Floodlights have an uncanny ability to pack emotion into their songs. The sunburnt guitars and impassioned vocals immediately hook you in and suddenly, you’re feeling all of their feels. Illustrious NSW record label Spunk Records saw this potential early on, signing the Melbourne four-piece after one 12-minute, self-recorded EP.
Now with their debut album From A View out, Floodlights frontman Louis Parsons joined us to chat about the band’s writing process, their new home with Spunk Records, the importance of artists speaking up about issues in the world, and the possibility of a second album.
Melbourne’s rustic indie-rockers Floodlights reveal Australia’s beauty and all its pitfalls. Frontman Louis Parsons spoke to us on how they achieve this balance on their debut record From A View.
HAPPY: Did you put a lot of pressure on yourself to make this record perfect?
LOUIS: I wouldn’t say a lot of pressure. Because we did get a bit of traction with the EP it did give us drive to put out a full length album. We wanted a slightly more refined sound in the album which is why we chose to record in a studio. I think we enjoyed the whole production, we always try and keep it fun and enjoy what we’re doing.
HAPPY: You’re on Spunk Records now, a record label with an amazing roster. Did that play into the expectations of the album?
LOUIS: It does for sure. It was really exciting getting signed to Spunk. When we put the EP out we had no intention of getting signed, we had no idea how it all works. Meeting Aaron, the head of Spunk, he was such a down to earth, lovely guy. We played a couple of shows with some of the bands from Spunk and it was such an accepting, warm culture to be brought into. It definitely inspired us to keep doing what we were doing and getting the album out.
HAPPY: That’s so wholesome. Are you inspired by any of the artists on Spunk?
LOUIS: Mac DeMarco definitely. Everyone loves Mac DeMarco. I really like Bill Callahan. Even the smaller acts like Lachie Denton, The Ocean Party, and those kind of bands. They’re all amazing musicians and the Spunk family are definitely a very inspiring group of people to be around.
HAPPY: You also went on a regional tour with some Spunk artists.
LOUIS: Yeah that was when we met everyone for the first time, it was an initiative put on by Spunk and Dinosaur City Records called Hometowns. There were different bands playing on different weekends all along the NSW coast. We played in Kiama which is, funnily enough, the only town in NSW where I actually know anyone. It’s where one of my best mates is from and I’ve been up there a few times, so a couple of his mates came down to the Kiama Scout Hall. It was bizarre to be back there playing a show.
HAPPY: Do you think it’s important for bands to play in regional cities in Australia?
LOUIS: Yeah definitely. Obviously metropolitan areas get their fair share of music. It’s definitely important to get out to regional areas because I feel like it would be something they lack. There’s not as many bands, not as many people, so to go out to those regional places and see people living totally different lives to yours and connect through music is a really nice thing.
HAPPY: You also talk a lot about regional Australia in your music. Did going on the Hometowns tour inspire any writing?
LOUIS: Maybe not that tour, the EP was based on a trip Ash and I took. I met her up in north-west Australia and we took a bit of a posse trip up the Gibb River Road into the Northern Territory. I think going through all those towns and seeing Australia’s vast outback and how different the landscape and culture is in different areas of our own country was really inspiring and gave us a lot of new concepts to write about.
HAPPY: You recorded in a studio for this album, and you got to record to a 24-track tape machine?
LOUIS: We did, that was super exciting. I’m not much of a tech head myself. Archie, our drummer, was super excited about that. It was great, we went to Head Gap Studios in Preston. Walking into the studio was a real shock, it was super exciting to be in that kind of high level environment. We were all super jittery and nervous at the start. It took us a while to get down the first couple of songs. We had Nao Anzai who mixed and recorded the record, he was such a great mentor and professional to be around. He knew what sound we were after, he was really honest, and he’s amazing at what he does. We eventually got it mastered by Mikey Young.
HAPPY: You’ve said that historical awareness and the misuse of power are significant themes in the album, how important is it to you to address that kind of stuff in your music?
LOUIS: I think it’s really important. It’s important to speak about what you believe in and your worldview of what’s going on around you. I think they’re two topics that, from our point of view, we’re just writing about what we see and I think it’s really important to talk about Australia’s past and the cultural identity and issues that are going on as we all know in the Australian community. And the misuse of power, it is really important to talk about, whether it be in the workplace, whether it be authorities. I think it’s important to speak on issues that matter with words of meaning.
HAPPY: That really comes through in Don’t Pick That Scratch and Glory of Control, back-to-back on the record. What inspired those two tracks?
LOUIS: Well Ash actually wrote the lyrics for Don’t Pick That Scratch, but essentially what that’s about is people’s resistance to accept the truth and some of the horrible things that have happened in Australia’s past. I think the metaphor of Don’t Pick That Scratch is that if you don’t look at it, it’s not there. Ignorance is bliss, but it’s important to uncover the truth and delve into those issues because they’re not going to go away.
