A little over two months after its release, flor’s album ley lines continues to be the kind where the more you dig into it, the more you get out of it. I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet up with the Oregon quartet made up of Zach Grace, Mckinley Kitts, Dylan Bauld, and Kyle Hill, to dig even deeper into the world of ley lines. I was impressed with how genuine, engaged, and thoughtful they were with their answers, even more so considering the fact that they were all getting sick from the exhaustion of touring and a long drive from Columbus (a fact emphasized visually by Dylan chewing on a very healthy piece of raw ginger).
We caught up with the band on their stop in Toronto to talk first impressions, vulnerability, and everything ley lines.
Melodic Magazine: So I know you three (Zach Grace, Mckinley Kitts, Dylan Bauld) met in high school and you got Kyle off of Craigslist. Do you remember what your first impressions of each other were?
Zach Grace: Yeah so he walked into our-
Mckinley Kitts: Oh are we doing Kyle right now?
Zach: Yeah we’re roasting him and then he can return the roast after. He walked into the rehearsal space with these massive purple shoes on, I think they were-
Mckinley: They were purple hightops.
Zach: And they were just the most ridiculous things I’d ever seen in my entire life and-
Mckinley: Kyle also has like size 14 shoes?
Zach: Real, real big. And I remember just being like, well this isn’t going to work out (laughs).
Mckinley: That’s how judgemental Zach is. I think that reflects more on you than him.
Zach: Sure, of course!
MM: What was the idea behind the purple sneakers, was that to grab their attention?
Kyle Hill: Yeah, let’s go with that. I thought they were great dudes when I first met them.
Mckinley: Aw no you can’t say that, you’ve gotta be mean!
MM: What about in high school with you young guys meeting?
Dylan Bauld: Mckinley was a little much for me in middle school and high school, until I started playing music with him and then we became close friends. But like, I tried to stay away because he was a bit intense. Now I’m into the intensity.
Mckinley: It’s worked out to my advantage in the long run.
Zach: I still don’t like him so (laughs).
Mckinley: This is really nice, I’m glad that we’re all getting along so well.
Zach: I’m sorry this what you get when I’m tired! A sassy little beezy. No, I mean we’ve just known of each other forever. Because we were in a small town we just grew up alongside each other.
Mckinley: At this point that’s all just kind of long history because Dylan and I have been playing music for eleven years, Zach’s been playing music with us for 8 or 9 years, Kyle’s been with us for seven years.
Zach: It’s hard to really think back on it when all we have are such fond memories and experiences with each other just cos we’re the greatest group of guys ever!
Mckinley: All jokes aside we’re just brothers now.
MM: Did you ever consider doing anything else? Because you’ve been kind of in music forever.
Mckinley: Kind of sneaks up on you as far as realizing that you’re doing what you’re doing. I think there’s never really an intentional moment where you’re like, ‘we’re settling down and doing this.’ It’s just, you keep working and things grow and it’s your career one day.
Dylan: Once we went on tour for the first time and realized that we could do it, that settled it for me. I knew that I was going to be locked into it.
Zach: I had childhood fantasies of one thing or another, but pretty much when I hit sophomore year of high school I think I made a switch in my mind where I was like, I don’t have a desire to do anything else with my life, so I’m really gonna put all I can into this and see what comes of it.
MM: And ley lines has come of that! Where did you come into contact with the term ley lines and how does it connect to the album?
Zach: It’s kind of a high fantasy idea. I’ve encountered it at multiple points in my life, but most recently the one that kind of stuck with me was a novel that I read by Patrick Rothfuss. I don’t think he used exactly the term ley lines, but it was this idea of waystones and how they kind of connect these paths, and that they’re these places of rest, these important places basically from ancient times. And ley lines is exactly that idea. It’s all these important places and the lines that connect them. They’re believed to have significance either spiritually, or just earthly significance.
The way that I’ve attributed it to the album is that we need to find these anchor points in our lives in everything that we do. Like for instance in our lives we have music, we have family, we have our companionship, we have our connection with our fans, and that kind of creates our path and our route. And if you can stick to those anchors, and stick to that route, then you can really be confident in what you’re doing. And it just reinforces what you believe in a bit.
MM: Some of the lyrics that you touch on come from a vulnerable place, is that something that’s always been in your lyrics or is that something that you’ve had to find?
Zach: Yeah it is. And I think that comes from the kind of music I was into in high school. I really appreciated thoughtful lyrics, specifically artists like Death Cab for Cutie, Tegan and Sara, Sufjan Stevens. I really liked that they were trying to say something, and I liked how nuanced it was. And kind of vague sometimes, it really leaves it up to your interpretation. And I love that free feeling that you get when you leave it to that. So that’s just the influence that was in my life and I knew I wanted to replicate that in our lyrics.
MM: For slow motion you’ve mentioned that it’s about how beautiful life can be when you take a step back, which isn’t always easy to do. How do you find that in your lives, especially on tour?
Zach: This tour has been particularly exhausting, but there are these moments. Last night, for example, we played a show in Columbus, Ohio and I think that was very much a slow motion moment for all of us. We were on stage and the whole show people had this excitement and this energy. And I shouldn’t just say Columbus, it’s kind of been every show this tour has had this energy.
