INTERVIEW: New Album ‘One Step Back, Two Steps Forward’, Career/Family Balance & More With Flawes
Flawes are a British indie rock band that have been making waves with their infectious beats and introspective lyrics. Comprised of lead vocalist JC, drummer Huss, and guitarist Freddie, the trio has been together since 2015 and has released an album and an EP with a brand new album One Step Back, Two Steps Forward releasing on the 9th of June. In this interview, we sit down with Flawes to discuss their new album, their personal lives, and how they balance it all while on tour.
How are you guys doing today?
JC: How are we doing? We’re really good thanks. It feels good. We were just saying it feels good to be back in Amsterdam. We’ve not been here since what, 2019?
Freddie: Yeah. December 2019.
JC: You (Points to Freddie) keep saying one of the highlights of your life.
Freddie: I think I just have really happy memories of Amsterdam. My now wife came over and we played a wicked show and it’s a wicked crowd. Had some friends over as well, so it was just a happy time. So, it’s good to be back. I actually also asked these guys to be my groomsmen on the day of that show. I’m married too now. And that was, I think after sound check, we had a beer and I asked them to do.
JC: It’s a little like a bedroom size bar with loads of Heineken
Freddie: Amsterdam brings out the best in us, I think. Who knows what tonight’s gonna hook?
JC: And also we just found out there’s a huge Tony’s chocolate.
Since we last spoke, a lot has happened in your personal lives (marriage, children etc). How does that resonate with your music now? Does it kind of change your output on it or on touring as well?
JC: I’ll tell you in two weeks. [laughs] That’s the end of the tour.
Freddie: We’ve all sort of gone through it together at a similar time. We all got married at a similar time. We all get engaged at a similar time. So it’s really nice that there’s that togetherness. We all understand that family’s important to all of us.
Huss: Yeah, I think we all share the same values and so there’s like, a nice level of respect and we all appreciate you need your time to chat with your partners. prioritize it to some extent, but I think it’s probably especially tough for JC ’cause as you said, JC’s got a newborn. This is the first time away, right?
JC: First time away. So yeah, it’s difficult but it is what it is. We’ll get through it. As I said luckily it’s only a two-week tour, not like a two-month tour. I mean we always look at the positives. I think Flawes’ ethos is always like embracing your flaws and imperfections, but always being very optimistic about everything. We’re not very negative people. We always see the positive side of things. We only found out about this Tom Grennan tour really late. That last minute, and we’ve had to scramble around to get it to work, but we’re quite thankful that it’s now and not three weeks ago when my wife was about to give birth.
The positivity is kind of reflected in the album name as well, right? What can we expect from the upcoming album ‘One Step Back, Two Steps Forward‘?
JC: So the album’s basically split into two sides. So the first half is one step back and it’s kind of full of kind of reflective songs, like looking back on situations. Where things perhaps didn’t quite work out. And kind of some negative experiences, and how I dealt with those negative experiences. And then the second half of the album is the two steps forward, and it’s kind of the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the out-and-out love songs on there and very uplifting kind of songs. And the whole idea is that sometimes you’ve got to take one step back in order to get the two steps forward. I guess you can apply it to our careers and covid. I hate to bring it up but we had all this momentum coming into it and then all of a sudden we had to stop. So we had to take a step back and then now things with the album. Things are going to be really good again and we can allow those two steps forward. So it’s just kind of like ties into everything that we believe in.
In October of last year, you released ‘Is It Any Wonder’ and a very uplifting accompanying music video. Recently, you released ‘Tears Won’t Show’ with a music video that featured more moody colours. Do these two music videos kind of embody the 2 sides of the album?
JC: Well, actually no. The first one’s kind of a trick one because it’s quite an uplifting kind of sound, but the lyrics are very much a part of a very toxic relationship. That’s kind of a play on words, but Tears Won’t Show is very dark. It’s probably the moodiest sound. Especially with the music video that we’ve done.
Huss: I think we’ve gone with two colours, so it’s an orange and a blue to represent the two sides of the album. So they’re directly opposing colours on the colour spectrum. Just to represent a kind of clash. But I think that even though it’s a much darker video, it’s still those oranges and blues. We’ve just really muted them back and made them represent the song a bit more. So I think you’ll see a lot more of those colours, but just maybe varying tones of them.
