You have one last chance to catch North Carolina band, Flagship at The Chapel tomorrow night and you won't want to miss it. The band scored an August residency at The Chapel with San Francisco bands, French Cassettes and Black Cobra Vipers. And have already played two shows at the popular Mission venue to a good response.
Flagship are currently Drake Margolnick (lead singer); Matthew Padgent (guitar, backing vocals); Michael Finster (drums, programming); Grant Harding (keys); Christopher Comfort (bass); and Cole Moser (aux keys). They met performing on the Charlotte circuit and soon released the well-received Blackbush EP in 2012.
They are currently on the upswing promoting their eponymous full-length album which was produced by Ben Allen, known for his work with experimental band, Animal Collective and South Carolina’s electro chill maestro, Washed Out.
Much of “Flagship” was written in a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains’ town of Boone, setting the context for epic songs such as “Are You Calling”, “Break The Sky” and “Waste Them All”. It has a folk rock sensibility edged with ‘80s electronica and the guitar work of early U2 which means it calls to mind a host of other derivative-sounding bands.
And it’s easy to dismiss Flagship as another band of young men who sound like a dozen others zig-zagging across the country, roughing it out in motels and tour buses. But it doesn’t take much to fall for the band – the album is listenable, layered and late-night dreamy with a sonic mood further elevated by Margolnick’s deep languid vocals that sit somewhere between a less decorative Chris Isaak and a more ornate Bruce Springsteen.
On Monday morning, while the band was in their van en route to Itunes, drummer Michael Finster took some to speak to Examiner.com. He joked they were heading to “wine and dine” the folks there and enjoy some down time after a weekend of intense recording leaving him admittedly “mentally exhausted”. In good spirits, Finster discussed Flagship’s stay in the Bay Area, their final Chapel gig before they ramp up for their UK trip and being the first band to be featured in Smule’s inaugural Artist Program.
How did a bunch of boys from Charlotte, North Carolina end up doing a residency at the The Chapel in San Francisco?
It helps because our record label, Bright Antenna is based here. And they have a lot of friends and industry contacts here and knew if we could get a residency, we would be busy. We were recording all weekend, we are off to Itunes this morning and then we’ve had meetings about running apps.
How very San Francisco – meetings about apps?
Yes, I’m so impressed out here. The technology is so amazing and everyone we meet is a genius.
You’ve done two shows at The Chapel – what have they been like? Which songs seem to resonate more with the crowd cause you make music that is tender lyrically but can sonically fill venues and has an epic quality to it?
There’s been a slight difference from week to week. The first week we played the headlining spot after the two other bands. We were the only band not from here so I think they were a lot of local fans there for the other two bands thinking “what’s the deal with this?” But the second week it was cool, we got to play first. We also have a complex set up and it takes time to get all our gear up on stage and by the time we are ready - it’s also about the mood of the people after all that waiting. There are a few songs like “Break The Sky” and from our EP “The Fool” which always resonate with the audience. We closed the show with “The Fool” and the entire song it rises and rises, it hits the end, it breaks and everything is crazy.
But next week you play the middle spot?
Yes. It’s kind of the worse spot for us but we’ll make it work. We have a lot of people on stage and we are not a simple 3 member guitar-base band. But its nice to do a rotating headline residency like this - it’s like we’re back in the ‘80s.
The way the band was formed seems very organic but what was it really like when Drake – a solo singer/songwriter became part of the band? Were you guys musicians in search of a voice? A singer?
A group of us had a different band and we met Drake in the Charlotte circuit and became friends. We went to a random festival together, and ended up getting his solo project booked on a different stage. We would do our set on one stage, then go to his stage and play for him. Matthew who plays guitar used to be our lead singer but he does backing vocals and he loves what he’s doing now.
What’s it like being part of a small record label like Bright Antenna? They know what they’re doing – Braden Merrick (The Killer's manager when the band broke out with 'Hot Fuss') is a pro? Has there been any key things that he has help your band crystallize?
Signing with Bright Antenna is one of the best things that have happened to us. They are a small label, instead of a Universal or Capitol but they really take the time to nurture us. They always communicate with us. We had a manager but he had his own issues to sort out so we don’t had a manager at the moment - they’ve been great at helping to sort that out with us. They are very complementary of what we do. As a band, we are not always the most pro in the marketing aspect and they take care of all the business-sy details. And if Braden is watching when we do a concert he will always give us feedback like ‘you guys missed out, you could have done this or that better.’
The latest video released was for the single “Gold and Silver” – where was it shot and whose idea was it?
It was shot near the beaches in Mill Valley. I’m from North Carolina and I make music videos videos too – I made some of the band’s earlier videos like “Are You Calling” and “Break The Sky” … I don’t know, I just find so much beauty in the beaches here. It might be because I’m not from here. But I wasn’t there when it was shot. We gave the project to some people to do – we had some lyrics already and a melody, and then we trusted it to them to interpret it and create the video. It’s really great to be able to trust other people and see how they interpret the original idea. Then how listeners re-interpret the song again.
One reviewer said that “Flagship” was ‘an album of singles so they are all relatively good songs but it’s not a great album’ – how do you respond to that sort of criticism, I mean what do you do with that?
I don’t know. I haven’t read that review. Now I’m in a bad mood. (laughs) I’m just kidding. Well, I guess it’s better that it’s an album full of singles than an album full of garbage. But the album was written over a few different years so it’s been spread out. It’s not like “Abbey Road” by The Beatles which is an album from start to finish. Our debut is a series of songs from different times, recorded in different studios in different places and cities. But everyone’s entitled to an opinion and as my dad says, ‘everyone has one’. Sometimes you get an album and every song sounds the same whereas we have songs that rock hard, then we have piano ballads. It’s just the nature of the world we live in and when you have outlets like youtube, everyone feels the need to express their negative feelings but we have to keep being creative. Because you create for yourself – not in a selfish way but you can’t stop being creative just because someone doesn’t like it.
You’ve been part of Smule's New Artist Program and have your own karaoke app – have you guys tried singing along to yourselves – is it an existential experience?
Yes. It’s so fun. It’s different because you are singing into a phone and you go into a club or something to make it sound good. But they also have a piano app of the song which is super fun. Go download it and try it. Smule has been so great for us, we have actually doubled our youtube viewings since our song was featured in their app. We had lunch and did a performance for them the other day - they are the best people and even came out to our show at The Chapel. They have really cool views about music and want to put songs in people’s hands and get everyone to feel it out. It’s fun for us hearing other people’s interpretations – like there was this one guy who sounded like John Legend, and had an R & B riff in his vocals that we would never do, but sounded really cool.
You were in the UK and France earlier this year - when are you heading back there?
We are heading back to the UK in early October to push the release of our album there on Oct 13. We had a great time there in May and have a UK team in place, so are really looking forward to it.
For tickets to Flagship at The Chapel on Thurs, Aug 28 please click here. Tickets are $12 for the three bands. Doors open at 8pm and show begins at 9pm. To purchase their album, please click here. Smule is a music app with a community of 20 million active fans, less concerned with unearthing rock stars than just connecting people through music, please click here for their apps.