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FLAX’s debut four-song EP offers an unflinching birds-eye view of modern-day life’s highs and lows, with a slyly self-effacing, sometimes jaundiced eye, framing such topics as social media, addiction, mortality, and identity through the prism of an experienced award-winning TV journalist, documentary filmmaker, and now, singer-songwriter-guitarist Sean Flax.
FLAX boasts a supple soulful vocal style and a skill for layered, cinematic arrangements as well as wide-screen art-pop soundscapes. His music is characterized by tactile nylon string guitar fingerings over an array of instruments, from upright bass to strings to samples and synths.
Produced in New Orleans’ The Living Room by Zack Feinberg lead guitarist for platinum band The Revivalists), FLAX songs like “More Love” take on our Internet obsession with a compassionate yet critical view of its double-edged, self-delusionary sword, only to come to the conclusion, as John Lennon and The Beatles did 50 years ago, all you need is more love (“It’s the best self that you’re gonna be/Emotional technology”).
“Social media has brought a desperate need for admiration and attention as well as repressed prejudices like xenophobia and racism to the surface,” says FLAX. “Maybe the fact that we can no longer deny these realities will ultimately be a positive in that now we have to deal with them.”
FLAX grew up in Manhattan, the son of a Beatles-loving father, a songwriter-turned-successful music publishing executive, and a mother who favored the pop-soul of Motown, influences which continue in his music to this day, particularly a keening Smokey Robinson falsetto. At the age of 15, he began teaching himself to play the classical nylon string guitar – drawn to its soft and elegant nature – while with a community service youth group on the Galapagos Islands, the first time he had ever been outside the U.S. on his own. While at the airport in Bogota waiting to fly home, he had an epiphany strumming the guitar and making up melodies that convinced him he had a future in music, though he wouldn’t pursue it seriously for another 15 years. “It just clicked,” says FLAX. “I thought to myself, ‘Oh my god... I can do this.’”
After college, FLAX took jobs as a broadcast journalist and producer at major news organizations like the BBC, the Japanese network NHK, and Eurovision in Washington, D.C. He enjoyed several successful years but realized that life as a Capitol Hill wonk was not for him, wanting more freedom to creatively tell meaningful stories. Returning to New York, FLAX has since worked on large independent media projects – from a documentary on the explosion of Internet memes with Cedric the Entertainer and Adam Carolla to a media startup featuring top professional athletes – and is now pursuing projects “that can effect positive change in some way.”
That same idealistic spirit goes into FLAX’s music. After demo recording sessions at home studios in south Brooklyn (with an engineer who is now the drummer of his band) and then Los Angeles (which included an early version of “Language of the Birds”), FLAX started to tap into the self-confidence gained through experience to take his songs to the next level.
The first person he brought his demos to was Zack Feinberg, lead guitarist in a New Orleans-based band called The Revivalists, and an acquaintance from two decades prior when they were ten-year-old tennis rivals at summer camp in Maine. FLAX found a willing partner to embark on his own debut as a record producer. “The writing and his unique singing style absolutely floored me,” says Zack. “There’s depth, cynicism, and hope, but the songs are also comic and cosmic, irreverent and relevant, profound and light. This turned out to be a maiden voyage for both of us.”Although normally a behind-the-camera type presence (his live performing gigs to-date include playing an art cafe in Tibet and a South Dakota town of 15 people), FLAX is now a five-piece outfit ready to play in a club near you, with a November debut at New York’s Rockwood Music Hall and plans to record a plethora of new songs for a full-length album in the near-future.
“Music is the gift that has kept on giving since I was a kid. All the ways it’s allowed me to grow as a person, helped me through hard times and inspired me. I want my music to impact people the way music has impacted me.”
FLAX is ready to make that happen.