It’s been a busy summer for Florence & Normandie. After a month-long tour across the East coast and some southern states, the Broward-based band released its first full-length, Et. Alia. The album, following the band’s first release Prophet, is the end result of almost two year’s worth of work.
Formed in October 2014, Florence & Normandie –guitarist/vocalist Mikey Switz, drummer Aj Lino, bassist Panda Black and designer/touring performer Anthony Grasso—is self-described on Bandcamp as “odd-meter/indie,” probably because it’s difficult to pinpoint the band’s exact genre. Et. Alia boasts a blend of post-hardcore, emo and math rock, delivering catchy choruses and Dance Gavin Dance-like breakdowns on the same song.
“We usually don’t actively think about influences when we write,” says Switz. “For me, I wanted to put a bigger emphasis on weird timing stuff while keeping everything accessible.”
This ethos is apparent throughout the album, especially on tracks like the urgent, danceable “168” and the band’s agreed-upon favorite, “I’ll Be Fine.” Lino described these tracks as the pinnacle of Florence & Normandie’s sound: “Fast, heavy and groovy.”
The album strikes a good balance between impressively technical and more lyrical, letting tracks breathe after heavy breakdowns or pick back up after slow burning bridges. The stuttering, spiraling riffs and rhythms on “Hallowed” contrast refreshingly with more restrained songs like “I Only Ever Think of You,” which is carried by bouncy instrumentals and softer vocals.
“In all the chaos of just trying to find things that sound good,” Lino says, “I feel a large portion of it is guided by the mindset of, ‘What’s next for us as musicians? How do we get better?’”
Even the band’s live show pushes the boundaries: While F&N deliver an energetic set, Grasso, who designed the covers for Et. Alia and Prophet, paints on stage. His brushstrokes synchronize with each song, and he sometimes leaves the canvas to improvise screams for “I’ll Be Fine.”
The cover of Et. Alia, Grasso said, was inspired by an “eerie” photo of a man “seemingly floating above a forest.” With its pastel-colored, cut-out trees, the art echoes one particular theme on the album: growth.
Switz explores this lyrically, addressing self-regression on “Fracture” and doubting his own growth on the aptly named “Grow.” One of the album’s shortest, most rapid-fire songs, “Curvature,” is also the most existential, addressing how we fluctuate to fill preconceived roles: “How is it that we have come to know who we are? Receiving orders encrypted by curvatures.”
The members of F&N continue to push themselves anyway, especially when each of them have a solid repertoire of previous and current projects.
The band also forged bonds through metalcore shows, familial introductions and Runescape. It makes touring that much more enjoyable (or, at least, bearable) when shows were cancelled or when Black had to get a tetanus shot after stepping on a rusty nail.
“The best things about the F&N/glassgirl tour was that I was with a lot of friends and we did a fair amount of urban exploring,” Black says. “[Getting tonsilitis, the nail incident] and having to do two sets a night plus long drives got pretty exhausting.”
Yet there’s always a place for F&N to return to: The Barn, which is where ‘Et. Alia’ was recorded. It’s Switz’s mom’s house, which triples as a practice space, venue and hangout spot.
“I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how to accurately describe what goes on there for years,” Switz says, “but I’m not sure that’s even possible. It’s our home away from home.”
By Carina Vo