FLAT WORMS: SOLVING THE PUZZLE
photography by jeff fribourg
JS: It comes back to that sense that the center can’t hold. Like there is a fissure going on—that hopefully on some level there will be a course correction. I honestly believe things will get better.
TH: They’ve got to!
JS: But you’re just making a document—the arc of history bends toward progress, right. That’s the quote, right? [A paraphrase of Theodore Parker’s quote, ‘The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’—NM] It’s partially that weird foreboding sense of something apocalyptic. And I just thought of this [motioning to Will] which could be a bad thing, if I don’t think it out … but your singing is more deadpan. You’re not shouting. That deadpan thing has that sense of exhaustion over these very dramatic themes. Which is good. It creates a certain tension that works well.
WI: In a funny, unexpected outcome, the singing—even the way that everything materialized in this band—feels more natural than anything that I’ve done in the past. And maybe there is a reason for that. Maybe this is the way it’s suppose to be. It reflects the way that I feel. Or reflects my current environment or something. As a person creating art at a certain time … my favorite art is the document that is of and reflecting its surroundings. And I want to contribute and be a part of that.
TH: Totally. That’s what we do this for.
WI: I wouldn’t want to be in a nostalgic 60s band. I mean, I like 60s music, but that’s not the decade I’m living in.
TH: Something that reflects regionalism and the time you’re living in is more interesting to me then anything or any other art.
After thinking about this a bit, Flat Worms kind of have a—to make a literary analogy—Bukowski kind of feeling to their character. A raw, stripped down essence. Nothing overwrought. A desire to speak plainly yet with style that is all your own.
WI: One band I thought is really awesome and that I have revisited recently is Sleaford Mods. They’re very, very minimal—just drum and bass loops, basically.
TH: Run through a Dell laptop. It’s pretty great.
WI: Yeah! And the singer is just intense. And in that way, it’s like punk poetry. And I’ve always been inspired by things like that. Like Patti Smith and Mark E. Smith. I think a lot of music hides behind its aesthetic. Bands that I love, like with the Fall, I’m drawn in by his crazy brain basically. Same with Patti Smith.
TH: Yeah—you’re in Mark E. Smith’s world. I don’t know what Flat Worms world is …
WI: If you can do it minimally and effectively, then all the better.
JS: I’m really interested in having as little overhead as possible in all things when making a band. Not that I think that doing that has inherently higher value, but I just find it more interesting. I love the idea of maximizing the effect with as little resources as possible. I just find it interesting. Again, it’s not some DIY flag-waving thing. I like solving the puzzle. Having limits, to me, is super interesting to work within.
JS: There’s just something to removing as much as possible and working within those limits.
WI: In the process of making our record, it was a total unique experience to me. We tracked everything in one day. Mixed everything in one day. And then it was done. We play a lot together, we were in town, and we were prepared. With all that there was something so fitting to the project—being super economical. The idea was, ‘Put it to tape, document it the way that it is …’
TH: And it just felt really natural. We set out to do it in that amount of time.
WI: Yeah! It just happened like that.
TH: We had four days booked and got it all done in one.
WI: Instead of adding layers and layers of stuff that really wasn’t a part of it, we just streamlined it.
JS: I just really like any kind of music or band where I can feel like there is some thought into what is going on. That can cross over many genres. And for us, the concept is just like … not as stripped-down as possible, but just removing all the overhead from the process whenever we can.
What about chemistry between those creating the music? Some bands have a sort of a forced relationship. Flat Worms seems to be a natural artistic fit.
JS: Just through touring and talking to people when you’re in their town … they tell me about trying to begin bands, and the total hardest part to me is to find the people to play with. Even if it’s doing a solo thing. Finding like-minded people who share your vision. It’s really difficult to find people who are committed in the same way, or who are committed in the same way but also have principles, or a punk ethic or some kind of DIY ethic. It’s a real sweet spot to find people who are serious—serious about what it takes to do a band—and who are also not psychopaths. Who aren’t flakes or whatever … It’s really hard. To go back a little bit, our old bands played together …
WI: We went on tour together.
