February 11, 2016
It’s fun to catch up with former Hood River bands that are out and about our great USA, and it’s even a better feeling to know sometimes musical alumni are catching up on our local news.
I suppose, after all, the Hood River News is a main source for local parking meter rate stories, and this latest interview with the band Flor (formerly known as Sunderland) proves that our “little stories” do travel far and wide, and, more importantly, when folks read stories about the town they grew up in — even about a price change in parking — that will cause reflection on what is changing and how different it used to be.
Guitarist McKinley Kitts, multi-instrumentalist Zach Grace and bassist Dylan Bauld are the Hood River founding members of Flor, and two years ago they moved down to LA with drummer Kyle Hill (of Tualatin) to persue the music life.
By 2013, the group had toured nationally several times and had won a band contest giving them an opening slot for a Panic! at the Disco concert in the midwest. As Sunderland, the band released several CDs/EPs of original pop/rock music.
McKinley was kind enough to bring me up to date with the new band name, news of an exciting trip to the U.K., some insights to the complex world of the music business and ends with a nice letter of reflection on why Hood River still matters to him.
Interview with McKinley Kitts
You guys started out as “Sunderland” and now you're “Flor.” Why did the band change and what does "Flor" mean?
We had some amazing experiences being in Sunderland after high school, but it wasn't where we wanted to be as we got older. We moved to LA in 2013 and that's when the idea for a new project started coming together. Zach had been writing some new music that was a totally different sound than anything we had done before, and it quickly became apparent that he was doing something special.
We started working with new management and they helped us form the vision for creating Flor. From day one we felt that it was important to have the visual element of the band play a large role in our releases and social media presence, from album artwork to Instagram posts. We wanted a simple name that would allude to something beautiful, and "flor" is flower in Portuguese. Clean and simple, we loved it.
What record company did you sign with?
We signed with a label out of NYC called Fueled by Ramen, and they are under Atlantic. Some of our label-mates are Twenty One Pilots, Panic! at the Disco, Paramore, and other really amazing artists. We are focused on our debut album right now, hoping to have it finished by late April.
Does the new band name mean that the music is really different from Sunderland style?
Definitely. Even though we're the same guys, there isn't anything in common musically. Zach is the singer now, and the musical style doesn't sound like Sunderland at all. Dylan signed a publishing deal independently as well for production and writing, so his producing paired with Zach's has led to pretty unique recordings.
You mentioned a U.K. tour coming up, can you tell us some details on that?
We're supporting an amazing singer named Halsey on the U.K. dates, along with Borns. We will be over there for about three weeks. The first 10 days we have a house rented in London where we'll be writing and recording for our album, then we'll head to Glasgow and start the run down back to London. Zach is the only one of us that has ever been over there, so it's going to be a pretty amazing experience for the band.
Does a new "Flor" album exist? What is it called and where can people find it?
There's a four-song EP on Spotify and Apple Music called the "Sounds EP". Just search "flor sounds" and anyone can listen. And our social media "handle" for twitter and Instagram is @florsounds.
Is there anything on the schedule this year that would include the Northwest/Portland or even Hood River?
We're working on our summer/fall touring schedule, and we'll definitely be in the Northwest at some point. Probably not playing any shows in Hood River, but Portland is likely.
Anything else you'd like to tell the good folks in Hood River?
This little town is such a special place. That has become more and more apparent to us as we get older and see more of the world. Thank you to our families and friends and anyone that supported us since we graduated and started pursuing this. It's such a relief to know we can go home and feel safe and comfortable when we need to. (Except we heard the parking meter rates are being raised, what's up with that?!)
Being raised in Hood River has given us a unique perspective on "success" in the entertainment world, and it has kept us grounded from day one to now.