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Flats Interview

Maria Turauskis

Triangle

Slap-bang in the middle of their UK tour, More Than The Music caught up with Dan and Samir from Flats to discuss influences, anti-politics, and being played on Radio 1.

MTTM: You guys are in the midst of your first UK tour. How is it all going? Have you been well received thus far?

FLATS: It’s actually our second UK tour; our first one was in October for the NME Radar tour, which we did with Chapel Club and The Joy Formidable. Throughout that tour we got on really well with Chapel Club especially – unexpected perhaps, but we were almost singing along to their music by the end of the tour. They make really sincere music. This is however out first official headline tour. It’s been a bit of a weird experience – some shows have been quite quiet, and some have been great. Leeds and Manchester were good especially. This has been such a relentless, consecutive tour though; we’ve not really been home at all, and spent too many nights in shit hotels.

MTTM: Your up-coming debut single (Never Again, due for release on 15th March) is getting a lot of airplay, especially from Radio 1 and 6 Music DJs, including Zane Lowe, Nick Grimshaw and Huw Stephens. Are you excited about your growing hype?

FLATS: From our perspective it’s not really our debut single; we have released two EPs previously on the 7” single format, which were crammed with songs. Because of the format though, it couldn’t be considered as an official single release. We like doing vinyl EPs because we can put a lot of effort into the presentation of our music. As record collectors ourselves, we feel that is important. Obviously we accept though that people like normal single releases – and people have really latched on to this release and its been played a lot. We’re really excited by the fact that our music is reaching so many listeners. We only wrote that song six weeks before it was being played by the likes of Zane Lowe. But ultimately its only one small step in a huge process.

MTTM: You guys have all lived in East London – do you subscribe to the trendy, Hoxton, Shoreditch tag, or really, really loathe it?

FLATS: We don’t want to disassociate ourselves with it – we circulate in east London, and have a lot of friends there. But we don’t want to subscribe to the concept of being an east London band. People hold it in too high a regard sometimes, but equally it’s not right when people are too sceptical about it, calling it pretentious. It hasn’t necessarily been a vehicle for Flats, although we have had some good gigs out of it. It is however a place that we’ve all gravitated towards, because it’s a creative place, with cheaper rent than the rest of London.

MTTM: Is all your new/developing work observing your musical mantra – to keeps songs fast, heavy and short?

FLATS: That was last year! We’ve progress our music on from that a lot. Whilst that idea is definitely still a keen element, bits of our work is getting a lot slower. A good 40% of the album is very fast and short, but the rest is more varied with a lot of down-tempo stuff. I think our music has developed as the band itself developed a collected taste. In the beginning it was more about fusing our different influences together, whereas now it’s more about influences on Flats itself, which is really exciting. We share records we’ve found and bring them into practice – it’s almost become a competition as to who can bring in the most interesting or obscure record. That is what has facilitated our new direction. People that know us might be a bit shocked to hear some of our new stuff.

MTTM: You guys state a lot of first-wave British punk acts as your influences, (such as ATV, Scritti Politti and The Fall), but to me much of your music has a lot of US punk vibes, similar to artists such as The Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, maybe even The Stooges and MC5. Do you have a special affection for UK punk in particular? Have your influences changed with your newer, developing sound?

FLATS: Our big new influence is Black Sabbath – it kind of all starts and ends with Black Sabbath. They were the starting point for our metal influences – other favourites at the moment are Discharge and Hellhammer. Hellhammer especially are amazing, much better than us, and we’re nowhere near as cool as they are. Anyone who reads this – check out Hellhammer and you’ll see what we mean! It’d be a great thought that through our music, other awesome bands might get more attention too. If that started to happen, it would be really, really exciting. To these metal influences we’ve been trying to add the hooks of The Buzzcocks and ATV. In relation to punk specifically, we do listen to a lot of British punk, but we also listen to a lot of Scandinavian and American hardcore bands. East Coast hardcore especially is important to us.

MTTM: What is it about fast punk and heavy metal that you find so appealing?

FLATS: We have all always loved punk, the rebel element of it and the thought that it pisses people off is what is enticing. When I (Dan) was younger, I liked going to school with a stupid haircut, simply to get told off. I’ve never really grown out of that – punk has the air of teenage obnoxiousness that I love. With metal, however, it is the complete other-worldliness about it that is really appealing. As a band we’re not metal heads – we have come to it late, so we take it more for its musical quality. Its kind of untouchable as a genre, it is so specific and insular, with many record producers, labels etc. working exclusively with metal bands.

MTTM: You have written some pretty formidable lyrics in the past (I’m thinking of your track Rat Trap here which assassinates Paul Weller and Pete Townshend), is it important for you to push boundaries in your work?

FLATS: These days bands don’t always try hard enough. When you look at some of our UK metal influences from the early 90s, bands like Eye Hate God and Iron Monkey – they had songs like Web of Piss and Dog Shit. Those bands really went for it, there was no messing around, its like they literally wanted to open the gate to hell. With our work, we might never grow out of that wind-up teenager mentality. A lot of music has lost its insanity, no one is scary anymore. Iggy Pop was scary. Black Sabbath were scary. Obviously to a degree they emphasised these qualities when they found out they were selling more records that way, but the concept was there. There still has to be a degree of moderation, however. When we wrote Rat Trap lots of people got caught up on it and wrote about it so much that we had to drop it from the set – we didn’t want it to become a gimmick. We didn’t just want to be known as the band that hate mods. It was just a personal statement – it wasn’t meant to be the start of a punk revolution. It’s more of an expression than a campaign. Though a street war between the punks and the mods would be quite interesting.

MTTM: Because your music is angry, and has obvious allegiances with first wave punk, there have been a lot of attempts to label you as a political group, and to align your music with the current social/economic climate. Is this a correct assumption, or is your anger more profound?

FLATS: We have all been angry since we were little kids, its got nothing to do with the current climate. We each have our opinions on the issue, you will, so will everyone in this room, and anyone reading this interview. We consciously don’t bring it into our music. We write about our personal social situations within society. People often seem to want another Joe Strummer. They assume that we’re revolutionary, but they also assume that we are on the same side as them. We protest the protests. The way they tend to pan out at the moment, especially the student protest and their violent escalations, they just seem futile.