Photo by Amy Breesman

Flasher is a band that probably doesn’t want you to read this article. Instead, they’d prefer you close this browser window, open the streaming app of your choice, and blare their debut LP, Constant Image. Like looking up the side effects of a drug online, you find your expectations being swayed by the opinions and experiences of others. But if you insist upon reading this article, then I’ll let the band do most of the talking.

The trio, consisting of guitarist Taylor Mulitz, drummer Emma Baker, and bassist Daniel Saperstein, all grew up in the D.C. music scene, coming together in a rather serendipitous manner, and forming Flasher as a collaborative effort. There is no frontman or frontwoman, no singular songwriter, no rigid genre restraints; the band functions as an amalgamation of the three members’ experiences, perspectives, and emotions, which they’ve channeled into an album that is dynamic and uninhibited. And as an added bonus, every song oozes with vigor.

I found myself listening to Constant Image on a loop until I finally made peace with the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to pigeonhole them into any genre. And though the themes of the album seem to be analogous with our current political climate, the shattered and shifting psyche of the individual, and trying to find one’s place in the world, those are still pretty broad subjects. As such, it’s easy to project your own emotions and ideologies onto the album, lending to an immensely rewarding experience, and an LP that evolves with each listen.

I spoke with Mulitz to get his take on the inception of the band, their collaborative songwriting approach, and the D.C. music scene. Flasher is performing at the Echo tonight with Darto and French Vanilla (who Mulitz vehemently recommends you listen to), and tickets are still available.

You guys met in high school and then parted ways for college, right?

We all grew up in the D.C. area, we actually went to 3 different high schools, but we knew each other through playing music, like just going to shows. So the way that I met Danny and Emma is I went to a get together – [it was] just like ten kids in an attic, watching two people play acoustic guitars, and [those people were] Danny and Emma.

And then you decided to start the band and move back to D.C?

I moved back to D.C. because I was transferring schools. I had gone to Parsons for 3 years, and then I transferred to MICA in Baltimore, and in-between that time I took a semester off and I started playing music in a different band called Priests. So then I went to MICA for a year, and I dropped out of there and just played music. And during that time, Emma and Danny both moved back to D.C. after they graduated college, and we kind of just started playing music together. First, Emma and I started a punk band just for fun, it was called Young Trynas. Our friend Fabi Reyna, who runs a magazine called She Shreds, was throwing a showcase at this venue called Comet Ping Pong, and it was a lot of first-timer bands. We formed a band for that and kept playing shows. We had a different bassist, Eva Moolchan, who now does a project called Sneaks, and then she left to focus on Sneaks. Then we had Danny fill in to play bass, but pretty quickly, after we all started playing together, we started writing songs. And it was just totally different so we re-formed, just the three of us.

How was it different?

In terms of the musical styling it was different, and the dynamic of writing songs was also different. It was way more collaborative, it was a little more serious I guess. Young Trynas was more me focused on the specific genre we were trying to play, whereas this was a lot more open-ended.

Would you say that this project, and even this album, is more theme-focused?

Yeah, I would say so. I mean, we all like such diverse styles of music that pigeonholing ourselves into one specific thing is totally uninteresting. As we continued to play with each other, we sort of started to merge what the “Flasher” sound is, that being that it’s not one specific thing.

And I think there’s definitely a concurrency that’s very much Flasher, that suffuses the whole album, but it definitely makes it more dynamic and more interesting to not subscribe to a certain genre. I feel like there’s a big punk scene in Washington D.C., and I’m curious to hear how you think the music there differs from other cities.

The D.C. music scene is amazing. I think it differs in that there’s a really large variety of music that people play, but I’d say there’s a lot more cross-pollination in terms of the groups of people that will play shows together. It’s also a really small scene, in comparison to other places. Everyone kind of knows each other and is super supportive of each other. But there’s something really exciting happening in D.C. right now. There are just so many great bands, I feel really lucky to be there.

Do you think the camaraderie you’ve experienced growing up in that music scene helped you accomplish what you’ve accomplished thus far?

Absolutely. The best thing about living in D.C. to me is having the community and the friends and the resources, just from being there for so long, and knowing each other. So if there’s a specific thing that you want to try to do, you know exactly who to call to get that help, [so you can] make that thing happen. I think that was a big part of why I left New York in college, and because I was really broke and it was just so outrageously expensive to live there. I was just so depressed, cause I went to Parsons on basically a full-ride, but most of the friends that I went to school with were extremely rich, so it was just really hard to hang out with them when I just couldn’t afford to keep up, and I was working all the time to try to, and I lived in an apartment with no windows, and after work I had no energy to go out. So moving back to D.C. was a huge relief because all of a sudden, ya know, it’s still an expensive city, like the amount of rent that I pay is similar to what I would pay if I was living in New York or LA, but what you get for that amount of money is a house with a yard and a car, and that alone makes playing in a band so much easier, when you have access to a vehicle to move your gear around.

That makes sense. And just the disparity between the work you put into something and the tangible way of life that you’re getting out of it is just so disheartening, living in really expensive cities. How has living in D.C. actually affected the music you write?

I think it’s easy to be like ‘oh that’s where the government is,’ so therefore you feel more frustrated by the state of American political affairs. The same issues exist everywhere, maybe even less than in D.C. because of it being such an expensive, rapidly gentrified city, but the day to day is the same as if you were to live somewhere else.

Yeah, I’m definitely guilty of thinking that it’s somehow different. When recording an album, when do you decide that you’ve landed in a place that you’re comfortable and happy with?

It’s totally a moving target. When the money runs out. But at a certain point I’m just like ‘okay it’s done,’ and I’ve used up all my bandwidth for retooling something, or trying out the right ideas. It’s sometimes really hard, though. Sometimes you need to take space from something in order to let it be.

Would you say that there’s anything you learned after recording your self-titled EP that you brought with you to this album?

Yeah, definitely. So Daniel, the bass player, runs the recording studio and they record other bands in the area, and when we mixed it, and even when we were recording it with the producer, Nicolas Vernhes, it was super collaborative. I think [due to] having the knowledge of how to record, our hands were very much on the mixing board so to speak.

How did you come to work with Nicolas?

There were a handful of people that our label had suggested we consider working with, and of all the people that they suggested we were most interested in his body of work, just because it’s so diverse. We really liked the way the recording sounded, and our friends in Ought had just recorded with him, and they had really nice things to say about the experience, so we took their word for it and went into it. We met once before and that was about it, which is a pretty big decision to make, which I don’t think we even realized going into it.

And the three of you are still working day jobs in addition to the band?

Yes, we all work in the service industry. Less shifts than we did before. When we go home we still go in and work, and we’re really lucky that we have that flexibility where we can leave for months and then come back and have two or three shifts a week.

I feel like I’m just angry all the time at everything, but does it make you angry that you can’t sustain your lifestyle based solely off your music, that it’s just so hard these days?

Absolutely. I wish I didn’t have to do that. Sometimes it’s nice to go to work and have it be something that is completely uncreative, cause it doesn’t take up that sort of energy. You can just go and leave with money in your hands and go to sleep and not think about it. But I wish I didn’t have to do that, and I could just have more time to make things that am excited about.

Do you think you would have any fears if you were told you could make music full time, like that’s gonna be your only income?

I think everyone to some degree feels some sort of imposter syndrome. But I’d just be excited. I mean it’s funny cause it’s kind of already like that, like that pressure’s there, but I still have to do other things.

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