California Dreamin’; An Interview with Hollis Wong-Wear of The Flavr Blue

The trio of  The Flavr Blue already set themselves apart from the rest of the Seattle hip-hop scene before joining forces.  Rapper/producer Parker Joe and Lace Cadence had cut their teeth being ever present with the production of local talent with the city.  Then there’s Hollis Wong-Wear, a spoken word poet that also focus her attention to not only rapping, writing but political advocacy as well.  Together, The Flavr Blue strive to push themselves creatively, blurring the lines of hip-hop and pop.

For the trio’s sophomore LP Blue Dream, The Flavr Blue looked towards getting out of the comfort zone and headed down to Los Feliz.  The finished product offers up chilled R&B sounds and seamless West Coast melodies.  Going along with a cast of musicians that included Jay Park, VanJess, Sweater Beats, ymtk and The Last Artful, Dodgr, Blue Dream sets up as The Flavr Blue’s most focused work to date.

Ghettoblaster recently caught up with one-third of the band Wong to take about what led the group to each other, activism, and future plans.

What ultimately led everyone to start working together back in 2012?

We had all met and become friends through our various rap projects, and all were feeling the itch to experiment outside of hip-hop and create music in a different lane. The collaboration was organic: Parker and Lace connected in the studio to conceive of the musical direction — heavily inspired by Scandinavian electronic, dance and pop — and were actually a duo called the Flavr Blue. They invited me into the studio to feature on a song for their first EP, “In My Dream,” and the writing process was so effortless that they accepted me into the fold of the band. Our album title, Blue Dream, is both in recognition of one of our favorite strains but also a nod to our very first song we wrote together as a trio.

During the writing and recording of Blue Dream, the three of you stayed in Los Feliz, Los Angeles. Listening to some of the tracks, you can hear that the time in town really influenced you. Do you agree?

Absolutely. After creating three albums in Seattle, it was a pleasure to get into Los Angeles and – maybe ironically – be able to focus more than we usually can when we’re in our hometown. We wanted this album to feel like a departure, a sonic escape, and to be more sun-soaked than our previous albums which leaned more into the mood and emotion of Seattle. It was also a great place to be able to forge natural relationships with collaborators, like our guy ymtk who features on “My Vice,” and VanJess, who provided background vocals and co-wrote our song on “Simple Love.” It was definitely an affirming and inspiring environment to be in.

You worked with engineer and co-writer Teal Douville for Blue Dream. What did Douville bring to the table that you haven’t experienced before?

Teal is an amazing collaborator — he engineered and mixed our entire album and brought his vast experience working in the co-writing scene of Los Angeles and his LA/Seattle sensibilities to the table. He contributed co-production on a few of our records and produced “My Vice” with Manicanparty as well, and his honest, incisive feedback was crucial to shape the sound of Blue Dream. As he adds plaques on his wall from radio-friendly artists like Fall Out Boy and Daya, he is also still actively collaborating with Seattle artists like us, Sol and Ryan Caraveo… still staying connected to his 206 roots even as his profile grows in Hollywood, and creating in-roads between the two.

 

The single “Fetti and Spaghetti” is a call to action regarding the state of our American government. With the current climate, what do you think needs to be done in order to restore balance?

I don’t think there was ever really balance to begin with, although I do think we’ve seen the end of courtesy and decorum. I do think what is needed is a fundamental shift. Change always happens on the local level — it starts with people being more connected with their communities, invested in the safety and livelihoods of everyone within their neighborhood and cities, and electing folks who are accountable to people and not corporations even though our policies make it incredibly easy for capital to purchase political power.

So much has been said about the stance that football player/activist Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. Being a political advocate, what’s your opinion on the subject?

I think the reaction to Colin Kaepernick shows the ass of the majority of folks who say they respect the Constitution and the First Amendment but flip shit when someone uses his platform to peacefully protest. If you’re more riled up by athletes taking a knee than those slain by police officers with no consequence, you’re part of the problem.

I saw that you have two scheduled shows in November. What are the immediate plans for the band? Touring more?

We’re playing NYE at Q in Seattle and are actively planning shows for the first few months of 2018. The plan is also to get over to Asia to connect with Jay Park, Cha Cha Malone, and the countries where our collaboration “365” has been charting, like Japan! Yay! #sushi

Blue Dream is out now.  Here’s the video for the remix version of “Top Down”.

 

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