Rising, after being voted the “Best Local Band” by Independent readers.

Now the band is releasing its first EP. On Friday, Sept. 30, the Flusters will celebrate the release at The Hood Bar and Pizza with The Yip-Yops, Brightener and a special performance by Cakes and Brains.

During a recent interview in their new practice space in Palm Desert, guitarist/vocalist Doug Van Sant, guitarist Danny White, bassist Mario Estrada and drummer Daniel Perry all talked about the new EP.

“It took three days to record—two days in North Hollywood, and one day in Palm Desert,” Van Sant said.

Added White: “There were also about two months of pre-production in getting the songs right.”

Much of the recording was done at ReadyMix studios, with Paul Horabin in North Hollywood, while the vocals were recorded with Will Sturgeon, of Brightener, in Palm Desert; he served as the mixer and co-producer.

“He’s really easy to work with,” Van Sant said of Sturgeon. “I’d be interested to see how he’d work with a band that didn’t have as complete of a vision as we did. His producing was less vision creation and more nuts and bolts. When it comes to the fifth corner of the sound you hear in the EP, he produced it fully and wrote all the keyboard parts.”

White said all the pre-production work meant the band was truly ready when it came time to enter the studio—and even then, the recording process was trying.

“We learned it was very tiring,” White said. “I actually had a caffeine overdose and had to sit down for two hours because I thought I was going to throw up or die. We were so fried and trying to find the energy to get this stuff done within the two days we had to do it.”

Estrada said the band underestimated how tough the recording process would be.

“We’d be playing all day and thinking, ‘We’ll play; we’ll do everything during the day; and we’ll go out at night,’” he said. “We finished the first day, and we went out once just to get pizza together. We were that fried.”

While Daniel Perry is The Flusters’ current drummer, Chris O’Sullivan was the drummer during the recording process. Van Sant said they decided to keep O’Sullivan’s drumming on the album.

“It would be manipulation by omission to not credit him, and I’m not here to do that, and we’re not here to do that,” Van Sant said. “There’s zero ill will toward Chris. He did an excellent job on the album and was in the studio with us the entire time, doing his thing. … We’re not shy to give praise to people who had anything to do with this record.”

The title on the EP art is simply Extended Play No. 1. That hints at the fact that The Flusters are already working on the second EP. Perry said he’s enjoying the band’s writing process.

“It’s so comfortable, so easy, and so fluid,” Perry said. “Mario and I have known each other for quite a long time. We’ve jammed together before and have a sense of how each of us plays. He already knows how Doug and Dan work; I just kind of adapted to it. Their style is what I actually grew up on—that dream/surf feel. It’s everything that embodies me as a musician. I’ve never felt so fluid with a band like I do with these guys.”

However, the writing process is not always easy and fluid.

“It gets heated in this room sometimes,” White said.

It’s clear all of The Flusters’ hard work has paid off. The band has had some nice out-of-town shows and is gaining respect within the Los Angeles independent-band scene. The Flusters have found a kinship with Haunted Summer, who shared the stage with The Flusters at Chill Bar last November during the George Zander benefit show put on by the Independent.

“Beyond the artistic part, they’ve become really close friends,” White said about the members of Haunted Summer. “Anything we get to do with them, we love. We’re huge fans of them as musicians and people, and John Seasons has gone above and beyond for us. We are extremely grateful for that and for them to care and be fans of theirs.”

Van Sant said The Flusters have achieved success because the members work together as a team.

“It’s all done by delegation. Everybody in this band has a job beyond their instrument,” Van Sant said. “Danny is a great liaison to our Los Angeles circuit. Mario has a great relationship started with the East Valley. Daniel is good with gear management and knows a lot about electronics, sound, music and production.

“I’ve taken the manager’s reins. (At night in bed, I ask myself), ‘Have I done everything today that I possibly could do with the hours in the day with this band?’ If I can’t answer that, I can’t sleep. I have had many sleepless nights: ‘If the bass trap over there in the corner falls down because it’s too hot, it has to get fixed now, not tomorrow—right fucking now!’ The other guys have been on the ass end of that mentality from me, and I’m sure it hasn’t been pleasant.”

As for the album release show on Sept. 30: It’s going to include something that should bring back memories for anyone who has followed the Coachella Valley music scene over the years—a reunion of local band Cakes and Brains.

“People are going to get the flashbacks and say, ‘I remember those guys from high school! They’re still doing stuff? Let’s go check them out!’” Perry said. “I know I would. It would give me the nostalgia feels and want to experience that again. Their shows were so fun.”

The Flusters will perform with Brightener, The Yip Yops, and Cakes and Brains at 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 30, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information on the Flusters, visit www.theflusters.com.