A Conversation With … Flint Eastwood

Charting new territories in indie rock songwriting and pop-inspired synth instrumentation, Detroit duo Flint Eastwood have come to our shores for a few choice festival appearances and their own headlines shows in Sydney and Melbourne. We spoke with one half of the duo, Jax Anderson about making music on your own terms, the value of collaboration and finding a place for one’s queerness.

BYO: How did emerging from the DIY scene in Detroit focus your sound and songwriting process?

Jax: The DIY scene in Detroit, the roots run so thick. I think because Michigan is a non-coastal state, it's very far removed from any major city, so a lot of the typical music industry stuff just doesn't exist there. It's about taking inspiration from what you like rather than what's in trend, so the DIY space especially in Detroit, taught me that passion and sincerity and authenticity is more important than anything else.

BYO: You put together recording studio and artist development space Assemble Sound, what did creating something like that in Detroit mean for you?

Jax: Assemble was totally built off of the intention of helping artists discover their own voice and sense of sound and to get people working together. In Detroit people were creating amazing things but they were doing it alone in their bedrooms, and some artists can work wonderfully when they're alone but I feel like with any kind of creative endeavor it takes a village. So because we were in Detroit we kind of needed to create our own village, we needed to create our own kingdom. We needed to create somewhere where everyone can centralise and meet other creatives. It's a little family that we've made with each other and again we really value authenticity, we really value what the artist wants to say and what the artist wants to create and for me personally it's completely shaped what I do as an artist. It's really cool too, because we have rules where it's an open session when you go there, so anybody could come in at any time because we very much wanted to foster this sense of community. I'll be chilling there and someone will come in and be like ‘Hey this guitar lick would sound amazing on this,’ and it's like, ‘Ok, sick there's a mic, lay it down, let's go.’

BYO: I read that the building Assemble is in used to be a church? There’s obviously a lot of symbolism in that but what’d it mean for you to turn a church into a place for art and creation?

Jax: I mean, if we're really getting a little heavy with it, it is basically a church. The idea of a church is that everybody is gathered around a similar belief and it's a community based on similar moral values and similar goals, and that's basically what Assemble is. It's a bunch of people that have this shared belief that if we all do this together, we'll create things that we believe in.

I wanted to move to Nashville with my brother Seth, who creates all the music with me, his goes by Syblyng, because Detroit had nothing to offer us; we've been completely depleted, we need a fresh start. We did this one last project and we decided to throw a show for it and we teamed up with the co-founder of Assemble, Garret Koehler, and he was like yeah we're going to get 800 people in the space and we were just like ‘Hell no, that's just not going to happen,’ so we were a little bit cynical about it. We did the show and we had 800 people there and it just sparked this idea of why would we move to a different city when we can create the community we are longing for in Detroit. We sent out a bunch of letters and the only person who wrote us back was the owner of that church.

BYO: You explore a great breadth of sounds instrumentally, what's the process of working that out for you and Syblyng?

Jax: We usually start with the instrumentation first, so Seth will start with making a beat or I'll come in and say, ‘I'm feeling this way we need this kind of sound,’ and we'll base it off that. I encourage Seth to be an artist in his own right and I think he is, he's so prolific in what he can create. Because we're siblings we do have our own language. We'll be sitting with songwriters and we'll just start talking in our lingo and go back and forth and five minutes later the writer will be like, ‘Where the fuck are you guys?’

BYO: You’ve also worked in collaboration with artists such as Alice Ivy and Siena Liggins - what value do you see in working with other artists?

Jax: For me it's vital, because I'm always trying to learn new things and I'm always trying to push my own boundaries and the best way to do that is to get a completely different perspective. When I can work with an artist it's a great day because I feel like I've learned something. I want to experience life as much as possible, and a part of that is seeing how far I can go creatively.

BYO: In your recent EP and releases you’ve written about very personal subjects, how've you found the strength to express vulnerability?

Jax: For me it was very terrifying to be vulnerable for a very long time but it just got to a point where my music doesn't feel like it's me until I'm vulnerable. I don't write about hypothetical situations, I don't write about stories in my mind, I write about actual experiences that have taken place. The best thing a person can do to be connected to other people is to become vulnerable and if I can help other people to try and open up themselves, by myself being vulnerable, then I think that it's something I have to do.

BYO: What's it meant for you to be embraced by the Queer/LGBTQ community for songs such as Real Love?

Jax: Man, it's insane. It's really surreal. Being in Detroit I don't really see the effects of when my music is catching on so it wasn't really until we came here and started playing festivals and people know the words, that I'm like ‘Oh shit this is something.’ I don't think I'll ever get used to being able to get on a twenty-hour plane ride to the other side of the world and there are people that know my shit.

I'm really grateful because the song was written as a response to somebody that was putting hate into the world and I felt the to respond in some way, and the best thing that you can do when you disagree with somebody is to act on it in some way. My way of acting was to write a song and that it's become such a positive thing to so many people is I think such a testament to what music can do. 

Flint Eastwood plays on Wednesday, February 27 at Howler in Melbourne, Thursday, February 28 at the Lansdowne and then on Saturday, March 2 at Farmer and The Owl Festival in Wollongong. Tickets for all and more info can be found here: https://www.flinteastwoodmusic.com/tour