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Athens Popfest Preview: Flamingo Shadow Finds Escape in Earth Music

Flamingo Shadow’s methodical and phoenix-like ascent has been something of a great adventure to watch unfold since the group first started playing together in 2015. On the heels of releasing its debut single, 2017’s “Vibe Control,” the Atlanta five-piece has left a glowing and pink-hued impression on the musical landscape, nodding to such time-tested Athens staples as Pylon, the B-52s and Love Tractor.

The influence these old-school dance-party titans have come to bear on Flamingo Shadow is a philosophical one more than it is anything that can be clearly pointed out in the group’s aesthetic choices—although the solid 4/4 beats and motorik rhythms behind each number are an undeniable descendant of the Classic City’s promethean musical era.

On Aug. 21, Flamingo Shadow will release its first proper full-length, Earth Music, making good on the critical praise the group has received for its tropical post-punk flare, anchored by singer (and former Athenian) Madeline Adams’ rich vocal melodies and expressive range.

Throughout the album, the soaring atmosphere of songs such as “All Way Down” and “Riding the Wind” juxtaposed with the semi-spastic lurch of “Black Cloud” and the jaunty pace of “Taxi” offer an escape from the existential horrors of everyday life in modern America—reality transformed by liberating and propulsive imagery.

“A lot of what we’re trying to do is channel the energy we’re feeling right now,” says singer, bass player and guitarist David Matysiak. “What the fuck are we doing? Why are we doing it? What is work? What is time? With these songs, we were lucky enough to find these little islands we can go to, close our eyes and feel OK playing this music together.”

Earth Music also illustrates a profound undercurrent coursing through the band’s music. Adams and Matysiak, writing, improvising and performing alongside drummer Devin Brown, keyboard player and vocalist Katie Robertson and guitar and bass player Mason Brown, craft a sound that ebbs and flows with sophistication, driven by vibrant elements of indie pop and subtle feelings of paranoia, all kept in a state of perpetual motion.

“Themes of travel come up a lot when talking about our music, for sure, [and] so does the idea of fleeing,” says Matysiak. “You can probably blame Trump for that one. If there’s a unifying theme at all, it’s that we write songs about earthly matters from an outsider’s perspective. That’s the one thing we always keep in mind from a jam and from performance standpoint.”

Matysiak and Brown have a decade-plus of shared musical experiences. Since 2000, the two have played together in Athens and Atlanta bands Jet by Day, Rump Posse, Hollow Stars and Coyote Bones. “With this band, we use everything we’ve learned along the way,” says Matysiak.

Flamingo Shadow’s dynamic comes to a fine point in the song “Taxi,” when Adams sings, “I’ve come to fear these machines/ Once our creation, they’re going to replace me.” But Earth Music is all about taking those feelings of negativity and channeling them into a positive experience. It’s the kind of album that works beautifully as a physical experience while leaving plenty of room to bask in playful surrealism. It’s a sound that thrives on contradictions and duality. It’s primal, emotional, self-aware and boundless in its tropical spirit.

[UPDATE: This article was edited to accurately reflect the release date of Earth Music.]