Flickerstick By Lori Smerilson Carson September 2, 2023 Flickerstick By: Lori Smerilson Carson | Photos by Sean McCloskey When you find that band whose music is your constant go to, you make sure your loyalty is true and triumphant. This is what one fan in particular did with rallying like-minded fans to join him on a created Facebook page which actually brought Flickerstick back to life for others to enjoy. Hailing from Texas, this extraordinarily talented alternative rock band had originally established a huge fan base in the early 2000’s. Their fans not only continued to stand by them and their music, but were ready for them to make some new incredible hits. Well, they got their wish, and Flickerstick recently released CONTRACT KILLERS, an EP sporting four songs “Contract Killers”, “Do You See The World”, “Clocks Run Backwards” and “Whatever Gets You Off”. They also will be touring through the month of September and those SFL readers who love to travel, can catch their amazing shows in Fort Worth, TX, Chicago, IL, Pittsburgh, PA or either Lakewood or Franklin, OH. Catching up with Lead Vocalist Brandin Lea, he revealed some details about the new EP and tour that he and bandmates Guitarists Rex James Ewing and Beau Wagener, Bassist Fatima Thomas, and Drummer Todd Harwell are bringing to fans, as well as some insight to the past and what people can look forward to. SFL Music: Your EP is out, CONTRACT KILLERS. Was there a theme to this EP or what would you say inspired it? Brandin Lea: It was not a theme. It was just a collection of songs that were written around the same time and we just chose “Contract Killers”, that song to be the title of the EP just because, I don’t know. You gotta choose a name. There wasn’t like a collective thought process behind what the songs should be called. It’s not a concept record for any means. Its four songs. They were just written around the same time. It was supposed to be part of an LP and basically, we only had five songs instead of more at the time and we went ahead and recorded the ones that we had which were four, and we were gonna add to those four, but we never got a chance to. SFL Music: What would you say inspired that song when you wrote it? Lea: God, it was a long time ago. The contract killer part is just a metaphor. It was more just basically discussing like how you can be in a relationship with someone and when things can go south, one person might unfairly be accused or accusing the other person. It was at a time where I was going through one of my relationship splits. It was a while back, so I can’t be too specific. SFL Music: What can fans look forward to with the new show? Lea: Well, the fact that we’re all still alive, ones that people remember, is probably a bonus. We’re from Texas and when we started touring, God in 2001, was I think the first time that we actually got out of Texas and played cities like the mid-west. We were shocked of how receptive they were to us. I guess we underestimated it. So, the cities that we’re going back to next month, especially Chicago and Pittsburgh, and Ohio as well, we’re going back there specifically instead of like the northeast or the west coast because they were always so, so great for us. We were very well received. The music community and scenes that were there years ago had always treated us so kindly and surprisingly seemed to like us critically. I still don’t know why, but I’m not gonna try to find out that because it’s been great that people have always been receptive to the band and the band’s music. Of course, that was years ago and this being a resurgence or an insurgence more or less. We’re threatening to put out a record which we have (he laughed), but we’re older now. It’s been almost two decades and we’re just happy to be able to play cities that we used to really, really love to come to and surprisingly, treated us very well. So, what to expect. You know, we’ve played a few cities. We went out on tour with Toadies in December for a weeks’ worth of shows in Texas, and we played Atlanta and Burmingham. It’s about where we were years ago even though we’re older. There’s not much that we do differently. It’s still the same show I would think. Whether or not that’s healthy for me, I don’t know ‘cause I’m forty-eight now instead of you know, thirty-two, but I mean, I would expect to see, if you’ve seen us before, it would be not far from that, I hope. That’s what it seems like it has been. SFL Music: People can look forward to that same energetic show? Lea: Yeah. Sure, yeah, yeah. We didn’t get in our late forties and go, you know what? We’re just gonna stand here now. Whether we should be doing it or not, it’s still a high energy show. I’ve seen bands my age or even older where they come back at a later age and the music is great, but the live shows have definitely calmed