The Magnetic Flowers come across as a gloriously overstuffed indie rock force of nature, with its band members trading instruments and vocals with abandon as they deliver their highly original, melodically layered, and hyper-literate songcraft. The influence of groups like Okkervil River, Bright Eyes, The Decemberists and The Hold Steady are evident in the band’s sound, but are inadequate in capturing the group’s exuberant energy and vocal abandon. What is truly amazing about the group, however, is how often they go from careening rock n’ roll to subtly layered vocal harmonies or delicate guitar picking, from garage rock fervor to moments of chamber pop bliss. There seem to be no rules or limits to the band’s sound, only a willingness to follow each and every song down the proverbial rabbit hole.
The group was conceived by the two primary singer/guitarists and former roommates in the group, Jared Pyritz and Patrick Funk, but it owes a great deal of its final sound to their fellow songwriter, keyboardist and accordionist (and former bassist) Adam Cullum, whose seems to spin endless webs of melody and countermelody with his energetic keyboard riffs over every song. Cullum also adds a strongly unique voice to the group, and his ear for harmony and secondary vocal parts often kicks a song into overdrive. The same goes for the group’s relatively new bassist Albert Knuckley, who brings a melodic, old-school sensibility to his bass lines that give the group sonic grounding in Motown and classic rock territory. The final piece of the puzzle, and the band’s newest member, is drummer Evan Simmons, a classically trained percussionist, who, along with Knuckley, brings an incredible level of creativity and sense of adventure to the rhythm section. Given their individual strengths, it is easy to see how this group appears to be exploding at their musical seams.
Although they made their recording debut with 2007’s Presents Pasts and Futures, the group truly captures their unique dynamic on their sprawlingly titled latest, What We Talk About When We Talk About What We Talk About (the title is based on a collection of Raymond Carver stories). Featuring guest string and horn players, as well as Columbia’s resident guitar-god Josh Roberts, that augment the songs perfected in performances over the past year, the album is a powerful artistic statement worthy of recognition in the top echelon of the national indie rock scene. Bookended by songs that riff off the old gospel tune “I’ll Fly Away” (each in dramatically different ways), the album also includes the spitfire storytelling of “Southern Baptist Gothic” and “What She Said (To a Writer at a Party),” the emotionally wrought, quintessentially twenty something ballad “Northern Lights,” and a jazzy critique of hipster culture entitled “Talk Talk Talk Talk” that riffs on T.S. Eliot and self-awarely name checks Donnie Darko, Charles Bukowski, and a Tom Waits record. The record dips deep, both musically and lyrically, over it’s all-too-brief 8 songs, and shines upon repeated listens.
The band continues to present their live show on stages throughout the Southeast, so look for them at a venue near you soon.
Video @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOiJIJct7v8
Evan Simmons - Drums, various percussion
Albert Knuckley - Bass, vocals
Adam Cullum - Keyboard, Accordion, vocals
Jared Pyritz - Vocals, guitar, mandolin
Patrick Funk - Vocals, guitar
"What We Talk About When We Talk About What We Talk About" (2009)
Streaming @ http://www.wix.com/magneticflowers/magnetic-flowers
"Presents, Pasts and Futures" (2007)
streams here and at www.myspace.com/magneticflowers
played on WUSC FM 90.5, WXRY unsigned, WARQ FM 93.5
What We Will Be Talking About When We Talk About Columbia's Music Scene
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By Kyle Petersen The Magnetic Flowers, who have to be near the top of nearly anyone’s list of bes...By Kyle Petersen
The Magnetic Flowers, who have to be near the top of nearly anyone’s list of best bands in Columbia, recently released their excellent second full-length, and in doing so raised the bar pretty damn high for the rest of this year’s releases.
The band plays a kinetic brand of literate indie pop with disparate folk, cabaret and psychedelic threads. Featuring a surfeit of talent in its four vocalist line-up (all of whom seem to pop up in the background, singing multiple parts, on pretty much every song) and the songwriting talents of Patrick Funk, Jared Pyritz and Adam Cullum, the group is nonetheless more than the sum of its parts. When playing together, their music seems to drip with endlessly layered melodies, hyper-literate wordplay and song structures that seem to positively burst from the seams.
The new record, entitled What We Talk About When We Talk About What We Talk About [a play on the title of a Raymond Carver short story collection], sees the band delivering on the promise of their debut in spades, with potent versions of songs that have already become staples of their live show.
Opening up with the tribal thump of the band’s twisted adaptation of the traditional “I’ll Fly Away,” this scratchy, rough-and-tumble introduction still manages to immediately capture the essence of what makes the group so great: Every vocalist contributes to the layered sing/shout-a-long, with words and melodies offset to give the listener the feel of a tumbling, shambolic free-form exercise that magically makes perfect musical sense. Later the band will come full circle in a inverted, lush reprisal of the opening cut.
