Being on the road is generally not the optimal atmosphere for writing new music. Long drives, loading in, loading out, bad roadside coffee and highway motels have a tendency to dull creative expression. Carter Tanton was able to find inspiration in touring and after releasing Freeclouds in 2011 under his own name, he crafted They’re Flowers while on tour in the U.S. with The War on Drugs and later, Lower Dens. Tanton had plenty of time to experiment with new ways of crafting songs using samples and other electronics, producing They’re Flowers, his first release under the Luxury Liners moniker, one made with absolute freedom.
Tanton explains, “This record had me stepping away from the guitar and focusing more on my interests in electronic music production. Still, most of the songs were written on a nylon string guitar I found in a basement. I actually thought the record was going to come out like Nick Drake judging from the original arrangements, but I had to bend them to fit the laptop while on tour.”
This restriction was ultimately a boon to his recording process and led Tanton to a key facet of his work, deconstruction, in part influenced by John Cale’s production of Nico records. Tanton acknowledges the composer’s “deconstructing layer after layer of song until the original arrangement is just a trace of its former self. I emulate that, my singing being the only thing which remains constant.”
Cale’s influence remains with the opening track, “Caribbean Sunset,” which uses Cale’s lyrics but alters the melodic structures dramatically. The song, originally recorded with the intention of becoming the first of a full album of John Cale covers, is the only one, as Tanton was drawn to crafting his own summery blend of electronic pop as well as recognizing other musicians who have influenced him. “Memphis Alex,” written soon after Alex Chilton’s death, loosely details a road trip – a car accident with a Mac truck in a snowstorm, ending up in Memphis and meeting Jody Stephens at the legendary Ardent Studios.
They’re Flowers retains a clear, twinkling, pop-laced sunny sound as it explores drum programming and sampling via the laptop, Tanton’s primary instrument used in crafting the record. Luxury Liners reflects growth, ambition, and, ultimately, the impact of inspiration.