Sophie-Rose Harper, otherwise known as Flownn, is a singer-songwriter with a musical career spanning 10 years. Inspired by the likes of James Blake, Tom Misch, and Rosalía, her honeyed vocals melt into electro-pop beats and create the warmest, fuzziest feeling that we all need a little more of right now. Formerly a member of the band Paradisia, she's soon to launch her second solo single, and on 30 Oct., she released a video for her new single titled "Sugar Rush." We caught up with her to discuss a solo music career during lockdown.
POPSUGAR: So Flownn, you used to be in a band called Paradisia; how did you guys meet? Was that your first experience in music?
Flownn: So, that was my second. Before that, I was in a six-piece band called The Night VI and I was signed very young; I was 19 and I signed to Parlophone. It was three girls and three boys, it was kind of like an indie rock band. We made a couple of EPs, and then we all decided that it wasn't going to work.
So I made Paradisia with the two girls who were in that band with me. And then everything kind of worked out better. It was amazing, actually; it went from being quite quiet to just really, really hectic. And yeah, I spent three years, maybe four actually, with the girls, and now I'm on my own!
PS: And so now you're kind of transitioning into a solo artist; what's that been like for you in this time?
F: It was always going to be something I had to do. I think going from a solo artist into a band or a collective is something that is a lot more difficult because it's something I just don't think really happens very often. And I always knew it had to be that way round where I was in projects before. It's an amazing learning curve. You collaborate so much in groups and you compromise so much that when it comes to being on your own, it's very freeing, as you can imagine! I guess it's like living in a house with six people.
PS: That's EXACTLY what it sounds like!
F: Yeah. I think it comes with its challenges. I guess in the studio when it's you and four other writers, it's such a different dynamic and you really have to do a lot to stand out, whereas in a band, you can fall back on each other. But I think I love it more than ever actually!
PS: That's good to hear! And so now that you're fully out on your own, how would you describe your individual sound?
F: So it's definitely pop music. I love pop music. I've always written pop music. I'd like to say there's a bit more depth to it in the sense that lyrically there's a lot of messages behind everything I write. It's not just a song to dance along to, there's always something deeper. So I guess yeah, pop with a bit more depth, that's kind of how I would describe it.
PS: And the difference now is that you're kind of able to draw on your personal experiences a little bit more than having to think about the group as a whole?
F: Totally. And lyrically, I'm not singing "we" or I'm not singing "us." It's like, "I." And there's so much more I can do with that.
PS: That makes sense. And so who would you say that your musical influences are? Do you think they've changed from being in the various groups to being on your own?
F: Definitely. I think it's so funny, there's folk music that I would listen to over and over again, Joni Mitchell records, over and over again when I was in Paradisia. Now I don't listen to Joni at all. Now the music I listen to is just a lot more playful. I listen to Ariana Grande, I'm obsessed. I'm unashamedly obsessed. I really love Cleo Sol. So the more soulful side of things, I'm obsessed with the groove that comes with that. Sault, I love the group she sings with.
I especially love Amber Mark. She brought out a cover of "The Thong Song." That was super cool. Obviously I think, yeah, I'm mostly listening to females. When I was in Paradisia, I listened to a lot of Haim because they were three girls and it just mirrored what we were doing. So yeah, it has changed a lot, definitely, over the years.
PS: We can imagine! And then in terms of the new single, what would you say is the inspiration behind it?
F: So with the new single, "Sugar Rush," I wrote it in lockdown. When I was in lockdown, obviously life completely changed and I wrote it on Zoom and I did it with a producer that I love. And I guess I was just trying to bring back the memory of those nights in Soho, where you literally have nothing going on the next day and you can just be completely free. I guess it's the life we had before.
But it's also mixed with an encounter with a complete stranger where you kind of let your guard down more than you ever would have. And the next day, it's all a question of, "Is this real, do we actually have something in common? Is this actually a thing? Is it love or is it lust?" That sort of feeling that you get when you're in Soho and you're single and you just go wild. I guess it's an ode to what we once had before the curfews. It really is an ode to Soho, the dance, the arts, the music, like the endlessness of where you can find yourself on a night out.