The first original on the record and a highlight of the band’s recent live shows is “Southern Baptist Gothic,” which showcases Pyritz’s spitfire vocal style that has gradually emerged from its near-mimic of Conor Oberst to become an assured, unique presence in its own right. This track also establishes the sonic template from which most of the songs on the record are derived from: interlocking electric and acoustic guitars, integral walking bass lines from Albert Knuckley, and over top of it all, the hyper-melodic keyboard lines (or accordion parts) provided by Cullum. Drummer Evan Simmons has his hands full just trying to keep all his bandmates together, but he still manages to give each song the dynamic tug and pull that keeps the listener on the emotional journey of the singer. Although the song features a lyric-heavy stream-of-conscious narrative, its power comes from the sheer confidence Pyritz exudes on the mic and the seemingly effortless fills and pick-ups the entire band engage in as the song sways from fast to slow and low to high across its five minute running time.
Another highlight, and the soulful center of the record, is the emotionally wrought “Northern Lights,” a ballad that exquisitely captures the jumble of confused thoughts and concerns that make up the average twentysomething’s psyche. The song, centered around a few simple guitar chords and a mournful accordion melody, is a coming-of-age song pushed ahead ten years, addressing all of the insecurities, demands and questions that life holds once you are actually suppose to start living it. It’s a beautiful, touching anthem that has the power to strike a chord right in the heart of the band’s intended audience.
Another song of note, “Talk Talk Talk Talk,” is Cullum’s first turn at lead vocals for the band and where the record’s title is pulled from. Whereas Cullum rarely shows the kind of restraint and control of the two frontmen, but he makes up for it by putting his all into every lyric he utters, from breathless exhalations to uninhibited hollering. The song is allusion-heavy, with provocative twists on both T.S. Eliot and Raymond Carver and ironic name-checks of Donnie Darko and Charles Bukowski. The song is built on a jazz-like vamp that suits the poem-song approach the band takes with it. It aims to be a “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” for the modern-day hipster set, and hits it fairly well on the nose.
The album ends with “Reprise,” a wholly different adaption and take-off of the gospel number of the beginning. The original take is the shortest and most minimalist song on the record, with the band sounding slightly unhinged. The reprisal is the longest and most sonically lush, with every vocalist aiming for their tenderest performance. Chants of “Hallelujah” are repeated over and over with the upmost sincerity. It is the perfect way to end this roller coaster of a record, with a band utterly at peace after the musical, lyrical and emotional twists and turns that precede it.
On the whole, this is an impressive record that clearly draws upon much of the national indie scene of the past ten or fifteen years, yet forges a unique identity for this seriously talented group. However you feel about the state of music, locally or nationally, you should feel proud to have a band like Magnetic Flowers making music in your town.
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Like Raymond Carver, whose story collection "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" is name-che...Like Raymond Carver, whose story collection "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" is name-checked in the title, Magnetic Flowers' strength is in its potent, poetic storytelling. And like Carver, this Columbia quintet operates in a genre--for Carver, minimalism; for Magnetic Flowers, folk-rock--that's similarly loved, imitated, parodied, reviled and made into pastiche. But where Magnetic Flowers separates itself is in the tent revival energy with which the band attacks its sweeping, cinematic indie-folk; perhaps nowhere is this more evident than on "Books and Bad Poetry," where guitarist Patrick Funk spins a murder ballad that might make Nick Cave jealous. Playing the Tweedy to Funk's Farrar is Jared Pyritz, whose twangy, impassioned singing pushes his finer moments ("Southern Baptist Gothic,""Reprise") into widescreen territory. Playing the wild card is pianist Adam Cullum, who rambles, rants and raves on "Talk Talk Talk Talk" like Bukowski following a three week bender. Authors aside, these guys can stand on their own.
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Great bands don’t come out of nowhere, like some rip in the space-time continuum opens up and Led Ze...Great bands don’t come out of nowhere, like some rip in the space-time continuum opens up and Led Zeppelin drops out of the sky or something—most really good bands take years to get that way. Look at Nada Surf, who hit their stride with Let Go, a decade after “Popular” nearly doomed them to one-hit wonder status and haven’t peaked yet as far as I can tell.
So imagine my surprise when a really great new band landed on me recently in the form of Magnetic Flowers, from right here in Columbia, South Carolina. How they made an album as good as their new debut, Presents Pasts and Futures, at such an early stage in their development, I don’t know and really don’t care at this point—it’s enough to just acknowledge that it exists and be thankful for that.
After seeing the band live last month, I made a mental note to revisit the CD their producer had handed me a few weeks prior to that, but didn’t actually get around to doing so until today, when I took it with me to run a few errands around town before heading to work.
