Photo by Daniel Marty
Yoshi Flower is hard to pin down. After releasing his first single, “Movies,” The Fader described his sound as “early Lana Del Rey except if her partying involved EDM.” He can’t easily be confined to one genre, though—both lyrically and musically, his content is all over the board. His recent single “Just Cuz We’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Onto Us” blends the bounce of trap with the electricity of rock; meanwhile, “I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE,” the first track on his debut LP AMERICAN RAVER, is a sober ballad featuring the acoustic guitar. In his verses, he’s just as likely to sing about panic attacks as he is about Gucci and Wes Anderson.
Recently, we had the chance to give Yoshi Flower a call while he was on the road with SG Lewis. He talked to us about the new single, his philosophy of being authentic, and the enduring appeal of Romeo+Juliet.
TYF: First of all, what inspired your name?
Yoshi Flower: Just living life and waking up and keeping waking up, trying to wake up, pretty much.
TYF: You just released a video for your song “Just Cuz We’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Onto Us.” Can you tell us what it was like filming that?
Yoshi Flower: Filming the video was very surreal. It made me grateful that people gave a fuck to help me make something come to life. It was a lot of my friends and a couple of new friends that worked on the production side of it, and it was really validating that other people came together to be a part of something that I just dreamt up one night. It was cool.
TYF: Where did filming take place?
Yoshi Flower: We filmed in a desert like an hour and a half southeast of Los Angeles. We weren’t allowed to go too far off of the property that we filmed on because of rattlesnakes and what have you—desert hazards. There was definitely an element of “what the fuck” to the experience.
TYF: What inspired the lyrics of that song?
Yoshi Flower: The lyrics were inspired by getting through a dark time and being grateful that the person that really bore the brunt of that situation that I was going through stayed with me. Rather than it being a conflict, it was a moment of unconditional love. And it was a torrid time. I honestly felt, before I made that song, that I was losing my fucking mind. I worried a lot… I made [the song] in a burst of creativity that spewed out of me, and I didn’t think or have any intention about writing it. I made it very fast… But after I made it, and I’ve been asked a lot about it, it really made me realize that there’s something incredible about unconditional love. In the dark times and the worst of times, if somebody sticks with you, it’s the most powerful thing. Because it’s easy to be along for the ride when things are complacent or fitting the mold, and it’s really easy to be cast as an outside entity or to confuse mental health issues for being ungrateful. But if somebody stuck with me through a situation where I thought I was losing my fucking mind, I can’t ever forget that. And that song kind of just reminds me of that. I don’t know; it’s really hard to explain. I couldn’t explain the situation with any brevity, but maybe you could understand.
TYF: You’ve also released a cover of the Lana Del Rey song “Video Games.” What are some other songs that you might hypothetically want to cover in the future?
Yoshi Flower: Well, the day before I made that cover, when I was starting to rehearse for tour, I was thinking of all of the songs that [made me] remember being a young kid and being high for the first time. I remembered being at my house with a friend watching YouTube and seeing this random video and hearing the music—[“Video Games” by Lana Del Rey] and “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” by Arctic Monkeys… I was kind of working on a cover of “Motel Blues” by Rufus Wainwright. The song “Cowgirl in the Sand” by Neil Young… stuff that my dad put me onto. I also think it would be fun to cover some new stuff by Bearface or Brockhampton. I don’t have anything really planned. I just kinda do the covers on a whim. I made a cover of “Lithium” by Nirvana. When the moment strikes, I cover whatever’s cool.
TYF: In your song “Brown Paper Bag,” you talk about bullies. Were you bullied a lot in school?
Yoshi Flower: I mean, I had a couple dudes [bully me]. I have red hair, and I wore weird shit at school, and I was one of those hopeless romantics. I got beat up by some football dude for just trying to be a romantic to girls that I guess picked a different script for the types of people that they liked to surround themselves with. But I feel like I had the right amount of character building, really. Any shit that I thought was quirky when I was younger, now, it’s empowering me.
TYF: What were some of the quirks you had when you were younger?
Yoshi Flower: Wearing black skinny jeans and women’s clothing and being a class clown. And my hair was red and long, and my skin was ghastly white. And I thought things were funny and I liked to say things that I had a feeling people were thinking, but didn’t want to say. I still do that shit today. I don’t care if things are awkward if it’s true. I don’t ever want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but… I don’t know. I just try being my authentic self in any situation, for better or for worse. People might fucking hate me, or people might like me, or people might not even notice me. But if I’m just being my authentic self, I can’t really do anything else. And when you’re young, or if you’re in a big public school, then you can confront the fucking people that make scripts that are clashing with your own.
TYF: You were featured on a song by Elohim called “Panic Attacks.” Can you tell me about what that process was like?
Yoshi Flower: Yeah. I was playing a song downstairs in the house that I lived in with Elohim, and she yelled down, “What is that?” And I said, “I don’t know. It’s this song ‘Panic Attack.’” I had been observing her life and her heart and her process so much, and it was hard for me to not sometimes swim in her little sea. So I had started making [that song], and then we sat down and jammed it out. It was really, really fast—I barely remember making it—but the experiences we’ve had playing it live have been the most insane moments in my life. Like, kids crying, singing every word, and I’m singing it to them… I can’t not cry. It’s fucking powerful. That came from a moment of really not trying to do anything at all, so it was fun.
TYF: Your debut track is called “Movies.” What kinds of movies do you typically like?
Yoshi Flower: I like movies that have humanistic qualities in their pacing and their choice of characters. I like Jim Jarmusch; I like Jean-Luc Godard. I like good movies. I don’t really get much into big blockbuster movies, but… I think that the eyes are a survival sense. I think our eyes and our ears are two of our main survival senses. You know, you can live without being able to feel or touch things, and you can not taste stuff and probably live, but seeing and hearing are just such survival senses that when I watch a movie, I get so fucking stoked that I get to do that. I make music because I like it and I can do it, but movies are something I’m still amazed by. There’s black magic all throughout a film. I just watched this movie called Beast. It was fire. I like stories about humans and I like stories about love and I like stories about dependency, and I like stories about the future and the past.
TYF: If you could visit the world of any movie, which movie would you choose?
Yoshi Flower: Whew! Wow. I think I would visit Romeo + Juliet. The remake with Leo. The style and the parties in that movie are just off the chain. I think I would have fun hanging out there.
TYF: That’s one of my favorite films.
Yoshi Flower: The city looks like Detroit meets Venice meets some wild, dystopian Rodeo Drive.
TYF: It’s amazing. All right; is there anything else you’d like to say to the readers and fans before we wrap up?
Yoshi Flower: I would say, “October 12th, I’m putting out a mixtape called AMERICAN RAVER” I would say, “God will save the rave,” and I would say, “Love life and it’ll love you back,” and “Holler.” And “Gucci!” Did you see Eighth Grade by Bo Burnham?
TYF: I have not seen it yet, but I’ve been meaning to.
Yoshi Flower: You’ve gotta see it.