down and that’s just not the case with us. So, whether or not I might wound myself is possible or I might break a hip or something, but that’s ok. That’s ok. I’m down with that. I can’t help it. SFL Music: The band originally formed in high school. How did the name Flickerstick come about? Awesome name. Lea: Well, I’m glad you said it ‘cause I’ve never made peace with it. I’m like the one member of the band I think that has never been a huge fan of the name, but Cory (Kreig) and my brother Fletcher (Lea), this has been asked a lot and people think there’s a very deep meaning to this name and I’ll tell you the truth. We had a show in two weeks and we had no name or other bad names, and we needed to finalize a name, and It got thrown around. I said, please God no! A friend of ours who in 1996, his job was to go make the posters because he was the only one who could use whatever program it was back then. I don’t even know. So, it started out Flicker. There was a band called Flicker. Some other names were thrown out, and then Flickerstick. The guy basically went and made posters and came back with Flickerstick on it as in like, “I thought this is was what ya’ll wanted.” And I was like, no please no, don’t. And the other guys went, “eh. It’s not that band.” At the time there was a joint being passed around and I think that might have been sort of where it might have, I don’t know. Like Flickerstick. I don’t know. Some people like it. Some people hate it and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s not Hoobastank. That’s good. SFL Music: You guys were on Bands on the Run. Lea: Allegedly. SFL Music: You were in New York City on 09/11 for a launching? Lea: Yes. We were on tour for three months, August to October and right in the middle of that tour, it said September 10th and 11th NYC, sold out. The 10th, we had the night off and yeah, the 11th we had a sold-out show. We had already just gotten signed to Epic and Sony, but the machine at the time as far as I was explained and it was the case, and the ball that got rolling with us because of Bands On The Run really which kind of had nothing to do with us getting signed, but when we did end up getting signed with Sony, of course they rolled out all their contacts of like, there’s reps coming from SNL and Conan (O’Brien) and basically, everybody that needed to see us in New York was going to be there at that show. They all wanted to do something with the band and they just kind of needed to make it official by coming to the show. We had our management, and the label had a lot of immediate stuff that would elevate anybody from where we were to basically the biggest opportunities you could ask for at least in the States, in the music business. They were all kind of ready to go, and since that show didn’t happen with the state of the affairs of the country and just everything, it just never regained. It not only didn’t regain it, it actually kind of hindered the rest of our career after that. So, it really went south for us from what the trajectory was to where it ended up being. SFL Music: Having gone through what you have, what would you recommend to a new musician or new band? Lea: Oh God, I don’t know because everything about music and the way even its written. Everything about the business that I see now, it doesn’t look like the same business at all. I could give advice on like how to maybe write songs or, I don’t even know. It’s so strange to me now. Everything’s changed now. I don’t know. I have no idea. SFL Music: The band had a reunion in June of 2022, kind of via Facebook requests, and you released single “Shine On”. Do you think that social media plays a larger role now? Lea: Oh, the only reason we ever reformed was because of social media and it wasn’t even done by us. It was done by an outside fan who started the group on Facebook years ago and they slowly bullied us for years. And I mean bullied us! Like there were people that were like, “what the fuck dude? Like you are all still alive, What’s the problem? I want to see my favorite band again. This is bullshit,” and this went on so long. I always thought when the group got made twelve years ago, I thought it was funny and I was like, oh look, there’s still a few hundred people that I guess like to talk about the possibility of us reuniting or just the band in general. I thought it would pop up and then kind of dissipate. Like nobody’s gonna really keep doing this, and I was wrong. Apparently, we do have a cult following because it kept growing and growing and growing, and after literally, I guess about a decade, it got to a point where all five of us started listening and some of us always wanted to reunite. Some of us didn’t, and the time just wasn’t right for a long time, but without social media and without actually, the guy that started it all was just a fan. His