It's been a delight to follow Grace & The Flat Boys over the course of the Summer. Since IYS last caught up with the band, they’ve played across a range of festivals, and released previous beaut singles, 'Sometimes' and 'St. Catherine'. The band squeezed in a catch-up with IYS to chat about their up-and-coming EP Launch, 'DARK GLASS // ROSE TINT' happening at Cabaret Voltaire this weekend.
Last time we caught up with the band, you were supporting the brilliant Brownbear at The Caves last May. Tell us about the awesome festival circuit you had over the summer, and what were your highlights?
Summer 2023 was unlike any summer this band has had before. It involved a lot of hard work, hundreds of miles of driving and far too many early starts - but make no mistake, festival season might just be our favourite season! We’ve always been a band full of people that love to perform live. It’s been our primary motive from the start - we’re constantly thinking of ways to enhance our sets and improve our shows. With that in mind, it’s not really surprising to discover how at home we feel on the festival circuit. We’ve performed at festivals before, but this year is the first time we’ve been able to properly lose ourselves in a string of festival appearances.
The season kicked off for us with the Edinburgh date of Stag & Dagger Festival. The familiar location provided a great opportunity for us to ease into things, test-run some new equipment and decide what a 2023 G&TFB festival show was going to look like. Next on the circuit for us was Tonge Station Festival in Derbyshire, England. It’s a small, private, family-organised festival with an incredible atmosphere. We were booked to perform for an hour as the sun set. It’s hard to explain, but it was a pretty magical experience. We all felt like we couldn’t make a mistake if we tried. The audience were so lively and appreciative, and we all fed off that. At one point someone passed our bassist a massive slice of pizza mid-set, which was a first. We finished our show and left the stage, about to head to bed ahead of a very early start the next day but were instead quickly dragged back on stage by the organisers to keep going! The whole experience was electric, and for us performing live has never felt as good as it did on that day.
We all rolled out of our tents at 4am the next morning to drive back up to Scotland. Specifically, to perform at FyneFest that afternoon! The weather that weekend was unnervingly good, which made arriving on site at FyneFest all the more spectacular. It’s such a beautiful location for a festival. We performed to a wonderful crowd of people that had all the sunshine, good food and drink anyone could ever ask for. The next morning, we made a quick stop at Loch Lomond on our way back to Edinburgh and had what might have been the most refreshing swim of our lives.
Unfortunately, the weather on the weekend of Kelburn Garden Party was more typical of a Scottish summer. Not that it mattered though - Kelburn has so much to offer within its enchanted grounds. The lineup that weekend was incredible, and we were so excited to be involved. Between all the amazing music we got lost in the woods, swam under a waterfall and sat beside many campfires. Kelburn hosts such an incredible community of people, perhaps the friendliest we’ve ever met. It’s plain to see why so many people regard this festival as one of the best in Scotland, and we’d definitely be keen to return in the future.
The latest release, 'Ghosting', has a superb grunge depth to it - different to previous songs. You also have the brilliant AD3 appear on the track. What was the collaboration process like between AD3 and the band?
Working with AD3 on ‘Ghosting’ was a great experience. AD expressed an interest in collaborating with us following our performance at Scotland in Colour Festival 2022. We saw him perform on the same evening and were blown away by his energy and showmanship. We told him we’d be in touch as soon as we had a suitable track. Almost a year later, we were talking about how cool it would be to feature a rapper on ‘Ghosting’ and of course AD was the first person that came to mind. We felt like he would be a great fit and he did not disappoint! Somehow, he knew exactly what we were looking for, without any discussion. Hearing his part for the first time was very exciting - we all felt he’d elevated the track massively. When he came down to the studio to record his verse, AD said he’d never written anything for a beat like ‘Ghosting’ before. The level of musicianship he displayed in creating something so unique and well-suited to a song as unconventional as ‘Ghosting’ is crazy. It’s such an honour to have had the opportunity to work with him...
This month Grace & The Flat Boys launch the latest EP, 'Dark Glass // Rose Tint' at Cab Vol, how would you describe the sound of your up-and-coming EP and can we get a hint to any extra surprises on the night?
