FLATS are a band that divides opinion
unlike probably any other on the present music scene. To some they are
a cacophony of noise with few discernable tunes. To other they are purveyors
of blitzkrieg punk that pays lips service to no one and attempts to
redefine the genre.
Ive made no qualms about the fact that Im
a great admirer of the band. Therefore it was a pleasure to recently
put a few questions to drummer Samir Eskanda about subjects such as
the current state of the group, insulting Paul Weller and life on the
road with Morrissey.
Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking
forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans
First up Samir would you mind introducing the current line up of
On vocals it's Dan Devine, on bass Craig E. Pierce and Paul Angeles
shreds. But you've got me, Samir Eskanda, drummer, for this interview.
How long has the band been going and how did it come about?
Its two years since we formed. We'd been wanting to do something like
this for ages and happily it came together very quickly in the end.
One chance meeting in the pub and one thing led to another. Before anyone
else knew what was happening we'd set up our own label, Sweat Shop Records,
and put out two self-produced EPs in the space of a few months.
Going back a bit, you probably first came to most peoples attention
when you were on the 2010 NME Radar tour. What was that like and how
did you find fellow touring bands Chapel Club and Joy Formidable?
Not really sure it was the right thing for us to do but it amused us
a little and we just thought fuck it. But it was our first time
out on tour and looking back we really enjoyed ourselves. Chapel Club
were good guys and we got on well. The last show was at Koko to over
a thousand people. My kick pedal fell to pieces halfway through! Nightmare.
Chapel Club's sound tech ran onstage and handed me their pedal, for
which I am still grateful.
How were you received by audiences at that time, given that some of
them had probably only come to see the more commercial bands? Did you
get any perverse pleasure in alienating a certain section of the crowd?
Hell yes. We just got up and did what we did at the time, which was
a 10 min set played as hard as possible. But I'd say that most people
probably got it on some level. Even if they didn't always show it. We're
always pretty shocked at how open people are really but I
think that's been half the attraction people remembering Punk or whatever
the fist time round or being into Punk bands and seeing us having a
go, trying to maintain a bit of integrity.
It seemed to lead to better things when Morrissey asked you to support
him on several of his UK dates in 2011. Was that enjoyable and what
kind of reaction did you get from his audience? What was the great man
himself like and did he live up to his reputation?
We were doing a show in Oxford in March of that year when we were asked
if we would be Morrissey's main support band for the UK leg of his world
tour. We were surprised to say the least. Apparently he personally requested
us. He was a perfect gentleman and his vegetarian catering was delicious.
Some of the dates were in relatively inaccessible parts of the UK, so
we definitely reached audiences we never thought we would: three thousand
Scottish Morrissey fans in Dunoon, for example. We loved it. It
just seemed such a bizarre request, we thought 'why not?' We love the
Smiths, I mean who doesn't?
Do you feel aggrieved when compared to previous punk bands such as Crass
or just take it as a compliment? Did they actually influence you and
who else would you say were your musical influences?
We don't mind what people say. You've got to respect a band that sold
hundreds of thousands of records whilst being effectively banned from
all major media outlets. And did exactly what they set out to do. Yeah
they were a vague influence on some of the early Flats stuff. But we
moved on. We covered a Hellhammer song on the album and we even talked
to Tom G Warrior, later of Celtic Frost about producing the record.
We'd love to work with him at some point. On tour we listened to a lot
of crust punk, Amebix and Antisect are obviously great. Early Earache
Records is a bit of a treasure trove. Dan and Craig are always filling
me in on hip hop. I'm a huge fan of the Melvins but I don't think I
can drum like Dale Crover quite yet. We just want to sound as heavy
as possible, but to get there in our own way.
A lot of the anarcho punk bands around at the time of Crass were
overtly political. Your songs seem clearly to be fuelled by anger and
youve previously articulated political views, so do you see yourselves
writing more directly political songs in future?
As a band it was the sound rather than the politics that we took from
those bands. My politics were formed elsewhere. I'm half Palestinian
and half Northern Irish, so it's in my blood. But I don't write the
lyrics and Flats has never been about politics. And it never will be.
Dan writes about his own experiences and those of others and the rest
of us play as fast and as heavy as possible. You could interpret a band
who sounds as bleak as Flats, in 2012 and still gets attention from
the wider music press, in any way you want. If I was feeling mischievous I
might point out how, in that context, Flats are probably the most politically-charged
band around. But I'll leave that to others.
Are there any other current bands that you feel empathy with or
do you see yourself standing alone at present?
