For songwriting duo Joey Cobb and Katie Drew of White Flowers, one of the most exciting young bands in the UK right now, it was only on leaving London to return to their native Preston that the dark-hued dreampop of their debut album, Day By Day, began to crystalize.
“There’s something uniquely bleak about the North,” says Joey, speaking from the abandoned textile mill that White Flowers call home, “but in that bleakness there’s a certain beauty.”
The pair had left Preston for London to study at art college, and it was there that they first began to explore the nascent psych scene bubbling under in the few remaining arts-orientated spaces in the east of the city. It soon inspired them to begin work on music of their own.
“We didn’t want to be a psych band,” explains Katie, “but discovering that music gave us both energy and focus. We’ve spent so many years developing these songs, because I think it was important we waited until White Flowers became its own defined thing.”
The pair found that by using equipment they barely understood, they produced their most innovative work. Beginning on GarageBand, they crafted loops that turned into songs, and by the time they’d worked out how to use it, they’d graduated to a drum machine.
Now very much in control, and with a clear and determined focus, the pair began producing music that, whilst leaning into the North’s post-punk past, possessed a vision and depth informed by their own post-industrial Preston experiences. Creating all of their artwork, visuals and overall aesthetic, they began building a world that stretched beyond the music alone – in an unusual circular fashion, this auteurist-like approach became a way of translating their environment and experiences into a form of escapism from the very place that inspired them.
“We’ve always taken care to control every aspect of the White Flowers ‘world’, and because we’ve developed this over time, it feels to us like there’s a separate realm for White Flowers music to exist in,” observes Joey. “More than anything, the isolation that a place like Preston provides means that what we do is very much its own, separate thing”.
That ‘thing’ is the sound of the North at night; the unglamorous North, caught in the hinterlands that divide the main cities, a monochrome psychedelia formed in Preston and the imposing Lancashire hills that envelop them. As if always waiting there for them, in returning to their roots, White Flowers found themselves.