Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
DSCF0835 Adrian Lee adrianlee HELD FOR LINE OF BEST FIT

On the Rise
Liana Flores

08 July 2024, 08:30
Words by Laura David
Original Photography by Adrian Lee

Additional Photography by Sequoia Ziff

With her debut album Flower of the soul, British–Brazilian artist Liana Flores brings audiences into her world of flower power and whimsy.

There’s a certain quality about Liana Flores that makes the South Norfolk-raised, London-based folk artist feel like the second coming of the Monterey Pop days.

Aesthetically, her work is both earthy and fantastical, with creative elements that feel like they could have been ripped out of a Shakespeare play (indeed, she cites A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a favourite of hers). Musically, she has built on the massive success of her surprise hit “rises the moon” by continuing to draw from the worlds of Brazilian bossa nova and ‘60s American folk. Her debut album Flower of the soul is steeped in a welcome escapism while also being grounded by a deeper pursuit of goodness and morality, marking her out as a reincarnation – though a decidedly unique one – of the ‘60s idols she holds so dear.

Growing up in a small town and attending a rural school, music made its way into Flores’s life less by choice than by necessity. Her first experience with performing was singing in her primary school choir, an activity she joined simply because it was part of the curriculum. “There were only about 10 people in my class, and everybody just had to take part,” she says, laughing. Next came piano, an instrument she tried her hand at and stuck with for a little while, but ultimately shied away from. “I was pretty bad at it,” she says, though further discussion seems to contradict her modest assessment.


Talking to Flores, one can’t help but get the impression they’re in the presence of a genius who is not quite aware of their genius. She is soft spoken and careful with her words, but as the anecdotes begin to flow, it becomes clear not only that she is truly a musical master in the making but also that she has a habit of underselling herself. Despite undergoing rigorous classical music training as a child and, seemingly, absorbing as much of it conceptually as she could, songwriting didn’t come to her until a little later. “I started learning guitar when I was in my mid-teens,” she explains “I switched over to guitar because I just loved bossa nova a lot and wanted to play those songs.”

Coming from a British–Brazilian household, Flores was introduced to the genre through the Gal Costa, Caetano Veloso and João Gilberto records played around the house by her mother. “I didn’t go and visit Brazil a lot,” she says. “I’m still kind of learning Portuguese because I didn’t grow up speaking it. So, I think getting really into that music was a way of being in touch with Brazilian culture, in a quite accessible way.”

Liana Flores Nightvisions Album Announce Press Photo High Rez Sequoia Ziff oneseq Vertical

As she began to write her own music, those cultural influences began to fuse with the folk music she loved. “I only started listening to music in general because of my boyfriend when I was 17,” she confesses. “But then,” she quickly clarifies, “I continued on my own accord.”

“He was a cool guy,” she says of her high school relationship. “He listened to ‘60s music, Bob Dylan and whatever. He put me onto the Beach Boys and stuff, and from there I got into folk stuff from that era.” She was, in a way, insatiable for the music, quickly making her way through the ‘60s folk canon and, shortly after, beginning to draw inspiration from it herself. Among her heroes are Nick Drake, Joan Baez and, of course, Vashti Bunyan, whose vocal intonation and melodies echo in Flores’s own work.

“There are similarities and differences,” she says of the two genres that have shaped her. “I like that both of them can be carried by just a voice and guitar. It’s really important to me in writing and performance. Where they differ, I think, is that folk is more of a DIY, grassroots type of genre. It’s more of a people’s genre than bossa nova, which was developed very deliberately as a mixture of American jazz and Brazilian music to entertain people in cocktail bars and stuff.”


Nonetheless, Flores’s fusion of bossa and folk has, evidently, come together seamlessly. In her late teens, she tells me, she felt boxed-in by life and needed an outlet. She directed that angst towards her music, taking refuge in it and using it as a bulwark against feelings of isolation. Much of her early work was written while she was still in high school and then put away – meant only, at first, as diary-like creative expressions. When she did decide to release the work, she produced the tracks herself on GarageBand and uploaded them to streaming through DistroKid, where they sat online, virtually undiscovered, for years.

“I was not consciously trying to be anything,” she tells me. “The stuff that I have out at the moment, apart from the songs on the new album, was just me singing about my feelings because I had to. Nobody was really listening to it.”