I made a record before lockdown that was going to come out, and it was so much more dramatic and it was a lot more, not sad, but it was like electronic pop music with a dark side to it. And then I rewrote the whole record because I was so aware of how important it was that people were not hearing music that would bring them to a more solemn place. I want to write songs that would raise people up and bring them back to that good memory. And I really want that to be how people feel when they listen to "Sugar Rush," takes them back to that party that they used to go to.
I want it to also bring people to a place where they know we will get there again. We will be able to feel that way again. It's a matter of time. This is not forever.
PS: It better not be! You talked a little bit about filming the video. What was that process like? Was that done during lockdown as well?
F: So we did it in a studio, and it was a team that I've used before. I had two choreographers who came on the day, so we literally started the shoot at 6:30 and I learned the routine at 7 a.m. Literally, I can't even tell you how, at that time of the morning, how I managed to move, it was so mental. But they had such high energy. These two choreographers came in, bulldozed into the dressing room, and we learned this routine in an hour and a half.
And then I performed it an hour later, and yeah, it was just my usual team. As for the makeup, I've actually looked back on it in the video and it's got like a Madonna '80s tone to it with red lipstick and this big gold chain. And basically the styling was really playful and it's very revealing, but I'm moving around a lot and dancing around a lot. So it's good!
PS: With that process of recording music, how have you found that's changed during this time?
F: Initially, I found working on Zoom really tricky with writers that I didn't know at all. Because when you're on a screen and you're writing songs, no one wants to be looking at a screen for more than four hours anyway. So the pace is quicker. And I don't mind that. I quite like the pace being quicker. This is pop music, we're writing things quite quickly, this isn't a scenario where you have to play things around for hours and hours.
But I actually got used to it, and I came around to it. And now I'm back in the studio with people, and that took some adjusting to come back to that space of being like, "Shall we go for lunch?" On Zoom, you just f*ck off for an hour, come back, and finish the song. Now you have to go to lunch, get to know the producer, and understand where you're going to go with the song. It's a lot more intense in real life than on Zoom, I think. And you can go away and think about it in your own head and come back with another idea. Now it's quite an intense situation, but I'm writing songs, so I'm not going to complain, I love it so much. So it's all good.
PS: Music has been so important for so many people during this time. Has your view on the role of musicians changed during the pandemic and, really, the role of music in general, what it brings to the public?
F: Massively. I think more than ever, we influence more than we do on a musical level. Our opinions really matter. There are things you can and can't say, you have to think all the time, "What I'm putting out, is it a good message? Is it going to make a difference?" I think it's a lot more pressure, but it's only natural.
Everybody depends on music. So many people depend on music to get them out of the way they feel if it's negative. Like, the first thing they might do is put a song on, on the bus, and it takes them out of their feelings. I think actually more than ever, people are depending on music to get them through this. It has changed a lot, but I've always felt a lot of responsibility as a musician. I've never seen it as a separate thing. I think it's all encompassing. You are a brand, in a way; everything you represent will come out in some way in your music. It's not something you're removed from.
PS: Absolutely! In terms of touring, did you have any plans for that this year? Has that changed quite a lot as well?
F: Oh, well, actually, I was really lucky. Right before lockdown, I'd been on three tours with my previous band. We literally toured so much, I can't believe it. We keep thanking our lucky stars that we got that opportunity, because there are so many musicians with campaigns who can't tour. I've just seen Dua Lipa's delayed her tour by another year, it's madness! But as Flownn, I was always going to take my time with the live stuff. I want the show to be really clever and visually engaging. And I was always going to wait a bit, I think, with anything. I wanted to release a lot of music before I played live. You never want to do that too early.
PS: Agreed. With that in mind, what are you excited about next year? Do you have anything planned, or is it more of a work in progress at this stage?
F: No, 100 percent. We've got the rest of the EP, so after "Sugar Rush," we've got two more releases. I've got a really exciting thing I'm doing on Tuesday, but I won't tell you what it is! It's going to come out eventually. And yeah, I think we will absolutely play live. That's the next step, as soon as we can do that in a way that isn't compromising the show, I'm on that, I am on that.
I think it's just constantly about releasing as much music as I can. I want to release every five to six weeks, and I've got so much material. I've been writing this record since January 2019. So I've got two albums' worth of stuff that needs to come out. We're just going to keep going!
Flownn's new single, "Sugar Rush," is out now.