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"Flora Expands Beyond Its Borders"

Although he’d been in a few bands before he branched out on his own, it took Rob Ross—the man behind local musical outfit Flora—five years of electronic noodling before he felt comfortable taking the stage.

“There’s so many talented musicians that are hiding out in their basements—especially in electronic music—because it’s so easy,” Ross says. “It’s just you, some synthesizer, a computer, maybe guitar, and it’s so easy to just hang out in your basement, just block out the light and make some really cool tunes that really—if it wasn’t for MySpace—no one would really hear.

“So making that transition to playing live, for me, was really, really tough,” he continues. “And trying to find a way to present my music, that wasn’t me sitting behind a laptop, was also really difficult. I was really, really pushing myself to make it a dynamic presentation.”

The opportunity for that kind of show came in the form of a multi-media show in Portland, Oregon a couple of years ago. There, the work of several electronic artists was paired with arty projections, adding a visual element to his ethereal music.

While he hasn’t done anything similar since, Ross’ upcoming show will feature projections by local artist kellY boleN. And he’s learned a thing or two since he recorded his EP We All Lose and taken his show on the road.

“With my EP, it was more ... almost selfish,” Ross explains. “I was thinking, you know, I’m going to make something that I think sounds good. And I think that’s important to have that selfishness because I mean you’re your hardest critic. So that element is important.

“But now with playing live, I really want to be accessible, get people to listen to it and say, ‘I get this,’” he adds. “Having that connection with the audience I think is really important. So the stuff that I’m working on now, I’m just keeping that in mind. It’s not like I want to necessarily, you know, make a radio-friendly tune and get played on the radio, it’s more connecting with people.”

Flora’s music is both unassuming and dynamic as Ross plays with all manner of sound. When he began experimenting with the electronic side of things, he delved into something more deconstructionist, recording the death throes of synths that he dismembered. Eventually, however, melodies pushed themselves out like daisies emerging from hard-packed soil and he added a computer, guitar and more synths to his arsenal.
The result is a sound that is deceivingly simple, but its multiple layers show a kind of confidence that only comes with years of quiet experimenting before making its entrance into a world with an audience. V - Vue Weekly - Carolyn Nikodym

"Loss and transition"

For electronic musician Rob Ross, a.k.a. Flora, a solo life was the only way to go.
"I've actually thought many times, 'I wish I could clone myself,' " Ross says. "Have three or four of me that I can just completely agree with and make music with -- that'd be great."
As we sit in a south-side coffee shop, the Rolling Stones rocking quietly in the background, the 30-year-old Toronto native explains what drove him to abandon his former punk band for a life of bleeps and bloops. "It's a sacrifice working with other people especially when it comes to music," he adds, explaining that he started tinkering with old synthesizers and electronic toys six years ago after he fell in love with the signature sounds of Warp Records artists such as Boards of Canada.
"When there's a group of three or four people in a band that can actually put an album out that everyone likes and tour together, stuck in a van -- I mean, that's awesome, but I can't do that."
For Ross, who moved to Edmonton from Three Hills a year ago, playing electronic music on his own gave him a sense of control over his creative impulses, and those Warp influences have played an integral role in shaping his music.
Meshing the cold, ambient sprawl of glitchy electronica with organic touches of acoustic guitar and half-whispered vocals, Ross released his first EP, We All Lose, in 2006.
The mini-album was inspired by the death of his aunt, and We All Lose expressed Ross' concerns about life and the process of aging, as well as the nature of death and evolution.
It's a theme that still resonates with Ross today. Now that he's the father of an eight-month-old daughter, Sophie, the basic need to understand and express himself about the changes in his life remains the catalyst for some of his newer recordings, which should find their way onto a followup album to be released later this year.
One would think the introspective nature of Flora's electronic music wouldn't lend itself well to live performances, but if Ross hasn't been as busy recording lately due to his daughter's arrival, he has still managed to find his way onto a number of concert billings over the past few months.
Ross admits performing his style of music live can be a bit of a challenge, but that it's all about how you present yourself onstage.
"I can see their faces when you bring out your laptop and they're like, 'Oh, another guy behind a laptop pressing buttons,' " Ross laughs. " 'He could be bidding on a sweater on eBay for all I know.'
"I think it's condescending to sit there behind a laptop and force people to come to you," he explains. "Musicians should be taking steps towards the audience so they can understand what they're doing. Musicians need to be giving. And so that's what I'm thinking about when I'm playing live."
Ross contends Flora's live sound tends to be a little grittier in order to be more involving for the crowd, a direction his new album will possibly follow. His live presentation has also benefited from collaborations with local visual artists, something he hopes to eventually repeat once he heads out on tour.
Flora being a bit of a crossover between electronic and acoustic music, Ross admits finding himself wedged between a pop rock act and a banjo-based folk outfit at a concert isn't too uncommon or jarring.
"I think it does have something to do with Edmonton," Ross says, confessing his love for this city's unique musical diversity.
"When it comes to this type of electronic music, people seem to enjoy it, but they don't really know where to place it, especially on a bill," he adds with a grin. - Edmonton Journal - Francois Marchand