name’s Chris Putnam and he is a well know politician that was a mayor of basically, a city by the airport, DFW. He’s actually the mayor for four years. He’s my age now and he ran against Kay Granger who’s our rep in Austin. He lost to her, but this guy is a well-known politician and he started this group and it literally got us to finally reform years later, and it’s crazy. So, social media has everything to do. I doubt we would have ever thought it would have been even worth doing. I can’t imagine we would have done it without social media. SFL Music: There is a Blu-ray that was just released from that show at the House of Blues Dallas. What can fans look forward to with that? Lea: I thought it came out great! I mean, we spent a lot of money doing it. When we first did the reunion show, we thought maybe we might have a good crowd come out for one night and that would be with tickets on sale for months. It sold out in a day and we had to add a second night which upset some of the band members because they hadn’t played guitar and got in shape in fifteen years. They were like, “I only agreed to one night. How am I gonna survive two nights?” But we ended up playing a very lengthy set and the money that those two nights sold out and House of Blues generated, we put a lot of it into the DVD. So, I think it came out great. It basically is just a catalogue of all of the era, or albums of our career back then, and I don’t know what else to say about it. I think it looks really good and it sounds good. Nobody had a heart attack onstage. It was a success! SFL Music: You all are from Fort Worth and the Dallas area? Lea: We’re split. That’s why we fight a lot. Well, this line up, I’m the only Fort Worth left. It started in Denton because we were in college, but we were from Fort Worth. Then we added two Dallas guys for Bands on the Run. Then Cory defected and went from Fort Worth to Dallas. He claims Dallas now, so we’ve always had the great DFW battle going on with in our band, and I blame a lot of that on some of the hostility (he laughed). So, some people say the band came out of Fort Worth. Some people say Denton. Some people say Dallas. I just say, the whole metroplex. SFL Music: What made you decide to be a musician? When did you know you wanted to become a musician? Lea: Well, my parents are dance instructors. They both were on Broadway and my dad toured with Debbie Reynolds as her duet partner in the seventies, and my parents only know how to do dance or theater onstage. That’s it, and they passed that wonderful gene down to me. So, I wasn’t supposed to be a musician or be in a band, but I was basically taught since I can remember, how to perform and I was in musical theater and basically like a theater kid. Then I started watching this country band play in Fort Worth when my mom would do line dancing at Billy Bob’s and they just kind of let me sort of play their instruments and stuff. Then the next thing I know, I was in college starting a band and I thought it would be a very lucrative and very stable avenue for me, and I was very, very wrong about all this. So basically, I was probably gonna be performing of whatever regardless. I still teach dance for a living. Well tap. I still teach at my mother’s studio and stuff like that, but basically, it was just an extension of how I grew up and then Fletcher too. The rest of the guys weren’t supposed to be in bands at all and I don’t know what their excuses are. It’s weird. I’m pressing fifty and I’m a lifer. However you look at it, I’m either a cautionary tale (he laughed) about what it’s like to be in a band for most of your life, or I am a story of I guess, perseverance, but what I will say is, it has affected my decisions on having kids and everything with choices that you make in life where I did choose to I guess, the full time touring musician verses not. Of course, you can do that and still have a family, but it’s a strange, strange life unless you are one of the few bands that actually make a lot of money. Some of the brokest dudes that I know are in tour buses. SFL Music: That is part of the business? Lea: Yeah, sure. What I find is always the strangest part of it, of the whole thing is when music became free. It’s the only vocation that an entire industry, billions of billions of dollars industry, and so many people that are songwriters or pop, singer songwriters, band members, where for decades, this was their way of making money. Then in a couple years, everybody just goes like, yeah, I love listening to all this stuff, but eh its free now and no one cares. No one bats an eyelash about it and it’s funny to me because like I can imagine if that happened in nursing or education or, I don’t know, like the police force. If all the sudden everybody was like, hey we love what you guys do, but we’re not going to give you any