Mckinley: and it’s kind of ironic because those moments that feel slow motion and feel like taking a step back are actually the most high intensity moments of the evening. You know it’s a lot of building the gear and hanging out which are the mellow moments. But then once you actually take the stage and feel that kind of crowd buzz and that crowd energy, and there’s the lights and the noise and the music, that’s when things slow down.
Dylan: You feel like you have the time to take it all in.
MM: Are there any other pieces of life where you find those moments?
Zach: Yeah. Particularly with me, I get a lot of joy out of human connection. So those kind of moments will be when I’m with someone that I love or with people that I really enjoy being around. That’s when time really slows down the most for me. When I can just step back and be open, be vulnerable, and have no worries or cares really. Just spending the important time with the important people in your life. That’s when life really slows down for me.
Mckinley: Those snapshot moments, it might happen once a month or once a week, but you’re kind of sitting there like, things couldn’t be much better. And that can last for ten minutes or an hour, it is what it is. It’s a Kodak moment if you will.
Zach: Pretty much whenever Mckinley has a cortado he has a slow motion moment.
Mckinley: Whenever I get a good espresso everything kind of makes sense.
MM: For the making of this album you moved from Dylan’s bedroom to Dylan’s living room. Were there any new tools that you had to work with this time?
Dylan: The best tool that I had this time around was that I was able to take the time and have the whole band really work on the record. The first record we didn’t know exactly what we were doing, me and Zach were kind of just having fun making things on the computer. We recorded some live instruments on that one, but this record we really emphasized the live instruments and tried to make it so we could translate to a live show really easily.
Mckinley: Building a drum room I feel like was huge one for them.
Dylan: I got a new drum room and a new drum kit and it’s really awesome.
MM: Kyle, are you a fan of the drum room?
Kyle: Yeah, quite a big fan of the drum room for a lot of reasons. But it was really good to be able to just be present. And if there was an idea we could just go in and throw it down right there, and start building it from there instead of having to bounce it back and forth and then have me sit with it for however many days before we move forward with it. Going off what Dylan said, having the whole band present was a really big step in the right direction for us and really helped us unlock our sound.
Mckinley: And that was kind of the final piece of it really being DIY. Prior to that all the drums would be built on a computer and then we’d go to a studio somewhere and Kyle would play them. But this way everything was brought into Dylan’s house. Step A-Z, there was no reason to go anywhere else, so we were locked in there which makes it extra intimate and special.
MM: I really love the album design, and you just released a beautiful video for white noise. How hands on are you with design? Even if you aren’t in the music video, how involved are you with that?
Mckinley: It kind of varies. Some videos we are pretty involved with, and honestly in a way that can be more stressful. So for white noise we absolutely let go. We got a treatment that was like a paragraph long and our buddy Jade (Ehlers) who is a creative director of sorts went up to the Oregon coast with a director of photography and a producer and with just like, three or four people shot the video and we weren’t even there. And it was beautiful. We were just handed this video that was so magical and kind of captured this beauty and that was really lucky.
And in other ways we’re there every step of the way. For a lot of the merch Kyle is there laying things out with the t-shirt mock-ups and doing every step of it, choosing the fabric. It kind of varies, but for the most part we’re very hands on unless we really trust someone that’s close to us. And it has to be someone that we’ve known for years. We wouldn’t just hand the control over of anything to anyone unless… there was like one time we did that.
Dylan: We’ve tried and it failed.
Mckinley: We’re control freaks.
Dylan: We usually resort to that when we’re on a time crunch or a money crunch.
MM: How does it feel to see a music video like that, someone’s interpretation of your song?
Mckinley: That one is particularly special. It was nailed. It was perfect. They could probably do it ten more times and it wouldn’t work as well as it did. They got the perfect weather, the perfect crew, the perfect actresses. There’s nothing really you could improve on for that time frame. They had two days to do it with like four days of prep time it was so quick and it ended up being perfect.
MM: Earlier you touched on connection with fans being really important, and I heard you have a notebook at the merch table that people can sign and leave messages in. What was the idea behind that?
Zach: We do yeah. Our tour photographer (Lily Mclaughlin) has kind of been working on finding the best way to involve her art in the world of ley lines and I’ve been talking to her a bit about what the whole album means, specifically what it means to me, and she kind of ran off that idea and found the importance of fans and how they do really play into the whole world of ley lines. So she dove into that idea by saying, why don’t I get all these fans from all these different places to write down all these… it’s a large array of things, it can be just a little ‘hey’ or it can be a ‘we love your music,’ or ‘your music has changed our lives.’ It was totally her idea and I’m really glad she came up with it because it works so well with what this tour is all about.
Mckinley: And creatively she’s really taken things in a cool direction as well. She’s doing a lot more crowd photography and kind of these intimate, close moments of the audience which we haven’t really seen much of. It’s usually just like, we get a large batch of us, and I don’t need to see myself every night over and over. So seeing these little moments, whether it’s someone just beaming, or when we played in Durham there was this photo of a couple holding each other during our song warm blood, and to see this magic and what that song means to them in a still image is pretty remarkable. Certain photos capture that and it’s really cool to see our photographer Lily nailing those moments.
MM: And it goes perfectly with the album about connection.
Mckinley: Yeah, she’s really taken the world and expanded on it because we’re busy like, playing the music. So it’s good that we have a creative family member stepping up and helping us draw a firmer line between us and the fans.
See our live coverage of flor here!
Interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Interview by Zoe Orion + photos by Hannah Maynes.