Floral is one of those band that has surely reached your ear by now.
Since 2014, the band has been dropping gorgeous, hook-y cuts of math rock that reliably shower their audience with flurries of fretwork and frenetic drums. But the band has been up to a whole lot more than that, as guitarist Nate Sherman graciously told us on Instagram Live a few weeks back.
In the following transcript, read about the band’s newest project Elaine the Singer, the band’s early inspirations, and the secrets of Nate’s juicy guitar tone below. Enjoy!
FB: Thanks for joining us everyone, it’s awesome to see you all, especially Nate here. We might be able to get Ty here, but… other than that, how have you been?
Nate: I’m chill! I’m in Chicago right now, I’m visiting my girlfriend, we were considering moving here before COVID hit. We might still do it, but of course the virus pumped the breaks on it a little bit.
FB: Of course. Beautiful scene down there, I’ve only been down there a couple times.
Nate: It really does have a vibe! More so than the bay area right now, I would cautiously say. There is a lot of good stuff out here.
We were in talks with this label called Skeletal Lightning, they have a lot of Chicago bands. I told them we were considering moving out there, and the dude who runs that label gave me a bunch of dope resources so we’ll see.
FB: Oh that’s awesome, I hope that whatever you do continues to work out for you. What’s the last show you played?
Nate: The last show we played was our release show, at Bottom of the Hill. Are you Bay Area??
Nate: Oh, okay, so same time zone.
FB: Yeah, I just come down there for shows, there are only a couple spots to hit per tour here. But anyway, congratulations on the new album, it’s amazing.
Nate: Thank you, I was glad we were able to do a mini album cycle before this stuff happened. We ended on a really good note, like one of the biggest shows we’d played, a whole great tour with standards., and it all went really well, and we were glad we could just slide one in right before the shut down.
FB: Nice! I think my last show was with Hikes, who I’ve seen you play with a few times now.
Nate: Oh yeah, they’re so awesome. We played with them on that tour twice.
FB: I saw some footage with you guys using Hikes’ drum set, and I remembered every night that I’d played with Hikes I’d keep thinking, “God, those drums sound so good.”
Nate: Yeah, Chris is the GOAT.
FB: So for that people aren’t as familiar with Floral or the band’s history, when did you start playing guitar?
Nate: I started playing guitar when I was 14 probably. I’d been playing since I was 10 on and off, but I didn’t take it seriously till 17 or 18 when I started playing more Floral sounding stuff.
But Ty,he’s been playing guitar maybe even longer. And on the new record, there is all these parts where there are double guitars and no drums, and that’s all him!
FB: No way! So some of those guitar parts are more collaborative, or both of your ideas?
Nate: Yeah, at least for this newest record. I wrote most of the basic song structures and riffs, then we’d be like “we could do this part without drums, and add another guitar here.” That’s where those sections on the new record are born from.
We’ve been working on new stuff where Ty has come to me with fully written songs, so it looks like Floral is going to have dual guitars in the future…
FB: *avoids disintegrating* Whoa, that’s really cool to hear. Sometimes transitions like that are like, so different, but when you’re open to it, you never know what will come out.
Nate: I mean we put out three records in the same format, so I’d be stoked to add another part to it, some more dimension.
FB: Can you tell me how that Daisy Rock became the guitar for you? Is it important to your tone?
Nate: (laughs) Well, it was my mom’s guitar. My mom’s also a musician. That was really the only electric guitar she owned at the time, and I needed something that I didn’t feel bad about doing whacked-out tunings on.
I had a Strat and an Ibanez, but I didn’t want to potentially mess those up. But with the Daisy Rock, I was like “Mom, I’m just going to tune this really whack.” So basically it was completely circumstantial, but it just sort of stuck and aesthetically it fit the theme with bright red finish and star inlays (laughs).
FB:Yeah it very much fits the visual, it’s a “floral” guitar. Do you use it for recording?
Nate: Yeah, every record.
FB: It’s really a juicy tone, like it’s got a fluid, three-dimensional quality to it. I don’t know if you’ve played the same songs on different guitars, but do you feel like it adds to your tone or is important in any way?
Nate: I’ve definitely never had any qualms with the sound of the guitar. If I felt like I needed to upgrade, I would, but I just haven’t. I don’t know if they’re still around though, is the thing!
FB: Is it like a Les Paul scale where it’s a little bit shorter?
Nate: It’s definitely a little bit shorter, they make “girl” guitars, it was their whole brand, so they’re light, they’re short (laughs). But for me, I can really shred on it, so…
FB: Well, maybe I’ll keep an eye out on Craigslist! So, Floral the band versus the whole Floral aesthetic… well, let’s start with where the name Floral came from?
