With hundreds of millions in worldwide streams, Flora Cash – comprised of Cole Randall and Shpresa Lleshaj – is singing proof that independent artists can not only reach the masses without big label support, but make a living at the same time. Their latest album, our generation, is due October 22 on their own Flower Money Records, with the new single “A good childhood” serving as the perfect precursor for the “nostalgic” collection of songs to come.
I recently sat down with the duo (they chose to answer the questions as a single voice) to discuss their melancholy dispositions, the ideal listening environment for our generation, and a trip on the multiple-probable-future-machine.
Americana Highways: Your new album our generation drops on October 22 by way of your own Flower Money Records. At this stage in the game, are you only wearing your business hats as you work to support the album, or is there still time for creative between all of the planning and promotion?
Flora Cash: Great question. Our primary focus is always the music. We have become quite good at wearing the separate hats but at the end of the day our feeling is that the music is the foundation upon which everything else rests. So we are working on creation as much as we’re working on planning and promotion.
AH: Does releasing your art through your own label enable you to control your own destiny a bit more, especially in an industry where so much is in the hands of chance/fate once the work is done?
FC: Absolutely. The ability at this point in our career to control our own destiny is a huge blessing. On the other hand, we’ve always been an “indie” band and even when we were releasing music through Sony RCA, we had a lot of creative control because we wouldn’t have signed the contract without that creative control; we’re not “sell our soul” types. But ultimately there were still a lot of restrictions on what we could do and when we could do it and while we loved all the people we worked with at RCA, we decided we needed more flexibility and parted ways. So flexibility is almost as important to us in the creative process as the work itself.
AH: Flora Cash was formed in 2012. No one knows your music better than you two. With that in mind, where have you seen the most growth in each other from those earliest songs together to where you are today with our generation?
FC: We’ve made an effort to grow in every conceivable way. We’re never content with our output and always feel that our best work is still to come. So that helps drive us forward. On the other hand, we love the music we make or we wouldn’t make it. Our work philosophy boils down to: make the kind of music we want to hear. But yeah in terms of growth: from lyrics to production to themes and general aesthetic, we’ve evolved (and to our minds: improved) a lot over these years. We definitely have a much better sense of what Flora Cash is and how our individualities fit into it.
AH: What would someone learn about both of you, both as people and as artists, in sitting down to listen to our generation front to back?
FC: That we are nostalgic types; a bit melancholy in our disposition but also cautiously optimistic and romantic. I think people will also see that we care a lot about the details. This album really was lovingly crafted; we put our hearts into it and we hope that is obvious to people.
AH: Everyone has their own way of listening to and absorbing music. For me, it’s either driving in my car or having it flow from my record player as I am relaxing in my chair with my dogs. If you could set the stage for people, what do you think the best way to experience our generation would be?
FC: It’s funny you ask that. We actually had the idea of an “ideal listening environment” for this record and it’s not something we had ever really considered before. We think the ideal listening environment for our generation is: parked in a car after dark, cool air gently blowing at a comfortable temperature, stereo not too loud and not too quiet (the volume you would have the stereo at if you also wanted to have a conversation), equalizers all at zero so you hear it as close to ‘flat’ as possible.
AH: Your latest single is “A good childhood” and it is the last to be released before the album sees the light of day. What was it about this song that felt like it would be a good representation of our generation and serve as the final springboard into what people can expect from the upcoming full-length?
FC: For us, the overarching feeling of our generation is nostalgia and the overarching theme is something like: time (a reflection on both what has passed and what is to come and mixed feelings about both.) So “A good childhood” is a good fit in terms of conveying that feeling and theme.
AH: Where are you both most at home as artists? Is it on the stage? Is it in the studio? Somewhere else entirely?
FC: It really depends: if everything is just right – there is nothing better than being on a stage and playing our songs for our fans. But generally speaking, sitting and writing and producing the songs is where we feel most at home… partly because we literally make our music from our home. (Laughter)
AH: If we jumped in our time machine and hunted you both down in 2012, what would those younger versions of yourselves say if we told you that you’d one day have a song with over 250 million streams? Would it seem believable to you then?
FC: We would be over the moon. We’ve always believed anything is possible and in fact we’ve always abided by what we call Rule #3 which is: don’t limit your thinking (yeah, we have rules). But that being said: it would be hard to believe just how successful an “indie” song could become. We’re grateful beyond measure.
AH: As artists working in 2021, how do you translate those streams into a sustainable career? What tips would you give other acts just starting out today and trying to make sense of an industry that is constantly changing?
FC: Spotify (and others) get a bad rap, unfairly in our opinion. In reality, there is money to be made in streaming. Yes, having a large volume of streams helps but even the amount we make on our old independent catalog, which gets a tiny fraction of the streams our later work gets, is enough to pay our rent. It has actually become a lot easier for artists to make money off of their music because they aren’t subject to all the massive technical and logistical limits of the old days where you had to get your music to people physically. In that environment if you didn’t catch the attention of gatekeepers (label A&Rs or influential radio DJs or whatever) you were kind of screwed in terms of reaching a significant audience. The tables have turned completely and though there is definitely more “competition” (lots more music getting released) there are also more “consumers.” So yeah, if you’re a struggling artist and you suddenly have an extra couple hundred bucks because of streams, that allows you to work a few days less at your job and concentrate on developing your craft and that becomes a positive feedback loop.
AH: Another time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
FC: We probably wouldn’t take the trip in that time machine because it would rob us of the uncertainty and possibilities inherent in the journey. But if we could see multiple probable futures, that could be really helpful in terms of helping us make better decisions. So yeah, we would probably take the multiple-probable-future-machine trip. Thanks for the great questions!
To stay up-to-date on all things Flora Cash, including pre-saving our generation, visit www.floracash.com.
Try other great interviews on our website, for example, here: Interview: Dar Williams and the Desire Path