Interview: Tristan Thomas – Florence Black

Welsh power-trio Florence Black are gearing up for their appearance at Steelhouse Festival over this weekend, their first gig in quite some time, and it will be all the more special because it’s on home soil. Vocalist/guitarist Tristan Thomas took some time out to talk about their appearance up the mountain, as well as talking about the new music that the guys have been brewing up for their long-awaited debut album.

The current single ‘Can You Feel It’ has been well received, it also won Classic Rock ‘Track of The Week’ I believe?

Yes, it did, and that was great because it was an online poll, so people voted for it, and it was a great surprise when it won. Wicked!

That was the first new Florence Black music to be released in a while, how were you feeling when the clock was counting down to midnight on release day, and then the single was finally out there for all to hear? Did the nerves kick in?

Yeah, it’s always the same when we are releasing new music, I’m up to midnight with a beer, and it’s exciting. It’s always great for the fans to hear the new stuff.

What made you choose it as the lead single?

Well, the thing is, we had a bit of trouble choosing the singles for this album because they are all singles in my eyes. We didn’t know which ones to pick but we didn’t want to give too much away, I don’t think that it’s the best song on the album, I’d even say that it’s my least favourite song on the album…

Really?! The album must be a hell of a good album then!

[Laughs] Yeah, the plan is to put out two songs first and then keep what I think are the best songs for the album experience, that first listen. I can’t wait for people to hear it.

Florence BlackThe song seems to be quite personal to you, was it difficult to write and record it?

I wrote all the music first for the song, and I was in a pretty dark place for a time, the lyrics came out quite easy and then we went in to record it. It was easy to record because we had the song written for a while and we knew what sound we wanted. It was great to belt it out! It was quite emotional [laughs].

You mentioned before that the plan is to put out two songs, and then the album; what can you tell us about the second song?

I think that it’s going to be a bit of a surprise to some people, it’s still heavy, but there are a lot of dynamics to it. The first single is just flat-out rock, but this one has a bit of emotion to it, a softer side…with a bit of heaviness as well! It’s one of my favourite songs on the album. ‘Can You Feel It’ is a typical Florence Black song, 100% fucking flat-out, but with the next one, we change it up a bit…

From what you are saying, it sounds like the album will have a bit of variety amongst the tracks? How long have you had the tracks brewing for instance? Will some of them be familiar to Florence Black fans?

Yes, I would say that it has a bit of everything: faster songs, some slow ones, really heavy songs…something for everyone! There are a couple of songs on there that we’ve had since we started the band, I think?! There is one song on there that we demoed way back in 2013, and we released it on Soundcloud, so it never really got a proper release, so we thought let’s record it now, and it sounds amazing. A lot of the stuff is really new, like only a few months old, so it’s a bit of both really – old and new.

It must be quite humbling to know that so many people are waiting on the debut Florence Black album to be released?

We’ve been a band for eight years now, playing original music for the last five or six years, and people ask us all the time “where’s the album?”. We wanted to build a fanbase first, and when the time was right – which is now – release it.

The album was recorded in eleven or twelve days I believe? No faffing around there, eh?!

Because we have a little studio of our own, we had demoed all the songs fucking hundreds of times before we went in and actually recorded them. We knew every part, we didn’t go in clueless. And that’s why it was so quick. We just blasted through it as they did back in the days of Black Sabbath – straight in, and then straight out!

The support that the band has received online has been amazing, especially from the Facebook group New Wave of Classic Rock, there are a lot of people on there waiting for this album…

Yeah, that group is wicked, the support from them is amazing. A group of passionate people, and I have a lot of respect for the people there.

In late December the band posted on Facebook the end-of-year stats for streams on Spotify and the numbers were quite impressive: 1.5 million streams, 500,000 listeners in 92 different countries…that must be surreal knowing that there are people in 92 different countries all over the world listening to Florence Black?

Yeah, there were some countries that I had never heard of before! I was like…” fucking hell!”. The support from Spotify has been unreal, Allison Hagendorf – the Head Of Rock at Spotify – has supported us from day one and we have gained a lot of fans worldwide because of that. We got on the cover of one of their hard rock playlists and that brought us a lot of coverage.

It just shows that even though Spotify gets grief for the amount of money that they pay artists per stream, it is an invaluable marketing tool, especially in bringing a young band from Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales to a worldwide audience…

I haven’t got anything bad to say about Spotify, the money isn’t as bad as people think and if you are a small band and the streams go worldwide, it pays off.

In what ways do you feel that the band has grown over the last five years or so? How different would the album sound had you recorded it earlier in your career?

We have learned a lot over the years, a lot of experience from gigging and listening to other bands. I feel we have a bit of everything now as I said before about having different stuff on the album, whereas before, we just wanted it heavy-heavy all the time. As we have gone on, we have written more mature songs, and I think that will show when people hear the album.

Does the fact that Florence Black were all friends first and then bandmates, help?

Yes, we have chemistry, there are a lot of bands who form and don’t really know each other, and maybe they miss that bond?

The band started as a covers band, and of course, recently took on the Budgie classic ‘Breadfan’ and knocked it out of the park. Were you nervous tackling such a well-loved song that even Metallica has covered?

Well, I was in a band with the original Budgie drummer, Ray Phillips, I was 15 I think? That was also a three-piece, there was me, a bass player called Tom Prince, and Ray Phillips who would drum and also sing all the songs. I did some backing vocals, and that was actually where I started singing. I had to choose between carrying on with Ray or doing my own thing, and that was a hard choice to make because I really enjoyed playing with Ray.

That must have been a great learning experience?

Yeah, we used to practice from 7 in the morning until 7 at night, just to get it tight, he taught me a lot.

Who would you class as the ultimate power-trio?

Well, Budgie! They were the ultimate power-trio! Pioneers of metal.

You mentioned gigs earlier, your first gig since lockdown was lifted, and your first one in 17 months, will be Steelhouse Festival, that will be insane, especially since it is on home-turf?

It’s a great first gig back, it’s just over the mountain, and all our fans are going to be there, a lot of people that know the band go to Steelhouse every year. It’s going to be special. All UK bands now. It is such a shame though that bands like Anthrax had to cancel.

You’ve also got Wildfire Festival and Rockin’ The Bowl to come, these grassroots festivals must survive the current predicament that live music is in…

Yeah, they are carrying the torch, without festivals like that there would be no fucking bands, it’s all about bringing the new blood through.

And then, hopefully, later this year you will have UK and European dates with Bokassa, that will be carnage!

We are very excited about those dates!

Some drinks will be consumed on that tour!

Too much drinking I reckon! We are really looking forward to that tour. We are looking to squeeze in a Welsh headline gig after that tour and, hopefully, a headline tour in February 2022. Fingers crossed that it all happens.

 

Catch Florence Black at Steelhouse Festival on Saturday 24th at 2.15 pm. Stay up to date on all future gig dates, and new music: here.

 

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