money for it anymore, but we want you to still do it though. People would be like; you can’t do that to nurses. You can’t do that to teachers. You can’t expect teachers to show up and teach and go like, hey, keep doing what you’re doing, but we’re just gonna consider it free now. I’ve never been in it for the money, but it is quite crazy and there’s not a shortage of musicians and that’s probably why, but it’s like no one cares. No one gives a shit because you’re basically people in bands, so no one has any sympathy for you (he laughed). Like with my father’s business, I told my dad this once I said, Dad, this is what happened to my vocation is that like, you’re a dance teacher. You’ve had a successful dance studio for forty-five years. Well, what if twenty years ago, everybody that has been paying your salary all of the sudden just collectively somehow went like, hey, we’re gonna keep coming, but we’re just not gonna give you any money though, but you’re gonna keep teaching, right? What would you do? My dad was like, “I would have to close. I’d lose my mind” But what if that happened to you and the rest of the community saw it happening that aren’t involved in the business and they all just didn’t give a shit, and went like, well you know, fuck em. They’re in a band. Like, it’s their fault. It’s crazy to me, and the argument now is like well, now bands make all their money off of touring and merchandise instead. I’m like no, that’s not an alternative. Bands have always made the same amount of money on touring and merchandise. It’s not like we used to only make it through album sales and now we have to go tour and have to sell merchandise. It’s always been that way. It’s just that half of it is gone. Streaming is a joke as far as whatever bands get payment. Everybody knows that. It’s bizarre to me. It’s crazy now ‘cause people look at doing this job nowadays, it’s like hey man, we used to buy albums now we don’t. Yeah, nobody cares. It’s like, that’s your fault. Get a real job. SFL Music: Was there anything else coming up for fans to know about? Lea: The EP that got released was basically this group of songs that we just have, and we were like you know what? We should put these out because I’m in the process of writing with a couple of other guys, a full-length studio album that we’re going to start recording hopefully next month or October. So, for the first time in almost twenty years besides this EP, there will be an actual full-length album of new songs. Not songs that are rarities or B sides or stuff from years ago that are now being released, but we’re gonna have a new studio album out maybe by the end of the year or the beginning of next year, hopefully. SFL Music: What inspires you when you write? Lea: Oh man. Well, it seems to have changed a bit with getting older. It’s different what you write about when you’re twenty-two verses forty-eight. I write about Metamucil and AARP now. Why don’t I have a 401K? Why do my joints hurt by going to the bathroom? That’s the core of my thought process now (he laughed). Well, I’ll say this, the band pre 911 and the songwriting that I think a lot of people would attach themselves onto earlier on, was very much more optimistic and light hearted. After 911 and all the changes, the music took a darker turn and then we stopped. Now, I think what my frame of reference is or at least what has seemed to be looking like the outcome, is kind of an examination of how things have changed so much, and how to maybe not let it continue to go darker now that there’s been time and we’re older now, and maybe try to find a little bit more of a better reason to make music or at least one that’s maybe not quite so critical of ourselves. Not necessarily optimistic because it’s hard to be optimistic I think right now, but more of like finding some kind of a way to maneuver through because society is completely different than it was twenty years ago. So, I think it has more to do with that. There definitely won’t be songs about partying with chicks and stuff (he laughed) like it used to be. No one wants to hear an album of a forty-eight-year-old dude, talk about partying with girls. That’s weird. It’s just strange. It’s like, what are you doing? So, the subject matter has changed. It’s probably more about like you know, how to survive or what’s more important in life than like hey, that club over there has got a lot of stuff going on. Let’s go check it out, and then like you know, be cynical about it which is what I would have been about years ago. SFL Music: Was there anything you want to add? Lea: Basically, just that we feel really excited to just come back to a few of the cities that treated us so great years ago, but that we’re still a band again. We hope those people are still able to come see us, and we’re happy to be able to do it again. Share It!