Mike Scott of the Waterboys coined the term, “The Big Music” for the grandiose, spectral arrangements his band utilized on early albums like A Pagan Place and This Is The Sea, but it applies equally well to the Flowers’ important-sounding indie rock. There was always a sense of making serious and important statements on a Waterboys album, and it is that attitude, more so than the quasi-spiritual lyrical poeticism of Mike Scott, that Magnetic Flowers appropriates here.
“Mark Pyritz Goes to Mexico,” is a great, rollicking call-to-arms that’s a perfect album opener, even as it confronts life-and-death topics in the context of a road trip south of the border. The character that’s closing in on the Grim Reaper (probably the ‘Mark Pyritz’ of the title) gives a sage bit of parting advice, but the real kicker here is the intertwined music that fits the lyrics so well that when they sing, “Sun is drowning in the sea, and our hearts waltz in time,” the guitars actually crank out a quick 3/4 –time riff as a route back into the chorus. It’s a small moment, but one that speaks volumes about where these guys are coming from as musicians and artists, sweating the details that give a fuller understanding and enjoyment for the listener.
“Widescreen Version,” would be called the ‘hit’ on this album, if there were a chance that it might get a wide enough hearing to have a chance to become one. Starting off with a leisurely, loping, Seventies-rock vibe, like a sleepy Jazz Butcher Conspiracy, halfway through it kicks into fast forward, and as the song careens to a close with the repeated chorus, “Someone should make a movie about you,” somebody yells “Roll the end credits!” in the background, and a litany of movie workers, from the producer on down, begins, culminating in the line, “some of us actors, most of us extras, and you, you as yourself.”
Magnetic Flowers’ musical strength lies in their arrangements, a lost art among rock bands especially on the level of local clubbing that they are in. The piano alone separates them from their peers and adds layers of texture in their sound, then they add the occasional horn solo and various stringed instruments which sometimes results in a cacophony of sound resembling nothing so much as a Broadway pit orchestra with a few drinks in them after a three-performance day. Having seen them pull this off live, I can say that not only does it translate to the stage well, like all good music it is made even more immediate and emotionally stunning in person.
Magnetic Flowers CD Release
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By Kevin Oliver Magnetic Flowers have earned a reputation as one of Columbia’s most artistically ...By Kevin Oliver
Magnetic Flowers have earned a reputation as one of Columbia’s most artistically ambitious rock ‘n’ roll bands, so the awkward, overly wordy title of their newly released record, What We Talk About When We Talk About What We Talk About, is not so much ridiculous as it is just more proof that when it comes to making an artistic statement, the band is in a category of its own.
“It started as a Raymond Carver reference [to the author’s short story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love] and as a joke, just an absurd thing to call an album,” says singer and guitarist Patrick Funk. “It comes out of a line in the song ‘Talk Talk Talk Talk,’ this wordy way of saying something obvious to look smarter or cooler. That’s sort of what that whole song is about; it came from a conversation I overheard in the Art Bar.’”
“I just feel bad that it has to be written down,” adds Jared Pyritz, also a singer and guitarist in the band.
Four of the members sing a lead vocal at some point during any given show, and with Adam Cullum’s keyboards added to the acoustic and electric guitars of Funk and Pyritz, not to mention the solid rhythm section of Albert Knuckley on bass and Evan Simmons on drums, Magnetic Flowers use melody, harmony and percussion to create a cacophonous yet entirely musical result.
“The songs are never really done for us,” Funk says about how the band arrives at the layers upon layers present in their music. “With the ones on the new album, we played them so long before recording that we had some better idea of what to do with them.”
He adds that the recording process itself was more relaxed this time around, also.
“We took a lot more time,” Funk says, “The first album we only tracked for one day, this time we took four days, at least, then more time to mix it.”
From the opening moments of the rattletrap clap-along “Mouths Run Dry,” the album lurches and careens from barely controlled, uptempo roots-rock to melodramatic, poetic balladry and back again. It’s a hell of a ride not just musically but lyrically, with lines seemingly tripping over themselves in their haste to emerge. That’s appropriate, given the thematic link throughout is one of words, their use and misuse.
That theme is introduced in the opening track with the help of a snippet of the gospel classic “I’ll Fly Away”, and after weaving its way through the half-dozen other tracks it reappears on the closing song “Reprise.”
“Everyone identifies with that because it’s an old familiar gospel song,” Pyritz says. “We put it in a minor key and changed a lyric to ‘Mouths run dry’ to fit with the whole theme of the album. On the last track, we took out some of the creepiness; it’s meant to be much more sincere at the end.”
Funk says the band is realistic yet hopeful about their plans for this, its second album, even if sometimes it feels like they’re the ones with nothing who are still out there making music themselves. And there’s nothing like playing out of town to humble a popular local band, he admits.
