You Should Know... The Ramona Flowers
YOU SHOULD KNOW | 002
The first thing you think of when you hear the name Ramona Flowers is of course Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and the character in it played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
This is not about her.
In fact, while five-piece band The Ramona Flowers are named after Michael Cera’s love interest in the 2010 movie, according to frontman Steve Bird it wasn’t a shared interest that resulted in the band’s name.
“I would like to say I’m a fan of the film - I have watched it - but it actually comes from our guitarist Sam, he’s the big fan,” he explains. “He fell in love with the character and then when we were looking for a name there were some terrible ones thrown around…”
It’s at this point I have to interject because it feels like Steve is about to gloss over the “terrible” names and I feel I’d be doing a disservice to the music-loving public if I didn’t find out what these names were.
“Winter Wolf was one of them,” he says rolling his eyes. “Wolf Like Millions was another - I think we were into wolves at the time but I don’t know why. And then there were some others I’ve just decided to forget about. So in the end we went with The Ramona Flowers because we all thought it sounded cool”
The Ramona Flowers consists of Steve Bird (vocals), Dave Betts (keys/guitar), Ed Gallimore (drummer), Sam Jones (guitar) and Wayne Jones (bass).
Their bio says the band was formed when Dave and Steve met at a fancy dress party, the former was dressed as Freddie Mercury and the latter as a vacuum cleaner. Then Ed joined after a girl Steve knew was stood up on a Tinder date by a “good-looking guy” who happened to be a professional drummer. The romance wasn’t to be, but Ed was soon drafted into the band’s line-up.
According to Steve, this wasn't the case.
“A few of them knew each other before,” he begins. “Sam, Wayne and Dave knew each other for a few years and were in a few other bands and then they were looking for a singer, I answered a Gumtree advert and now I’m in the band.”
How very rock & roll, right?
According to various critics, the best way to describe the sound of The Ramona Flowers is “dream pop”. Not offended by that description, Steve offers his own take on the band’s sound.
“I’d call it synth indie pop,” he begins. “On our first two albums we definitely did hop around different genres but on our new album we’ve definitely found what it is we wanna be. It’ll develop and evolve like most bands’ sounds do, but for now that’s what it is.”
What struck me the first time I ever listened to The Ramona Flowers was the similarities they had to bands such as Wild Beasts, Phoenix and Hercules and Love Affair.
The airy florescent feel the music of these bands oozed, especially their earlier work, mirrored the music The Ramona Flowers make, especially on new tracks such as “Seeing Double”, “Venice”, “Ghost”, and previous standout "Tokyo" (from their 2014 album Dismantle and Rebuild). So it’s no surprise to learn that some of these bands were an influence on them.
“Everything Everything and bands like that were definitely an influence on us,” Steve admits. “Phoenix is another one. M83 is a band we all love. And then from a lyricist standpoint, Ryan Adams is a big influence on me personally, I think he’s an amazing storyteller.”
Deciding to then bag on one of his bandmates’ musical taste, Steve jokes, “Ed’s massively into jazz and stuff like that so when we’re not doing songs he plays weird jazz beats and we’re just like, ‘Stop that.’
"So while he’s into that, we’re all into the electronic bands I already mentioned, as well as the likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Wild Beasts.”
Having already alluded to it earlier in the interview, Steve elaborates on the band’s new album Strangers, an album he considers to be his favourite of the band’s entire back catalogue.
“It’s a very upbeat album in terms of the music,” he says. “However, some of the lyrics are pretty dark. Some of it is about relationships and break ups because there were a few things going on in the band during the creation of the album and I ended up commentating on a lot of it. But there’s also some party songs on it too.”
While The Ramona Flowers are a relatively new band in terms of a commercial audience they’ve actually been touring for a pretty long time and have a substantial following abroad in places like Japan and Italy. With an arsenal of funny international tour stories, one in particular stands out to Steve.
“There was this time we were touring America,” he begins. “Our manager wasn’t with us and we were going to Canada. He told us: ‘When you cross the border the border control will be really strict so don’t get too pissed, everyone be on their best behaviour.’ So I decided to get really pissed just to piss him off.
“So we got there and the rest of the band got off the bus. Border control then asked if there was anyone else on the bus and they said ‘Yeah, one more,’ and at that point I came out in just my football shorts, hair all over the place, no shoes and I slipped down the stairs of the bus. Laughing, I said hello to them and they just said, ‘Sir, could you go and put some shoes on,’ so I did and luckily they still let us through.”
Whether it’s touring with big names such as Bastille and Stereophonics, or Bono recruiting the band’s producer after he heard his daughter listening to “Lust and Lies”, the lead single from the band’s 2013 EP of the same name, it’s fair to say that The Ramona Flowers have a few fans in high places.
While Steve isn’t sure whether Oasis are fans of his band’s work, he did meet both Noel and Liam Gallagher a few times when he worked in a Stone Island store before The Ramona Flowers were even a thought.
“I spoke to Noel a lot. I had it in my mind that I was gonna give him some of my music but I just never had the balls to do it,” he explains. “Noel’s the type of person to tell you to your face that your music is shit.
“He’d give us tickets to Oasis gigs and stuff like that. He came in once and asked us, ‘Have you got tickets for the Wembley show?’ We said no and he gave us his PA’s number and said, ‘Get as many as you like,’ which was nice.
“Liam used to come in as well but he’d never really say much.”
Already thinking ahead, whether it’s five years, 10 years or even 15 years, Steve says the band just wants to keep on pushing for further recognition and enjoy their time performing.
“We wanna get out there more and get more exposure,” he says as we wrap up the interview. “That’s the hardest thing we’re finding, having people find out who we are. We want to get to the point where we’re just touring constantly and kinda dictating our own destiny, deciding what we want to do.
“The more success you get the more control you have over what you wanna do artistically and in every other way. I hope we’re around for another 10 years, we’re aiming to be, we want to be.
"So hopefully there will be another six or seven albums. There will be the weird psychedelic acoustic album, our covers album...” Pausing for a moment, he then jokes, “And the Hip Hop one.”
The Ramona Flowers’ new album Strangers is out on Friday May 18th. You can pre-order it here.