By Harriet Kaplan
Swedish indie duo Flora Cash featuring husband and wife Cole Randall and Shpresa Lleshaj’s music showcases “lush haunting, melodies, romantic lyrics and moody guitar work.” The band is the “product of a transatlantic love affair that began on Soundcloud in 2012, where they first traded their tunes — falling in love with them, then, each other.” Cole and Shpresa recently spoke to BoC about their exciting, immediate romantic and artistic connection, writing and collaborating as a married couple and how that effects and colors the process, inspiration for their first three EPs, working in the studio and self producing, touring, and coming up with a touring, story/concept for their video to accompany their new song, “Pharaoh” from their latest album, “Can Summer Love Last Forever.”
You both met through Soundcloud posting your own individual music and that led to a “Skype” relationship. It was purely a musical relationship at one point because of your shared love of music and influences? Initially, what exactly drew you both two together and why?
Shpresa: Well, I found Cole’s music. I had been posting music that was the result of collaboration between a Stockholm based producer and myself. During that time, I would sometimes search around SoundCloud for inspiring new music and on one of these occasions- I came across Cole’s tracks. I loved it right away (like… REALLY loved it) and started commenting on a few of the tracks. He then took a listen to my music and loved what I was doing as well. We both really “got” what the other was doing. Eventually that led to us adding each other to Facebook where at first we discussing mostly music and the possibility for some long-distance collaboration… Those conversations got more and more personal and strayed more and more away from the music… But yeah, a lot of the initial draw was the music but I don’t think either of us would shy away from admitting that it was never “purely a musical relationship.” There was a little bit of flirtation on both our parts at the very beginning.
Shpresa it seemed pretty fearless of you to fly to Minneapolis to meet Cole? Did you ever see it as risky and what were your expectations and how did things unfold there to give birth so to speak to form Flora Cash?
Shpresa: I saw risks but I was like, 99% sure of what I was getting into… After you Skype day in and day out with someone for 5 months, you become pretty intensely familiar with them. I had also actually met a lot of Cole’s family on Skype so had an idea of some of the other people I’d be meeting. I never felt unsafe. For me the main risk was, ‘what if after we finally meet each other in person, he’s no longer interested’ or something along those lines. Luckily, it all worked out. The way that our relationship in “real life” evolved and grew for the first two months was the thing that brought shape and gave life to Flora Cash.
What was the inspiration for your first three EPs and did you see your songwriting and evolve and change over time? How do you both collaborate together? Have things changed your creative partnership dramatically because you’re both married now?
Cole: It sounds cheesy but especially for our first three EPs, our actual relationship was the main inspiration. We were basically always singing TO each other as much as WITH each other, in celebration of this relationship that we’d both dreamed about for years (a situation where the person you love most in the world is the one with whom you do the thing you love most in the world.) With this new mini-LP, we changed paths just a bit and approached the songs from a vantage point slightly outside of our relationship – kind of a parallel reality where maybe things hadn’t gone as well as they did.
Shpresa: We collaborate differently depending on our mood but usually we write all of our songs with pretty equal input. Sometimes it starts with a guitar riff, sometimes it starts with a melody or even just the lyrics. Then we work together, get frustrated, get joyful, get angry, get inspired and work our butts off until we end up with something we both love. I don’t think our process has changed all that much since we got married… other than in the way things always change – you either get better and grow or you stagnate. Our focus is on continuing to evolve.
Do you find it helpful and have learned you’ve both grown a lot creatively enough to work with a producer in the studio versus recording and producing on your own?
Cole: We’re open to working with a producer… we’d love to actually, if the right person came along. But at this point, growing creatively means, for us – learning to be better and better producers ourselves, in addition to becoming better songwriters. That’s why we made the conscious decision to take on the challenge of fully self-producing this recent album, which we believe to be our best work to date.
Have you both toured before forming Flora Cash or is it your first time and what has that been like?
Shpresa: We had both toured some before Flora Cash and quite extensively as Flora Cash. We took a short break throughout 2015 to focus on the writing and producing but we’re excited to be getting back on the road! There’s nothing like taking the songs to a live audience. And we’re really excited to perform these new songs.
I was just watching the video for Pharaoh. It’s gritty, dangerous and mysterious. Did you both come up with the concept and story for it? What inspired it?
Cole: The story for Pharaoh was actually drafted by Christofer Nilsson of Mohave Media, so we can’t take credit for that. But it was a story that we had the option to reject and to be honest, we wondered in the beginning whether it might be too dark for Flora Cash. After giving it some thought, reading the concept and then re-reading it… we agreed that it was brilliant and decided it was worth taking a chance on. Christofer really delivered on the vision we had hoped for going into the process and we can’t say enough good things about the end result. You’d have to ask him what initially inspired the idea!