New York's proud sons Silk Flowers make the kind of mood music you can loose yourself in on a sunny winter day, traversing the long open roads of your neighborhood trying figure out what it all means. A most excellent mix of the hypnotic 80s electronic sounds and bizarre noises, the band is signed to LA-based label Post Present Medium (Dean Spunt of No Age's label). Silk Flowers' Aviram Cohen recently spoke to West Coast Sound about Christian Bale, The Smell and sun-bleached chicken bones.
West Coast Sound: How did you guys get hooked up with PPM?
Aviram Cohen: We were in LA and our show at the Smell got canceled. We were driving around really pissed off. It was pretty late and we had nowhere to stay. So, we drove to Jim Smith's house (owner and proprietor of LA's premiere nightclub, the Smell) in the middle of the night. Broke in, put a sack over his head, threw him in the back of the van and drove to the LA river. When we got there we tied a rope around his ankles and threw him over a bridge, lowering him into the corrosive waters below. Jim displayed a high threshold for pain. After almost two hours, the sun began to rise and we were fatigued from lack of sleep and raising him up and down. Just then, he began desperately pleading for his life and said he'd be able to help. So, we let him call his friend. Dean (CEO of PPM Records LTD.) came down to save him and said that if we let him go, he'd put out our records. We're too street smart to have fallen for that so, it didn't end there. We held Jim captive in a warehouse on Sante Fe and Washington in way downtown LA. He was held there until our second 7" came out. During that time we wrote and recorded our LP in that warehouse. When the 7" was done we handed Jim over to Dean along with the recording of our LP. The rest is history...
Has anyone ever commented on the sound of your voice and it's eerie similarity to that Mmm Mmmm song from the 90's? The Crash Test Dummies song?
Thankfully, no. However, musically the band has been compared to those seat belt safety "Don't Be A Dummy" PSA's with the rapping crash test dummies.
Lots of New York and Brooklyn bands seem to be making the move to Los Angeles, any similar plans in your future?
Absolutely not! I already lived in LA for three years. They were good times, but the myth has been completely demystified. We love our city! New York may be a frozen hell in the winter and fiery one in the summer. A place where a walk down the street is an obstacle coarse of sun bleached chicken bones, dog shit, and dried and crusted vomit. But it is a place of vitality. Those elements push your consciousness so that you feel alive. LA is a place of irreconcilable isolation. It breeds boredom and that boredom is bad for feeling alive. In the crippling loneliness you become a slave to your emotions; left to drift aimlessly into oblivion. The domestic lifestyle people so commonly slip into exemplifies this. The three of us all came from suburban backgrounds and individually have made a deliberate decision to turn away from that. I will die with a slice of pizza dangling from my mouth and bagel in my hand... (Carbs are another thing Hollywood hates.)
Your songs have a sort of eerie, New York Manhattan, eighties cokey feel, like what might go through Patrick Bateman's head during a night out on the town. Or am I just projecting?
You're completely projecting. After that scandal when Christian Bale flipped out at that guy on set, it made me think he's not really acting in American Psycho. I will say that he is THE BEST Batman. That movie blew my mind last year. That is such an LA question. Does everything need to be about Hollywood?!
How many times have you been compared to Joy Division? Or is this the first?
I never went to college so, my education is limited. For this reason, I'm not an advanced thinker and so, it becomes hard for me to keep track of how narrow and uncreative people's vocabulary for comparisons can be. However, I can count how many ironic and witty vocal comparisons have been made in this interview. So far: 2.
In life it's good to go where your strengths are. I can't think in terms of facts and logic. My mind does not absorb those things easily. I have a creative inclination and so I follow that. The same thing applies here. I can't sing high. I can sing low. I try to do what feels natural. Otherwise, nature will correct you in time. Ian Curtis is great but, he's no Scott Walker, Leadbelly, Washington Phillips... Those are the people I looked towards when I thought to sing.
Is performing a ritual for you or just raw abandon?
I would say both. The purpose of a ritual is to provide discipline. Once that has been established it can be utilized to harness and prolong the energy from "raw abandon". That way it's more like a candle that burns over time rather than a match that flares up and then burns out.
Do you guys try to reach a certain level of consciousness or achieve a mood for the audience while performing?
Definitely. Even though we perform before an audience that time is when I have some of the most private experiences. For some reason, it allows me to be a more realized version of myself. Something I cannot ordinarily be.
Early on we were very considerate of developing the live show as an experience for the audience. The foundation of playing live is to entertain. And that is certainly part of what we try to do. Once you establish that, you can do more. There are certain themes incorporated into the band that become the framework of everything else we do. Specifically, how does ones vision adjust to light when they step out of the shadow of the past they have been living in. Playing live is like inviting people into our home. They enter the place we live and experience personal aspects of our lives. Hopefully, they feel connected to that same place. The sensation from that connection creates consciousness. The audience is absorbing information whether or not they are aware of it. Awareness is consciousness.
How exciting has this year been so far, right? Best thing to happen so far?
This has certainly been one of the most exciting and positive moments in my life so far. I'd say the best thing to happen to me is developing a sense of purpose. Also, seeing the things I hoped for materialize has also benefited me in a more personal way. In terms of the band, playing the Troubadour with Animal Collective in February was certainly one of the more memorable shows. Alternately, being overwhelmed by the amount of super models, both male and female, that want to make out with me has also been a big thrill!
Silk Flowers and Nite Jewel perform at the Echo on Sunday, August 16 as part of Part Time Punks.