Flasher: DC Band reinvents itself on new album ‘Love Is Yours’
If you’re looking for a soundtrack for your upcoming road trips, you could do worse than love is yours, Flasher’s second feature film. “I consider it a summer record,” says singer and guitarist Taylor Mulitz, 31. “I imagine myself, and I hope other people, listening to it in the car with the windows down.”
Hearing songs like lead single “Sideways,” where the taut post-punk that once defined Flasher blends into something closer to pop with a hint of disco, it’s hard to disagree. That same feeling of cool, calm forward movement runs through much of the album – “All Day Long” could practically be a VH1 hit from the late 90s. The only question is: how this band is happened here?
The answer begins four years ago, when Flasher followed his debut album, Constant image, with a summer tour that included opening dates for breeders. Years of tinkering in their home base of Washington, DC, was paying off for a trio that had struggled to find a sound and an audience. What this success meant to them was less clear. “It feels like a distant memory to me now, but I’m pretty sure it was fun,” says drummer Emma Baker, also 31.
“There were a lot of ups and a lot of downs,” adds Mulitz after reflecting for a moment. “In some ways, the trend was up. The shows get bigger and better; people feel more connected to music. But then there was a lot of feeling of exhaustion.
In 2019, after more touring, Flasher’s third founding member, bassist Daniel Saperstein, left the band. Mulitz – who has some band drama experience, having been the original bassist for the DC punk act Priests before leaving in 2017 to focus on Flasher – is philosophical about what happened. “Being in a band is really hard,” he observes. “It’s like having a child with someone you love, but you’re not in love with them. This also happened with priests. Sometimes you just hit a point on tour where you get in the van, and nobody talks to each other. You start the sound check and you don’t want to make eye contact with your bandmates.
Neither he nor Baker sound angry or resentful, but Saperstein’s departure was a blow to a band founded on the collaborative songwriting and close friendships that predate Flasher. They had started working on a second album, but this fell through. “It was scary,” Mulitz says. “A big part of the band’s identity was the three of us, and [Saperstein] played a big part in the sound. …There was a time when we thought, ‘Should we change our band name? Is this just a new band?’”
He and Baker had just tentatively started doing duet song demos in 2020 when the pandemic hit and they both lost their day jobs in the service industry. To further complicate the creative process, Mulitz had moved away from DC to live in Baltimore shortly after the band’s lineup changed. Ultimately, these challenges turned out to be the spurs they needed to reinvent Flasher.
“When Taylor and I were starting from scratch, I was just like, ‘I’m not going to sit here and wait for you guys to write 10 or 12 songs for me to step in and add stuff,'” Baker recalled. “I also felt like I needed to start writing stuff.”
She started experimenting with a drum machine, coming up with song ideas, and opening up to playing a bigger role in Flasher. It’s his lead vocal on the album’s unforgettable first hook – “Do I sound sincere / Do I make myself understood?” she asks calmly but firmly on the stunning track “I Saw You” – and holding quiet notes just before the climax of the album’s end “Damage” turns into a startling electro breakdown.
The two musicians recorded love is yours in the summer of 2020 in DC with their friend Owen Wuerker as producer and multi-instrumental collaborator, helping them embrace a new sense of possibility. “It was really going with any idea and seeing it come to fruition and feeling comfortable in that space, allowing us to explore new sounds,” says Mulitz. “Just having a lot of fun.”
This meant playing riffs or singing melodies that might have sounded “a little too pop, or not weird enough, or whatever”, and bringing in influences like Arthur Russell, Air and Kate Bush – a whole palette of warm hues and languorous. It also meant, out of necessity, playing musical chairs with their roles in the group. “It was really awesome that Emma would play such a big role in not just writing the lyrics and vocals, but also the guitar, bass and drums,” Mulitz said.
The lyrics on love is yoursalso reflect a more mature perspective than Flasher’s older, rawer work. “A lot of it is about forgiveness,” Mulitz says. “Forgive your younger self, forgive the people around you, fight to make your relationships work, or allow the ones that aren’t really working to end. … It comes from a place of making peace with the things you can and cannot control. Whereas before maybe it came more from a place of frustration.
After recording the album, with touring still impossible due to the pandemic, Mulitz moved to Los Angeles. He thought about going to business school to capitalize on his experience running Sister Polygon, the currently dormant label founded by Priests members, and his own independent graphic design business.
Instead, he got a nine-to-five gig to manage Facebook ad campaigns at a digital marketing firm started by another veteran of the 2010s indie and punk worlds, former Ought drummer Tim Keen. . “Now he’s a full-fledged businessman, and he very graciously gave me a job,” Mulitz says. “But I quickly realized that it was not for me. Financial stability is nice, but my soul felt like it was being eaten alive.
Today, Mulitz lives in the Bay Area, where her partner is in graduate school. He gets nostalgic thinking about the thriving indie scene that has produced Flasher as well as many beloved peers over the past decade. “It’s so beautiful here, and I love being able to drive to the beach or the mountain in less than an hour,” he says. “But I really miss my friends and family on the East Coast and DC. There’s a supportive community there, and I don’t have that here.”
Flasher will launch an American tour for love is yours this week, with a four-piece live lineup that includes Wuerker on guitar, bass and sample pad, and their friend Shawn Durham on drums and guitar. Baker is a little apprehensive about getting back on the road after three years away. “I have horrible stage fright in a way that I never had in the past,” she says. “But I’m sure the confidence will come back when we leave.” She adds that she’s already thinking of ways to liven up the shows as the four musicians swap instruments: “We’re going to have to figure out how to make all these transitions cool and entertaining.”
Mulitz smiles. “We’re going to do cartwheels.”