“Love songs for the natural world”: Liana Flores makes a sublime debut

Liana Flores, photo by Sequoia Ziff

Surveying the tourists congregating around St. James’s Park’s Duck Island, Liana Flores exhales a sigh of relief. In the heart of central London lies this mini oasis – the perfect afternoon spot for a keen birdwatcher like Flores. As we walk, the British-Brazilian artist adopts the role of a quietly effusive tour guide, leading NME around the park and pointing out different species of heron, parakeet and swan. Even the sight of a one-legged pelican doesn’t throw her off course.

  • READ MORE: Give it some Welly: meet one of UK indie’s wittiest new songwriters

For the songwriter and guitarist, who was raised in South Norfolk before moving to London two years ago, exploring nature serves as a refuge from the pressures of establishing her place in a ruthless and ever-evolving city. In conversation, Flores is shy but bright and giggly, too; a fount of brief, endearing observations. While working on her sublime debut ‘Flower Of The Soul’ – a collection of swooning, spiralling tracks illuminated by delicate percussive passages and a sense of personal growth – the 25-year-old returned home frequently, in order to “embrace the openness of where I grew up,” she says.

“There is something so comforting about being around the specific trees and fields you always saw when you were younger,” says Flores, by way of describing her writing process behind the record. After a three-hour train journey from the capital, she would go walking, paddling and collecting pebbles by the sea to find artistic inspiration. “It’s just a reassuring place to go back to. I love being able to feel the changing rhythms of the seasons. [South Norfolk] helps me tune into feelings that are timeless and wise.”

Flores describes herself as an introvert, someone who frequently spends time in parks like this one, even if it means navigating large crowds in order to find a moment of solitude. Her music is also perhaps a salve for anyone finding their place in the world. Where her 2019 EP ‘Recently’ was woozy and grainy, buried in blankets of cosy indie fuzz, her debut album feels like a breakthrough, both emotionally and sonically. The melodic pull of ‘Nightvisions’ shows her increased confidence as a performer, her voice swooping between keys as she sings of romantic pursuit over a staccato arrangement.

“If anybody should need to escape this world for a while, I hope I can offer them that”

Though there are shades of her former tourmate Laufey’s gentle jazz-pop on tracks like ‘Cuckoo’ and ‘Orange-coloured Day’, the way she breezily details self-doubt and indirection against twinkly ambience is almost startling. “I’m digging my grave after the show, only drifting away,” she sings on recent single ‘I Wish For The Rain’. “Under street lamps drowning out all of the stars / That might’ve been guiding my way back home.

On one hand, she executes this piercing lyrical flair in her songs. On the other, she struggles slightly when trying to articulate her musical vision in interviews. Throughout our time together, Flores will pull up a Google Doc on her phone whenever she draws a blank, or momentarily distract herself by looking at a pigeon instead of holding eye contact. “I often get lost in the music that I am making,” she says, eventually warming to the subject. “Similarly, if anybody should need to escape this world for a while, I hope I can offer them that.”

Despite her reservations, there’s a quality about Flores that is central to her music that perhaps even she doesn’t realise. There are moments where she reveals an inquisitive nature, as keen to ask NME her own questions as answer ours. ‘Flower Of The Soul’ occasionally moves with that same curiosity, as guitar arpeggios build twinkling layers that shift subtly, revealing keening melodies. It’s intelligent and finely tuned musical worldbuilding.

Liana Flores, photo by Adrian Lee
Credit: Adrian Lee

“I got to record with a band for the first time on this record, which was very fun – I hadn’t done that before. I used to make music in my room on GarageBand in the dead of night,” she explains, before describing a transformative family trip to Rio five years ago. “There’s a resourcefulness to the music too that I think comes from being inspired by bossa nova: in Brazil, you will visit a bar and there will be a bunch of guys playing percussion with forks and bottles. That unexpected ‘do it yourself’ vibe is something that I always enjoy doing.”

Witnessing how comforted Flores seems by the wildlife surrounding us as we talk, it’s plain to see why she describes ‘Flower Of The Soul’ as a collection of “love songs for the natural world.” Live shows and promo will come sporadically over the summer, but she has home comforts to embrace first. “I feel withdrawals if I’m not by the sea,” she concludes. “I’m going back home this weekend because I need to be by the ocean again. It makes me feel more relaxed and confident.”

Liana Flores’ ‘Flower of the Soul’ is out now via Verve/Fiction

The post “Love songs for the natural world”: Liana Flores makes a sublime debut appeared first on NME.