by Clara Sperow
Florist’s The Birds Outside Sang album cover
I don’t usually write about music. I also don’t really practice it—in spite of the fact that, over the course of my twenty years of life, I have attempted piano, trombone, guitar, recorder (?), and singing (all for varying lengths of time, with piano at the longest—6 years—and trombone at the shortest—2 months). I don’t even go to concerts now; to be completely honest, a lot of days I don’t leave my house (but that has everything to do with quarantine and nothing to do with my innate, intense impatience and perfectionism). Anyways, I do listen to music, but on top of being an impatient perfectionist, I also have an Aquarius Moon and thus I must be completely original and unique at all times. And I’m sure this factors at least partially into why my favorite band is Florist.
If you haven’t heard of Florist, it’s cool. Whenever I look them up, Google thinks I’m looking for flower arrangements, and when I bring them up in conversation, most people blink at me blankly. This normally satisfies the part of me that desperately longs to be original, but recently (in the age of limited human interaction, on the days when I spend the majority of my time making intense eye contact with my roommate’s human-like cat) this has kind of bummed me out. Because although part of me likes Florist because they aren’t mainstream, most of me likes them because I think they’re just really genuinely great.
So, this is me writing about music.
The last concert I went to before the pandemic really hit was a Florist concert on February 29th at the Swedish American Hall in SF. My roommate of the past three years (who is also my high school friend) went to the concert with me. We did then-normal now-scary things like stand close to strangers in line and laugh without masks on. The venue itself was quirky and fantastic. I walked in expecting to find teenagers standing near a stage but instead found a large wooden room filled with folding chairs, a stage containing a single stool, and lots of different people wearing long dresses and beards. When the opener came on stage, my roommate and I realized it was the band Boy Scouts—an Oakland-based band I became obsessed with my freshman year at Cal and my roommate and I have accidentally seen three times in concert since. In the break between Boy Scouts and Florist, I ran to the bathroom, only to find the lead singer of Boy Scouts (Taylor Vick) directly in front of me in line. I’m an extrovert, but this does not mean I do not get overwhelmed. I opened my mouth,
Oh my god hi this is the third time I’ve accidentally seen you perform in the past year I saw you at the Soccer Mommy concert then Chastity Belt now here but I don’t mean accidentally in a bad way I really do love your music the rendition of that uh one song you sang was great I hadn’t heard it like that before and I loved how you
*bathroom door opens and Vick hesitantly enters*
Oh, how effortless and comfortable communication used to be in the pre-pandemic world.
Florist describes themselves as a “soft-synthesizer-folk band and the friendship project of Emily Sprague, Rick Spataro, and Jonnie Baker,” but when it was Florist’s turn to perform, Emily Sprague was the only one who came on stage. She situated herself on the stool with the tenderness of a hummingbird and the energy of my high school English teacher. I immediately felt deeply connected to her. Then, she started talking about an episode of the NPR podcast On Being. I adore On Being, and I had listened to the exact episode earlier that day. Wow, I half-whispered, and my roommate half-chuckled in response.
Sprague’s performance was everything I could have hoped for. She sat on the little stool and told soft-spoken stories intermittently between singing songs that I knew by heart. She would introduce songs with statements like This is about how it feels to me to...be in love and I would feel like crying. Overall, it was a beautiful experience, and it’s a nice way to remember how I spent my time when I could go places and do things without the feeling of overwhelming fear and guilt.
I would argue a Florist concert isn’t even the best way to enjoy their music, though. They have a Tiny Desk Concert that I watch on a regular basis to calm myself down, to feel a little more connected to the parts of myself I feel at peace in. I also just listen to their music at all times of day, and I have for the past four-plus years. I’ll listen to it sometimes to fall asleep, sometimes when I first wake up in the morning, and sometimes when I’m driving home from the grocery store. It feels right to listen to when I’m taking walks and when I’m cooking dinner. Essentially, it’s exactly what I want the soundtrack of my life to sound like, and if you’ve related to anything I’ve said so far or if you just want a little more softness and calm in your life, their music might be a good life soundtrack for you too.
It feels comforting to fill my brain with lyrics that soothe me. When I find myself obsessing, or with a song stuck in my head, it’s nice to default back to lyrics and sounds that I listened to in the first place because they made me feel okay. Listening to their songs feels like you’re simultaneously listening to a nature documentary, a spoken word poem, and a TED Talk with actually good advice. Maybe you’ll listen to some Florist songs and think I have extremely overhyped them, or maybe you just don’t want to spend your time listening to music that feels like nature documentaries, but this is me sharing one of my best techniques to be the most gathered, connected version of myself I can be. I’ve found I need their music more now than ever before.
I’ll leave you with some of their lyrics that permanently dwell in the caves of my brain.
Light comes from
A time already gone
If I could see the future
I would lay down
Eat a tangerine
And make a cup of tea
Watch it all happen the same way
Watch it all happen slow
(from “Shadow Bloom”)
Please come quick, I've stuck my head in the banister again
I've slid and pulled and chafed my neck and I'm freaking out
Please come quick, I've stuck my head in the banister again
But I just wanted to know what it would feel like
With one part of my body alive
(from “White Light Doorway”)
The mountains around my eyes set on fire before I could even swallow my own spit
I was born a boy with many opinions
And now I'm a girl who doesn't really care about anything
This beautiful thing happens every day
It's called the sun
It's called my blood
And it's the only thing making us want to be alive
(from “Thank You”)