Q&A: Yoshi Flower talks record deal, new music at SXSW

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Photo Credit: Carlos Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

Best known for his collaborations and original, eccentric songs, Yoshi Flower garnered a significant indie fan base before signing with Interscope Records in Sept. 2018. His performances at SXSW are part of his first tour, American Raver Live.

A mere 20 hours after touching down in Austin, Flower spoke to The Daily Texan about his fans, comparisons to Lana Del Rey and the inspiration behind his latest single, “Dirty Water.”

The Daily Texan: You signed with Interscope Records in Sept. 2018. What has the transition been like from being an indie artist to a signed one?

Yoshi Flower: Before I signed, I had a lot of credit card debt, a broken toilet and no car or house to my own. I was pretty much just like a f---ing junkie. Then I signed my deal, and they just support me with my spiritual practices and, like, help me fulfill my ideas. It’s really just the transition to having a little bit of a support system, in my experience. A lot of people are like ‘yo, f--- my label holding me back,’ but I’m like, ‘yo, (Interscope Chief) John Janick is my dad.’

DT:  You grew up in Detroit before moving out to Los Angeles. What made you decide to leave?

YF:  Growing up in Detroit was the best and the worst and all in between. It was very gray, it taught me and my friends how to, like, sit in a purgatory, and picture a paradise, I suppose. I left because this girl Talia moved out to LA and I was like, ‘I’m going to move there’ because I was obsessed with her. Then I got there, and I didn’t realize how expensive it was. I didn’t have much going on, I just kept making music.

DT:  How did you start getting into music?

YF:  My dad had a classical acoustic guitar with nylon strings, and I would pick it up and try to play along to Jimi Hendrix, and I couldn’t really. My dad looked at me one day and he was like, ‘yo, you either have to get good at that guitar or you have to put it down — it’s really annoying.’ So I  just stayed in my room, and then like 10 years later, I got pretty good.

DT:  Did you ever think you would struggle to find a fan base because your music doesn’t conform to a particular genre?

YF:  Yeah, I used to. But now I don’t care because my fans are dope, they’re the best fans. It’s like a cult, kind of like ‘if you know, you know’ type s--- right now. All of my fans are supposed to be my fans right now and they’re the best people, and they don’t conform to s---, so why would I? You still worry about it, but now I don’t really care at all.

DT:  You’ve been compared to artists such as Lana Del Rey, what do you think of that?

YF:  I feel good about it, I feel very spiritually aroused by that. I think me and Lana have very similar psyche and topically share similar themes. I saw her one time from a distance, I don’t think she noticed me, but she was wearing flip-flops and a faded turquoise blouse and some faded denim jeans. She seemed like a very lovely person, so being compared to her would be pretty good.

DT:  What was the inspiration for your latest single “Dirty Water”?

YF:  I like it a lot, I’m very proud of it. I wrote it when I visited Detroit. I picked up a local (magazine) and it said ‘Flint water system switches to Detroit water system.’ People were appealing the switch to the water system, and I noticed in LA that it wasn’t in the news anywhere else anymore. I was like, ‘I guess it’s not a buzzy topic anymore,’ and then I wrote that song. It was a love song, but I had this water s--- on my psyche. I really like performing “Dirty Water” and I love the sentiment of it. I don’t remember writing it, but I f--- with it heavy.

DT:  What is your songwriting process like?

YF:  I pretty much just try to write, I try to be honest. I kinda don’t really try and then it just happens. I kinda just f--- around and eventually a song comes. Lately, I’ve been trying to write the biggest, most pop, simple, dumba-- song of all time. I say I’m gonna do it, and then I just skrt and turn left, and it sounds really complicated and not poppy. I try to write (‘Tik Tok’) and then all of a sudden it’s like ‘I’m a paradox/like dirty socks/stuffed into Dior heels.’ I respect songwriters a lot, like Ben (Gibbard) from Death Cab (for Cutie) , and Ed Sheeran is lit. Songwriting, I respect the craft, so I wouldn’t want to say that I just f--- around, but I just try and have fun with it.

DT: One of your best-known collaborations is on Quinn XCII’s ‘Werewolf.’ What was it like to work on that?

YF:  Quinn called me up and said, ‘I’m working on my album. I need your help.’ I was like, ‘No you don’t, you’re f---ing crazy.’ He told me to come to the recording session, so I did. I went in and we wrote the song, but I did it really, really fast. Then I was going to leave to go get blackout. It was like four in the afternoon, I was ready to leave, and they said ‘wait, get on the microphone for like one second.’ I wanted to get out of there, I had plans, but I did one take. They asked me if I wanted to recut it, and I said yes, but they said it sounded worse than when it was just freestyle. So I went and got blackout and forgot what we did in that session. Then a couple of months later, my manager called me and said Quinn wants me on his album. I said awesome, send me the beat. But they were like, ‘The song’s already done.’ I was like, ‘What song? Send me it.’ I thought they must be thinking of the wrong guy, but then I was like, ‘Oh, that song.’ Quinn is the nicest f---ing dude ever, and he’s a super professional recording artist, extraordinary like his voice. He’s very polished to work with. To be honest, it was pretty impressive.

DT: A lot of people think that pursuing music isn’t a very reliable career path. Did that ever scare you?

YF: No, I didn’t give a f---. I could be dead right now. I’m just grateful to be here, so I don’t care about like a career or anything else.

DT: After your three shows at SXSW, what’s next for Yoshi Flower?

YF: I’m going to play in a cemetery in Hollywood for 2 nights, then I’m playing in Israel and then London, then Lollapalooza. Honestly, I don’t even know. I’m just trying to be a good person, I don’t give a f--- about all the other stuff.