Flash Trading are a new electronic group based in Brooklyn, and the most recent addition to TAG OUT, a label started by Kris Petersen (formerly of DFA Records).
Their music noticeably combines elements such as acid house and balearic with the more dancey side of synth-pop, but it is easy to hear just about every niche of the electronic music spectrum. It is these slight nuances and blending of textures which manifests itself as irresistible songwriting. Their first release, The Golden Mile, was recently released and led by the single, “Vini.” This collection of six songs showcases Flash Trading’s masterful patchwork of their music taste. The synths and drum machines weave together to produce a rousing and blissful blanket for Monae Freeman’s seductive voice. Flash Trading has already begun establishing itself in the independent music scene in Brooklyn, with past shows at The Silent Barn and an upcoming one at Sunnyvale. Look for them to continue blossoming into a powerhouse of fun and sultry electronic music. We asked Flash Trading some questions about their incarnation and inspiration below.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you came together? How did you all end up in Brooklyn and start playing music together?
Mike (synths) grew up in Queens and has spent almost his whole life in New York. Monae (vocals/synths) is from Atlanta and came here on a bus with two bags and without an apartment lined up. Jeff (drum machines/bass synths) spent a few years in Seattle after college, but no one told him he needed Vitamin D to survive there. After moving here, Jeff got a temp job in an office where he met our friend David, who plays music and DJs as Textiles.
We all met through David by seeing shows with him at Bossa Nova Civic Club in Brooklyn. Since we got along well, we started sharing music with each other. We respected each other’s taste and musical ability. Each one of us brings different things that we are most passionate about to the group, so playing together felt like the natural thing to do.
TAG OUT was officially launched just a couple of months ago. How did Flash Trading connect with Kris Petersen?
Mike and Kris have known each other for years through mutual friends and from going to the same shows at now-shuttered Brooklyn DIY spaces like 285 Kent and Death by Audio. At that time, Kris used to work for DFA Records. Mike and Kris have a very similar outlook on music in that they’re obsessive about the things they love, but can sometimes be pretty cynical about the things they don’t love. So they’ve kept tabs on each other’s work, and when they found out about each other’s projects, decided, however futilely, to stop complaining about the things they didn’t like and start working together to create.
The Stranger Song likes to know about what influences and inspires artists. Is there an inspiration that has a great impact on your work, whether a direct musical influence or not? It can be anything. It’s easy to hear traces of synth giants like New Order, acid house beats and other dance and electronic flavors coming together, but I am sure there are other sources of guidance.
Paddy McAloon is an unsung genius that seems to slowly be getting recognition for his contributions to the craft. He’s one of those people that maybe the vast majority of one generation of songwriters missed, while a subsequent generation of songwriters seems to be saying with their music that his absence in the canon is very conspicuous. At heart, we try to make music that has compelling moments and creates its own universes, and Paddy is a legend at that.
That being said, genres can be helpful to categorize certain sounds, but can lead to pigeonholing. Do you consider yourself to fall under a genre?
We jokingly use the term “balearic acid sophistihouse,” which obviously doesn’t exist. Artists are being pretentious when they say they can’t be defined by labels, because everything has roots somewhere. But when you break this down, it’s really more of an aesthetic question about how much you think words can convey what music is, and it’d take up too much space to offer our opinion on that. It may be kind of trite, but we think a lot of musicians would say they express themselves with music because you can express things with music that you can’t with words.
We think it’s important to point out that we don’t want to limit our associations with art we enjoy just because that’s how musicians tend to “brand” themselves now. We’re as happy to play alongside indie rock bands as we are DJs, so long as we enjoy what they’re putting out there. You mentioned New Order, and one of the things that we love about them is that they come from a time and place when dance music and guitar music weren’t considered these binary opposites as they so often are now–especially in New York. A lot of young people now seem to feel that they can only associate with one very limited thing, because that’s how the economic forces of the music industry have decided by default that things should be, and we think that’s… limiting.
Your Bandcamp states the music is made entirely through analog hardware. Who does what in the group and what is the general set up of hardware for Flash Trading?
Monae sings and plays synths, Mike mostly plays synths, and Jeff plays the drum machines and synths. We use a Juno 60 for chords and melodies, and a Moog Source and Korg-700 for melodies. We also use a Moog Minitaur and the Analogic 303 clone for bass. For drums we mainly rely on the DSI Tempest. There are guitars on the record, but lugging amps to gigs is not always feasible for us at this stage, so we may not do that until a future release demands that we do.
How do you see the underground NY electronic scene fostering a welcoming environment for artists? Do you see that continuing?
This is an interesting question, the answer to which will probably piss people off regardless of what we say. There are probably multiple “underground NY electronic scenes,” so it’d be unfair to treat it as a monolith. We’re not trying to be pedantic, but some promoters actually make a point of this and make fun of other promoters, which is always amusing to watch. But presuming we must assume it’s one thing for the sake of the question, we’d say that it’s like any other group of people with common interests and values where those people can make for both an inclusive space and an exclusive one depending upon the circumstances and individuals involved.
Musicians and music people generally tend to have big egos and a greater sense of FOMO than most. It’s always going to be hard to get booked in some places or get written about in some places. At the end of the day everyone is trying to make rent while supporting the people they respect as much as they can. In a place like New York, where market rate rents are as high as they are, it often takes a significant degree of privilege to do the things necessary to make music and try to make other people pay attention to it. Having a critical awareness of that is what makes any scene viable. We just approach songwriting and production with as honest a mindset as possible, and what happens after that in terms of any response is something we try to just passively observe. We’re not sure how things will change, but we’re mostly glad that these spaces exist.
Name an album that changed your life.
Surrender by The Chemical Brothers.
Purchase The Golden Mile here.