By Lisa Morgan
We have a sizeable music community in our combined high and low deserts, lush with talent and potential. There is rarely an evening that isn’t full of opportunities to witness and be amazed as these talents play live and hone their craft. It is not easy to shine in a sea of diamonds, but there are a special few who manage. In just a year’s time, The Flusters have done just that. And, from what I can gather, this is only the beginning.
The Flusters are Dougie VanSant (Vocals, Guitar), Danny White (Guitar, Vocals) Mario Estrada (Bass), and Daniel Perry (Drums). As I write, this four piece squadron of dreamy beachy guitar sways, wave crashing rhythms, and swells of soulfully sung vocals and harmonies, are preparing to release their first EP. Take your favorite summer day at the beach, wrap it up into five unique, tasty melodic themes, let it bake in love, sweat and tears, and you have The Fluster’s inaugural album, Extended Play No. 1. The most phenomenal part of it all, is while they are not lacking in will, determination and confidence, it’s hard to say if they truly know just how good they are. They do know, however, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they have been called to create something important together, and they are answering that call with everything they’ve got.
Within the span of one year they have literally gone from “flustered” over what, out of hundreds of ideas, to name their band, to a tight family unit with a determined vision. They have richly developed their own signature sound and look, created their own label, own all of their publishing rights, and have an arsenal of strong radio ready singles. This stellar, self-produced EP is not only a landmark for these four men, but they are blazing a trail for other troubadours to follow.
The Flusters have gone from renting rehearsal space by the hour back when I first interviewed them a year ago, to a very cool leased lair dedicated to creating and rehearsing. The depth and maturity I have witnessed along with the amount they’ve accomplished in a short time is nothing short of astonishing. But it’s the intuitive nature in which they play together now, that truly makes something magic happen.
Don’t hate me ladies, but not only was I treated to a private concert on behalf of CV Weekly, but I was also able to talk to this handsome crew for quite a while about their journey, where they’ve been and where they are bound. My time with them left me inspired and incredibly excited for what lies ahead for them.
CVW: “There have been a few changes since our last interview. It’s pretty typical for bands to work through several different members before they find the right combination of skill and personality that makes a band thrive. You guys have managed to maintain the same lineup with one exception, your drummer. What was the reason for the personnel change and does he still play a role?”
VanSant: “Chris O Sullivan started out with us, and he is on this first CD. You’ll see him credited on the album. He was instrumental in helping us find our sound, and he did an incredible job. We ended up having to go in a different direction based on availability, and well, just life. We love that guy like a brother.”
CVW: “You have two newer additions; Daniel Perry on drums and on occasion, Will Sturgeon of Brightener on keys and vocals.”
VanSant: “Yes! We’re really excited for the next chapter, Extended Play No. 2. Will has been a huge part of helping us produce and mix an album that we are incredibly proud of. Dan isn’t on this album, but he’s seriously taken us to the next level.”
CVW: “Daniel, you are an amazing and charismatic addition to the group. Where did you come from? How did you end up as a musician and find yourself working with The Flusters.”
Perry: “I’ve been playing music since I was a kid. I’d play my babysitters piano, and I picked up guitar…whatever I could get my hands on. I didn’t start having a real interest until I was 10 years old though, in 6th grade percussion class. I got into drums and just picked up on it easily. The next year my music teacher insisted that I join marching band and concert. I eventually took private lessons and I knew I wanted to make a career of it. I’ve been in many bands before coming here. I traveled out of state to record an album by actor Rip Torn, and I played in Mario’s band, Save the Whales. I had even worked with Will at one point. I had taken about three years off from music before catching up with Mario again and he talked to me about The Flusters. I was really hungry to play again and this was something that was exactly what I wanted to do.”
CVW: “What has been your favorite experience so far as The Flusters? I would think playing Coachella would be at the top?”
The Flusters (all chiming in): “Yes… definitely…it was amazing! Especially meeting and getting to know the other bands.”
Perry: “I have to say, my favorite was the show we played at The Hood for all our friends before getting to play at the 2016 Coachella Music and Art Festival. The place was packed and the energy was amazing.”
