Myra Flynn 6 January 2016 on Rocket Shop
In the photo, above: Zach Harmon, percussion; Myra Flynn; Paul Boffa, guitar; and Cleo Flemming, cello.
WORDS BY TOM PROCTOR. PHOTOS by JAMES LOCKRIDGE.
Myra Flynn is a woman that exudes a special kind of energy. Brimming with charisma, unabashedly honest and unafraid to bare her soul, her success has come in part through her ability to channel these characteristics into her own brand of music. Describing herself as a dichotomy, she has fully embraced her own style and mixed influences developing a unique sound that harmonises with her background setting forth a genre that be best described as neo-indie soul.
In VT for a brief spell, Myra and her brand spankin’ new Burlington based band sit down to talk to us about the development of the music industry, why cello players shouldn’t be novelty and why she feels she can finally project her inner weirdo.
TP: So this is your new band, how did you guys form?
Myra Flynn: Well obviously everyone came because of me (Laughs.) Seriously though, I wanted to start a band and I’ve been playing with Paul (Boffa) for ten years so he was in. Andrick (not present) put these guys together though, he’s the guy you talk to when you want excellent players because he's just an awesome mad scientist when it comes to music. When he recommends somebody you know it's right.
TP: Do you feels the music is evolving into something different now you have a band?
MF: It’s completely different. I think the Vermont crowd that comes to see us, that vibes with us, the way in which people feel music here is just so different from LA and I’m really counting on these guys to teach me their ways and how to bring that out in the music. I can write a decent song but you always need to be in touch with people that can draw out your inner rock star.
TP: What was the band doing prior to this configuration?
PB: Well Myra and I have been working together for ten years, I've also been in bands and worked in other configurations as well, there's always some degree of music going on.
Cleo Flemming: I’m from the classical realm, I’m a student at UVM and studying the cello and pretty new to the whole band experience. Something a lot of classical musicians struggle with is the ability to branch off the music on the page, but I feel one of the most important lessons a musician can learn is to not be married to one genre, so I’m attempting to follow through with that philosophy.
Zach Harmon: I’m coming out of the jazz and improv aspects music. I have been playing at this great spot called Blue Whale in LA, which has a long and storied history of jazz and flamenco musicians just to name two. Talking of branching out, I think it's really important not to be married to anyone implementation of music and one idea of what makes up a band and I feel that’s what we’re doing here.
TP: Do you feel that this is a new concept that has been developing in the music industry recently? The idea of a band being far more fluid that what it may have traditionally been?
MF: The way I feel about it, music took a little while to change after the 60’s/70s. There was a period of a couple of decades where the music industry creatively stagnated a little. Then the indie scene blew up, the lyrics and the message of the music changed politics and race came back into play and it all got weird again after a long break from that style of creative expression. After the economy tanked in 2008, loads of people lost their jobs and as a result a lot of people just decided to start doing what they want. People with contrasting elements started coming together a lot more readily.
MF: I’d also like to say that I sound weird. Everyone I've ever worked with has struggled with that. I’m half Irish, I’m half black, I'm a singer songwriter and I'm a soul singer, but don't count on me for RnB. I can't represent the “black sound” and I can't represent the “white” one and I've always tried to stay true to that. It’s been a mind fuck for anyone that's ever worked with me, especially as I started in this industry so young. In my early days I really did feel I needed to follow other people's styles, but that made me lose my mind and my sense of self. Now I can embrace that i'm a weirdo, that I want weird instruments and that I want to sound a little different. I just don't want people tellin’ me what to do man (Laughs.)
TP: You use a lot of social media to promote yourself and your brand rather than let a record company promote for you. Have you found that beneficial with regards to being yourself?
MF: I think I have a combination of the two, promoting myself and letting the record companies promote for me. I have a lot of pro-photos taken, I always feel pretty weird putting them on instagram next to the photos of my dog that I took. It’s 2016 so I can be who I like. All the weirdos are coming out the woodwork now so it's great timing. The real lyricists and the real singers have now come out and taken charge again, i'm just excited to be a part of that.
PB: I think one of the big things technology has done is erase the boundaries of genera. All music is so ubiquitous and people are just exposed to a bigger array of stuff, it’s coming from so many different directions now you can't avoid it. It's harder to be underexposed than it used to be, and that creates a stage for a band like this to show up and people are accepting of it. You can have a cello or a horn or whatever, it doesn't matter, all people wanna know is one thing, is it good? If it’s good people don't care what you're playing.
CF: I came into this after playing with a couple of jam bands, and with the music and instrument that I play it’s impossible to hear anything when you're playing in a band where everyone is playing all the time. It was fun but what's wonderful about this band is that they listen and they actually care about hearing what’s coming from each member. They care to make the space for each instrument.
ZH: A lot of people use the cello as a novelty. They just need someone who looks good behind a good looking instrument. What works in this band is that we take away the novelty and incorporate the sound, it’s an even mix of colours that influences the entire overall picture.
TP: Are you guys recording an album as a band?
MF: We’re not, we’re working off work I’ve already created, but I am open to anything in the future. I would love to do that though, we’d need to write more songs together which is a bit of a problem as I live here less and less. But things are looking up for Myra FLynn in terms of being able to visit more frequently which is a freedom I haven't had in years.
TP: So what's your current plans for the future?
MF: I think we’re doing Rockwood Music Hall in NYC, i'm super partial to that venue. They have a 200 seater room that ive been avoided until now but now I have a band it’s on. We’ll be back for the Burlington Discover Jazz music festival and then as many other places that will pay this monster. I try to do 20 to 22 shows in the month of June, but that might be band or duo or solo.