Nate: It kind of came to be because the name Florist and the name Botanist were already taken (laughs.) Yeah, and we knew we wanted to have that sort of aesthetic, and also being instrumental music, it lends itself to that imagery, it’s a little more abstract, not associated with humans or human concerns, does that make sense?
I had a friend once say that “music with lyrics is a commentary on life, where music without lyrics is a commentary on form.” We wanted to step away from thinking about human concern and more about nature, patterns that emerge in nature.
FB: That’s super cool. That sort of reminds of of Hikes yet again. they worked on a farm together before they were a band I guess, and that sort of comes across in those lyrics, their concern for nature, the environment. Which you’re right, doesn’t always happen in music with lyrics a lot. But yeah, nature and music, definitely related!
Nate: Yeah. But the name wasn’t like half-assed, I just kept saying things like “what about Botanist?” Taken. “What about Florist?” Taken. “Floral?” It wasn’t even me that came up with the name, it was my friend Jack, shout out!
FB: How important is the album artwork to you? Are you involved with that?
Nate: Well, the first two records were in collaboration with our friend Timmy’s sister, Katherine Linetsky, who does really great visual art. She sent me some concepts, and I’d edit them later in photoshop. It was really out of necessity to be honest, I was 18, I didn’t have a ton of money to pay someone, but I was into messing around on photoshop.
But for the newest record I wanted to branch out from the mirrored psychedelic thing though and go for something a little more freeform, but also more intentional. So I reached out to Breanna Utz who did the first Snooze record, and I really like that record. I have it on a T-shirt.
But I just really like her style and penmanship and style, and told her that I wanted the same gestures of the first two records, but not mirrored, first try, she nailed the artwork. It was the perfect progression from what I’d done with Kathrine on the first two. Shout out Breanna!
FB: Shout out indeed! I asked that one because it’s obviously different from the first two, but it’s not unrelated. The art’s super deep, maybe even a little more explorative… on this record, were you thinking more intentionally?
Nate: You’re definitely right about that. We almost had all the songs done for the second Floral EP as first one came out, they were written at almost exactly the same time, and written as a result of exploring new ways of playing guitar. But this new record, I wrote it out, I already knew the techniques I wanted to play, much more intentionally written.
FB: The melodies last longer almost on this one, I can see writing it out making that happen a lot more naturally. But some of the coolest shit you do happens in like, two seconds! How often do you change tuning on guitars?
Nate: Never. Well, I guess the first two are BF#BF#BF#, and the new one CGCGCG. Same intervals, a half step up.
FB: My GOD, that’s… How did you come up with that?
Nate: My guitar teacher Mike Finley, shout out, a Palo Alto guy, his brother Jimmy. Shout out. One day he handed me this guitar and was like “check this out, my brother plays in this tuning,” and I was like “oh, this makes a lot of sense in my mind.” I didn’t start getting good at guitar till I discovered that tuning, it’s like drop-B on top of itself.
FB: Have you ever considered moving into the extended range realm?
Nate: I have considered it! But I’m already at a low C to a high G, so I’m lower and higher than a standard six string guitar, so it seems like it would just be ridiculous. Especially if I kept the same intervals. I’d have to come up with a new tuning.
I’ve definitely messed around with 8 strings though, and I come from a bass background so having those really thick strings was really cool for me, but I think I’d mess around with other 6 string tunings before extended range, it’s almost scary… oh, Layla’s in the chat! Shout out, she’s been with us on both ArcTanGent adventures, and has been a good friend of the band since the beginning. Anyway I do like seven strings, and I like the sound of the as well, but I only have five fingers.
FB: You do something that I think should be easier on a 7 string really well on your 6 string, that sort of cold hammer-on, fret before you strum then thump with your thumb technique.
Nate: A thicker string on a 7 would probably help, but my low C is already close a .60 guage. Marcos from standards. taught me how to do that.
And also, to answer FALCON_LORD’s question, when Ty plays guitar in Floral, he plays in DADGAD but in C, so CGFCGC.
FB: Speaking of Ty, when did you start working together?
Nate: We’ve been playing music for a very long time, almost ten years I’d say. We were in a band called Parent Guardian where I played bass and he played guitar and sang. He started living with me, then one day I was like “check out this riff,” and it was “Climbing A Wall,” so then he got on drums and that was it.
FB: So cool. Definitely something to be said for those situations you don’t expect where the music just starts flowing unexpectedly and you gotta run with it.
Nate: Yeah we didn’t have the intention of Floral going this far in the beginning. But we’ve been playing music together since out late teens, and we do other projects together like Elaine the Singer coming out soon, Winery is his solo stuff on Bandcamp, I played bass on that as well.
