VMP Rising is our series where we partner with up-and-coming bands and press their EPs/shorter albums on vinyl. This edition covers Australian band Flowertruck, whose Dirt EP is in our store right now.
Naturally, I spent the week leading up to my interview with Charles Rushforth and Will Blackburn of the Sydney-based band Flowertruck listening to their Dirt EP. But I hit it a little harder beyond the purpose of pure interview preparation. Scuttling around campus with my headphones suctioned to my ears, I was unable to get enough of Flowertruck and unable to fully understand why it was resonating with me so strongly. My gravitation clicked about 30 seconds into our interview when I asked them how they’d describe their band to someone that has never heard their music before.
“Anxious pre-and-post-student pop,” explained Blackburn, the band’s drummer.
“Anxious is a big one—someone's recently described us as shouty but with potential, and I like that,” added Rushforth, who plays bass and guitar.
The word anxious may conjure up thoughts of grim and pensive panic, but a key component of Flowertruck is that their approach to anxiety is far from solemn. Their music is playfully dramatic, verging on performatively goofy, but never quite getting there. Take the cover of Dirt for example—it depicts a simple, yet whimsical cartoon city.
“One of our friends designed...what I think is a really nice kind of objective wrap-up of what Flowertruck is—it's this convoluted city, but it's in cartoon format, because we can't really take ourselves too seriously,” Rushforth said.
“I think a lot of the things we sort of sing about and panic about are sort of exaggerated, and we wonder how far away it is from reality? So i think the exaggerated caricature is sort of something that made sense,” said Blackburn.
As far as the “student” element of their anxious student pop identity goes, Blackburn and Rushforth both said they picture their their music serving a formative function, an archive of anxieties with which people could relate to, but also learn from.
Rushforth explained, “I always imagined someone would listen to Dirt, it would be between maybe tracks three and four, and you'd get an interrupting mum walking into the room like "Oh, dinner's ready—"
"GO AWAY MUM!,” shouted Blackburn and Rushforth in unison. "I'M TRYING TO LISTEN TO FLOWERTRUCK," Blackburn laugh-yelled, followed by a faux-angsty, "I'M TRYING TO DISCOVER MYSELF" from Rushforth.
Flowertruck consistently nails the essence of late youth. Perhaps it’s because they seem to understand the most prominent element of your formative years: the incessant shattering of expectations. Rushforth explained that much of the EP was written when he came back to Australia following his return from an extended trip he took to Romania.
“"Nail Gun" is pretty much about the holiday blues. Like you come back home and you're like, “‘Aww, why the hell did I go overseas? I've just lost all my security,’” Rushforth explained. “That whole idea idea that everything is very fragile, and the youthful thing that's sold to kids nowadays is like, “Go on a holiday overseas, and drink a lot of alcohol!”"
“Come back and you'll have a great selection of beanies and NO FUCKING MONEY. And a panic attack! Oh, can't pay rent? You've gotta move home. But Romania sounded fun, man,” Blackburn added through wry laughter.
It became clear pretty quickly that having their expectations flipped upside down seemed to be the Flowertruck way, but it was never framed as a bad thing. The video for “Sunshower” radiates such a silly, campy joy, you’d never guess they were baking under the australian sun for the majority of filming it.
“We were roasting in the sun drinking this weird, warm champagne. Our set broke. I think you'll notice about 10 seconds in, there's that big plastic sheet, but by the end of it, it's just ripped apart. That wasn't planned, that was me accidentally throwing a drumstick through it and tearing the entire sheet and we just kind of rolled with it,” Blackburn said.
Rushforth chimed in, “We put ourselves through sort of strange pain, but smiled through it and end up coming up with something that we didn't expect, but also love.”
“It's the microcosm of the whole thing, really,” Blackburn said.
Our chat was filled with terribly honest, well-told anecdotes of things not going to plan—some a bit more serious than others. When I asked if they had any “crazy tour stories,” Rushforth was quick to offer the ultimate story of expectations going awry.
“I poo'd myself right before a gig once, one of the worst things I've ever done in my life,” laughed Rushforth. “We were picking up our amps getting ready to go...and I felt this fart coming on, and I was like, "Oh, I know, I'll fart near Sarah. That'll be funny," as I was picking up this amp. It didn't turn into a fart, it turned into little paintball-ish gunk, and she looks at me and goes, "What was that?" and I'm like, "I GOTTA CHANGE." So I've got this shittier pair of jeans on now, and all my confidence is gone. I was like a newborn foal, weak in the knees.”
On a more romantic note, they also recounted the time a fan proposed to their partner at one of their shows. The fan contacted the band beforehand, explaining that “I Wanna Be With You” was one of the couple’s favorite songs and told them that they wanted to propose at Flowertruck’s show while they played the song.
“She goes “‘I want it to be a surprise, I don't want any speeches',” so naturally Rushforth took the reins and started giving some harrowing speech about love and Christmas,” teased Blackburn.
“Well, from my point of view, I kind of freaked out and was like, 'Well, maybe I should say something.' It was like, 'Every year the reaper's scythe swings closer…,” Rushforth laughed.
“But then you brought it back, and it was really nice like, “What you gotta do is have love in your heart and someone next to you,” and it was gorgeous. She proposed to him, and it was all very happy. And then, Rushforth, about 30 seconds later as we're playing "I Wanna Be With You," proceeded to fall so heavily over an amp stack that I've never seen him fall so bad. Just legs and arms everywhere. It was incredible. It was a very beautiful depiction of what I think Flowertruck is, which is these high highs and these fucking crushing lows," Blackburn added.
Be it a truly unique profession of love, some hilarious tales to tell with your bandmates during interviews, a personality-filled video, or some genuinely great tunes, Flowertruck makes those moments of shattered expectations work for them. And let’s be honest, we all encounter these the awkward anxieties of reality, probably long after our youthful formative years (although hopefully with less frequency). Dirt will understand them and remind you to take them a little less seriously.
Good news for those of you that feel like you could get down to some anxious student pop, which should be everyone: they were stoked to announce that their new single is coming out at the end of February, along with plans for a full-length album within the next year.
Amileah Sutliff is a New York-based writer, the Head of Editorial at Vinyl Me, Please and an editor of the book The Best Record Stores in the United States.