The expansive, electric sound of Flagship was born one humid summer at a music festival in Illinois.
Drake Margolnick was there performing on the heels of an EP he had recorded and some friends of his from the band Campbell were there and he asked them if they would be his backing band. It became clear from the first note that this makeshift group had musical chemistry. The group created a sound much greater than the sum of their parts. Back in their mutual hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina it was decided that this musical collaboration should continue.
Frontman Drake Margolnick was born in England, on an Air Force base, the son of a military couple. A few years later, his mother settled in the southern city of Charlotte where Margolnick focused his energies on skateboarding and dirt-bike riding, dreaming of pursuing the sports professionally. Through his teen years, however, music began to completely capture his imagination. After high school graduation, Margolnick moved to Australia to follow his muse. Disillusioned with the scene there, Margolnick returned to Charlotte where he quickly integrated into the burgeoning community of musicians, artists and filmmakers.
It was the same soil that guitarist Matthew Padgett, drummer Michael Finster and keyboardist/programmer Cole Moser were growing in. It was here playing in multiple bands in multiple venues—clubs, theaters and coffee houses—that they honed their musical style, a sound that transcends the traditional south but seems right at home in the southern heat.
After forming Flagship, Padget, Finster and Moser immediately began to work with Margolnick on a tight collection of songs—self-producing and engineering the Blackbush EP. Here, the group began to formulate an atmospheric mixture of pop-minded melodies and passionate, aggressive performance. It was the strength of these songs that attracted the attention of Bright Antenna Records, a label that wanted to see the group grow beyond their regional fanbase while maintaining their distinct musical personality. After playing stages across the U.S. for a year, Flagship recorded their first full-length LP with the producer Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Washed Out). Set to release on October 8, 2013, the album is both a culmination of all that came before and the sound of what comes next.
Drake, you had a singer-songwriter career before this, and there of the other guys played in Campbell the Band. How did that turn into Flagship?
Drake Margolnick: I started Flagship back in 2005 with a specific sound in mind. To make a long story short, I met Matt Padgett first and asked him to play guitar in a solo project I was doing. Months later we all ended up at a music festival together and the guys of Campbell backed up one of my performances, and then a few more. In working together we all felt a strong creative chemistry and a tight bond forming. It just made sense to play together and in turn Flagship was revived and reformed. Flagship and Campbell was not a merging of bands, as they are two very different sounds, it was a merging of artists.
Was there something missing in your solo career?
Margolnick: I quit being in a band that I started, and then I did a solo project for a little bit. The other bands that I had been in felt off-balance. I found myself doing 90% of the work. These guys have a work ethic, so everybody works, and everyone is happy when everyone is pulling their own. The songwriting changed because I wasn’t writing every part anymore, people were writing their own parts, so the more minds that connect, the more it develops into something that’s just not one person. It expands.
Tell me about Campbell the Band.
Matthew Padgett: Campbell the Band was formed by Michael and I and another guy named Grant, who was in Flagship for a bit. We met and we were like “let’s get together and start a real band.” So that’s probably 2003 when that started. Then it’s been a lot of small steps. We started gaining success in Charlotte, we were getting crowds of 700 to 800 people. But we didn’t feel right about it, we didn’t feel like it was going anywhere so we broke up, and I started playing with Drake’s side project, and I loved it and asked the rest of Campbell to come and play and we called it Flagship.
Drake, as the main lyricist, what ideas were on your mind when you were writing the album?
I reread The Call Of The Wild, and it affected me. I was just obsessed with the wilderness and that really bleed through most of the album. The wilderness as a literal thing, and how sometimes you feel like you’re in the wilderness and there’s not much happening. I was going through a lot of big changes in my life and my beliefs and getting more comfortable with myself. Maturing, and reevaluating priorities and figuring out what actually mattered to me. I found peace and solace in music.
How did you come to work with Ben Allen?
Braden Merrick (Bright Antenna Records): I am friends with Ben Allen’s manager Paul Adams. Ben Allen was on the band’s list of producers to work with. So through many conversations with Paul and Ben, we were able to work out a deal. Ben only works with artists he truly loves. He has that luxury. He said of all the artists he could have made an LP with at the time, he chose flagship due to the power of the songs and Drake’s voice.
Tell me about your first time working with Ben Allen. This was your first time working with a high profile producer.
Michael Finster: It was very different than the way we normally do things. Grant is actually an engineer himself, so for the longest time we recorded things on our own. When we did that we would usually go the studio and spend the whole day setting up and goofing off, and probably end up recording around 11 or 12 at night, because that’s when we felt the best. But Ben, he did things more scheduled. He was there to push us to use our time a little bit more wisely. He knew what he wanted and he would push you and push you until it sounded as good as it was going to sound. If he complemented something you did then it was really good, because he was not to open with complimenting you.
“North Carolina’s Flagship are quickly establishing themselves as a band with an eloquent and emotionally stirring sound.”
“After we fell in love with [Waste Them All] we had to give the rest of the record a listen and it’s completely on point with the single.”
–Nylon Guys Mag
“Both immediately captivating and unique, largely due to the impressive vocals by singer/songwriter Drake Margolnick”