text + photography JORGE PEREZCHICA
The place is here, the time is now, and the sound is familiar, yet nostalgically new. An upbeat amalgamation described as “Retro-Pop” The Flusters arrived like intergalactic time-travelers wearing black suits, shinny shoes, and imbuing classic iconography. From their performance at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival to the release of their EP titled “Extended Play Number 1 — Every imperfection and fuzzy note and this and that, is just 100% The Flusters and there’s more to come.
Coachella Magazine: Who are The Flusters?
Dougie: The Flusters are a band of guys who got together about two years ago. It started with Danny and I, we met at an event we were both playing and slowly but surely grew into Danny, Mario, Perry and I doing something really special.
CM: Where are you from originally?
Dougie: I’m from Bridgeton, New Jersey.
Danny: I’m from Jackson, Mississippi.
Perry: I’m originally from Seattle but I grew up down here in the valley.
Mario: I’m from right here in the Coachella Valley. Technically, I was born in El Centro, but I came here when I was one so I’m from here.
CM: Did you always want to do music?
Dougie: I kind of grew up as a performer. I’ve done theater and acting. I actually got my start because my mom used to vacuum a lot. The vacuum would hum at a certain key and I would sing little solos in my head to the hum of the vacuum cleaner.
Mario: I used to do that with the turn signals of the car.
Dougie: I found music in really unlikely places. When I was nine, I got a Talkboy when the movie Home Alone 2 came out. I would record myself singing little songs I made up and change the pitch. I picked up a guitar when I was 12 and taught myself how to play “You Really Got Me” by watching a Starburst commercial on TV. I got a drum set that year too. As I started to learn how to play little of each instrument, I knew I wanted to create. For me it was never really about being the god of an instrument. For me it was like, I have these ideas in my head and I want to find a vehicle to transport them from inside myself to outside myself. Instruments were always a tool that could help me get my ideas out and that’s what they still are today. I view myself as a songwriter and that started when I was a teenager. In high school, I started writing full songs. I’ve been playing music on some sort of professional level since I was nineteen. I started with cover bands and things like that and crappy original bands. Finally, when I was around 30, I moved out here (Coachella Valley) and started this project unexpectedly and two and a half years later, it grew into The Flusters.
Danny: I’ve always been into music. When I was in the third grade, or the second grade, or one of those really early grades, I was put into violin class in elementary school and that was where I learned how, originally I guess, to play and read music.
CM: What was your hometown like and how did that influence your music?
Danny: I grew up in between Jackson and New Orleans and I grew up on blues and R&B and gospel and soul. I always thought that was where I wanted to take my music and I came out here and I met Doug and it turned into something completely different than I had imagined, and a thousand times better than I ever could have hoped. We’re all winners here I guess.
Perry: I was born up in Seattle and I moved down here into the valley when I was seven. I’ve always had an interest in music since I was three or four years old. My babysitters had musical instruments and I’d always play on those. I started marching band in middle school and then I really got into that and that’s when I kind of discovered I really wanted to be into music. After I was finished with middle school I started taking private drum set lessons for about two years and then it got to the point to where my teacher literally could not teach me anything else, so I decided to move on with my musical career. I started my first band when I was 18 and then around that same time I was actually offered a sponsorship with a company called Shine Drums, which unfortunately is not around anymore, but I had gotten an the offer from them and I took it. I had the sponsorship for a while and after that I laid low for a few years, just took some music lessons, expanded my knowledge at COD (College of the Desert) and then went on about a three-year hiatus and then Mario hit me up to jam and now I’m in The Flusters.
Mario: I’m going to say something that you guys didn’t even know. My musical thing kind of goes back to the womb. My mom used to listen to Luciano Pavarotti all the time when I was in her stomach. No joke, when I was a little kid I used to be singing all these opera songs and my mom was like, “How does he know this?” I was just into it. After that, same thing as Danny. I played violin when I was in second grade and I was in band in middle school but I was never super into music, honestly, until probably the end of middle school or something like that, and then suddenly I was like, “Okay, I really like this music thing,” after my uncle gave me a Tool CD and I was just, “Oh, this is music? Oh, okay this is pretty cool.” I started getting into better things and local band after local band here in the desert and just being part of the scene was fun. I met Doug and Danny a little over a year ago. Our homie Nate hit me up and said, “Hey, my friends are looking for a bassist for their band. Are you interested? Are you still playing bass?” I’m like, “Well, I’m still playing bass. I’ll see. I’ll see what”s up with this band, check them out.” He’s like, “Yeah, they’re real serious guys so make sure you’re serious when you come to them.” I’m like, “Alright, for sure.” I kept up that super serious thing for a couple of weeks and then I kind of started laughing a little more and more and Doug was like, “Oh, I guess he’s a guy that likes to laugh…” and I’m like, “Yeah, that’s kind of who I am.” Yeah, now we’re The Flusters.