The sound of the new EP is quite different from our previous work. We’ve definitely embraced a much darker, grungier sound for this record. We heard the phrase ‘Grunge Soul’ used the other day - perhaps that’s accurate. There are still a lot of jazz-influenced elements in each of the songs, with complex-harmony and syncopation playing a big part throughout. However, it’s much more rock influenced than our previous work. We all enjoy the energy and big sounds that come with the genre, especially in a live-performance context. ‘Dark Glass // Rose Tint’ is a moody record, but it’s also a record about change. In particular, the idea that you can grow and heal by expressing yourself freely, without holding back. We’ve tried to convey this musically throughout the duration of the EP. It’s deliberately structured to take you on a journey, and we hope anyone listening is able to experience that in their own way. The grungier sounds of ‘Ghosting’ and ‘Walk Away’ are a big part of the record, but they also act as a gateway towards a couple of other tunes on the EP that embrace a more peaceful, soulful sound.
We’re massively looking forward to performing these tracks live at the Cab Vol Launch Gig. It’ll be the first opportunity for anyone to hear the new songs played live, and for that reason we do have a couple of extra surprises planned. Let’s just say there’ll be a lot of firsts for us on the night!
As a band, you've been together for a long while now and have probably had your fair share of encounters and obstacles in the music scene. From your experience, what do you feel needs to change about the music industry for emerging acts?
That’s a very interesting question. In our opinion, one of the biggest things that can be done to benefit the local music scene is improving accessibility for emerging acts. We’ve been operating as an independent band for five years now, without a label or external funding. Most of our experience in the industry relates to live music. In many ways we’ve been quite lucky in Edinburgh and have felt like part of the local scene for a number of years now. We’ve gotten to know some wonderful people and to perform at some wonderful venues across the city. However, it’s very difficult for artists in our position to branch out towards other cities without it coming at a huge detriment to ourselves. Most of the gig offers we receive from outside Edinburgh work out in a way that means we’d have to pay to do the gig. In that sense, a lot of emerging acts can only emerge so far without external support. If that’s going to change, booking agencies and venues will need to reassess how accessible their offers are for independent artists looking to branch out to new places. There’s of course a responsibility for the artist to bring attention to new venues they’re performing at and deliver a show that will bring people back, but as things currently stand, we’ve found more often than not it’s the artist that absorbs all the risk in these situations. Booking agents want you to have a sizable fanbase in cities outside of your own, but for many emerging acts live-performance is a big part of how they build-up their fanbase.
In 2015, the Music Venue Trust published a report on how to safeguard the future of the UK's network of grassroots music venues in Edinburgh. In your opinion, how far do you think the gig culture has come since closures and restrictions, and how has this affected Grace & The Flat Boys?
Gig culture as far as gig attendance and interest from gig goers is concerned seems to be as vibrant as it was before lockdown but it’s also difficult to be objective because so many of our gigs before lockdown were organised by students. We’ve been in the interesting position of having played two gigs almost immediately after two different lockdowns ended and the atmosphere at both of these was absolutely amazing. This made it clear to us that the people in Edinburgh really do want to engage with live music and it’s an integral part of the Edinburgh experience, especially for younger people. In a sense, the way that things unfolded after the lockdown probably played a role in getting us to where we are today.
So many bands either formed or ended over lockdown but not so many managed to continue through it so it was almost like once live music was back, we were a dependable act that people had seen and enjoyed before, so we think it led to a greater demand for our performances. This has been great because it’s allowed us to expand far beyond the student communities that we were pretty much confined to before lockdown. Despite all the negatives that came with venue closures - from the fear of losing grassroots venues to the lack of opportunity to share great music in the community - we’d say there has been some light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve felt so invigorated by the gigs we’ve had since then, and it’s really encouraged us to dream bigger!
What does 2024 have in store for Grace & The Flat boys, and what are you most looking forward to?
We already have some gigs booked-in on the 1st and 19th of January in Edinburgh and Glasgow, so we definitely feel like we’ll be starting the year on the right note! 2023 has been such an eventful year for us and because of how busy it’s been, we haven’t had much time to really take things in so we’re hoping that next year provides us with an opportunity to do that. We’re also really excited to start work on a longer form project and explore new sounds. There are definitely no solid plans about the longer form project just yet, but you can definitely expect some new releases and more ambitious performances, hopefully on bigger stages and at bigger events than we’ve ever played before, so definitely keep an eye out!
Grace & The Flat Boys perform their EP Launch DARK GLASS // ROSE TINT this Saturday 18th November at Cabaret Voltaire. SEE YOU THERE!