FLANDERS The X-Press Interview

The 2019 edition of In the Pines, happening next Sunday, April 14, has one of the best Pines line ups in recent memory. And of all the acts playing, none is more of a coup than getting 90s indie rock royalty Flanders on board – they of hits such as Anky Fremp and Waste Away – who haven’t played a show since 2001. Ahead of In the Pines and a side show at the Newport next Friday, April 12, drummer Christian Owen spoke to HARVEY RAE about getting the band back together, The Simpsons and how they never officially broke up.

So why the return of Flanders after all these years?

Good question! RTRFM has been a great supporter of local music and were great supporters of Flanders back in the day. We were approached to reform to play at In the Pines, which is obviously an event to support RTRFM, and it just so happened it coincided with all three Flanders members plus our old manager and Perth music support Kevin Russeth being in Perth at the same time. We don’t all live in the same state in fact we don’t all live in Australia anymore. So it was as if the planets had aligned to play one last time and support an entity that supported us. And given we were getting back together, we thought we may as well play anther show (at the Newport next Friday).

There was a lot of love for Flanders back in the day, which this announcement a few weeks ago made clear. Why did you break up in 2001?

Actually we never officially broke up. As is the case with most musicians, we had ‘other jobs’ going on in the background. When world domination had not yet arrived by the early 2000s, I had to move to London for work – in fact, within about a year or two all of us had moved to London for work, and Mark (Pike, bass/guitar/vocals) has never come back. We sort of morphed into different lives and playing got put on the backburner. We probably could have come up with a much better ‘break up’ story (like) in fighting, stealing charges, irreconcilable differences, but that is the reality. Rather than playing we just spend a lot of time talking about when we used to play – there is less packing up gear that way.

In the time since your heyday, where you were ruling the airwaves, what have you all been up to – musically and otherwise?

We all still listen to a lot of music and email and WhatsApp each other with new bands and songs we are listening to and go to the odd gig together. Music will always be a part of our lives. Luke had a period of playing solo but otherwise we have been fairly quiet musically – from a playing perspective that is. Otherwise we all have families and respectable day jobs. Christian is a jet ski test pilot, Luke is an Instagram influencer and Mark concocts new alco pop flavours – actually, we may have made this last bit up.

Is this a one off or is there a chance all the devotion for Flanders we’ve been seeing recently might inspire some more shows and music? Or even just reissue the Urgency Factor compilation that got largely missed here in Perth?

Who knows what will happen. With Mark still in London the three of us playing will be difficult. We recently have put on Spotify a whole bunch of unreleased material and some live recordings – go to the end of Mud and 5 Ways to Serve It to find it – so that is at least some new music. This whole process has reminded us of the good times we had playing so you never know.

Surprisingly for a band that Gen X-ers remember so fondly, you never released a proper album. Is this a chance to rectify that? Or do you prefer to leave your legacy as is and let people make their own playlists on Spotify, where even Urgency Factor isn’t available…

I think we are happy to leave what we did as it was released. In these days of playlists people can make their own Flanders playlist and create the perfect album!

I always loved your sound because it reminded me of the three-piece bands I was so into at the time like Buffalo Tom and early You Am I. Are they fair references – or who were Flanders’ biggest musical inspirations?

Yes you nailed it. Flanders was really formed on the back of similar music tastes. Mark and I played in a band together and Luke played in another. However, we all got talking at a Welcome Mat gig (if you remember them – one of Australia’s greatest music producers Wayne Connolly was in the band and they had some great songs) and realised that we all liked the same music, which our other bands didn’t really sound like. We had a jam and it all just sort of worked, at least to our ears anyway.

As to influences – we could talk for hours and hours but you would have to add bands like Nirvana, Glide, Teenage Fanclub, Ride, Dinosaur JR, Wilco and so many others. There was also the ‘guilty pleasures’ list with 80s bands like KISS, 1927, Dragon, Noiseworks etc.

The WA scene has evolved so much in the time since Flanders were one of our most promising up and comers, but you guys laid the groundwork in a lot of ways and are certainly one of those bands that helped create what people call the ‘Perth Pop Sound’. Is that something you ever take much time to reflect on or feel proud of?

We were really pre-internet, pre-mobile phones and pre-social media. So you found out about bands by reading the X-Press every Thursday, going to 78 Records or Dadas or Mills Records and looking at posters and the only way really to listen to music was on the few alternative stations there were (like) RTR, triple j etc. That meet there was a ‘scene’ created by people that were really interested in the music, as you had to work harder to hear it. We think we were just lucky to be a part of it all. All the bands seemed to get on and encourage each other and we spent a lot of time and a lot of fun times with great people. And the scene threw off strange spin-offs such as “Cricket in the Park” run by Andy from Bucket (now Jayco Brothers) – and for the record the Flanders arranged team won the inaugural grand final of that competition.

It’s compliment to say your were big fish in a little pond here in Perth, and you recorded over east with luminaries like Wayne Connelly… where did you have the most success outside of Perth, was it on the east coast or overseas? Where do you think will they be most excited about the possibility of a Flanders reunion?

Well we got our Spotify stats the other day and someone listened to us in Ecuador so we are pretty keen to go on tour there! Otherwise Perth definitely – the title to one of our EPs Small Town Big Chip was actually a reference to some throw away lines on the east that we had chips on our shoulders about being from Perth.

It’s a sign of your 90s heritage I guess that, like fellow Perth legends Jebediah, you’re named after a character from The Simpsons. Were you just huge fans of the show, and/ or what inspired you to go with the name?

Yes we liked the show – but it was more of a case that we got our first gig and had to quickly come up with a name and that one just stuck – There were other names – the only other one we can remember throwing around was Avid Grey which my brother Tim stole years later!

Finally, is there any truth to the rumour that you briefly changed your name to Urgency Factor in order to make it into the US where there were several other bands named Flanders, or is it urban myth? 

No that is an urban myth – we have a record label in the US that released our stuff and they sort of squashed two of the EPs together to make an album and released it under the name Urgency Factor – it was still under the name Flanders (you can find this somewhat definitive Flanders release on Bandcamp).