Nate: That is instrumental math rock music written by Ty, featuring our good friend Kevin Murray playing drums on it. It’s sort of channeling a little more dissonant, a little more heavy, picked not tapped… I don’t know if you guys are into Town Portal or Three Trapped Tigers but edgier type stuff like that.
FB: Those are some heavy name drops man! Well… what’s your favorite flower?
Nate: I like Orchids. Full disclosure, I’m not a botanist, but I think orchids are cool because they thrive on neglect, not a lot of water.
A_WHALE_AND_A_DEER: Do you guys think/imagine a riff or just jam until you find something you like?
Nate: The easy way to answer that is yes. I will form a riff without drums and bring it to Ty, and we’ll loop it together and he’ll come up with a new drum part.
FB: How did you meet my homies Sloth and Turtle?
Nate: Just through playing shows! I think the Orchard House in Santa Rosa might be the first time that I met those guys. They’re really awesome, there are a lot of good instrumental math bands in the bay, but they had a level of polish I really respected and all their shows are impeccably good. The guys and us got along really well, and Linden invited us to record the Elaine the Singer record with them which we did in December, and it sounds great.
FB: Awesome, I miss those guys. They have a really sick pedal situation. Can you tell us how the song “Aquarius Theatre” got it’s name?
Nate: Oh that’s easy! There is a theatre is Palo Alto that Ty used to work at, and that’s it (laughs).
FB: So on the Floral EP, you can find something called Nate’s Life at Berkeley. What am I reading?
Nate: Oh, that was a funny poem that Ty threw up there when I went to college. I forgot that was there, to be honest!
FB: So of all the bands you couldn’t name your band, from Botanist, to Florist, to even the OTHER Floral… which is your favorite?
Nate: I would have to say Botanist. They’re a bay are black metal band with two hammer-dulcimers instead of guitars, so you can’t really beat that as far as cool factor goes. They have a really unique sound, I’ve never heard a band that sounds like them.
FB: I’ll check that out. So in the next six months, it’s safe to say we won’t be playing shows, so what do you see yourself doing in that time?
Nate: Well, Elaine the Singer EP is coming out on the 30th, big plug for that, and we have a few videos coming out for that and hopefully those go as far as they can. We haven’t started writing seriously yet for another LP, but we’re trying to find a way to make a most out of this time in regards to Floral. We’re just starting to do that but I’ve also started building a modular synthesizer.<
We each have our own personal projects. So in the next six months, you’ll probably see Elaine the Singer, Ty Mayer solo record, Nate Sherman solo music as well that’s a little more on the electronic side of things, and hopefully some teasers of new Floral.
FB: Is it ever hard for you to just rest?
Nate: Yes. It’s not hard for me to not play guitar, I can take a long time from playing guitar, but that doesn’t mean I’m not writing music or learning something. I’ve been on a video editing kick lately, learning about all kinds of software and that kind of stuff, so yeah it’s definitely hard to just disengage. I’m always thinking about what I’m gonna do next musically.
FB: If I do nothing by watching TV or reading crap that doesn’t matter, I’ll beat myself up about not doing the art thing. But if I can go all the way, in sort of like that meditative state, it doesn’t feel like wasted time. But it changes every day, you know.
Nate: Yeah, and you definitely need that. You can’t make art in a vacuum obviously, even if it’s just instrumental art. You need some sort of outside influence or inspiration or you’ll end up disappointed. Some people can pump out a hundred trap beats a day, and I respect them deeply for that. But I’m starting to realize as I get older you need to take in the world around you.
FB: If you weren’t doing music, what would you be doing?
Nate: In college, I started in sound design, which is bordering on music. But maybe audio stuff for events, again pretty close to music. Visual art might be the other thing. I find that recently I get a similar fix from editing video together as I do putting together a song or series of riffs.
FB: It would be cool to see you work in video game sound design!
Nate: Yeah! That’s something I’m learning about, like Unity and implementation, sound design in it’s purest form it’s something I get a lot of joy out of, hence the modular synth. It’s a difficult industry to break into from what I understand. You have to love it just as much as you love being in your band, you can’t just do it as a fallback. But I’d be interested to know what studio Vinnie from Adebisi Shank went off to and play some of those games.
FB: Yeah some of those little *beeb boop* haunt me to this day.
USER: Do you have a practice routine?
Nate: No, not really! On this new record like I was saying before, I wrote it on Guitar Pro, so it was almost like I’d write stuff that was slightly too hard on purpose, and then I’d get better. But I have sort of realized a lot of runs and figures I end up going “up” starting with my thumb or something from a low to a high string, so I’ve been trying to intentionally flip everything around and not fall into those habits. Even if it sounds like shit!