In her final year of university, though, that changed. While wrapping up her degree in zoology at St. Andrew’s (where, in a rare but deserved burst of pride, she tells me that she graduated with a first), her roommate alerted her to the fact that she kept seeing her song “rises the moon” all over TikTok. At first, Flores dismissed the phenomenon as pure coincidence. She didn’t have TikTok herself, but she assumed her friends were being shown her song because of “the algorithm.” Eventually, she says, she realised there was more at play.

“At first, I was like, ‘Oh, this is so fab, and this is going to be over in maximum one week,’” she says and laughs. When the noise didn’t die down – the melancholy snippet still reverberates all across the internet even today – she realised she had more serious choices at hand. “I didn’t know what to do with it,” she says. When label emails started coming in, she contemplated leaving school immediately, but decided to stay and finish at the recommendation of her father, who had dropped out of university as a young man and always regretted it. “At the time, I was like, I would rather have a career cutting this one hit out on the road than have to get an office job. So I decided to graduate and do that.”

"I think people will be turning towards something resembling flower power as a reaction towards pervasive phone use. That interests me."


Having made her choice, her selection of a label partner really depended on whichever one would choose to wait for her and stay in the game a year after her viral moment. In the end, that label was Verve Records, the home of legends like The Velvet Underground and Kurt Vile, and a particularly fitting choice for an artist so steeped in the traditions of the ‘60s and ‘70s. After finishing her degree, Flores got straight to work on Flower of the soul, leaving the UK to travel to Los Angeles and work with Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart producer/mixer Noah Georgeson.

“Since ‘rises the moon’ happened, I’ve been like, ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck, I need to write.’ So I’ve been loosely working on new music since then, and I knew I wanted to put out an album,” she explains. While the creative process on her first EPs may have been largely instinctual, she tells me, the sound and feel of Flower of my soul was crafted with delicate and deliberate intention. “There was a lot more writing and rewriting,” she says. “I think I wanted to make a body of work that was cohesive and visits all these genres, but has an underlying theme to it.”

On this record, she says, that theme was transformation – both what changes during big periods of transition and what remains – as informed through romantic ideals of nature and love. “I like the aesthetics of the flower power movement in the ‘60s, and I think there are certain parallels,” she says of her project and its anchoring in the current cultural moment. “I think there’s a new thing where people will be turning towards something resembling flower power as a reaction towards pervasive phone use. That interests me.”

DSCF0893 Adrian Lee adrianlee HELD FOR LINE OF BEST FIT

References to nature and finding community abound on the project, her lyrics reading as closer cousins of romantic poetry than pop hits. Tracks like “Orange-coloured day” and “I wish for the rain” play off of quintessential romantic ideas of finding solace and contemplation through interacting with elements of the natural world, all backlit by lilting guitar parts and soft-spoken vocals.

But, on Flower of the soul, enhanced instrumentation and levelled-up production gives Flores’s work a new air of maturity. “I’m always really scared to collaborate, just because I’m relentlessly particular,” she says, describing how she’d often arrive at studio sessions with a full-blown arrangement in her head. “I get really specific ideas about how I want something to be in terms of atmosphere, and that’s really important,” she continues. “That said, I’m glad I worked with other people, because it was just cool. I never thought I’d be able to record with other people. I never thought I’d be able to get in the studio and make a record that way.”

While Flores’s work quite clearly borrows from the flower power aesthetic, she pulls from its community ethics too. At her live shows, for example, she has asked fans to come dressed in fantasy costumes, bringing the world in her head to the venues across the world she began playing. Many of them obliged. What resulted was not just a unique artist–audience experience, but a chance, as she says, for barriers to break down between audience members themselves, allowing them to mingle without judgement and form bonds with each other. “The community thing is sweet,” she says. “It’s a whole experience. People have been meeting friends at shows. It’s really cool.”

With Flower of the soul now out in the world, all that’s left for Flores is to continue compounding that energy. She’ll be bringing the record on tour later in 2024, an opportunity to continue experimenting with her enhanced sound and play a new live set. What she really hopes, she says, is just that people like the new work and that they continue to show up. If her track record is any indication, I have little doubt that they will.

Flower of the soul is out now via Verve Records / Fiction.

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