Flais: The man, the myth, the legend

by Nikko Van Wyck

It was a bright and sunny afternoon, spring had just rolled around the corner and for the first time in a long while, the people of Bellingham had replaced their rain jackets and heavy boots with sun dresses and flip flops. Walking down Railroad, enjoying the sun on my face, I was mentally preparing myself for what would be my first ever interaction with Flais. I had listened to this man’s releases several times over the last few months, trying to figure out where the opulence came from, and I wasn’t quite sure if I was ready to meet him, let alone ask him intimate questions about his life.

I found myself alone in the corner of a dimly lit tiki bar, the only hint of the warmth outside coming from the cracks in the main entry way. The bar was empty and the drinks were stiff. I sat in silence as I waited for the man of “mulah” and mystery to show up. My eyes had adjusted to the dark, and when the front door opened, revealing a cascading wash of blindingly bright light, the first thing I could make out was the neon hair. Trim and proper, a perfectly cut bob with bangs, eyes behind sunglasses that didn’t come off the bridge of his nose as he walked into the room, I was finally face to face with the man known as Flais.

He ordered what was called a Painkiller, a large glass filled with tropical alcohol and topped off with an orange slice. “You want to try it?” he asked. I took a sip, and immediately the sweetness was overwhelming. For someone who sings about showering women and party goers with drinks, cocaine, and money, his benevolence was one of the first things to come through. He reached back for the drink reflexively, saying, “Let me know if you need anything.”

His backstory is complicated, and aside from a small blurb on his facebook page, not much is known about the man born in Calabasas, CA. What we do know is that he’s never one to turn away from the party. His music is a reflection of this, and I have frequently wondered if he records his songs while the party rages on in the background.

When I ask about how long he’s been around, he casually throws out, “I’ve been around forever, since the gods. I’ve always been.” I quickly realize that without specifics, this man was going to be cryptic. I then ask, “When did you first arrive in Bellingham?”, hoping to get something a little less vague. “That was a few years ago, I spent most of my time in Calabasas, California, as well as some time in Milan. I found some trouble there, made my way here, and fell in love with this little… hamlet. It’s helping me come back to Earth a little.”

I ask him if Bellingham is quieter than his past life. For a moment he just stared ahead. He then looks off into the corner of the empty bar, and with a sigh, he says “Yeah…it is…” letting the words hang in the dark. After a few seconds he looks back at me and says, “Picture every 80s coke party you’ve ever thought of, and then go beyond your imagination. That was my life.”

Even though his face was masked behind bug eyed sunglasses and a wash of neon hair, I could tell, there was something pulling at his heart. “The music came after the coke parties, the music is free time, and reflective,” he says, knowing what I was about to ask. And I believe that quote to be very revealing of this mystery man. The party is work. The music is where the passion is. He looks back at me and as if on queue, he says, “You know what though? Bellingham does know how to party.” And with that, just as quickly as it had all started, he got up and walked away.

As I sat there, confused by this interaction and sudden abandonement, I knew there was something more to him. Not once, did I ever think that writing for What’s Up! magazine might turn up an investigative journalism piece. Yet here I was, alone in a dark tiki bar on a hot afternoon, trying to piece together my seemingly failed interview.

Flipping through my phone, I found Flais’s artist page, trying to find some piece of information that I might have missed the first time through. There wasn’t much, but there was mention of his attending a private school in Calabasas. After doing some digging, I found out that he had spent time going to an alternative private program called MUSE, a school where students were encouraged to find their own path. What’s more, and as luck would have it, I was able to find a classmate of his that actually resided in Bellingham.

Ian is a quiet individual, also involved in music, albeit without the flair that Flais has, and seemed somewhat reluctant to talk about his time in Calabasas. From the moment I met him, I could tell that if there was anyone who could bring Flais back to Earth, Ian would be the one who provided the parachute to soften the hard descent.

I started off with the basics, “How’d you meet him? What did you guys do as kids? What got him into music?”

“I knew him in school, we grew up in the same neighborhood, but he was always a little too bouge for me,” he explains. Like Flais, Ian danced around questions, something that struck me as odd, but also made me realize I was talking to an actual confidant of Flais, not just some guy who knew him in high school.

I kept pushing him about what he believed truly inspired Flais to make such ridiculous music, and after dodging several more of these questions, he finally answered, “Look, the Flais I remember was just absolutely obsessed with analog synths.”

“But being obsessed with synths hardly leads to someone taking Ryan Paris to the next level,” I countered. From my experience, being obsessed with synths goes past the software of sounds and into the hardware world, where musicians sit in dark rooms and build computers before making any kind of noise.

Ian took a long look at me and finally shrugged. “Alright, he had, and possibly still has, this insane obsession with Keeping Up with the Kardashians. I remember him just sitting in his room for hours, with the door closed, and you could hear the show in the background. Sometimes you would hear a note underneath it all. But I always wondered about him and that show… I honestly think that out of everyone alive, he relates to them the most.”

“How long was that going on?” I ask. “Since day one, since I’ve known him.”

Absorbing this information about Flais’s obsession with reality TV, I ask “What do you think his biggest fear is Ian?” After an awkward moment of silence, Ian reluctantly told me, “You know I think his biggest fear is having nothing. His biggest fear is of having nothing, and the party just ending.”

It made sense. Flais’s music is never short on big spending and living large. From what little information he provides about his life, it’s apparent that he has done more than most, and has more than most.

“Why would someone want to come back to Earth after having it all, and especially in a place like Bellingham?” I ask Ian. He responds “It’s beautiful here, and they really do know how to party.”

Catch Flais’s EP release at Boscoe’s on June 23.