A Conversation With Gus Gonzalez—The Lead Singer & Guitarist of Flower Mouth
Pictured: Flower Mouth at their WIUX Live Sessions.
Last week at Franklin Hall, I had the chance to interview Gus Gonzalez, the lead singer of Flower Mouth — a local band who frequently performs setlists at underground house shows throughout Bloomington.
Recently, WIUX hosted an event at the band’s personal live venue, The Rat House. In addition, they have performed at a number of events organized by the WIUX Venue Series.
I personally saw them play at the Rat House and they performed some of their material off their latest two-song demo released on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. Flower Mouth has become so well-known in underground circles that fans at the house show were even singing along to the lyrics of their songs, “Shayla” and “Mascara,” which were released last August.
Flower Mouth’s lineup includes guitarist and vocalist Gus Gonzalez, JJ Van Hecke on the keys, piano, and synth, bassist Chris Koj and percussionist Blake McKean.
Transcribed for you, the reader, is my conversation with Gonzalez presented in a Q & A format. It wasn’t so much a conventional question-and-answer interview than a natural conversation. The bolded stars (*) represent interjections on my behalf to provide a little more clarity for the readers.
Sweet local music enthusiasts, do enjoy the interview.
I know genres are stupid, but if you had to classify your music in a genre, what would you call yourselves?
Gus Gonzalez: “I think I would just call it rock, but most people would label us as indie-rock. We see it as a new-age form of rock-n-roll. The only problem I have with indie-rock is as soon as you say that term, everybody immediately thinks, ‘oh they’re Vampire Weekend.’ Dad rock is at the very core of our inspiration. Psychedelia is, of course, present. Individually, we’re inspired by a bunch of different artists: Weather Report, Kool & the Gang, Slayer and even indie dance-pop. Our goal is that every song does not sound the same.”
Do you ever want to be signed to a label?* If so, what kind of label would be most admirable to you? Capitol Records, Warner Brothers, you know, the major six labels? Or something like Secretly Canadian or other independent record labels?
Gus: “We want someone to give us something we can’t get on our own. We have done a phenomenal job, I think, of really getting out there and building our network. We have 2,000 followers on pretty much all of our social media. So building a network of people wasn’t too hard for us, but expanding that into other cities and other regions is where we need help the most, especially setting up shows in other cities. If we can find a label to help us with that, it would be awesome. Ideally, an indie label would be the best fit for us. We like Secretly Canadian and Fat Possum.”**
What role do the music and journalism schools play in the vast, underground network of the Bloomington house show scene?
Gus: “From what I’ve seen, as far as the house show scene, it really is more than just bands meeting up in basements and partying. WIUX serves as an official organization that can kind of help run the scene. It’s because they have all the connections.”
Gus explained how Flower Mouth has music on automation at WIUX, which means their songs can be heard on the radio overnight when 99.1 FM runs through a playlist on their automation system nicknamed Big John—given its expansive array of alternative tunes.
Gus: “We’re obviously not the only ones on automation — I’ve heard tracks from Secret Mezzanine and other local bands, as well.”
Flower Mouth often crosses paths with Secret Mezzanine. They almost jammed together at a WIUX event, but Gonzalez couldn’t make it. He has heard them play at parties, even once at his hosted venue, The Rat House, but he wasn’t in the same room to hear the band play. He’s only overheard them through the walls of headbanging punk parties.
Once, Secret Mezzanine covered “In The Jungle” from The Lion King and they made it a sing-a-long number where the whole crowd chimed in. It was a fun and effective way to cover a song in a live setting.
Gus: “I like when bands take very untraditional things and cover them, but I’ve seen two bands now cover the Drake and Josh theme song. It’s a perfect generation clash because everyone our age knows the words.”
What role does social media play in promoting your music?
Gus: “We would be fucking nothing without social media. It’s the medium now. Everyone checks social media especially our generation and especially college kids going out to see a band on Friday night. It’s all interconnected — let’s say someone comes across Flower Mouth on Facebook, they go to our profile and they see our music, they see pictures, they see our live videos – and they’re a fan. They start to follow us and they continue to follow us. It’s the method we take. If we didn’t use social media, I honestly couldn’t tell you how we would expose our music to anybody else—other than just word-of-mouth.”
That’s the second biggest mode of how information spreads in underground Bloomington circles. Word of mouth has always been a form of communication for human interaction, at least since the development of spoken language.
Gus: It’s totally a combination of the two — if someone sees us on Friday night, they might go back to their dorms and tell their roommates and all their friends, ‘Yo I saw this sick band, Flower Mouth, last night. Why don’t you look them up?”
Gonzalez takes pride as a musician in the medium of Twitter or Facebook to promote his band’s music. He posts every day, whether it be releasing new music or simply interacting with fans.
Gus: “It serves as a way of letting your followers know you’re people just like them. You’re not some product. You get to talk to your fans and hear what they have to say. Before the internet, before social media you would just print off thousands of flyers, but unless you have a distinct voice throughout all those flyers, it’s very much perceived as a product.”
Social media, in his words, allows musicians to have a face-to-face conversations with their followers.
Gus: “Instead of all those flyers, you get a personal invite and a reason to go.”
*Flower Mouth is not currently signed to a record label.
**Fat Possum Records is a label based in Mississippi with signed bands including Hoops and The Black Keys.
You can follow the WIUX Facebook page for more Live Sessions from Flower Mouth and updates on events like the Venue Series.