Glory of Control, that was more based on people that exploit the power that they have. That was specific to when I was working in the city there were some higher ups, they liked to capitalise on their authority, speak down to people, and be really disrespectful when they really didn’t need to.
HAPPY: I was singing along to Glory of Control in the car this morning actually – do you think there’s value in making political or thematically heavy music that is accessible and catchy?
LOUIS: Yeah, I think we did that with Matter of Time as well. I think the irony of a catchy upbeat tune and melody to a topic that’s much more serious can in some ways amplify what you’re trying to say and accentuate your points. I think it can be a good method to try to get your point across, to use the music a bit.
HAPPY: As mentioned before, you sing about Australia’s beauty as well. Do you find it easy to balance those elements? Being fond and also critical.
LOUIS: Yeah I do, because there’s the good and the bad. Australia is a beautiful country. There’s a lot of natural environment to go and see and we’re so lucky to live in such a relatively safe, beautiful, and clean environment. But then there are a lot of things that are arguably wrong about our culture that do need to be addressed and are starting to gain some traction now. I suppose that is a slight struggle to see, as they are so closely connected.
HAPPY: Does the location you’re writing in influence what you’re writing about?
LOUIS: I definitely think that at times where we are – not even physically but in terms of our life stage – is very inspiring and dictates what we write about, whether it’s an instance of what happened at work and you go home with the idea to write a song about that, or it could be something more general. It definitely is inspiring where we are mentally and physically in terms of our writing.
HAPPY: Are you someone who picks up a notepad and a guitar day-to-day or do you subscribe to the classic ‘cabin in the woods’ idea of locking yourself away for two weeks to do your writing?
LOUIS: I’ve never done that but it’s always been a romantic idea of mine. I’ve always wanted to get an AirBnB one day and just go away for four weeks and write a great album. But I think I’d go a bit stir crazy. I guess the way our writing works is one of us will come up with an idea and bring it to band practice. Play around with it and experiment with it, and if everyone likes where it’s going we’ll pursue it and if not, we’ll can it. But generally I try to play most days and write a few things down.
HAPPY: Were you able to have a mini version of the cabin in the woods idea during the COVID lockdown?
LOUIS: I’ve been relatively busy. I’m a carpenter so I haven’t had to work from home. But definitely, the weekends you’re confined to your living room, there’s been a lot more writing going on because it’s one of the only fun things I can do in my own home. There’s definitely been a bit of writing so the cabin in the woods idea’s been forced upon me. We’ve almost got a second album ready to record. We’re all super eager to do that but we can’t really refine any of the songs and ideas yet because we’re not allowed to meet up for band rehearsal.
HAPPY: Another thing that links your music to Australia is the artwork for both releases. They were both created by Maddison Kitching, how did you link up with him?
LOUIS: He was one of Joe, our bassist’s friends, and basically for the EP we got in contact with him because Joe put his name forward. We looked at his Instagram and we loved all his artwork. He was super stoked to be part of the EP, he’s such a lovely guy, and we were so happy with how professional he was that I don’t think we even played with the idea of using anyone else for the album.
HAPPY: Were they pre-existing pieces or did you commission them for the music?
LOUIS: They were both existing pieces, but they’re both sort of crops of larger paintings of his. And then he played around with the actual layout and design of it all.
HAPPY: The track Proud and Well personifies a lot of anxiety and uncertainty of being in your 20s. Were you going through a lot of change in your life when writing the album?
LOUIS: Yeah, I guess we were. Mid to late 20s is such a pivotal point in your life and I guess you start questioning where you’re at and what you’re doing. You start comparing yourself to your friends who might be getting married, having babies, or moving away. That is a common theme of the album. A crossroads of your life that you’re facing at this age. I think we’re all experiencing that in some way or another, so I guess it leaks out in some of the songs. Proud and Well is probably the oldest song on the album. We started playing that a year and half ago now. It was good to put it on.
HAPPY: Happiness also has that crossroads theme. It feels like fans have really connected with it. Do you think that releasing a song about controlling your own happiness during a time people feel so uncertain and powerless has contributed to the song’s reception?
LOUIS: I’m not sure, I hope people found it relatable. I suppose it was quite a fitting time to release it, although we never intended that or could foresee what was going to play out this year. I like to think people can relate to it because I think it’s very relatable. Finding what you want to do and what makes you happy, having the confidence to strive for what you want. It might also be like dangling the carrot in front of your face as well because now people have decided, ‘yeah I do know what I want, but I can’t go out and get it’. I hope people aren’t angry in that sense.
Floodlights’ debut album From A View is out now via Spunk Records. Stream or purchase your copy here.