CM: (To Dougie) You were in theater. Does that help you when you’re performing for an audience?
Dougie: Oh, absolutely. I use theater as an adjective. I always ask myself “Is there theater in what we’re doing?” and the answer is “yeah” and I think that it’s really important. I think showmanship visually and audibly is a really important thing and it was something that we tried to instill from the very beginning. We’ve always wanted to put on a real show beyond just standing on stage and playing. In the 50s and the 60s all the rockers I idolize wore sharp suits, they threw their hair up, they had big, shiny guitars, and always looked cool as hell. I don’t know, I’ve always been attracted to that. There’s something about the eye retention of a shiny, polished band that always attracted me. The suits fit the The Flusters’ sound perfectly as well as all our imagery and iconography. Everything has this synesthetic-like gel. You know what I mean? I always liked the black suits. I knew that I wanted a look, and when you’re starting a band the easiest thing to say, “Everybody get this…” is a black suit.
CM: What about the shoes?
Dougie: There’s just something about, a classic, timeless appeal, whether it’s my watch or my guitar or my shoes or our suits. Just our whole deal kind of has been regarded as this ‘nostalgically new’ feel. It’s like, we’re oddly familiar to people that have never even heard us before, so it all plays a part. Theater, showmanship, all that. Presentation. It’s all part of it. Iconography, the suits are really about iconography.
CM: Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
Dougie: It was about mashed potatoes. “Mashed potatoes, mashed potatoes, do you have any mashed potatoes? Mashed potatoes, mashed potatoes, mashed potatoes, do you have any mashed potatoes?” That was it. Then everybody in the neighborhood started learning it and we’d walk down the street and I’d have like six kids behind me. Mashed potatoes, mashed potatoes. I would just write little funny songs and it was always about making people laugh. It was like humorous stuff that I would write about. It grew into whiny emotional songs when I was like 19. It’s like, yeah, I’m going to write emotional songs that suck. I wasn’t one of those teenage, early 20s geniuses that were just writing truth at 20 years old. I couldn’t find truth at 20, I was completely lost in my life. I wasn’t able to find my center and my truth musically, lyrically, ‘til I was 30. I couldn’t. I had ideas, fragments, broken and busted songs rattling around in my head, but I never had anything like this. It just came out.
CM: What is your creative music process?
Dougie: At first it was a rocky road. Danny and I were going two different directions musically. He had a guitar that didn’t even work for what I was doing and we didn’t get each other’s references or style of playing. It was just like, you know what let’s just try to make it work. We had two other guys in the band then and it was kind of like, the thing is, in the beginning everybody thought we were a novelty band. But the cool thing is our original bass player,Todd Hunt, ended up doing all the synth parts on the EP. We are stoked to have his name in the credits, he’s a great musician and a great friend. Everybody thought we were just going to be this like ‘surf’s up dude’ band, like we’re going to play little beach parties and be that kind of thing. People that thought that have recently contacted me and said they were very surprised by what we’ve become. The other way that we write is kind of like songs just kind of like arrive in the room. The song Lake Street just kind of arrived. I was playing a melody, Danny started playing a chord over it and then Mario started playing bass and that was with our other drummer (Chris O’Sullivan) but, I mean, even since we recorded our first EP the whole sound has really come together because of Perry too, so he’s kind of added his fingerprint to the sound as well. We’re growing into a band that writes more as a unit and less me coming in with my ideas and saying, “This is what I think it should be…” and then we do some editing. It’s becoming more of a germination as a team now, which is really cool to see where it’s going to go.
CM: You guys played a lot of shows this year. From backyard shows to festivals like Coachella and Echo Park Rising 2016. What would you say has been on of your most amazing moments.
Dougie: Our EP release show. The thing is like… The hardest people to convince that we’re legit is ourselves. It’s hard for us to understand. It’s been very difficult for us to understand how we’re actually affecting people, the valley, our fans, whoever. It was like, we put ourselves out there so hard and so persistently over this past month and to sit backstage and be tightening up my tie and somebody comes back at 10:15 p.m. and says, “Dude, there’s a line all the way down the street. We’re at capacity. There’s people trying to get in. They’re turning away …” Dude, we had no clue that was going to happen. I mean, we wanted it more than anything and we worked our asses off to get it, but still it was like the best feeling to sit up there and have our ears hurt from the people screaming for us. That was the best moment as a band we’ve ever experienced.
