On an incredibly humid day in the summer of 2015, three college friends gathered some folks into a house near Como Avenue in Minneapolis and played their first show.
“I was really paranoid about the cops coming,” Joe Kellen recounts.
“I didn’t want the show to get busted," the tall, lanky lead singer of the Florists says recently over happy hour in Uptown. "So I wrote this letter and went to everybody in the neighborhood telling them, ‘We’re gonna have bands here; you should come.’ It was all older people in the neighborhood, and they just wanted me to go away.”
Kellen and his bandmates, drummer Jared Hemming (also a frequent City Pages contributor) and bassist Luke Michaels, laugh at the memory. The band has evolved in the months since forming, and their new EP, Can You Feel the Stasis?, is their most collaborative effort yet.
“It’s hard to pinpoint the change in the sound, only that it’s much more expressive,” Kellen says ahead of his band's EP release party Monday at 7th St. Entry. “It used to be more stuff that I would bring in, but now we share in the work. When I write lyrics, I integrate theater into it, which is what I studied in school, so I use a lot of first person narrative. I try to let myself go down the rabbit hole and capture a feeling.”
Working with Ali Jaafar of Ecstattic Studios, the trio tried to capture their manic energy onto an album starting back in May. The Florists ending up doing plenty of experimentation.
The strangest of all is the last track, “Playing Kickball With the Vicar." On it, Hemming reads portions from Dave Grohl’s Wikipedia page, while Kellen does the same from a Ben & Jerry’s ad, and Michaels shares lyrics from an association song. They tested Jaafar’s patience by incorporating Death Grips-channeling screams.
“Ali’s like, ‘Here we fucking go,’” Kellen recalls. “He had this mic set up 10 feet away from us, and we started screaming. Ali eventually says, ‘That’s enough. I don’t want to deal with this shit anymore.’”
In essence, Stasis takes the well-worn rules of punk music and then carelessly pours the neon contents of a hundred activated glowsticks all over them. The end product is thoroughly impatient, adventurous, and danceable.
The EP also packs plenty of theatrical vibes, with Kellen’s vocals resembling Freddy Mercury or Rufus Wainwright at times. But theatrics are not only reserved for the studio. In the past, the band has invited tapdancers onto the stage with them at the Triple Rock; they strive to make their live shows as interactive as possible.
“There’s something specific about the conventions of a live performance,” Kellen says. “I always try and see how I can flip those conventions and use them to my advantage. That’s what I want to see when I watch a band. When you take advantage of that ‘liveness,’ it’s attractive."
“The three of us are dedicated to the idea that when you’re performing, you have to give it all the energy you can give it,” Hemming adds before launching into a story from a recent house show that included Kellen and Michaels stripping off their shirts and inviting audience members to draw on them as they entered an extended jam session.
The Florists are also eager to toy with tired, dated notions of masculinity.
“We’re constantly trying not to come across as masculine,” Michaels says. “Punk music is usually seen as misogynistic, and we try to combat against that.”
The band cites many female-fronted groups as role models -- bands like Kitten Forever and Tony Peachka that champion openness and acceptance.
“I’m not gonna give myself credit,” Kellen concludes. “Look at me, I’m super nerdy, so I’m trying to do something evocative using that. If I try to go onstage and pretend to be like, ‘What’s up?’ and rip into some crunchy riff, that’s all pretense, and I’d look like an idiot ‘cause it’s not honest at all.”