Oleander’s Thomas Flowers talks about latest album “Something Beautiful”

Thomas Flowers is the lead vocalist for the group Oleander. The group burst on to the scene in the mid nineties with their hit song “Why I’m Here”. In 2004 the group went on an unofficial hiatus while Flowers and the rest of the band worked on other projects. On April 16th the band is set to release their first studio album in 10 years titled “Something Beautiful” and Media Mikes was able to talk with Thomas recently about the bands time off and the new album.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about why the band decided to take such a long break between albums?
Thomas Flowers: The band broke away from our obligations regarding the music industry but we never broke up as a band. We wanted to take time off as we all enjoy being home so much. We just kept extending that time off. At the same time we felt we were giving ourselves the opportunities to create some life experiences that we could then draw upon when we decided to switch back in to band mode. That break gave us a nice body of experiences that we could draw on. For me as a lyricist the break was very good. When we stepped back in to things the reason was to just get back in there as a band and play and have fun. Within 15 minutes we had the start of the song “Daylight”. It was at that point that we knew we had something going. There was a lot of excitement during those sessions and it was great to get back to what made us want to play music in the first place.

AL: What has it been like working on the new album?
TF: The creative process from start to finish was probably the easiest and most enjoyable album we have put together. We had zero pressure and all the time in the world to work on this record and we took advantage of that. We wanted to make sure that we all were completely satisfied with every aspect of each song. When you hear this album I think people will really understand what I am talking about. We spent as much time with each particular track as we felt necessary. This was something that we were never really able to do before due to limited budgets and specific time lines.

AL: Was it difficult in anyway going back in to the studio after such an extended break?
TF: No. It all felt very natural. The studio and rehearsal room is an environment that we thrive in. For me the most enjoyable part of the record cycle is the writing and recording process. Even under the stress that comes with doing an album I still feel very comfortable being in the studio working. That’s really where the creative process is.

AL: Is the material that makes up the new album songs you have had for awhile or did these songs come out of just jamming together again?
TF: It was all stuff that came from getting back together. Certainly we all would have separate ideas but then we would collaborate. We have gotten to the point as a band where we are very collaborative and work quite well together. Everybody contributed to each song. This was something that we always kind of strived for as we wanted the songs to reflect each of us. Musically we really came together as a band.

AL: What made you choose “Something Beautiful” as the album’s first single?
TF: Our job is defined by writing and recording the songs that we feel are the best ones we come up with. Once that is done we take the finished project to our label. From there they give us feedback as to what they think might be the best song to release. It came down to the songs “Never Too Late” and “Something Beautiful”. They felt “Something Beautiful” had a little bit more potential impact with radio. We liked both songs so we were happy choosing either one.

AL: What type of tour plans do you guys have in the works?
TF: We have a few dates scheduled in Texas at some festivals where we will be playing with Bush. After that we come back home and get ready for our album release party in Sacramento. In May we will be playing at “Rock on the Range” in Ohio. We plan to be very busy touring this year but we want to make sure that we are smart about how we do it. For years we travelled all over racking up expenses. This time around we want to be more conscientious about how we do things. The days of jumping in a van and playing for a case of beer have long since passed. (Laughs)

AL: Looking back on your career thus far how do you think the band has changed since things first took off for you?
TF: Comparatively we were kids when we wrote and released “February Sun”. We were very fortunate that the album had such an impact on radio and listeners. At the start outside of playing live we were clueless about the industry. We learned a lot over the 10 years we were active and stepping back in to the game now we feel we are more mature and savvy when it comes to not only what is expected of us but also what options are available to us today. We are more aware of the things that help make revenue for the band and not just for the label. Social media is another big change. I wish it was something we had back in the day. When we were first started the only social media you had was touring. That was again limited to the people who came to the shows night to night and when we left the venue we were out of sight out of mind. Social media is a great opportunity for us to connect with our fans and potential fans. We are pretty aggressive with updates and answering people’s requests as it not only puts us in touch with fans that have followed the band for some time and it also opens us up to new listeners.


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Blu-ray Review “The Flowers of War”

Directed by: Yimou Zhang
Starring: Christian Bale, Ni Ni, Xinyi Zhang, Paul Schneider, Tong Dawei
MPAA Rating: R
Distributed by: Lions Gate
Release Date: July 10, 2012
Running Time: 146 minutes

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

when Christian Bale goes…I follow. Since “Empire of the Sun”, I have been a fan of mostly everything he has done. “The Flowers of War” is a unique film, a completely Chinese production, with Bale just thrown in for his “The Dark Knight” fame. Due to this it only features about 40% English speaking and the rest is Chinese and Japanese. The film is also extremely long running almost two and a half hours and after 90 minutes it feels very stretched out. Bale’s performance is good but nothing like his role in “The Fighter”. Props needs to be given to director Zhang Yimou, who has done some of my favorites “Hero” and “House Of Flying Daggers”, who is great at what he does but this one doesn’t come close to his best work.

The story follows the classic story of love and war. Taking place during WWII on the streets of Nanjing, we meet a group of opposites who all seek refugee in a church.  There is a group of schoolchildren, a dozen prostitutes and an American mortician posing as a priest. When they become prisoner in the church by Japanese soldiers, it is up to the priest to unite with the group and put together a plan to protect the children from the on-going events of the war.

Besides my issues with the film, its Blu-ray presentation is superb.  It looks fantastic with its 1080p transfer and packs a nice aspect ratio of 2.40:1.  The star of the film, sorry Christian, is its audio track of DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1.  During the war scenes, it is absolutely fantastic and works so well.  The special features are not bad overall.  There is a behind the scenes extra look into the film’s production featuring the following five featurettes “The Birth of The Flowers of War”, “Meeting Christian Bale”, “The Newborn Stars”, “Hard Time During War” and “Perfection of Light and Color”.  Very thorough and informative overall.  Lastly there is a trailer included.