Estrada: “You know… you are always going to do shows, and some are going to be really great, but you only get to make your first album once in your life.”
VanSant: “Mario’s right. In my head, all I have ever wanted to do is make a record. And I mean, MAKE A FUCKING RECORD! Not some single with a photo copied piece of arts and crafts slapped on it. Everybody has worked so hard on this; Danny and I in pre-production, all of us in the studio busting our ass for two days straight, Will and I in post-production, and we’re not done yet. I won’t be done until this album is actually released. I’ll probably fall on my knees and cry once the launch is done. But seeing this tangible product that we all put so much love, attention and passion into – that is the immortal part of this. That is the part that no one can take away from us. Life is about legacy, and to have all these people in this room sharing a legacy together with me… I’m 33 years old. I have wanted this since I was 16!”
White: “I can’t say it any better than Doug just did. The highlight is this EP. I remember when this was just an idea. Doug and I played separate gigs at an AA convention. Doug came up to me afterward and told me about an idea he had. That was in 2014. It took some time; Doug had to get gear shipped here all the way from Jersey. So I put it on the back burner. When he got back to me, it started off real slow. My playing has grown a lot in the last two years. It’s been nothing but positive growth. Doug and I were just looking at a picture from the second straight day of recording at Ready Mix; we both look disgusting and we were exhausted, but we both had this smile… like nothing could touch us. For us, coming here to California and recording in Hollywood is a really big deal. It’s a dream come true.”
CVW: “How did you become part of The Flusters brotherhood Will?” (For some of their bigger shows, like when Goldenvoice tracks them down to play Coachella Music and Art Festival, Will Sturgeon from the band, Brightener, has been known to join them on keys and backing vocals)
Sturgeon: Brightener started this time last year. I met Doug and Danny at Coachella Valley Art Scene’s 111 Music Festival last fall. In January, Doug called about doing the record. He was originally asking me to play keys on it. The original vision was to record at Ready Mix, an old studio of Jackson Brown’s with vintage keys that work well with The Flusters songs. I talked him into letting me mix the album as well. That way, they didn’t have to pay more money, or have to mix it in the same studio the same weekend they had recorded it. They could do it a little cheaper, and we could take our time doing any necessary over dubs.”
VanSant: “Will was a pair of fresh ears. It’s hard to perform and produce yourself at the same time. We worked on the mixes for two months after that. We recorded all of the instruments in Hollywood, and then recorded all of the vocals in the desert at Will’s house.”
White: “It couldn’t have worked out any better; we did our part and it all just lined up.”
VanSant: “We really haven’t had time to sit down together and debrief or talk about everything; this is the first time we’ve sat and talked about it.”
CVW: “Do you have a favorite on the EP?”
Estrada: “ ‘Lake Street.’ There’s just something about it. It reminds me of the music I grew up with.”
White: “Yeah. We just started with some guitar tones and the things we were pulling out were amazing; everyone added something to that song.”
VanSant: “It germinated from us making noise in an 8×8 practice room. This is the song we created as The Flusters. A lot of the ideas for our songs were from my mental scrapbook that poured out into this record, but ‘Lake Street’ is ours together. There’s a piece of everybody in that song.”
CVW: “How do you feel you were able to navigate this first recording process? Any places you felt you over thought it or under thought it? How did you manage the balance?
VanSant: “I think we did excellent. Where Danny might have started to over think it, I would under think. It was a perfect synergy between all of us.”
Sturgeon: “I wanted us to have to make as few decisions in the studio as possible, since we were running on limited time. One of the ways that manifested was in the Flusters reverb-y sound. We decided to run the guitars through their reverb pedals in the studio and forgo recording a dry signal. Sometimes engineers won’t record it with reverb, because they can’t tweak it themselves afterward. It sounded good, and then we didn’t have to spend hours in mixing trying to find the right reverb, since it was already on! It’s not a clean signal, but it has more personality. It sounds the way they play it live, which is something we wanted to preserve throughout the recording process.”