CM: One of the things I noticed was the support from the art community.
Dougie: Another mission of The Flusters is to bring together and showcase the local talent. Local artists, local craftsmen. We commissioned probably a dozen local people to have their hands in either our EP creation and/or our release. Just to name a couple, Mary Walker of Reel Made Embroidery did all of our tote bags. Glenn Coy from Windmill City Screen Printing did our shirts. Freddie (drummer for Tribesmen) of Zen Screen Printing did our show bill posters Jenny Ferrell custom illustrated our UFO posters. Gary Lopez, did our graphic design. Monica Morones of Maniac Art & Photography, she did all of our photographs and she helped me lay out the album concept art. Will Sturgeon played keys, co-produced and mixed our EP. It’s just like, the list goes on and on. Brad from The Hood came together with me to help with the release show. All the other bands that played: The Yip Yops were great to support and help to promote. Cakes & Brains coming through with a diehard local fan base, our friends Brightener — it was just like people coming together to help. Giorg Tierez helped us, constantly sharing our event and helping us promote because he’s such an avid supporter and a big fan. Eevaan Tre’, an amazing musician and always an active supporter of us and always pushing for us, telling people about us. I could sit here and tell you person after person. The thing is, for us, we are proud to acknowledge the importance in helping people with rich talent monetize their skills. The one thing we did was always pay people for their services. It’s like, yeah I’m sure they would do us the favor, but it’s like why not pay someone for something they’re good at if you can and show them that there’s value in what they do. Get their name on something and then you promote them, they promote you, everybody’s getting paid. It’s like, man this is what it’s about. We’re really happy to do that.
CM: What was Will Sturgeon’s role in production?
Dougie: Will Sturgeon from brightener was the in-studio co-producer with myself. He was also playing keys and was kind of like our eyes and ears in the booth with the recording engineer, helping us get through the whole process. He did a really good job. We recorded vocals at his house in Palm Desert and he helped us mix and he connected us with the mastering house that we used as well.
CM: Tell us about the songs in Extended Play 1.
Dougie: Extended Play Number One means that there’s an Extended Play Number Two. It’s the first half of a two-part story, so there’s a 10-song concept that all goes together and it’s kind of this idea of you’re traveling to another dimension or another planet and you’re being brought back. If you listen to the album from beginning to end, EP Number One, you can sort of hear there is an underlying narrative that you might not be able to put your finger on and as we start Little Mexico, a song I wrote about saying goodbye to my hometown in New Jersey and then Egyptian Musk was actually written about a stick of incense but then it turned into being taken from the planet, right, and then you’re leaving this existence and you’re going somewhere else. When It’s Late at Night…
CM: Like a UFO?
Dougie: It could be a UFO or it could be something else, you don’t really know. We don’t even really know. When it’s Late at Night its like you’re being brought up to this other dimension and then you’re brought back down to earth and Your Arms is all about your return and you’re finally home and then Lake Street you’ve fallen deep and have sunk to the bottom of the lake down into the earth. The story is going to continue in Extended Play Number Two. They all have their meanings as individual songs but then they all have meaning as a little section of a bigger narrative. We’ve recently been labeled as “retro pop”. It’s like, people couldn’t put their finger on what we were and we’ve been calling ourselves “dream surf” but now we’re starting to call ourselves retro-pop because we’re reminding people of the pop music of the late 50s, early 60s: this kind of upbeat, retro-pop sound is heard underlaid by the weird concept that we have throughout the whole EP.
CM: What about playing Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival?
DOUGIE: To see how a high caliber event is ran is really cool. To be a part of the operations end of it to see what it’s really like to plot your stage on a that large a scale and work with professional sound men that have worked with The Pixies and to be prepping on stage right before The Cold War Kids and A$AP Rocky, Beach House, who all had their scoring tape on there. Just to share the stage with these working, legitimate acts was really amazing. To be that busy and get all the press that we got, it was kind of like we were just in this whirlwind. We didn’t even realize it was happening. Since then we still haven’t stopped. We’ve just been on the tumble cycle since that whole thing went down. I’ll tell you, just from like a resume standpoint, it’s like we played Coachella, it’s like boom, you’re qualified. You’re in. That is really important to us for outer valley stuff. Coachella was really important to us as we get booked all over the place, it’s a really good bullet point on our resume and that experience was really incredible. We’re really grateful that Goldenvoice finds it important to showcase local art and local music. They find a place for it. There’s a lot of stuff that you have to arrange just to be the 12 p.m. opener. A lot of people are involved in getting you onto that stage and for Goldenvoice to find it important enough to have a couple of local boys up there doing it, we’re very grateful that there is such a locally conscious company and that they do that. I’ll tell you, as important as it was to have that big fat bullet point on your resume, it’s like we want the respect of the valley, you know what I mean? That’s what we work for too. We will forever rep this valley because it’s just been nothing but good to us.
