Flobots, The Circle in the Square: Jonny 5's track-by-track breakdown of the new album
- Jonny 5 reflects on the Occupy Movement and the new album, 11/11
- Flobots ink deal with Shanachie Entertainment, 4/12
- Flobots no longer on Universal Records, 12/10
- Q&A: Jonny 5 of Flobots on Survival Story, 3/10
- The Fray Scars & Stories: A track-by-track breakdown from Isaac Slade and Joe King
It's been two and a half years since Flobots released their last record, the presciently titled, in retrospect, Survival Story, on Universal Republic. While it turned out to be the group's major label swan song, it was not a death knell -- nor was it half as bad as some critical assessments would have you believe, or as some might've inferred from the act's subsequent split with Universal. In fact, it was actually rather good, in much the same way that Pinkerton is vastly superior to "The Blue Album" by Weezer: While it may not have been as well received commercially, it was much better considered artistically.
Survival Story, Flobots sophomore album, was released on March 16, 2010.
Thematically, from the concept to Jonathan Till's masterful artwork, it was a more vibrant expression. And while Story didn't produce another blockbuster single on par with "Handlebars," it also didn't boast the same kind of heavy-handed sloganeering that often weighed down the outfit's debut. Quite a bit's happened in the intervening years since Flobots first piqued the interest of Universal honcho Monty Lipman, who was evidently impressed enough with the group and what he heard that his label ended up essentially re-releasing the independent, self-produced version of Fight with Tools as is, a rather unique proposition for any freshly inked act.
The act, of course, soon took the world by storm with the tuneful, initially endearing, but ultimately grating "Handlebars," and parlayed that cresting acclaim into a second record that seemingly underwhelmed more fickle music fans. As a result, Universal presumably lost interest and moved on to newer, shinier objects. The band parted ways with the label in December 2010, and not too long after that the outfit also split with founding guitarist, Andy Guerrero, and then spent most of 2011 keeping a relatively low profile. Whatever momentum that had been generated at that point appeared to begin to diminish. A lesser band might've folded, and it appeared that we may have seen the last of Flobots.
Fight With Tools, Flobots major label debut, was released on May 20, 2008.
Turns out, the remaining members took some time off to recharge and devote their attention to other things, like catching up with friends and family, tending to Flobots.org, their non-profit, or maybe just even living a little, all of which allowed them to regain their focus. For their part, Jamie Laurie and Stephen Brackett (known to the rest of the world outside of Denver as Jonny 5 and Brer Rabbit) took a trip to the Middle East.
That sojourn and the subsequent burgeoning, grassroots uprising that had begun to take shape in this country ended up providing the pair with ample inspiration when the two reconvened with the others and started working on new material. Eventually, the quintet headed back into the studio -- the Blasting Room with Jason Livermore, on their own dime this time -- where they were free to follow their own muse, on their own timeline, without any sort of pressure or scrutiny.
"Well, you know, I think the industry as a whole, in many ways, is crumbling," Laurie noted in a previous interview this past November, while Flobots were still working on the new record at the Blasting Room. "It's not crumbling for artists. It's crumbling for the industry. So it feels really good and freeing to be on our time table. I think from an artistic standpoint, it's a psychological game. When there's someone else involved, it affects you, even if they don't affect you. If you're spending your time making sure that you're not making a song that somebody else would want you to make, it becomes this weird sort of mind trip.
"And there's no mind games right now," he added. "It's all us. It's all about the music we want to make. The Blasting Room is great. They listen to us. They say, 'What's the vision for the song?' and they help us implement it. I think, in many ways, we feel all of the perks and benefits and responsibilities of being completely independent."