White: “The way you hear it on the CD, with the exception of just a couple of over dubs, is the way you’ll hear it at the album release. I think we captured our Flusters sound. Will’s experience guided us to be more assertive in the studio than we might have been, and we’re really happy with the result.”
Sturgeon: “I just didn’t want them to make the same mistakes I had made in the past.”
VanSant: “It’s been stranger than fiction, the way everything has come together. Once we started to include Will, the natural synergy between us and some of the other bands like the Yip Yops began to happen, and it has been amazing. I love that we’re doing this all together. I couldn’t ask for more. And I love the fact that there are several different valley artists involved in this production, not just on the album itself, but in the merchandise and promotional products: Glenn Coy of Windmill City Screen Printing, Mary Walker with Reel Made Embroidery Co., Freddy Jimenez from the band Tribesmen screen printed our flyers, Monica Morones (Cakes) took the photos, our promotional videos were filmed and edited by Wolf Mearns of Tracker Studios, who flew in all the way from the east coast. We were the first band to hire artist Jenny Ferrell (Jferrellart on Instagram) who created our custom poster; local designer/illustrator, Anta (Anta.com), helped with t-shirt design…”
“I really feel it’s not only important to involve local musicians and artists, but to help them monetize their talents. It’s so rewarding to be able to do that. We are so fortunate to be able to pull in locals who have such a large and diverse skill set.”
CVW: “Let’s talk about the big day – the record release party at The Hood.”
VanSant: “We wanted to make September 30th a special day for all the local friends who have supported us and helped us get this far. So, the new album is only going to be available at the record release show. We won’t share it with the rest of the world until October 1st. We really thought it was important to give our desert people pre-release dibs. There will be tons of sick merch and some fun surprises. You’ll definitely not want to miss this one; it will be our biggest show to date.”
CVW: “Where do you see yourselves in the next 5-10 years?”
VanSant: “Touring the country, and contemplating record deals; we want to limitlessly record in a limitless studio. There has already been some talk of a possible deal in the works, but I don’t want to say too much about that yet.”
White: “We want to produce Extended Play No.2 first, before signing any deals.”
CVW: “What if you get signed to a really cool deal though? Wouldn’t you want them to produce this for you?”
VanSant: “There is nothing broken about the way we did this first one. We want to keep the continuity. It’s the next episode in the series.”
White: “We’re just not ready to give it away.”
Following our conversation, the guys went on to rehearse as I listened in. I had been gifted a copy of the CD and had spent some time listening to it prior. I was amazed to hear that the vocals were recorded at Will Sturgeon’s house in his “closet.” They were pristine! The vocal harmonies were like honey and butter, and with all the ebb and flow of this dynamic record, the vocals were never buried. As a matter of fact, nothing was buried. Every instrument and voice had its own sweet spot and played its dynamic part to the fullest. It was an extremely thoughtful record and the production and mixing reflected the same. It made me wish it had come out months earlier. This would have been my Summer of ‘16 playlist for sure. As it turns out, I’m pretty sure this album will be streaming through my ear buds keeping me warm this winter. I was extremely impressed and had told them as much. They had an EP that was something to be proud of.
What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was how incredible these guys are live. Without the interference of people trying to have a conversation over the music, or fans screaming (something that happens a lot to The Flusters), I could hear every layer and texture and blood soaked lyric. I have to say, it actually overwhelmed me at times. Forget that I knew these guys, forget that their spirit and passion make me want to see them succeed, this music they were playing had me riveted. I had such joy listening, knowing that they had found the illusive “it;” that thing that brings everything together and gives a band limitless potential. The magic was thick between this brotherhood.
All this being said, you’ll want to get yourself to this record release party. It is the start of something very special. This is just the beginning. Some of the songs they played for me aren’t even on this album. Is this album special? Yes, but just wait until you see what’s coming next. I urge you to see The Flusters live and local – while you still can.
When: September 30 8 p.m.
Where: The Hood Bar and Pizza
Who: brightener, YIP YOPS, The Flusters, Cakes and Brains.
All funds raised will go to help us pay our Studio and Production Bills. You must be 18 to Enter $5 Cover
Follow The Flusters at www.theflusters.com