Hailing from Washington, D.C., the members of Flasher spent years cutting their teeth in the local DIY punk scene before releasing their debut album as a trio, Constant Image, in 2018. As their audience grew – thanks in part to the joyful, dizzying urgency that made their brand of post-punk stand out – things started to shift. After touring for Constant Image, founding bassist Daniel Saperstein left the band, which reformed as a duo comprised of guitarist Taylor Mulitz (formerly of Priests) and drummer Emma Baker. Given the uniquely collaborative nature of Flasher, recalibrating wasn’t an easy process. But by leaning into as well as opening up their roles within the group, Mulitz and Baker have come through with a follow-up, Love Is Yours, that’s invigorating and dynamic in new yet familiar ways. Constant Image featured shared vocals, but the new album more prominently brings out both of their voices, with Baker taking on more lead vocal and songwriting duties. Recorded with longtime friend Owen Wuerker, the songs are crisp yet intricately layered, illuminating the duo’s mature perspective on the fragility of relationships. Flasher’s music may no longer be defined by raw angst, but the warmth, directness, and vulnerability that permeate Love Is Yours make it no less thrilling.
We caught up with Flasher for this edition of our Artist Spotlight interview series to talk about finding a new direction for the band, the process behind Love Is Yours, searching for the perfect feeling, and more.
In the four years between Constant Image and Love Is Yours, a lot of things changed – in the world at large, the scene that you came out of, the structure of the band itself. When you decided to start working on a new album, did you find yourselves reflecting on where you’ve been in order to move forward? Or, by that point, was it more about focusing on how to work things out in the present?
Taylor Mulitz: I think that’s a really good question, and I would say it was both. Musically, in terms of leaving the past behind and trying to blaze a new trail forward and not pigeonholing ourselves at all based on what we’ve done in the past when it came to writing the musical parts of the record – that was how it felt. And I think the thematic elements in terms of the lyrics deal with reckoning with your past self, embracing change and forgiveness.
Do you feel like you were working through these changes as a band and you were also processing them in your music, or were they two separate things that ended up mirroring each other?
TM: I think they were intertwined.
Emma Baker: Yeah. [laughs] For me, for sure.
TM: Writing the record was really fun. It didn’t feel like a challenge, but it felt like – it’s kind of when you start a new band and everything feels really fresh and exciting and it’s kind of an open field – you can go in any direction.
Emma, in what ways do you feel like it was intertwined for you?
EB: Just on a basic level, my involvement with writing on this record – we’ve always written music together, but our process previously when we were trio was more like: we’d all get together and jam and we would write a whole instrumental, finish a song from start to finish instrumentally without adding vocal parts yet. And this time around, it was kind of the opposite. We were starting with a demo that has a lot of singing, really vocal-forward, and in the past, that’s not really been what I contribute to Flasher. I really wanted to be productive and work with Taylor on getting the record going, and I’m not just going to sit around and wait for Taylor to write the whole record. This was my first time really starting to write songs myself at home, and then bringing them to Taylor for us to finish. But certainly, when it comes to writing lyrics, I lean more towards writing more… what’s the word?
EB: Yeah. I definitely worked some things out in the songs that I wrote on this record.
TM: It’s funny, I just had a flashback to when we first started demoing the record and we would do this thing where we were trying to work out melodies, we’d have this one riff that we just knew and we would sing into the microphone. And one of the songs that we would sing over pretty much every song in a different key was ‘Running Up That Hill’.
If there was a time to put out a cover of that song…
TM: We attempted it at karaoke the other night.
EB: Neither of us can sing like Kate Bush.
With Daniel Saperstein’s departure from the band, to what extent did you have to reconsider what Flasher’s identity as a band would be as a duo? Was that something you had conversations about, or was your approach to just work together and see what naturally emerges from that?
EM: I think there was a brief moment of like, “Oh shit, is this new band? Do we totally rename this band?” Obviously, that didn’t happen. Logistically, it wouldn’t have made sense to do that. And the origin story of Flasher actually was just me and Taylor in another band previously, so it kind of feels like returning to that dynamic, which always felt natural.
In what ways do you feel it’s different?
TM: That band was called Young China, it was like a punk band. It was very decidedly, like, we’re going to try and be in a punk band, because neither of us ever really had – despite having been in the punk scene forever, I guess Priests gets considered a punk band – but we were like, we’re gonna try to do that. And we still didn’t quite do that. [laughs] Because we’re too obsessed with pop music and it’s gonna find its way in there. But when we started working on this record, we were really wanting to move away from punk.
Have you always been obsessed with pop music?
EM: We’ve kind of always loved it.
TM: Yeah, we’ve always loved it. I mean, to be honest with you, as a young teen, I was really into indie rock. And then I think later on in my teenage years, I was really ashamed of that. I felt like it was embarrassing. So I kind of pushed that to the side, and now that we’re a little older, I can be like, “Actually, some of that music was good,” and it’s finding its way back into my own songwriting.
You said it was partly a logistical decision to keep making music as Flasher. Musically or aesthetically, what’s something that you feel like has and will remain a constant in your work as a band? Or is that too hard to conceptualize?
EM: Yeah, it’s hard to put a finger on.
