Matthew Flowers of Band, The Visitors!
[media-credit id=13 align="aligncenter" width="300"][/media-credit]Preface: Recently, a friend of mine emailed me and asked if I would consider interviewing her son. I had heard of her son, Matthew, so my interest was piqued. Matthew Flowers and his friend Ross Gibbins have formed a band called The Visitors. These are difficult times for young musicians and artists of all genres. In reading about Matthew and Ross, I was impressed by their creativity musically and also by their start-up business plan.
Reporter Nick Mattos of PQ Magazine wrote the following:
“While the project formed just last year, bandmates Matthew Flowers and Ross Gibbins have impeccable music cred—Flowers has worked for years as a session vocalist, touring Europe and North America with acclaimed artists such as Chilly Gonzales and Feist, with whom he performed at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics; Gibbins is an alum of numerous bands including Strange Young Things and The New Royals.”
Thus began my own discovery of these amazingly talented musicians. Oh, I must tell you that Matthew Flowers is the son of our own Expats writer and poet, Melody Haislip!
Cher: Matthew you are living and working in Portland, Oregon. Portland has been described as a “Mecca for the rise of local indie musicians.” You are the lead singer/songwriter for the Electro Pop band, The Visitors, and you met your producer/guitarist, Ross Gibbins, in Portland. Tell us how your band The Visitors was born.
Matthew: We met through Craigslist, amazingly. I came to Portland determined to start the pop band of my dreams, so I placed an ad looking for a producer and co-writer. Ross was the first and only person to respond. We both have a background in classical music and guitar, we both love dance music, rock, pop, R&B. Most importantly, we agreed that there was a need for pop music that was a bit more meaningful, intelligent and hopeful than a lot of what’s out there right now. Within two months we had recorded at least a dozen songs, so we knew right away that something was happening. Most of the songs on our album were written in our first few months of working together.
Cher: I have read that you studied opera and gospel music. How has that background influenced your music today?
Matthew: Vocally, opera gave me a sense of clarity and structure – the importance of enunciation, posture and dynamics. Gospel taught me about raw power and choral arranging. In terms of the music, early on we were using real violins on some of the songs, and as the album came together we started digging deeper. For the song “Atomic,” we added clarinet, oboe, and tuba. We went back and studied our favorite composers to understand how they use melody, rhythm, point and counterpoint. We looked at the voicing – the instruments chosen and the lines they play – and how they influence the emotional subtleties of a piece of music. It transforms these songs from electronic pop into something more rich.
Cher: Since your Mom, Melody Haislip, is a writer and poet for Expats, as well as a person I admire, how did she and your father influence you regarding your music and your conceptual side?
Matthew: My father was charismatic, larger than life, and a great entertainer. As a kid I was there with him in the studio, on stage, on the road. It was an amazing education in the realities of showbiz life – ups, downs and all. My mother taught me about harmony. She would put on a record, show me a harmony line and then sing her own separate part. There are tons of harmonies on this album – one song has sixteen tracks of backing vocals – and that comes directly from those early experiences.
In terms of the conceptual, I am my own weirdo. My music has always been inspired by other media – painting, literature, film, and dance. I am driven by the notion that music should carry multiple levels of meaning. A song can be bright and flashy on the surface, with a huge amount of depth lurking beneath. Also, the way the world is now, there is a lot of music that I perceive as cynical and one-dimensional. Life is not just a party; it’s more complex than that. As a musician I want to give the audience a sound they can easily relate to; as an artist I need to challenge my audience to feel something unusual, a combination of emotions they may never have previously encountered. Music is not entertainment. Music is storytelling, therapy, ritual, celebration, an affirmation of all of our life experiences, not just the photogenic moments.
Cher: As a person of the Arts, what is your own goal for influencing?
Matthew: I am here to change the world, to enrich and transform my culture by telling engaging stories and giving people a soundtrack for their lives. I want people come to our shows, dance, laugh, fall in love, make a new friend, feel free. I hope that people will recognize themselves in our music and feel connected to us, to each other. I want people to be inspired to live with courage, compassion and love for their sisters and brothers.
Cher: Anyone who follows artists or musicians in these lean economic times knows that there is more of a struggle for bands and artists to gain recognition. I read that you have been recording in home studios, playing at various venues, and gaining a lot of attention. You and Ross, however, have a very creative plan. Tell us about that.
Matthew: Since this is Portland, we have a whole cast of amazingly talented friends who played on our songs without asking for a penny. We recorded everything for free in our home studios. Now we need to hire a professional mixer – like a good editor, someone who will respect the work and smooth out the rough edges. To mix the record we chose Sean Flora, a local engineer who has worked with The Shins, Spoon, Franz Ferdinand and a lot of other amazing bands.
We turned to IndieGogo, a crowd-funding site, because we love the idea of calling on friends, family, and fans to finance the record. People who donate will see their money turned into art – they can get a copy of the record when it’s released, and everyone who donates will have their photo included in the album artwork. If you donate a certain amount, you can even appear in our music video. It brings the listener into the band’s experience. And it also means that we will have a finished, mixed record to present to record labels. In fact, we might not need a label – with Sean’s expertise, these songs will be ready for the radio.
Cher: Matthew, as one who loves music and supports the Arts, I know that I will be donating and would ask our readers to give what they can as well. In addition, I am asking our readers not only to Tweet this article, but to Tweet about The Visitors, Facebook “like” the videos that you do have out there, and to spread your music like the gospel you studied! Let’s use Social Media to support The Visitors. DIGG them, literally! Put the word out in the ‘sphere so that The Visitors will become the band that people will talk about years from now. All we need to do is lift you off the ground. The talent of your band will do the rest.
Matthew and Ross are looking to raise a minimum of $5500.00 for all the reasons Matthew delineated in this interview. That does not seem like too much, but Matthew tells me it is enough to get the mixer they want, an engineer, studio time, art work for the album, and a video to be shot in Portland this summer. All of us at Expats believe in the power of Social Media. What better way to put it to good use than to encourage and show our support for the very talented band, The Visitors.
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheVisitorsBand
For those who would like to contribute to this amazing band, please send your donation to
Live from the Tonic Lounge in Portland, The Visitors!
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