Flasher on “Constant Image”

Your Self-Producing Machine

Nov 07, 2018 Photography by Jen Dessinger Issue #64 -  Kamasi Washington
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I changed a Flasher lyric. No, really. When the Washington, D.C. trio first dropped their deterministic anthem "Skim Milk" back in March, the line "garment of vivid pink" sounded to me like "gone in a vivid pink." So I mentioned this mondegreen to the gang in our interview, and said I was disappointed that wasn't actually correct. There's a pause on the line, punctuated by drummer Emma Baker's laugh. "It is now!" bassist Daniel Saperstein replies.

That's Flasher for youeven in their short lifespan as a democratic unit, the band of veteran scenesters have cultivated a space for flux. Back in 2016, their first EP bellowed cryptic messages about mutable, multiple selves in post-punk monochrome. Now, on Constant Image, their neon-lighted debut full-length, on Domino, those coded signals pulse between curious synth squiggles and resolute college rock jangle. "What we're trying to do is create a kind of self-producing machine, that can harbor the space for contradictory identities," Saperstein explains. "We want to find new avenues of connecting to our songs that were impossible when we first started writing them."

Flasher began as bands often dofrom the pieces of another band. In this case, Baker and guitarist Taylor Mulitz had forged a new group called Young Trynas with bassist Eva Moolchan. When Moolchan parted ways to kick off her own razor-sharp project Sneaks ("Something much greater," Baker adds. "Much respect!"), Saperstein stepped in to complete the circle.

Meanwhile, Mulitz also still ran with the mighty Priestsbut when Domino signed Flasher last year, he knew he'd have to shift gears. "It just got to the point where it was physically impossible for me to be in two places at once," he says. "When we sat down and talked about it, [and] realistically tried to schedule'Okay, if we're going to record in November, when are we gonna write the record?' And when I really sat down and looked at the calendar, I was like, 'Wow, I honestly have no idea.'"

With Constant Image, the three members of Flasher aim for a holistic sort of post-structuralism, one that their fans can plug into and tinker with. Whenever we discuss conflicting conceptslike, in "Harsh Light," external pressures vs. internal dread, or consumption vs. the consumed in "Go"Saperstein reminds me that both sides "necessarily" persist at once, each informing the other. Meanwhile, "Material" urges listeners to embrace their mere physical existence as valid, and to resist "readymade" identities. "[Your material reality] is the only place from which you can cultivate resistance to oppression and depression," Saperstein explains. "You can actually harness your depression and make connections with your friends. You can make cool shit."

On the creative process, too, Flasher strives to reject artificial boundaries. Lyrics are written cooperatively, with plenty of room for analysis from both within and without. "[We're] trying to cultivate a space where power doesn't lie in the roles that we play in the band, in terms of classic 'band rules,'" explains Saperstein. That deeply interactive process leads to such writing exercises as "Sun Come and Golden," a canvas populated with fully-rendered "objects" that could've been traced from Roxy Music's Avalon.

My modest suggestion, then, is only another step in Flasher's endless quest for flux. Ultimately, the band hopes that their ever-shifting album can inspire others to reorient themselves from static paranoia to boundless fluidity. "We're trying to take really seriously the idea of having hope in a world of utopian politics," Saperstein stresses. "It's about not accepting your circumstances, but really giving yourself up to the contingency of life."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Issue 64 (August/September/October 2018), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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