There's no-one we directly relate to. Almost every bill we play we're
out of place. I don't even think we sound like other bands. We're in
a slightly different dimension to the rest of you and we intend to keep
it that way. Although, Craig has asked me to point out here that Lil
B is going to be running the rap game in 2012 (fuck ASAP and Odd Future).
Are you ultimately looking for commercial success or just happy to
make the music you love, irrespective of the number of people who hear
or buy it?
We're looking to make the music we love - and we always set out to have
as many people as possible hear it. But I'm not sure that commercial
success is available to musicians in the way people think it is. Even
now the dream of overnight commercial success is believed in by young
bands and the general public. YOU'RE NOT GOING TO BE FAMOUS, KIDS. But
if you're incredibly lucky you might get to make records and go on tour,
like us. You'll probably struggle to pay your rent, though.
Youve made some incendiary remarks in the past about other
musicians (Paul Weller and Pete Townsend to name two). Do you now regret
these remarks or still stand by them?
Well that's something that Dan said so I can't put words in his mouth.
I doubt he regrets it. It was really, really funny. It's certainly
not a new idea for artists to mock those who have come before.
Your original guitarist Luke Tristram left last year and replaced him
with Dan Djan. How is the new line up working out and was Lukes
We're still friends with Luke. His main thing is his other band
Advert and it looks like they will be putting out something out this
year, so there's one to watch. But you've missed a couple of guitarists.
Dan Djan and Noel Anderson helped us out over the summer. And we found
the permanent replacement in Paul Angeles, who joined last December.
It's all going well, we are twice as heavy as we used to be and we've
started writing the second album.
Your album Better Living is out at the end of April.
How do you feel the recording process went and are you happy with the
We locked ourselves away in our little studio in Hackney for a few months
and did the whole thing ourselves, from top to bottom. When you're engineering,
recording and mixing an album with just a few other people it can get
quite tense if you don't know what you're doing. Luckily we do and it
was all roses.
Getting a studio together had always been a priority for us. We wanted
be self-sufficient, to record other bands and get busy. We bought a
load of recording gear and smashed everything to tape, old school style.
We were between guitarists for a lot of the writing and recording process
so you're hearing a lot of me, Craig and Dan on there. We wanted something
that sounded epic but not over produced and I'm pretty happy to be able
to say I think we achieved that.
Youve been known in the past for writing short intense songs.
So how was it to record longer numbers for the new album (such as Foxtrot
and Country, both over 4 minutes) and was it a conscious decision to
We just wrote some sludgier numbers and the very nature of that means
the songs are gonna be a bit longer. I don't think we ever set out to
write short songs, it's just that we were playing them as fast as we
could and we didn't feel like labouring the point. Some of our newer
ideas maybe take a few extra minutes to develop. There is one song on
the new album called Fast and I probably don't need to say that it's
a brief affair.
Ive already given it a complimentary review on R*E*P*E*A*T,
but by enlarge do you give a toss what reviewers say?
People only have nice things to say about Flats. Probably because they
know that we know where they live. Seriously though. We do know
where you live! No, seriously now, to be getting some kind words, when
we haven't compromised one bit on what we set out to do, is a really
cool thing. There are people out there with ears and souls! We have
been quite surprised because we thought they'd all fucked off to ASDA.
Of your own songs to date, what are your favourites and why?
A band favourite is Are You Feeling Rusty? from the first EP. To me
it sounds like it comes from a different place and time altogether.
And we like Isolation Chamber, the b-side to Never Again. It's slightly
insane and more or less set the blueprint for Better Living.
What do you think of the current state of music in the UK?
I'm not sure how to answer that question. In terms of creativity I think
it's obvious that there's more music being made than ever before and
that has to be a good thing. But from a commercial point of view I think
there's almost no means through which anything truly different can come
to the fore. In time, it's going to be harder and harder for people
from modest backgrounds to achieve anything in music.
There's less and less money, so more and more musicians are expected
to do what they do for little or no financial reward. You'd be stupid
to be in music for the money, but I think most musicians would be happy
to just be able to sustain themselves. And you can see a time when that
becomes impossible for all but the blandest and wealthiest musicians. Craig
would wax lyrical to you for hours as to why the state of US Hip Hop
is as good as it's ever been but that's not the question and I am not
Finally, what are your long term goals, if any, or do you just live
for the moment?
We want to make as many records as possible before we run out of ideas
or luck or weed.
Anything else youd like to get off your chest?
I think I've ranted enough for today.
If youre intrigued enough to want to hear more
of FLATS their debut album Better Living is out on the 30th
April or just check out their websites for a taster of their unique