Flara K: Montreal’s couple-turned-pop-powerhouse

Montreal duo Flara K spoke to us about their latest EP and touring in a pandemic

Sam Martel and Collin Steinz’s love story began over a decade ago when they met in a coffee shop. While Sam was working, Collin spilled his coffee order all over the floor and, as they put it, “The rest is history.”

Sam and Collin make up two musically-inclined halves of Flara K. Both of them born and raised in Montreal’s South Shore, their history in making music dates back to when they were just 18-years-old and going on tours with their respective projects at the time.

Now having been married for four years, and together for over 10, they have created Flara K, a duo that brings a variety of cards to the table. The name of their band draws on a variety of inspirations such as Kurt Vonnegut and the place where they got engaged. Between the two of them and their stories, music has always been in the fold. Collin’s swagger on bass sets the tone for Sam’s commanding vocals as they produce soulful music that has funk at heart.

Having debuted as Flara K over the past two years by releasing a handful of singles including “Me and You” and “Offline,” they recently released their debut EP: Anxious, Irrational, Fashionable

The EP comes in at a quick 15-minute runtime and includes features from artists Mike Clay and Milo Gore on the tracks “Devotion” and “Pink & Blue,” respectively. Anxious, Irrational, Fashionable builds from their initial releases both lyrically and sonically as Sam and Collin continue to refine their sound of R&B-infused music.

Most recently, Flara K just wrapped up their Cruiser Conversations tour. At the end of this past September, Sam and Collin embarked on a month-long tour across Canada in Sam’s parents’ RV. The tour was done to raise funds and awareness for the Unison Benevolent Fund, a non-profit that provides emergency relief and mental health services to the Canadian music community, one of many communities that has been negatively affected by the pandemic.

With COVID-19 restrictions varying across the country, the shows were performed in a COVID-safe fashion with the performances and collabs being broadcasted live on the band’s Instagram page.  The tour included stops in a variety of Canadian cities including Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver. With their variety of stops on tour, Flara K was able to collaborate with music communities such as Manitoba Music and BreakOut West.

As 2020 is drawing to a close, the duo is looking forward to what the new year has in store for them and continuing to make music that they love.

We spoke to Sam and Collin about their band and their future plans.

VV: Tell me about Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebeard, what’s behind your band name?

Collin: We wanted a name for this project that would speak to us, and also be entirely unique so that we could feel comfortable growing and evolving with it. We got Flara from the Florian Gate in Krakow, Poland, where Sam and I got engaged, and the K is in reference to our favourite authors. Franz Kafta used K as the main character for many of his works, and Kurt Vonnegut is probably our favourite author. We settled on the idea of using “K” in the name after re-reading Bluebeard. I don’t want to spoil the book, but near the end the main character reveals this very powerful painting of his experience at the end of World War II and when asked what it was called he replied, “now it’s the women’s turn.”

VV: Your new EP Anxious, Irrational, Fashionable came out last month, what’s one song you think captures your sound the best for new listeners and why?

Sam: Ouu, that’s a tough question. I feel like all of them definitely represent our sound in different ways. I think that it depends on the listener’s mood really. If they’re looking for something upbeat and dancey, I’d probably recommend “If I Can’t Have You” or “Devotion,” but if they’re looking for something more moody I’d say “Pink And Blue.”

VV: As two French-speaking Montrealers would you ever put out music that is lyrically French?

Sam: That’s something we’ve actually done in previous projects we had, and it was definitely interesting to explore. I wouldn’t say we have anything planned at the moment, but if it comes together naturally we’re definitely open to exploring it further.

VV: The Cruiser Conversation Tour raised money for the Unison Benevolent fund, what does that mean to you?

Sam: I think for us it was important that we gave back to our community in some way. We were privileged enough to be able to do this tour because my parents had their RV just sitting in their driveway not being used, and that’s something we will never take for granted. The music industry is already such a difficult place to make consistent money as a musician and now with COVID it kinda feels like it just imploded and everything is a big mess, so this was our way of giving back what we could to help our community in these crazy times.

VV: From idea to finished song, what does your artistic process look like?

Collin: It really depends on the song, but most times I’ll have an idea for a beat or a bass line and then we’ll sit down and put together the basics of the track and then the melodies and lyrics follow.

VV: Will we ever hear Collin leading on the vocals someday?

Collin: Maybe not leading, but I might try some harmonies one day, who knows. It’s just that with vocals like Sam’s, I’d really have to bring my A-game to make it worthwhile.

VV: Now that your Cruiser Conversation Tour has ended, what does the future hold for Flara K?

Sam: This tour really got us inspired so I can say that there will definitely be a lot of new music coming in the new year, and until then we have some really fun stuff coming to kind of wrap up the EP so we’re very excited about that!

Collin: Yeah, after being on the road for almost a month it was like our minds hit a hard reset and we’re excited to continue writing and exploring collabs with the people we met (virtually) on the road. We’re also going to keep the conversation going every Wednesday on Instagram live. It was so fun to connect and chat with other artists and we really want to continue with it.

Feature photos by Philippe Thibault

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