TM: My answer is so boring. It’s like, the types of chord progressions that we gravitate towards – if I’m trying to find a throughline between Constant Image and this new record, I think there’s a lot of that. Or the types of melodies that we’re into or the way things resolve. But that’s so amorphous, you know. At first I was like, “This sounds totally different.” And it’s been interesting to see people’s reaction to it because some people are like, “This is so left-field or way out there.” And then other people are like, “It still sounds like you guys.”
Did find yourselves trying to move away from those kinds of chord progressions or melodies while making Love Is Yours?
TM: Not at all, honestly.
EM: Pretty much the opposite of that.
TM: We were like, “Let’s just go for it.” Just write the songs that feel good and let them find their way naturally.
Going back to Constant Image, you’ve said that the making of that album was marked by tension. Did you make a conscious effort going into this record to try and take steps to avoid a similar experience?
EM: I don’t think this time around it was our goal to not recreate that experience per se. But the circumstances of the pandemic led us to where we ended up making the record.
TM: Well, in a way it kind of was that way because we did two test recording runs with different producers to see how it felt.
TM: And it didn’t quite like click. I think before the pandemic hit, actually, we had decided we’re going to record it at home because that feels really comfortable. We had already been demoing here with Owen and already felt so attached to the demos, so when we worked with other people, we were like, “Oh no, this is not cool.” [laughs] And then we’re like, “Let’s just do it ourselves.”
Was there any shift in your collaborative approach, too, that was intended to make it more comfortable?
EM: Taylor and I both just started demoing stuff on our own because he was living in Baltimore when we were starting to write this record and I was still in DC, and then we would get together a couple of days a week to share what we’ve been working on. I think the difference this time around was that I was writing stuff too, and that both of us were demoing a lot more on our own in ways that we hadn’t before. Since Daniel is a recording engineer, they would do all the engineering part of making our demos in the past. So this time was me and Taylor learning how to use Logic and stuff ourselves and making backing beats for things that we’re writing.
What else did you learn from having less of a fixed role in the band?
TM: I’ve definitely started experimenting with a lot of different types of instrumentation outside of just guitar and bass, which is exciting, like drum machines, Emma mentioned recording in Logic – I just feel like I’ve learned a ton. But one thing that I really take away from the process of making this record, which I kind of alluded to before, is trusting your gut and not feeling like you have to force something into a box that doesn’t come naturally. Feeling like, “Oh, this doesn’t sound like Flasher,” you know, whatever – in the end, it did. And that was just because it’s the same people making it. Your voice is always gonna come through.
EM: Clearly, I learned how to play a lot of things I don’t normally play. Like, let go of my identity being, I’m the drummer. It was kind of freeing to have songs on the record that just don’t have live drums, because going into the process, the idea was that everything would have live drums and that certain demos that had drum machines, that’s just a placeholder. But in the end, lots of the songs sounded better with the drum machine, so… That’s been a big change for me with this process. That no longer has to be all that I am.
TM: Which is funny too, because the songs on the record that have the drum machines, now that we’re playing them live and have been trying to play with the drum machine, we’re like, “No, this needs live drums.”
EM: [laughs] Yeah.
TM: Just reworking songs, which is fun.
I wanted to bring up a line from the opening track, ‘I Saw You’: “I’m not looking for a meaning/ Stuck in the search for a perfect feeling.” I feel like that’s a theme that runs throughout the album. Do you think that by the end of this journey, you come closer to understanding what that perfect feeling is?
TM: I would say the conclusion reached the end of the record is that there is no perfect feeling, and that’s okay.
EM: Yeah, the search is life. [laughs]
TM: And being in an ambiguous state, feeling comfortable being in that place, I feel like that’s what a lot of the songs are about. And you definitely hit the nail on the head with ‘I Saw You’. I feel like that song really encapsulates the sentiment of a lot of what we’re talking about on the record.
If it’s more about the search, what drives you to keep searching for that feeling?
TM: I think we both, as is the case for most people within the past few years, feel really depressed and despondent, and it’s easy to just crawl into a hole and not address anything that’s going on or not seek out experiences that challenge you or make you scared or push you into a different mindset. And I think the manifesto is that’s part of what makes life worth living. There’s songs like ‘Love is Yours’ and ‘All Day Long’ – both of those are kind of about relationships feeling uncomfortable but really exciting at same time, and I think that the two go hand in hand.
EM: I feel like that’s just the mature outlook on life – or more mature than what we might have previously had. A lot of this record is just accepting that about relationships. The work put in the search for the perfect feeling or whatever – that is also the joy of life.
Could you share something that inspires you about each other?
TM: Where do I start? Emma is one of the most talented musicians that I know, truly can do it all. She’s really dedicated to playing music and being a musician, regardless of what happens – if this record tanks, people hate it, label drops us, whatever – I just know that Emma’s ride or die. And it inspires me to keep playing and not give a fuck about anyone else.
EM: [laughs] Damn. Taylor is so deeply charismatic. I know that now we’re co-leaders of this band, but I still think of you as the person that holds it all together. You uplift me every day to try new stuff. I feel very… God, I can never find the right word. You just push me to do more stuff, always. I haven’t always felt like that in all of the bands that I’ve been in.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
Flasher’s Love Is Yours is out June 10 via Domino.