Grace and the Flat Boys have had an exciting past year! The five-piece group including frontwoman Grace, guitarist Robin, drummer Mustaphis, bassist Mark and Joe on keys, formed during their time at the University of Edinburgh.
They share with us their journey onto stages around Scotland and their gradually built strengths as a collective. They recall their best live performances and creating a collaborative and supportive environment. We also discuss the vibrant music scene in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Read ahead to gain a deeper insight into the band and their future.
How did you all first meet and how did you form the band?
Grace: We met while we were all students at the University of Edinburgh. The full story is convoluted but to summarise, we met through jam sessions, living in the same accommodation, events and societies. The original Flat Boy band planned to be instrumental and jazz, with guest collabs (horns, vocals, etc) joining, a bit like a collective. I was asked to write lyrics for a couple songs, but when we started working together, I may have just refused to leave. They must have liked me so much they put my name in the title, and the rest is history.
What would you say is your greatest strength as a band?
Mustaphis: The band members themselves, or our adaptability. In 2022, we had so many gigs where not all band members were able to perform and we still managed to make it through these performances and generate the most interest in the band we’d ever had at the time.
Robin: I’d also say it’s our adaptability, together with how we’re able to identify and make the best use of each other’s individual strengths. We’re all comfortable with the idea of saying “You’re better at this than I am, so you should take the lead here”. We all want each other to shine.
Mark: I’d say the greatest strength is everyone’s musicianship. Everyone brings their own styles and influences and it all comes together in this great melting pot that is the band’s sound.
What is the best live music performance you have ever seen and why?
Mustaphis: As a band that would probably be Corto Alto’s gig in Glasgow, October last year. Aside from being a musical masterpiece, it was probably the first gig that we all went to just for the sake of it. At other gigs, it’s either some band members aren’t there, or we just happen to be there because we’re performing at the same event or supporting friends.
Robin: As a band, I’d go with Corto Alto’s SWG3 show in October last year too. I also went to see Snarky Puppy at the O2 academy in Glasgow that same month without the band (sorry guys) and they blew me away. I was genuinely brought to tears more than once during their performance.
Grace: Maybe Skepta when I was 18. I was working at Field Day Festival in London, and - embarrassingly -didn’t know who he was, but ended up in a mosh and it was absolutely incredible.
The single 'Sometimes' was released earlier this year, a beautiful sultry record, can you describe the story behind the lyrics?
Grace: I always knew the message I wanted to go in this song. The melodies and chords that came out of initial jams inspired me so much and matched perfectly with my ideas.
The meaning behind the lyrics is quite deep but also can be personal to whoever, however they interpret it. Sometimes, it feels like everyone’s got it all figured out, and I’m left behind or in the dark. Sometimes it feels like people know how to deal with things regardless of situations in their lives, and I wonder, how can people always know the right way to react and respond. Part of the song represents me literally asking, “tell me the way you keep on smiling, even if you don’t know what you’re smiling for?” finding out, how can you keep it together and stay strong, even when it’s so hard. This song’s about those moments when you question if it will always be this hard. It sounds quite sad, but because of the way the song is arranged, the depth is quite ambiguous. I like writing lyrics that can be interpreted quite personally but, on the surface, just sounds like a good song.
If you could create an extensive line up for a major festival stage, who would you have?
Mustaphis: Earth Wind & Fire and Skindred.
Mark: 1975, I’d just really like to see them live.
Joe: Vulfpeck and The Darkness.
Robin: If I had that kind of power I’d love to put Anderson.Paak on the same lineup as Slipknot and watch the ensuing madness. Should probably chuck Biffy Clyro on there for good measure too.
Grace: Saba, Metallica, Thundercat and Steve Lacy.
You support Brownbear at The Caves on Friday 12th, which artists/bands should people be listening to right now?
Mustaphis: There’s so much good music coming out of both Edinburgh and Glasgow right now and it’s so cool to be involved in the scene at a time when it’s so vibrant. Some names are Corto Alto, Kai Reesu and a bunch of other people that have come out of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, our good friends, Dinosaur 94, Nani and Eloi and so many others.
Mark: I’m a really big fan of Joesef in Glasgow, who’s definitely getting the recognition he deserves and is moving on to great things.
Robin: Fans of Nani and Dinosaur 94 would definitely enjoy what Brownbear has to offer, and visa-versa! More generally, I think FERNS and - Joe won’t admit it - but Eloi are two exciting local bands to keep a close eye on and listen to. I heard Eloi have some new stuff cooking…
As a band, how do you nurture creativity, and what is your creative process?
Mustaphis: I don’t know if we have a creative process, many different things have worked for us but one thing we’ve probably done in writing all our music is to have sessions where we just jam and figure things out.
Joe: We all bring our own ideas to the group and we feed and bounce off each other. We really do listen to each other but also to the music that we’re creating, what we want it to sound like, how we can challenge preconceived ideas within genres. We’ll have a song we wrote years ago and play all the time, and suddenly be like, ‘what if we did this here?’ and instantly we’re refreshing songs, adding in new ideas, constantly developing.
Mark: It’s really a collaborative process - everyone brings their own ideas and bounces stuff off each other, it’s not like there’s just one mastermind behind the stuff we create.
Robin: We’re always open to trying new things and adapting our process if we need to. Sometimes a new tune will come together in the middle of a jam session, out of nowhere. Other times, one of us might bring an idea to the rest of the band to develop together. It’s always collaborative.
How do you support one another if there is pre-stage anxiety amongst band members?
Grace: I think I’m the only one who gets really nervous before a gig, but the Flat Boys are my people and my faith in them carries me through. Sometimes I’ll get the Boys to do a crossword with me beforehand to preoccupy my mind. Or, depending on how hangry Robin is, we’ll all go out for a meal together. It’s quite wholesome really.
Robin: I don’t know about pre-stage anxiety but I’ll tell you pre-stage hanger is a real thing. Best thing you can do for a fellow band member in that situation is of course to feed them, quickly.
What can we expect from Grace & the Flat Boys for 2023/2024 and what should we be ready for?
Mustaphis: Can’t speak for 2024 but this year, we can say to definitely keep an eye out, it’s going to be a busy summer of releases and festival slots. We’re also trying out a new format with some videoed live recordings, so definitely keep an eye out for them when they drop in the summer!
Robin: NEW MUSIC. NEW SINGLE EARLY SUMMER. LIVE EP LATER ON. NEW STUDIO EP EARLY AUTUMN. FESTIVALS. Or we can hold our cards close to our chest like Mustaphis up there, whichever sounds more exciting.