JS: So the Babies and Wet Illustrated [one of Will and Tim’s earlier bands] did a show during the day and the Babies had a show later that night, and Wet Illustrated came out to hang out at our show, and I was all ‘I love these guys!’ I thought it was the coolest thing. So when I heard Tim and Will were starting a punk band, I was like, ‘Yeah, I want in with you guys. I want to be in a punk band—with you guys!’ And again, to a degree, I knew it would work. Because of how like-minded we are about operating as a band.
WI: I would definitely say our chemistry has carried us. We create in short periods. In short bursts where everybody is in town and we’re available to get together, and we write really spontaneously, and quickly. Which has served us well. Otherwise, we’d probably get together and hit a wall and not want to continue. The fact that we are all really good friends has made this project something I look forward to. Again, it has served us.
JS: And I’ll add, we’ve even talked about it … like you’re in a band and you play songs you don’t really like because it would be too awkward to voice that opinion, and these songs work their way onto an album, and you’re feeling like, ‘I don’t really like that song, but so-and-so, that’s the only song they wrote, so I’ll feel bad if I state my opinion about it, so let’s get them a shot.’ And on and on. There have only been rare times in Flat Worms when I’ve felt that. Usually, we feel the same way, and we’ll be like, ‘Yeah, this song isn’t happening.’ It doesn’t come up often, but to even be able to have that discussion is really cool.
WI: It’s the democracy!
As I understand it, we have Swell Maps to thank for Flat Worms?
WI: Yeah! Before we started the band I was driving around listening to Swell Maps one day and I text Tim, actually on a whim, saying, ‘We should start a rock ‘n’ roll band.’ I had been playing in some poppier projects before this. And his response was, ‘Yeah! We should try it.’ From there we started to write songs. Justin heard we were giving it a shot and he expressed interest in being involved in it. And it sort of happened.
You each have other projects that you are working on—what purpose is Flat Worms serving for each of you?
JS: I just really like the concept of a band. Really, every aspect of it. I really like the idea. Starting a band from scratch is a really fun and exciting thing to be involved in. I really love it and we each have done it our whole lives. I’m just excited about the idea of creating something from scratch. And I love the band model, in a manner of speaking. I love the whole process.
TH: I hadn’t been in a band in a long time plus I really like the people involved so … I was all, ‘Let’s do it.’ I missed playing in a band with Will. I missed playing in a band with Justin. So all of that together really helped make it happen.
WI: It’s not like I had a void that only this band could fill. I feel that we’re all very creative people, and we’re constantly trying to fulfill the desire to create and write. Obviously … making this type of music, there seems to be a calling for us to do it at this time. And it’s taken on legs of its own. For me, it’s my only focus right now.
Does the creative process suffer due to commitments you have to other bands?
WI: I would say this is the most fluid creative process I’ve ever been a part of.
JS: That almost seems like the easy part to me. It’s funny—there are times where I’ll think to myself, ‘I love being in a band. I hate being in a band.’ Because—I think we’d all agree—the thing about being in a band and having this democratic kind of ideal to the degree where everything has to be agreed upon … it can be beautiful, but it can also make everything take longer. I like that process, I like engaging in it. There’s something really charming about that. It’s cool to tap into that—especially in this band.
WI: I was just thinking about this the other day because we just received our vinyl. Being a musician, there are so many steps and people involved along the way. Between writing a song and its manifestation physically. It takes someone to record it in the way you imagine it. It goes into a physical medium—it takes someone to mix it, master it, and there are so many people involved in what is just an initial idea that you have. I’ve found it to be interesting.
JS: To me, the creative process is the joy. When we are all together in a room writing a song, that has to be—to some degree—easy. Otherwise, why do it? It has to be natural. But then all the other stuff is kinda work. We were just in a text chain about how to meet up to do this!
Lastly, where does the name Flat Worms come from?
TH: I was in a band called Wet Illustrated, and we were going between two names—Wet Illustrated and Flat Worms. We decided on Wet Illustrated for that band. So I chose Flat Worms for this one.
WI: We’ve mentioned to certain people and they are all ‘How revolting!’ or something. But actually if you look at pictures of flatworms, they can be really beautiful and psychedelic. And I like the notion that it invites the idea of … don’t judge a book by its cover.