Bio: Flashguns have arrived with a hatful of wisdom that belies their tender years. The proof is in their careening, guitar-driven and synth-flecked songs, which comes on both charmingly melancholic and ... (more)
Bio: Flashguns have arrived with a hatful of wisdom that belies their tender years. The proof is in their careening, guitar-driven and synth-flecked songs, which comes on both charmingly melancholic and deeply thoughtful – and with very good reason.
"I'm quite a thinker," says singer Sam Johnston, who freely admits to cribbing from classic American literature, Evelyn Waugh and Shakespeare when he's penning his lyrics. "Just over a year ago I got really obsessive about things, had a real mental problem with it, like obsessive compulsive things. It stopped my life and really took hold of me, so a lot of the lyrics relate to that. I had to go into hospital to get it all sorted out and while I was in there I was doing a lot of introspective thinking."
"I had depression along with it," he continues. "When it has you you're completely irrational, but once you're on the other side you have a rational grasp on it and you can really embrace it and turn it into something creative."
Over the past year that's just what a healthy Sam and the rest of Flashguns – Giles Robinson (drums), James Wright (Keys/Glockenspiel) and Olly Scanlon (bass) – have been doing. Officially "from London" now that they've left their old school in Sussex, these four friends are putting into practice the eclectic tastes – "rather than eccentric," says Sam, referring to a recent misquote in the music press – they nurtured while at school.
Michael Jackson took Sam's gig cherry, which isn't a bad way to begin, but when it comes to Flashguns' euphoric angular jangle, the boys prefer something a bit moodier. Explains Sam: "People are likening us to the '80s sound and that's quite prominent for sure. I'm a big fan of The Smiths, The Cure and The Cars, but at the same time I love big sounding '70s stuff, like "Dark Side of the Moon," and Can, which hopefully will come across in the tracks we’re currently writing. We like progressive stuff like Sigur Ros too, then there's the rockier side, like Deftones."
The only contemporary bands that pass their test, achieving what Sam and the rest of the band see as proper "pure, unadulterated" pop, are The Killers and Biffy Clyro . "They really inspired us to start a band ourselves and take it seriously," says Sam. "We were totally in awe of the people making this music. It just seemed so original and cutting edge. For us it was kind of the dawn of something new."
Suitably awed, Flashguns got on with writing songs and gigging, something they've had to work out for themselves having come into the music world out of the cold of the countryside – there was no Way out West scene, no friends putting on Underage gigs or any North London co-operative to help them out. One of a few younger bands doing it for themselves, without the safety net of a scene to fall back on - “something that could work in our favour” says Sam ‘In our school there was no scene, no gigs, no NME, no one really into music! So, we made ours up as we went along - we were discovering The Cure at the same time as bands like the Klaxons and both felt as fresh and relevant as each other. It gave us time to really focus on what we wanted to sound like and achieve, without any influence from our peers”. They're going about it the right way, too. They pulled out of last year's Road to V competition final (which offers the winners a chance to play the V Festival) because, say the band, "Battle of the bands make me think of school and not something that's real or credible."
They took a slot on the BBC's Introducing stage at the 2008 Leeds Festival instead, stopping and transfixing people on their way to see much bigger bands. If it wasn't for Flashguns's ambition and boldness, this terrifying early experience might have created a pile of soiled keks. But to say that Sam has his sights aimed high would be an understatement.
"I write with a large scale on my mind," he says, "like, can this song fill an enormous place, the biggest place possible? And I think these songs can."