Emma Polen | staff writer
Less than a month old and already producing music, FlowKids is a Duquesne student-made band that skillfully combines a multitude of musical genres. The group performed at The Duke’s musician showcase on Feb. 20, rocking their unique vibe.
The main “vibe,” or music genre, of FlowKids is a mix between jazz, hip-hop, indie and oldies-feel. All four players bring a personal musical approach that contributes to the group’s variety.
Alex Perez is FlowKids’ trumpeter. The sophomore performance major’s trumpet playing is influenced by jazz musicians as well as rock groups like 90s rock band Cake.
Ben “Benny” Grossman is a freshman music student who integrates hip-hop into FlowKids’ music. Grossman is the group’s rap vocalist, and is known for his ability to write entire verses in a single morning.
Sophomore music education student Maria Constantine is the band’s singer and songwriter. While Constantine explains she is relatively new to singing in a band, especially jazz singing, she is actively listening to other vocalists like Nora Jones to help her own performance.
Spencer McNeill is responsible for initially mixing FlowKids’ beats, while also putting his skills to the test on keyboard. McNeill is a junior music education major who is constantly using his own experience with music technology to create meaningful music with his peers. Fellow band member Ben Grossman calls McNeill the “Wizard of Oz on the computer.” McNeill said he draws inspiration from MF Doom, 9th Wonder, OJ Dilla, and Flamingosis.
While some artists stick to one genre and only cater to that specific audience, Grossman said that FlowKids decided to choose a blend.
“I think when you combine multiple genres and styles that people love, you can touch more people,” Grossman said.
Besides the musicians themselves, the group achieves their unique sound using various recording techniques. The “vintage feel,” as McNeill describes it, is a result of careful attention taken throughout the production process.
The group plays and records with old microphones, including one from the 1950s — that looks like it could have belonged to someone like Elvis Presley — and two others from the 60s and 70s.
The musician showcase on Saturday, Feb. 20 marked FlowKids’ first live performance, as well as their first performance with a live rhythm section. Emiliano Siegert-Wilkinson, bassist, and Joe Walsh, drummer, are both freshman music students here at Duquesne who got involved with FlowKids just over two weeks ago.
The four original band members agreed that Siegert-Wilkinson and Walsh are what give FlowKids a unique edge that other amateur bands do not have: a live backing track.
“Blurred Vision,” the band’s first song together, premiered on Spotify this Valentine’s Day. It combines the players’ different musical talents and backgrounds and it’s evident that careful consideration is put into the production process.
McNeill made an effort to incorporate “cool sounds that you would not necessarily hear on the radio.” He included a vinyl crackle and jazz chords, and also added a sample of birds outside his apartment to achieve what he called an “organic vibe.”
Typically, FlowKids’ music-writing process begins with a mix created by McNeill, followed by lyric-writing. Constantine comes up with a “hook,” or the riff in a song that catches a listener’s attention. Grossman works on the rap vocals to fit the beat and then Perez plays trumpet over top both vocalists.
The process sounds pretty simple, and for “Blurred Vision,” it was. Within 24 hours, Constantine and Grossman both wrote and recorded the entire song’s lyrics. Soon after, Perez added in trumpet and the tune was finished.
Compared to other bands which group members have performed with in the past, FlowKids said they believe the band has unique potential. For McNeill, it’s the “vibe” of the group that makes them different. This “vibe” has gained the group over 2,004 monthly Spotify listeners and a diverse musical audience.
Unlike other groups he and the others have worked with, McNeill says that what makes FlowKids special is the “rapid fire releases.”
“I’ve never been in a band that writes this quick,” McNeill said.
McNeill hinted that the band already has around five new songs they have been working on since the release of “Blurred Vision” less than a month ago.
Next for FlowKids is the release of “Remember,” which they performed at Saturday’s recording session; it is yet to be released publicly. Later down the line when the pandemic is over, the group hopes to perform in live shows.
You can listen to FlowKids on Spotify and follow their Instagram, @the.flowkids, to stay up-to-date on their newest content.