The Ramona Flowers At The Peppermint Club, Wednesday November 8th 2017
The Ramona Flowers was the last band of the night at Beverly Hills’ new Peppermint club on Wednesday night, and despite the late hour on a week day, many people had stayed around to listen to their 80s-inspired dance floors. Singer Steve Bird has a distinctive voice, piercing above their rocking synth which, at the first song, immediately sounded familiar, evoking a younger take on something from Depeche Mode or Duran Duran. The band is from Bristol, England, and has been around since 2012. They have already released several albums, ‘Dismantle And Rebuild’ in 2014 and ‘Part Time Spies’ in 2016, and their latest releases, especially their latest single ‘Strangers’, have never sounded more electronic-oriented. If the music is still flirting with the dance-y and glitzy side of the 80s, with an R&B vibe over a synth-driven tune, they have included more electronics than in their previous material. The songs, which were all produced by American, London-based Chris Zane (Passion Pit, Friendly Fires, St Lucia, Holy Ghost!… ) are diverse though, certainly multi influenced but driven by the same passionate tone.
However, listening to them on record is a different experience than watching them live, the Ramona Flowers have a sense of drama and spectacle, they move around and Steve Bird is the frontman, engaging himself with the crowd and the music, dancing and commanding the place, singing with a nasal stirring falsetto, and living the music with conviction… Meanwhile the rest of the large band (Dave Betts on keys, Sam James on guitar, Wayne Jones on bass and Ed Gallimore on drums) bring an expressive vibe to their songs.
During their 10-song set, they certainly demonstrated they had the explosive sound of rock ‘n’ roll at the top of a thick layer of synth, which sounded as retro as you can imagine, while the modern electronic twist was undeniable. Even though this was not the case during their live rendition of the song, the recorded version of their club-ready new single ‘Strangers’, uses a vocoder to transform Bird’s vocals, making the song closer to a modern EDM track than a rock-stadium anthem, that they often seem to aim for. Live, only the arena-ambition was noticeable.
And talking about stadium, even Bono is a fan, the U2 frontman contacted the band after hearing their song ‘Lust And Lies’ on his daughter’s playlist, and recruited the song’s producer Andy Barlow, who eventually help U2 record their latest album, ‘Songs Of Experience’. Even on the Peppermint club’s modest stage, the UK band was aspiring to the epic, Hot Chip and Ladytron have remixed them and NME has compared them to Muse and Radiohead in the past – although I did not hear anything from Thom Yorke in Bird’s vocals, as I thought that Simon Le Bon would make more sense. With such famous connections, it’s difficult to not imagine great things in the future for the Bristol band.
Finally, my comparison with Duran Duran is probably not completely off, just like the 80s British band which took its moniker from a cartoon-fantasy film (‘Barbarella’), the Ramona Flowers picked theirs after the lead girl in the movie ‘Scott Pilgrim versus The World’… Films and comic books will never cease to inspire pop music, and the past will never stop to give us bands like the Ramona Flowers.
If You Remember
Out of Focus
Dismantle and Rebuild
Skies Turn Gold
Lust and Lies
Run Like Lola