New Jersey’s Indie scene has been full of surprises lately, but nothing like Jack Flowers and The Petal Tones. The imaginative band is the brainchild of musician Jack Powers and is currently touring around the Northern Region with an upcoming show on Friday, February 9 at Prototype 237 in Paterson, New Jersey, and The Mill in Hartford, Connecticut Saturday, February 17. Later this Summer, the band is set to release their debut album Girl Clothes, a project that is very dear to the hearts of Jack and her fellow bandmates. Like their other live performances, these fast-approaching shows are set to see Jack Flowers and the Petal Tones indulging in a unique and creative format of incorporating theatrics, artistic expression, and meticulously staged movement to ensure that the crowd leaves energized with the feeling of seeing something they never have before.
Q. You’ve said that Jack Flowers and The Petal Tones “practice a kind of live-action role-playing as part of [your] artistic expression.” What does this mean specifically for the band?
A. Great question! Honestly, it’s just a goofy way of saying that you can expect our shows to be dramatic. We believe that music is more than just the sounds that we make, so we intentionally use our movement, pacing, and positioning on stage to deepen that experience. We have a deep appreciation of theater and performance art, and we like to incorporate features of those creative mediums in ours. The reason we specifically say that we “LARP as an indie band” is because Jack Flowers and The Petal Tones is a fictional band. Every time we perform, we are role-playing as characters who are in that band. This came from wondering what it would have been like if the Beatles performed as Sargent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. What would it be like if they committed to that bit? Jack Flowers and The Petal Tones is us committing to the bit.
Q. Anyone who’s heard or seen Jack Flowers and The Petal Tones knows that there is such a dedication to creativity in this band. How do you foster that energy?
A. First of all, thank you very much, that is very kind. I think that kind of energy comes from having a sense of humor about the whole thing. When you’re not worried about being serious, you feel more comfortable making bold decisions. Music is too important to be taken seriously.
Q. You guys are from New Jersey where a lot of up-and-coming indie musicians are emerging. What have you learned from this community?
A. I’ll start by saying that there are so many barriers that keep people out of live music. Pay-to-play shows, cliquey venues, and discriminatory booking policies are the industry standard. In a lot of places, that inaccessibility isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. I’ve found that the only people who succeed in those environments are rich white dudes. There are so many amazing indie artists coming out of Jersey right now because there are lots of community-oriented venues that are significantly less prohibitive. These spaces allow artists of all backgrounds a place to hone their craft and make strong connections without having to worry about overwhelming ticket sales. There are so many reasons why this is great, but to put it simply, when you remove these barriers to entry, you get better music. Shout out to Serendipity Cafe, Prototype 237, Factory Records, The Crossroads, The Chubby Pickle, and the many amazing DIY spaces that have hosted us!
Q. You’ve cited some of your influences as The Strokes, John Cage, Mitski, Do Nothing, Bo Burnham, and Le Tigre. What about these artists stand out to you?
A. These artists are endlessly inspiring. Most immediately, their music has a palpable attitude. Their intentions are made strikingly apparent by the creative decisions that make up their music. On a more technical level, I have an incredibly deep appreciation for great arrangements. All of these artists are master arrangers. I could talk about it for hours. I am a nerd.
Q. You have some shows coming up! Talk about the excitement and anxiety that may come up when playing a new venue.
A. Yes! We’re playing at one of our favorite venues, Prototype 237, on February 9th. Then on February 17th, we’re going to play at The Mill in Hartford, Connecticut! I’ve never even been to Connecticut, so I am very excited. Playing in a new place is one of my favorite things to do! Specifically, there is something about playing for people who have never seen our shows before that is really fun. We do some pretty unexpected things in our sets, and the reactions we get from new audience members are always really memorable for us. On the other hand, there is the pressure to make a good first impression. As a small artist, you’re always hoping that you perform well enough and that you draw enough of a crowd that the venue will ask you to come back. Those kinds of positive connections with people and venues mean everything.
Q. How important is it for people to recognize the value of young performers? Is there something you wish you knew when you first started making music?
A. I wish I knew that the quest for originality is paralyzing. Counterintuitively, I’ve found that originality comes from a complete embracing of your influences. Your creative voice is a melting pot. Creating is mixing together your favorite ideas from your favorite artists. The more you mix them together, the less recognizable those ideas become, and the more “original” they sound. You create in a context of your choosing. An artist both embraces and challenges that context.