FLOW TRIBE KEEPS THE KREWE MOVING
New Orleans-based band Flow Tribe has one goal in mind: to get you out of your seat. “[The music] has got to make you move and keep you moving,” explains Flow Tribe member (and washboard vest enthusiast) John-Michael Early.
Which is precisely why we couldn’t resist inviting our old friends to play a set at Preservation Hall as part of Sunday Funday during a Weekend With KREWE. Below, we catch up with Early to talk Flow Tribe’s early beginnings, what KREWE means to him, and the best place to escape in New Orleans.
HOW DID FLOW TRIBE COME TO BE?
Flow Tribe is a band made up of mostly high school friends that started with some informal jam sessions and a couple of little high school shows right before Katrina in 2004. After graduation, the crew split up: some of us went to college, our drummer [Russell Olschner] went off to Iraq, and another guy joined the fire academy. Katrina passed through the summer after, and that changed everything for us as we found our ways back into the city.
We got back together and started playing shows anywhere we could that first summer after Katrina. You could see people coming to our performances, really letting go, and forgetting about everything else that was going on in the city at the time. FLOW TRIBE FORMED AT A TIME WHEN NEW ORLEANS NEEDED YOU THE MOST.
It was almost a coincidence, but we’re very thankful we had the opportunity. A lot of musicians were out of town, so there was a void that needed to be filled. As a young band, I think some doors were opened up that allowed us to get onstage. There are musicians from New Orleans scattered everywhere, but there are also lovers of New Orleans culture and music who are in every corner of the United States— whether they’re former residents who were displaced, or people who experienced all of the beautiful things about our city and culture through the Katrina experience. It’s all come together for whatever reason, and that has been a landmark moment in all of our lives.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR SOUND?
New Orleans dance music... But with real instruments.
WHAT'S THE STORY BEHIND YOUR NAME?
Our lead singer [K.C. O’Rorke] never used to write down lyrics; they just flowed. Even to this day, if we’re doing covers, you can listen carefully and hear that he’s making stuff up as he goes a lot of the time. We’re always trying to change things up because we perform pretty consistently. So to keep ourselves entertained and on our toes, no two shows are the same. It has that looseness to it, so that’s where the “flow” comes from. As far as the “tribe,” our band is very much a family, and we consider the people who follow us and support us a part of our family as well.
There’s also the Indian tradition of Mardi Gras and tribes. It’s something that we all grew up appreciating and following: listening to the rhythms. We’re a dance band, and that’s what you see a lot of in Indian music here. We try to treat everything like that family and that tribe.
A 'TRIBE' IS VERY SIMILAR TO A KREWE IN THAT SENSE. WHAT DOES KREWE MEAN TO YOU?
KREWE is a style and a vibe. It’s a brand that I’ve been following since its inception. KREWE is indicative of the feeling you get in the city of New Orleans, which you have to appreciate. I’ve seen that too with the team at KREWE as the “krewe” has grown in size. You can tell it’s a place where people are inspired to work, and that shows in the product. There’s always something on the horizon at KREWE, which is inspiring. I’d like to think that Flow Tribe’s business is the same way: we pay attention to detail and have an indicative style that reps the city we love. It all comes from here. This place right here is the main inspiration.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE PLAYING PRESERVATION HALL AS A PART OF THIS WEEKEND?
I feel like a child. I have goosebumps just walking into that room. Ben Jaffe’s parents started it, and it’s the same [feeling] now: that family vibe, attention to detail, and focus on a style you’re not going to see anywhere else. We’re talking about Preservation Hall, but I think KREWE is a young company that definitely has those same characteristics. I didn’t think [Flow Tribe performing at Preservation Hall] would ever happen, so we’re honored to have had this opportunity to make music in here.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE SPOTS IN NEW ORLEANS?
I love the Maple Leaf Bar. We kind of came up there and they gave us a lot of opportunities by letting us get on the stage and play whatever night they had open. It’s a relationship that we really value. I’m also a Mid-City/Bayou St. John guy, so there’s a part of City Park where you can start walking at Morning Call along the only remaining part of Bayou Metairie. It’s a really majestic walk, and then you cross the bridge and can be alone over there. It’s a good place for me to get lost pretty close to home and put things into perspective. It brings you back to the city that was here before us, and that’s very special to be reminded of.