Looks like the Charlotte duo Flagship may be on the cusp of national success. Singer and guitarist Drake Margolnick and drummer Michael Finster's second full-length album The Electric Man, released March 10, was produced by Beck's longtime drummer Joey Waronker, and it's getting a big push from Cali indie label Bright Antenna Records.
It hasn't always been smooth sailing for Flagship. After gigging tirelessly on the Charlotte music scene since 2005, Margolnick and Finster formed Flaghip in 2011. When the band's first album came out in 2013, the band was a five-piece including keyboardist and longtime friend Grant Harding. He left Flagship on good terms, but in 2015 he died. The passing of their close friend inspired Margolnick and Finster to write The Electric Man's title track.
"People described Grant as electric," Margolnick says. "The album is dedicated to him, but the whole record is not focused on that one incident. It's all over the place."
As Margolnick and Finster came to terms with Harding's death, they decided to continue as a paired-down two-piece.
"Michael, Grant and I were usually the guys who would sit down and get songs started," Margolnick says. "So it was easy for us two to keep doing that together."
As the band prepped for the March 17 release party for The Electric Man at Hart Witzen Gallery, Creative Loafing talked with Margolnick and Finster about coming up in Charlotte, searching for success and making emotional, magical music.
- Eliot Lee Hazel
Creative Loafing: Drake, you've described the process of making The Electric Man as magical. How so?
Margolnick: We went out to L.A. last summer to start writing songs, and to see if there was chemistry with Joey Waronker. It went so smoothly that we knew we wanted to make a record with him. Everything was so effortless, other than one or two bumps — which is to be expected. It came together so quick. We had a deadline, 10 days to finish the core of the album. To be able to walk away from that kind of fast process really happy is something special because you never know how it's going to go.
How did Waronker get involved?
Margolnick: We had met Joey right before we made our first album. He was interested in making the first one with us, but we ending up going with another producer. Once it came time for the second album, we remembered that Joey was so cool. He's done a lot of amazing stuff in the music industry, including music we really love. So it made sense to hit him up again and see if he was still interested. It all fell into place.
When you came up with a sound for the band, were there any inspirations?
Margolnick: I have a handful of influences. When we were making this record, I was listening to a lot of Kurt Vile, Father John Misty, Bruce Springsteen — the list goes on.
On "Mexican Jackpot," I wanted to have a tight, crisp verse. If you know the band Scenic you can probably pick up on that in that song, but then we added a chorus that took it in a Weezer direction. Michael probably saved us from copying what I was listening to. That's one great thing about being a duo.
Finster: If I ever sit down and say, "I'm going to make a song that sounds like this band," after 10 minutes it's totally not like that.
What is your take on the Charlotte music scene?
Margolnick: I give the scene hell sometimes, but then there are moments when I love it. I go back and forth with it. We've been a part of it for so long.
I also feel a little isolated from it now that we spend a lot of time elsewhere. But it will always be a special thing for us both. There's a lot of really cool shit going on, but it's weird trying to find our place in it.
Finster: When it comes to music, Charlotte is tricky compared to other places we've been.
Margolnick: It used to be a lot easier to get people to come to shows. I don't know if that's just something we're struggling with, or if it's becoming normal. A lot of people we grew up with who were coming to shows have kids and families now.
What's on the horizon after the Hart Witzen release party?
Margolnick: We have a tour coming up. We're planning the logistics for it now. That will take us out to the West Coast and the Northeast.
Finster: We're starting a marathon, as our team would say.