You know, last time when we spoke, we talked about the art of Highlights and you shared that the artwork was created by the artist Casey Roarty, with whom you have a longstanding relationship. Did you work with the same artist again?
Freddie: We worked with him on Highlights and Reverie (2021 EP). He’s brilliant but this time we sort of went in a slightly different direction, working with a different creative team. We went with more photographs of us and cuz we’ve never really been front-facing on an album cover, it’s always been either a sort of a shadow or a silhouette or something. So we wanted this one cuz this album represents us so much.
JC: I think the songs on this album were the most honest kind of songs. We want it to be kind of front and centre. This is our sort of thing. Rather than kind of not hiding away from it’s not like we’ve been hiding away.
With the crazy state of the world until a year ago, was this album recorded in Los Angeles like the last one? Did the pandemic change the creation of the album in any shape or form?
Freddie: A majority of it was. We flew out to LA the day that America opened the borders, so we literally were one of the first people back in America from the U.K. but we were really fortunate to spend a few weeks over there. Wrote a bunch of songs and that trip really shaped the album. I think that’s when that concept started to make sense. The one step back, two steps forward, and we started to see it as two separate sides to the record. It grew from there.
JC: I guess we started writing this album basically after Reverie. Yeah, after that. So like, okay. Sort of like the start of 2021. So the last two years I guess.
Freddie: Which is a lot shorter period than it was for Highlights. Highlights was sort of written over a longer stretch of time. I think being in it and going through some of those experiences together that some of the songs are written about, that’s when it really shaped the record and we followed our nerves
Huss: I think ahead of that LA trip, we actually thought the album was written and we were like: “These will be the singles. We are really happy with it.” And then we went to LA, and I think we came back with like maybe four or five extra tracks. Those are basically all of the singles that you hear. So for whatever reason, there’s something in the air. And we wrote some of our favourite songs.
JC: We always find that when we feel the album is finished. It was all very relaxed and I feel that’s where we get the best out of us.
I think it was Papa Roach who just came out of the studio with a brand-new album and still felt inspired. Went back into the studio and wrote and recorded basically enough material for yet another new album when they did not feel that pressure.
Huss: I love Papa Roach. It was the first time my mom ever heard me swear, singing along with Papa Roach through my headphones.
JC: Last resort?
Huss: Yeah, it genuinely was. And I heard her come in and I was like, oh no. She came in and unplugged the headphones and turned them off.
JC: You know the band Years & Years? They’ve got the [plays the melody with mouth trumpet] king one. They had a similar thing with their debut album, they wrote it all and they thought everything was finished. And then when the pressure was off, they wrote that King song (Years & Years – King). Which is like their biggest hit to date.
It’s funny you keep finding bridges with the last chat we had back in 2019. You talked about the desire to add a trumpet into one of your songs. Did you ever end up using a trumpet for any of your songs?
JC: There actually was one on Reverie. What was the song? Holding Up For The Win, which we’re gonna play tonight. And Jimmie, who was AJR’s trumpet player, came to my studio. On the outskirts of London and we recorded some trumpet. So there actually technically was, but then we affected it so it didn’t sound like a trumpet, so you can’t actually tell.
How many songs did you end up writing for the upcoming album? Surrounding ‘Highlights’, you’ve released some bonus tracks. Can we expect the same for ‘One Step Back, Two Steps Forward’?
Freddie: I mean, there’s a, there’s a good chunk on there on the record. There may or may not be more. In total, we wrote a lot. 60 or so, probably about that.
Huss: We’ll often write songs that we produce to a certain level and they’re like a good demo. And they’d probably sound quite complete to some people, but then certain ones, like our favourite ones will then get taken to that final level of just being polished that bit more. There were definitely a few more that got polished that you won’t have heard on the album.
JC: We also like the way that I especially write it, like verses and choruses, so of those ideas. Probably 90% of those are just a verse and a chorus, a verse and a chorus, and then that’s it. And then a lot of times we’ll just write that and then we’ll kind of just shelve it and then move on to the next one and then come back to it. And then, you know, from then we add like a middle eight and figure out the structure and everything.