As far as routine goes, all I can really say is try to identify what your weaknesses are and try to overcome them, but at the same time, what makes your playing unique is those strengths and weaknesses, things you do naturally. Lean into that, and don’t be afraid of those things.
DMTRWLF: Explain your signal chain for your two amp setup.
Nate: It’s very minimal, wait is that… oh, is that Dimitri that asked that? I sold him that Strandberg in his profile. Shout out Dimitri, shout out Inoculous! So the signal chain is guitar into a Boss CS-3, kind of the most brutal compressor you can buy. No transparency, just squashes everything down. That goes into a Radial AB/Y splitter, which is passive, and it goes into a Markbass amp and an Orange TH100.
In the effects loop of the TH100, I’ve been using the Hamarazu Boost from Ground Control Audio. For the longest time I used any old boost, but that was what I used on the last record and last tour. It’s pretty transparent, it’s just to get a little more bite. But it’s a very minimal setting compared to most people.
FB: Yeah. It’s cool that you and Marcos Mena have similar philosophies when it comes to guitar, that you don’t really need pedals to do what you want with guitar.
Nate: Yeah, he definitely takes a few more liberties with delay and stuff, but I definitely try to keep it clean as possible. Like maybe I should start messing with some pedal stuff like some Count to 5 madness or whatever, but there is so much I haven’t done yet with just the guitar. Obviously pedals are dope, just personally I haven’t felt the need to change anything.
FB: Well so far so good, I haven’t been bored for a second listening to any Floral record.
Nate: (laughs) I haven’t been bored writing it!
FB: What would you say is the most challenging song you’ve written?
Nate: Probably “80%.” I mean the reason it’s called that is because I really can only play it at 80% speed, when I wrote it in Guitar Pro, it was 20% faster, and when I got it to Ty he was like “yeah, we gotta slow it down,” and I was like “you’re probably right.”
On top of it being fast and busy, there are some weird fingerings where I have to stretch five or more frets. Second to that would probably be “A Shepards Bumfit.”
LAYLUHHH: Fave track off Elaine the Singer album?
Nate: Shout out, Layla, um… probably track 4. “Ultimate.” It was a newer song in the chronology. The record is really made up of half really new songs to me and really old songs to me. Some of them we’d been playing for four years, and we had a little demo out with some of them on it, but this is one of the newer ones.
USER: Pizza with or without pineapple?
Nate: Of course, I fuck with it. I didn’t realize there was any controversy over it till that whole thing came out.
USER: Any input on the best season of SNL?
Nate: I couldn’t tell you. I just don’t really watch it, you’d have to ask my parents!
DOLPHIN_LUNDGREN: What was the first ever math rock album you heard?
Nate: Shout out to Nikk from Fecking Bahamas! That’s a good question. I remember hearing Animals from TTNG right when it came out, and I was like “I don’t know if I like this.” But maybe a year later I was like “Yeah, I fuck with this.” I also remember on Youtube, seeing some really early CHON playthrough’s from like the 2008 era. That was probably the first time I became aware of music like that, instrumental stuff that wasn’t metal or Dream Theatre. That was really new and fresh to me and a huge inspiration for the first Floral record.
FB: That’s so cool, you both play so fast, too. You and CHON have such fast records, and I love fast music in general, I think it just comes from my punk background. What was that last time you heard a band that was so fast it just blew you away?
Nate: Um, Save Us from The Archon. Dead band, but Thereafter, when that came out, I was like “FUCK yeah,” that really hit a nerve. To this day I haven’t heard anyone pull out stops like that. Joe from Choke Artist that chowed me a record by Tenchio, and that was dope and in that same vein, but yeah, SUFTA was FAST.
FB: Dude, that was my favorite band for so long, a healthy transition from just… straight prog or metal.
Nate: Also Invalids, shout out Pete! That was actually a record I might have heard before Animals, Eunoia. I was really into metal for a long time, and I’m still into metal, but I was into it because you couldn’t get that speed in technicality in other genres. At least I thought. I wasn’t hearing music that wasn’t metal with that kind of technical expertise.
Now I’m not 100%, I don’t care if something is technical, but back then when I was looking for new music that was really important to me, and I got a lot out of metal for those reasons.
FB: Well, it would have been interesting to hear Floral as a metal band!
Nate: (laughs) I mean, Elaine the Singer isn’t quite metal, but it’s definitely bordering!
Check out the full interview on our Insta, or pop over to the Elaine the Singer and Floral Bandcamp pages for music, merch, and more.