"family man offers formidable grooves"

Edmonton is fortunate to count Flora among the ranks of its electronic musicians. Bringing an inimitable sense of melody that is evocative of Helios, DNTEL or the more musically structured acts of the Kranky roster, and slamming those melodies headlong into formidable grooves worthy of micro-detailed hip-hop, Flora is a powerful force in the world of infectious, accessible IDM. BeatRoute caught up with the man, Rob Ross, to assault him with our usual barrage of inquisitive goodies.

BeatRoute: Does music have transformative power for you? What I mean is, have you ever listened to a song and emerged from the experience all like: “My goodness, not only did that move me, but I feel as though I have just had sex reassignment surgery”?

Rob Ross: I wouldn't have enough time to list all the songs that have changed me as a person and as a musician. Good music demands that you engage with it and it’s up to you to allow this to take place. While listening to a song I try to enjoy it in a simple way, for what it is and just love the melody and what I feel it’s trying to say. It’s only when I look back do I see how that song affected my life and changed me.

BR: You’ve moved recently to Edmonton. Was it a graceful relocation, or are you already planning your escape back to Three Hills?

RR: My wife and I lived just outside of Three Hills in a mobile home on an acreage for three years, and I cannot see myself ever living in a small town or in the country again. However, I will miss things like our dog bringing home random animal parts, the smell of burning couches from the dump and sitting up at four in the morning drinking coffee, watching swathers and combines come within feet of our home during harvest. As for Edmonton, I love the city and I think we'll be here for awhile... or until the cops tear down our shack in the ravine and steal our cans.

BR: Do you like kids?

RR: I like kids..... most kids...... a few kids. More specifically, my daughter. I am a child and youth worker and have been around a lot of kids but I would say that my daughter is, hands down, the coolest kid ever. I realize that every parent says this about their spawn but they are either lying or in denial, this, of course includes my own mother and father. Not only does my daughter have her mother's charm, she can attack faces like nobody's business, just like her old man. I mean she gets right in there with her little razor sharp talons and her two ferret-like teeth... it's terrifying. She is also not afraid to relieve herself whenever and wherever she sees fit. We can learn a lot from children.

BR: You bring a boisterous bodily prowess to your performances. Some reviewers have even referred to you as the “Elvis Presley of IDM”. For all the physically awkward electronic musicians out there, will you share the secret of your groove?

RR: Yes I will:
1. Go see a punk rock show. I grew up listening to punk and going to see bands where the measure of a fun show was how much blood was spilt and how many new bruises you collected before the night was over.
2. Beer
3. Stop pretending you are writing a term paper on your laptop when on stage... or... stop actually writing term papers on your laptop when on stage.
4. We already look like idiots behind a computer, how can we make it any worse by rocking out.
5. Love your music. I love my music and it demands me to respond in some way when I play it.

BR: Be honest with us: Is there any connection between your musical alias, the fact that many blossoms look like floral vaginas, and the fact that your music is so gorgeous it is sure to make panties melt? It’ll probably make some briefs melt too but that might undermine our theory, so leave it aside for now.

RR: Flora has nothing to do with flowers or a line of organic products. However I will not rule out vaginas. Although the name is derived from a once seen character on a popular animated series, I think including cartoon vaginas in the Flora moniker may be inappropriate and miss the point of the music altogether. Although if when you listen to Flora you envision cartoon vaginas then maybe that’s what it’s all about... animated genitalia. I don't know. I just make the music.

