Photo credit: Jared Thomas Kocka
From the opening notes of “Indie On Loud,” the song that begins Flora Cash’s latest EP Press, the listener is welcomed into a world that is equal parts light and airy, lush and intoxicating. Discussing their sound, Shpresa Lleshaj says, “I think we just write what we want to hear, and also what we are feeling, so it’s really – I mean 99% I would say, or maybe 95%, really honest, honest stuff. So just being honest, and maybe, when you’re honest, people can feel it.” Lleshaj’s bandmate and husband, Cole Randall, adds that they’ve become sensitive to contrast. Randall feels that the two balance each other out, and mentions that “there might be aspects of a song where in the beginning, we’re leaning very heavily toward something atmospheric, and then once we’ve heard it a few times, we’re like, “shit, this just needs some punch, there needs to be some grounding in this thing, there’s gotta be something more solid here.” Together, Lleshaj and Randall balance poetry and realism, and atmospheric vibes with “a real, un-reverbed piano that hits you a little harder.”
Lleshaj, from Stockholm, Sweden, and Randall, from Minneapolis, connected in 2012 via SoundCloud. Lleshaj found Randall’s music and “within two seconds, I was blown away by his lyrics and his voice.” When Randall listened to Lleshaj’s music, he was drawn to her vocal technique and style, as well as the melodies she was creating; the Scandinavian, atmospheric sound she was making contrasted with the raw, Americana songs he was writing on acoustic guitar. In Flora Cash, those two influences balance themselves out for a sound that’s equal parts earthy and ethereal.
This balance is brought to life in the video for “They Own This Town.” The song is more narrative-based than Flora Cash’s other material, and for the lyric video, they decided to “play out the story as it sounds… because that really was our experience, the feeling that you’re being shut out of the ‘old boy’s club,’ or whatever, that you’re not hanging out with the cool kids and you gotta struggle to get in – and then you got bills to pay.” It’s a story that anyone pursuing a dream without the benefits of connections can relate to. After an on-the-nose take for the lyric video, for the music video, the duo went for a more metaphorical visual that was open to interpretation. They partnered with Swedish director Christofer Nilsson for the clip. The resulting visual is full of metaphors and concepts that could be read in to but aren’t necessarily obvious. Just as you think you know what’s going on, you’re thrown off course.
“Indie On Loud” and “They Own This Town” come from the EP Press, released this spring on RCA Records. Originally, Flora Cash planned to title the EP Pressure, to “summarize some of the emotional states that were associated with the songs, in terms of where they came from and what we were trying to say.” Randall set to work designing the cover art in Photoshop, but because he was using a large font size, everything got cut off after “Press.” He liked the way Press looked as the title and brought it up to Lleshaj, “and then we both started to have all these kind of ideas springing to us about how Press, in some weird way was more open to interpretation but it also kinda described the feeling that we had about the EP.” Lleshaj also points out that “press” also means “pressure” in Swedish.
The first song to be released from Press was “You’re Somebody Else.” Since it first picked up steam with a placement in a Movistar commercial in Mexico, the song has now reached over 50 million streams across platforms. They’ve also performed it on The Late Late Show With James Corden, Last Call With Carson Daly, and Live! With Kelly and Ryan. At the time of the release of “You’re Somebody Else,” some songs for the EP were done. Randall mentions that “You’re Somebody Else” comes from between two eras, so “it’s a little bit different instrumentally and everything – but overall, it actually fit right in to place with the theme of the EP, but they’re from slightly different writing stages.”
Though Press is just over a month old, Flora Cash is already working on new material. Randall explains that “normally we don’t show anything to anyone, including our manager or A&R – god bless their souls – but we don’t normally show anything to them until it feels like it’s to a certain point, you know?”. Though they hold off on sharing new music when ideas are in their infancy, Lleshaj and Randall are organized: explaining their writing process, they mention a document where their next two albums are starting to take shape. Over time, they’ve realized that in order to feel like their ideas have been brought to their full potential and that the production has enough detail and interesting ideas, it takes about a year and a half for an idea to become a finished song. But they haven’t always looked so far ahead. “In the beginning, you really want to put music out,” Randall says. “and you don’t know how it’s going to be received…. When we first met, we didn’t have ‘a year and a half ago’… ‘a year and a half ago’ didn’t exist.” Not everything takes that long, though: “You’re Somebody Else” was written and recorded in 24 hours.
In comparison to their 2017 release, Nothing Lasts Forever (And It’s Fine), on Press, Flora Cash has de-emphasized the guitars and focused more on piano. “Our sort of sensibilities with the production has evolved a little bit, and there were some hints of that in ‘You’re Somebody Else, but … that came to fruition with this current offering,” Randall shares. On their spring tour with lovelytheband, Lleshaj and Randall will be joined on stage by a new auxiliary musician, whom they describe as “a crazy multi-instrumentalist” that will bring “a lot of new ideas to the live show.” They’ll be playing the entire EP, as well as some never-before-heard unreleased material. This time around, they’ll bring new levels of production with a new light show, and with less of Randall playing guitar, both he and Lleshaj will be able to move around more.
Press is out now on RCA Records; stream or buy it here. Flora Cash will be releasing a full-length album in late summer. For more info and to see a list of their upcoming tour dates with lovelytheband, visit www.FloraCash.com.