What has been the most memorable, positive experience of creating this record?
JC: Probably that LA trip was really wholesome for us.
Huss: That was right after the disappointment of some of the covid setbacks. And I think that was just a really nice time for us, to reflect and kind of regroup and look towards the future. Write some great songs and kind of, get out of that slightly darker period.
Freddie: And actually be in the studio together, because we hadn’t been able to do that for a long time. And actually doing it over a two-week/three-week period, it’s wicked. It was a positive experience that brought us together again.
Given the fact that both albums have been recorded in LA, is it a very inspiring place for you guys?
JC: I’ll tell you what it is. It’s the time difference. So like obviously we’ve got families and everything here. So when we’re over in LA when it gets to, I guess 2:00 PM 3:00 PM, everyone’s going to bed. All of our friends are going to bed, families going to bed and we kind of have that uninterrupted, sort of three o’clock. Nothing’s going on on social media. Pretty much from 3:00 PM onwards, we’re fully immersed. There are no distractions. It’s the equivalent of going to, I don’t know, the middle of Iceland to record an album. You know, just like being away from it.
Freddie: And we all live in a little house together over there. It’s great. We eat Mexican food every night. That’s what it is. We’ve had so many important discussions over a burrito.
JC: What was the Mexican place that we went to?
Freddie: I bought merchandise. Chicas. Shout out to Chicas if you’re listening or reading. It’s the burritos. That’s why the album sounds the way it does.
What’s the perfect burrito?
Freddie: Vegetarian. For me, these guys are different.
JC: I just get whatever Fred gets. We went for a meal today, in the place. And I got a phone call just as we were about to order. I basically just said: “Fred, I’m getting what you get.” And then left. Then you ordered some random chicken sate.
Freddie: I had to take advantage of the opportunity. The power.
JC: It was nice. It was good. Definitely left field, but it was good. It’s good.
JC: Ooh, I’m trying to be more veggie, so I’m trying to take a leaf outta Huss’ book.
Freddie: He’s not doing very well.
Huss: I think chicken for me. Chicken, some, guacamole, salsa, rice, lettuce, onions, and cilantro.
Freddie: We had a good one in Zurich. It was 25 euros though. One burrito. It was massive. It was great. But we stank of burritos while we were speaking to all the fans after the show as well. Which wasn’t the best, but worth it.
In addition to writing and releasing music and touring the globe, you also have your own podcast Meet At The Hotel Bar. Why did you create your own podcast?
JC: I feel like when we’re on tour. We always where possible try and meet up with other bands and artists and go for a beer, in a hotel bar or a bar on the corner of the venue. We have these same discussions and conversations that we have on the podcast, like talking about old tales of tour stories and things that have gone wrong and all of that kind of thing. Then we just thought, why not make it into a podcast? We got a little podcast machine and started texting around people that we’ve either gone on tour in the past or we like met through friends. It seems to be going really well. It’s been really fun. On the other side of it, for example, the first episode we had with Chris from Muse, the episode was 45 minutes long. And then we stopped recording, and then he stayed for another two hours, we had a drink, and we were just chatting. We really enjoyed it. We should definitely have recorded it. But I feel like it was that thing of you stopping the recorder and you relax.
Huss: We love it. And we edit it all ourselves as well. So, it’s like going through that conversation again and again and again. Some of the stories are so funny. Good bunch of guests, and plenty more episodes to come this season.
I got one last one for you! Is there something that you’re hoping to accomplish in this upcoming era that you have not yet accomplished as a band?
JC: I think playing a headline show in Amsterdam. I think the European headline run is something that we wanted to do since we played the AJR tour. We couldn’t really take advantage of the AJR tour because of Covid and everything. So now kind of coming back, we really want to come back here. And the same with like Paris, Berlin. That’s number one. It’s coming back to Europe on our own terms, playing our own show, our own headline show. Fingers crossed.
Freddie: Yeah, that’s exactly that goal.
JC: June, it’s gonna happen in June. We’re gonna pencil it in.
Flawes will release their new album One Step Back, Two Steps Forward on the 9th of June. Stream the band’s most recent music video for Tears Won’t Show right below.