CM: What do you think of the music scene in the Coachella Valley?
Mario: I’ve been part of the music scene here in the Coachella Valley since at least 2009. I was in a band called Save the Whales and after that I was in band after band. It’s like I’ve been part of the scene, I’ve seen it growing at least since the late 2000s because there’s been a scene out here since forever with Eagles of Death Metal and Queens of the Stone Age back in the day. Honestly, the scene’s a little bit different now. There’s definitely like an east side scene and there’s a west side scene. I feel like the two scenes don’t really play too much together that often and I think it’s just because there’s different venues on the east side, and there’s different venues on the west side. There’s different styles of music on the east side and different styles of music on the west side.
Danny: I think because we are in Palm Desert, we’re right in the middle of everybody, and we’re serving as sort of like a bridge from the east to the west. You could see that when we played the backyard show, that show was full. There was a bunch of kids back there just totally enjoying it. We support all the other east and west valley bands. There is a lot of talent. There’s a lot of cool bands that I’m a big fan of, Tribesmen, The Kathys, Venus and the Traps. There’s just a lot of cool bands that I really have a lot of respect for and we’re just really grateful that they think of us and they ask us to be on their bills occasionally. I think this scene is probably one of the most supportive music scenes that I’ve ever been involved with. There are so many people that are trying to help you and lift you up and to help you succeed. There’s just overwhelming support and it’s beautiful.
Perry: Definitely growing up here in the music scene like Mario has and actually, I had a band around the same time as him called Rip Torn and we have actually played shows together and everything. Seeing how much different it is just within these past seven years, just from … Not going to lie, back then everybody was kind of about themselves, nobody was really open to sharing and helping one another anywhere near as much as they are today. This music scene has developed so much in the time that I’ve been here in this valley and actually been active and avid in this music scene. I hope it continues where it’s going and if it does it’s going to make something of itself.
Mario: I think honestly a lot of people are actually maturing too so it’s like they’re seeing that they don’t have to make it by themselves only, they can support everyone around them and have everyone get up together with each other. Nobody has to be like, “Oh, they’re playing music and I’m playing music so my band has to succeed and I have to talk crap and shit about their band.” They understand now it’s like, “Oh, if I succeed they can succeed too and we can succeed together in this entire valley and everything can be great if we all work together.”
CM: What is something your fans don’t know about you that they would be really surprised about?
Mario: I teach catechism for kids, which is like Sunday school but for Catholics on Tuesdays. Shout out to my kids.
CM: What about nothing to do with music. Like, what are you a bone collector or something?
Dougie: Actually, wow yeah.
CM: Are you for real?
Dougie: Yeah. I have quite the bone collection. I’m into osteology. I collect, clean and preserve animal skulls. I have them in glass cases in my house. I have a monkey skull and a wolf skull and a bear skull and a beaver skull. I’ve got a bunch of skulls.
CM: Where do you find all these things?
Dougie: Sometimes I just find them. Sometimes my dad will send me heads in the mail. He’s a good dad, he’s awesome. Sometimes I’ll just find them in my travels. Seriously, I’ll find them. There’s a story for each one. Some of them are already done and I find them in curiosity shops and stuff.
CM: Is there a song about that?
Dougie: No, not yet. Not yet.
Perry: Animal skulls and Sunday school.
CM: What would you say is the most challenging part of balancing the creative and the business sides of music?
Dougie: I think we’ve got it. The mix of business and art is a very hard thing for a lot of acts and a lot of artists. I think that we have a very good handle on the importance of business and the importance of artistic integrity. I think that it’s different for everybody but, I think what’s most important about an artist is finding your truth. From a photo to a recording, to sitting at a party and playing an acoustic; if you are not telling the truth, people will feel it. They’ll know right away if you’re a liar. You have to find your truth as an artist or you will not succeed. Period.
CM: What would you like fans or new listeners to know about your new EP?
Dougie: That it is The Flusters. That is us, 100% us. That was recorded in a live room with all of us at once. Every imperfection and fuzzy note and this and that, that is just 100% The Flusters and there’s more to come.