“We have a decent draw in Columbia, to the point where we’re not worried about playing a show where nobody comes out to see us,” Funk says. “But when you play Athens on a Tuesday night at a coffeehouse with two people in the audience, it’s rough.”
What Funk, and the rest of the band might not realize yet is that the same word of mouth that has turned it into a big crowd pleaser here in its hometown will surely follow the band wherever it plays, when what those audiences talk about when they talk about what they’ve been talking about will be the music of Magnetic Flowers.
Local Spotlight - Magnetic Flowers
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Posted by: Will Categories: Local Spotlight, Mp3, Music magneticflowers1.jpgI flat out suck some...Posted by: Will
Categories: Local Spotlight, Mp3, Music
magneticflowers1.jpgI flat out suck sometimes when it comes to how slowly I catch on to great local bands. Indie pop outfit Magnetic Flowers are proof of that. I had heard good things about the band but never had the pleasure of seeing them live til this past weekend (my own fault of course). I left with a new album in my hands and quite impressed with about every aspect of the band. I did not even realize that Falling Off A Building mastermind Adam Callum was in the band…somebody slap me! The band was tight and full of energy as they rolled through a fabulous set of songs from their current album, Presents Pasts and Futures, as well as some new numbers. The new material is what stood out to me though. Magnetic Flowers are certainly on to something special here. I am excited about the possibility of watching it all come to fruition with a front row seat.
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Magnetic Flowers — Lots of bands write songs that sound like they should be in movies. But Magnetic ...Magnetic Flowers — Lots of bands write songs that sound like they should be in movies. But Magnetic Flowers write songs that sound like they should be movies. Chalk it up to the combination of Explosions in the Sky’s smoldering crescendos and Okkervil River’s narrative, Dylan’s rollick and World/Inferno Friendship Society’s swagger. Or to the band’s ability to deliver every line like it’s the climax of a rock opera — and to do it sincerely enough that we might be led to believe it is. It’s easy to peg the band with a reductive “folk-rock” label, but that belittles the sheer immensity of the quintet’s room-bursting sound. Sons of Young, which releases its Heart and Bone EP tonight, opens.
The Great Columbia Mixtape
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Magnetic Flowers “Mark Pyritz Goes to Mexico” Presents, Pasts and Futures (2007) One of today’s...Magnetic Flowers
“Mark Pyritz Goes to Mexico”
Presents, Pasts and Futures (2007)
One of today’s most impressive Columbia ensembles, Magnetic Flowers imbues its sometimes-raucous-sometimes-tender Americana with widescreen ambition and kitchen-sink instrumentation. The sheer abandon with which this band plays, especially on this road trip anthem, is inspiring.
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Magnetic Flowers makes lovely Americana — big, well-crafted songs that call to mind Bright Eyes or a...Magnetic Flowers makes lovely Americana — big, well-crafted songs that call to mind Bright Eyes or a less dramatic Arcade Fire. (Yeah, yeah, I know Arcade Fire’s not American). The quintet’s folksy instrumentation also owes debts to Los Lobos, Iron and Wine and a slew of alt-country bands. But this isn’t alt-country, nor is it terminally indie — 2007’s Presents, Pasts and Futures could have appeal beyond college radio. Catch the five-piece this Friday at their first Hunter-Gatherer show, but remember to make sure you follow the Hunter-Gatherer Rule of Directional House Sound: Stand equidistant between the two doors for the best mix. E. Moore
Music Crawl Report
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Magnetic Flowers were the most surprising act of the night, with a full-bodied sound that reminded m...Magnetic Flowers were the most surprising act of the night, with a full-bodied sound that reminded me a lot of Ware River Club (look ‘em up). Great country-folk-rock mixture of sounds and some pretty catchy tunes. Definitely one to see again when the chance comes around.
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Magnetic Flowers For the Free Times Crawl preview, I wrote this about Magnetic Flowers: Magnetic...Magnetic Flowers
For the Free Times Crawl preview, I wrote this about Magnetic Flowers:
Magnetic Flowers’ last appearance at Art Bar was a revelation. It was one of those shows where afterwards everyone kept saying, “Where did these guys come from?” Well, they’ve been here a while now, but during that show, Magnetic Flowers truly came into their own as one of the best acts Columbia has to offer. The addition of new bass player Albert Knuckley freed up Adam Cullum to play keys throughout the entire set, adding a fullness and vehemence that was missing before. Their subtle blend of indie rock and Americana makes for an energetic yet poignant experience that shouldn’t be missed.
Ah, it's good to be right.
Emergency Vacation Retreat
What She Said
Books and Bad Poetry
A Divorcee's Lament in the Summertime
Southern Baptist Gothic
So Sayeth the Soothsayer
Mark Pyritz Goes to Mexico
Mouths Run Dry
Love at First Hindsight
Talk Talk Talk Talk
We typically play one very lively set anywhere between 30 and 120 min depending on the venue.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.