By Justin Vellucci
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
What was Pittsburgh musician Richie Colosimo listening to while his band, Flower Crown, tracked dream-pop single “High Fantasy” at Mr. Small’s recording studio in October? Black metal, of course – why do you ask?
“I know they’re kind of polar opposites but the things I’ve always liked about [black metal] are the walls of sound they use and the sense of space,” says Colosimo, of Bloomfield, a tech worker by day and Flower Crown’s de facto frontman. “Shoegaze and metal are both similar in the way that they both create a wall of sound. It really puts people in a space. It’s been called a vibe. We don’t live near the beach but you could listen to this music and relax. It puts you in a different spot.”
2019 has been very, very kind to Flower Crown.
The quintet – Colosimo is joined, alphabetically speaking, by Zach Bronder (yes, the guy from Bat Zuppel) on synths, Mike Iverson on guitar, Jon Sampson on drums and Chris Sexauer on bass – released the barbiturate-sedate, critically acclaimed LP Sundries in May, toured throughout the East Coast in June, and stole the spotlight at this summer’s Deutschtown Music Festival. A weekender tour of Buffalo, Toronto and Detroit followed. They got tremendous – and tremendously positive – press, including a shout-out from Bandcamp’s national music curators. And they’ll cap the year with a 21+ show to celebrate the release of the single “High Fantasy” – the group’s first foray into professional recording – Dec. 13 at Spirit. The bands Century III and Side Sleeper also are set to perform.
“It’s been a hell of a year for these guys,” says the band’s longtime “merch guy” – Devin “Scrubs” Beichner, of Swissvale. “I’m happy for them. But, you know, if they get worldwide fame, they better take me on the road with them!”
The roots of Flower Crown grow in Bradford, Pa., which sits just 78 miles south of Buffalo near the Pennsylvania/New York border. The small, northern Pennsylvania municipality – a shrinking former oil-boom town, estimated 2018 population: 8,280 – is home to lighter manufacturer Zippo, a University of Pittsburgh extension campus and little else.
“It’s the middle of nowhere,” Colosimo says dismissively.
But it’s at Pitt-Bradford that Colosimo met Beichner, Sexauer and others, and really spread his wings, so to speak, as a flowering musician. His ever-growing resume, which took him from Bradford and through Erie before he came to Pittsburgh about three years ago, includes bands like Sky Lime, Frame and Mantle, and the doom-metal outfit Mires.
“It seems like whatever music Richie’s picking up, what he’s listening to, just shows up in his playing,” Beichner says. “Any time he finds a new record that impresses him, he’ll go off and reinvent it – just with his own flare.”
“A million bands fit into our genre,” Colosimo responds. “I’d call our music ‘hazy.’ Or, at least, we try to make it hazy.”
But that “hazy” music – which defines itself through languid time signatures, chiming guitar figures, half-whispered vocals, and thick layers of reverb – carefully buries the secret that it boasts multiple points of reference, and multiple points of entry.
“I think most of us listen to lots of music,” says Sexauer, who also works for a technology concern as his day gig. “Mike and I listen to a lot of hip hop. We listen to a lot of punk. Zach, our synth player, listens to lots of acid rock. We have a relatively eclectic music taste.”
“With our live show, you can definitely tell we’ve all played in punk and hardcore and metal bands,” he adds, with a laugh. “It is a very defined sound we have but we try to pull things in from other production cues.”
Just as Colosimo sees a dotted line between shoegaze and black metal, Sexauer says he understands how he could have played the four-string in high school in hardcore bands like Grave of a Cynic and now play bass in a Pittsburgh dream-pop outfit.
“Hardcore for me was an outlet for aggressive emotion,” he says. “And this kind of shoegaze/dream-pop thing, it’s about evoking emotions, trying to create sounds that very empathically create emotions.”
Flower Crown played an energized set at Spirit to mark the May 24, 2019 release of Sundries. Colosimo, at least, is hoping to recapture the energy and magic of that night when the group returns to celebrate its new single on Dec. 13.
“This spring, it was lit,” Colosimo says. “I’m hoping we can get people out and excited on a Friday in December.”
FLOWER CROWN with SIDE SLEEPER, CENTURY III. 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 13. Spirit, 242 51st St., Lawrenceville. $7. www.spiritpgh.com