Many lively, soulful bands have come out of New Orleans. One of these is Flow Tribe, a group of reunited high school friends who got serious about making music together after Hurricane Katrina hit their beloved hometown. Flow Tribe is still going strong today—they’re currently in the middle of an expansive U.S. tour, and they just released the album BOSS, which was produced by hip-hop legend Mannie Fresh.
Recently, we spoke with K.C. O’Rorke, Flow Tribe’s lead vocalist and trumpet player, to talk BOSS, touring, and more. Read on to learn about the band’s collaboration with Fresh, personal recording studio, and love for the New Orleans music scene.
TYF: Let’s start off by introducing Flow Tribe to the readers who haven’t heard of them yet. If you had to choose three adjectives to describe your sound, what would you say?
K.C. O’Rorke: Adjectives… What if it’s an adverb? (Laughs) I’d say “energetic,” “soulful,” and… Are these adjectives?
TYF: Yep, they’re adjectives.
O’Rorke: I’m trying to go back to my grammar lessons. And “super-fun.”
TYF: Good ones. Right now, you’re on a cross-country tour. Are there any especially funny or interesting stories from the road you’d like to share?
O’Rorke: There’s always something crazy going on. Just traveling and trying not to get your car towed, you know? I can’t think of anything particular that happened on this tour so far, but we’re moving along. We just got through New York. It’s always nice to see the different places in the country and how people react differently.
TYF: Out of all the places you’ve been, is there one that stands out as your favorite city?
O’Rorke: Well, being from New Orleans sets kind of a high bar. You know, going from that… It’s just so much fun and everything. But we really love playing San Francisco and Washington, D.C. But every town has a unique flavor, and it’s great to see how different people come in and contribute to the overall sound.
TYF: Now, let’s talk about your new album, BOSS. I read that it was produced by Mannie Fresh. How did Flow Tribe get in touch with him?
O’Rorke: Our manager actually worked with him about a year and a half ago, and casually mentioned that Mannie mentioned that he would do it. We were thrilled. I mean, that’s the guy who produced the greatest hip-hop of the 2000s, the kind of stuff I grew up with. And he’s still making great music. And you know, being from New Orleans, it’s kind of a natural collaboration. The way we wanted to do this album was with a funk/soul approach and have it produced with a DJ and kind of have a hip-hop production feel to it. So he was kind of the perfect guy for that. Initially, we just recorded a single with him. But after going in the studio and hitting it off, we were like, “This is something. This is great.” And he was like, “Man, I’d love to do an album with you guys.” So we just kind of signed up and said, “Let’s do a whole album.” That’s how it took off.
TYF: How was it a different experience than the albums you’ve created in the past?
O’Rorke: I think with this album, we definitely had a theme in mind. The way the songs were set up, it was kind of going in a certain direction. And then with Mannie on board, he definitely had his own idea of how to do things. But it was really a great collaboration of what we do naturally as a band and his talents that he brought as a hip-hop producer. So it was cool to have the best of both worlds and see what we got out of it.
TYF: What would you say are some of the most memorable lessons you took away from working with him?
O’Rorke: Just this crazy professionalism. I mean, he got there at 9 AM and was probably in there till midnight. Very committed to making the best product possible and also having the freedom to explore different ideas, different avenues. It was very refreshing. You know, a lot of the time, a big producer will try to get things done in the studio cause time is money and stuff, but he definitely brought us in to play and talk to us. It was like, “Okay, man, we can loosen up and throw in some tangents and stuff, and then we need to get back to the album.”
TYF: Out of all the songs on the album, is there one that stands out as most fun to play live?
O’Rorke: I would say the lead single, “You Know What It’s About.” And you can see that in the crowd’s reaction. Everybody gets crazy and stuff when we play that. And the video was so much fun to make. I think it’s just one of those songs that’s got an infectious beat. Like, when you hear it, you can’t help but dance.
TYF: You’re currently building Downman Sounds, your own studio, in New Orleans. Can you tell me some more about this project?
O’Rorke: Yeah. It’s been in the works for a while. It’s definitely going to be a hub of creativity. Since we are on the road a lot, we do play with a lot of bands, nationwide, so really the goal of the studio is to reach out to those guys. It’s basically a practice space, a place to collaborate, and on our end, it’s going to function as a place to record music. We’ll do all our albums there. We’ll shoot videos there and also reach out to artists to join us in there and make some pretty cool stuff. So I just see it really as a hub of creativity and experimentation, and it’s going to be great once it gets rolling.
TYF: How far along are you with the building of the studio right now?
O’Rorke: I would say we’re really close to being done. Fingers crossed, by the end of the summer, we’ll be ready to move in and start cranking out some stuff. We have used it already, in some capacity. We’re definitely all waiting with bated breath to get this thing poppin’ and really start producing some crazy stuff.
TYF: All of you are from New Orleans. What would you say is the best thing about the New Orleans music scene?
O’Rorke: I think the best thing about the New Orleans music scene is the sense of community. It’s a very open community to work with when you’re coming up. You see these incredible dudes, guys and gals, that have been doing this for 40, 50 years, but they always hang out after a show and they’ll show you how to do it a certain way and give you a little history lesson on something. It’s a very supportive community. It’s not cutthroat, and it’s a great place to learn music and to be inspired by music. We’re really lucky to have been from there and to continue to contribute to that community.
TYF: Flow Tribe has been around since 2004, so you have a lot of musical experience. Do you have any advice for readers who are interested in writing or performing music?
O’Rorke: Yeah! I think the main thing is, if you’re going to perform music live, just play as much as possible. Just get out there. Get out on the streets, busking—you know, whatever. Just get that experience, and once you have that, it really can’t be taken away. And also, don’t be afraid to fail, and continue to write every day, and try to be inspired by everything life throws at you. You know, you could write 100 terrible songs before you get to that one good song. Don’t be discouraged, and enjoy yourself along the way.
TYF: Good advice. Finally, is there anything else you’d like to say to the readers before we wrap this up?
O’Rorke: Just make sure you check out BOSS on Spotify and all the streaming sites.