BR: Sometimes I feel really alone, and like I wear eyeshadow, paint my nails black and write poems about maggots. But then I listen to Flora and I suddenly feel really good about myself and it’s almost like people of all cultures are holding hands and singing, or like my mom kissed me. Do you do that on purpose?

RR: Yeah I do that on purpose... you're never alone.

- Beatroute - Cecil Frena

"Flora bridges electronic disconnect"

Since its inception, electronic music has always received the short end of the stick in terms of live performance. Take genre pioneers Kraftwerk — they built robots of themselves to play parts of their live set, creating rumours of a stunt performance in which the robots performed the whole show. As innovative as that approach was, it also emphasized the disconnect between electronic music audiences and the creation of the music. This obstacle has only grown since musicians began using computers, with many of the purveyors of electronic music sitting behind their laptops, looking like they could be checking their e-mail rather than making music in a live setting.

Edmonton’s Rob Ross (a.k.a. Flora) has been noticing this disconnect with audiences in the shows he has performed since the release of his 2006 EP, We All Lose. He’s since begun the process of trying to rectify this detachment with every performance.

“For me it’s all about the energy,” says Ross. “Right now I’m really happy with what I’m doing live, and I hope this translates to the audience, so that it’s not just me behind a bunch of gear and asserting my will on everyone. With the live thing, I am trying to do more beat-oriented stuff. It’s definitely not dance music, but I do want to get their heads bobbing and get them as excited as I am for the music I’m creating.”

Flora’s music takes notes from the pop-based electronics of acts such as Antwerp’s Styrofoam and Toronto’s vitaminsforyou. Songs like the title track from We All Lose place subdued vocals over driving beats full of clicks, claps and kicks, whereas “Estrella” from the same disc sounds like the soundtrack to a dream sequence in a flick about some teenager trying to find himself. While the music is unquestionably pop, Ross says he is still having a hard time trying to find his place within the electronic music fan spectrum.

“Someone who goes to a Daft Punk show knows what they are getting into, they are there to dance,” he says. “My stuff isn’t Daft Punk, but it’s not soundscapes either. It’s somewhere in-between. So I find a lot of people just don’t know how to approach it, and I end up getting a lot of questions at the end of each show. I’ve had a lot of people say that it’s not what they normally listen to, but they like it and end up buying the album.”

Even with fans appreciating Ross’s approach to connecting the listener with the music he is creating, the man behind Flora isn’t satisfied with his current approach. He’s reluctant to get too comfortable and is always looking for ways to tweak the performance.

“I think anytime you’re like ‘this is my setup, and I’m just going to roll with it,’ then you might as well just be hitting play on your laptop and checking your e-mail, or bidding on EBay,” Ross says. “But the same thing goes for traditional rock ’n’ roll bands. If they’re just going through the motions, then what’s the point of performing live anyways?” - FWWD - Mike Atkinson


We All Lose EP - 2006
Partir EP - 2009



Flora is Toronto born multi-instrumentalist Rob Ross. Rob currently resides with wife and daughter in Edmonton and has been producing music under the Flora moniker for four years. Before Flora Ross had experimented with sound synthesis by dismantling synthesizers and electronic devices and recording their last sounds. In this period Ross took inspiration from artists like John Cage who gave Ross a new understanding of what could be sonically achieved through electronic manipulation. Taking hints from a variety of electronic artists from Autechre and the Warp Records roster to Styrofoam and Morr Music artists, Ross soon incorporated melodies and understated beats to his works. Flora was born out of these experiments in layered melody and hushed vocals. In 2006, soon after the release of the first Flora EP, "We All Lose" Ross was invited to perform at Vision and Hearing in Portland OR where Floras melodies were accompanied with live visuals. This audio/visual presentation inspired Ross to rethink the typical laptop/electronic performance and challenged him to develop a dynamic live performance, something that is not typical of an electronics show. In 2007 Rob and his wife moved from the small town of Three Hills, Alberta to Edmonton. The capital city proved to be a good place for Ross to hone his performance, including more visual presentations and work on new material. In June of 2009 Ross completed his second release entitled "Partir". Since 2007 Ross has been a part of the diverse Edmonton music scene and has recently started "Hands" a promotion group dedicated to bringing more depth to the Edmonton electronic scene.