It’s the common mistake to classify pop music as boy band/Disney princess detritus.
Music scholars have always been inconsistent in the way they’ve metered out characteristics for the broad genre. While we may associate the actual term with the smack of bubblegum, we forget that the original etymology helped us define the difference between Count Basie and Chuck Berry.
If you’re in need of a pin to place The Floorwalkers on the spectrum, you can place them closer to the latter. The Columbus stalwarts fear not conventionality, choosing instead to focusing on how to re-hone their pop craft.
“Pop songs are not easy to write,” says lead vocalist Jonathan Elliott. “They are definitely something that has taken us time to develop a formula [for], and we still haven’t nailed it. There are bands out there that have their one pop hit and they never hit it again. I would never be cocky about it because it’s one of those things where you should be just be thankful for that little strike of lightning you get sometimes.”
Or hundreds of little lightning strikes.
The Floorwalkers owe much of their substantial Columbus following to the workmanlike craft they’ve exhibited in the eight years since their relocation from Cleveland. They’ve logged over 500 shows in that time—from main stages to grimy suburban basements—a band ethos developed from the years they spent playing a Wednesday residency at the venerated campus-adjacent dive, Ruby Tuesday’s.
“Those Wednesday shows were our college education—our intro 101 course on many aspects of being in a rock and roll band. It forced us to do a lot of things outside of our comfort zone,” says Elliott. “When you play 139 gigs in front of the same people you get comfortable in front of your crowd. It forced us to not be stagnant and to write and learn more material.”
Their April release Kids, Are You Listening?, believe it or not, is the band’s first proper full-length release, and it serves as a testament to their desire to stay fresh—either with brand-new material, or reinventions of older songs like “Pool of Petals” and “Up the Vine” that have landed on the record years after its inception. It still feels like a Floorwalkers record, in the same way you recognize that cool uncle at your annual family reunion—familiar but slightly aged.
“We call it our recent vintage,” says Elliott, adding that the album consists of songs the band has been trying to record over the past five years, but rotating members had made it difficult.
“People always ask me what type of music we play. I just say it’s a ‘rootsy-Americana-rockin’-soul record.’ We try to take our roots as seriously as possible,” he said.
Produced by Columbus legend Jay Alton, who worked with artists like Sainstseneca, The Lost Revival, Flotation Walls, Couch Forts, and others, the record was the band’s first attempt at crowdfunding, and not surprisingly, they exceeded their goal of $8,000 in just one month. It’s another testament to the band’s connection to its audience.
“There is never a shortage of inspiration. I find a lot of the inspiration in, you know, coffee, sexy girls.”
“[Crowdfunding] is effective because you feel so much more inclined to get things done, and you feel so connected with your crowd,” Elliott said. “You are actually making a record for other people, not just for yourself. When you do crowd funding there is a lot of pressure and obligation, but there is a good feeling that you are doing something not just for yourself, but because people believe in you.
“I think when you are in a band like ours it is hard to be selfish.”
Finding time to write music isn’t easy, especially while on the road. But Elliott says inspiration is all around him, especially in unexpected places.
“The good thing is we were writing a lot of this record while we were on the road, and it’s impossible to not be inspired. Sometimes it’s difficult to get ideas down, but there is never a shortage of inspiration. I find a lot of inspiration in, you know, coffee, sexy girls,” he laughs. “I write a lot of narrative and a lot of stuff off the top of my head. People ask me, ‘What this song is about’, and I’ll be like, ‘Honestly that’s about some sitcom I was watching
The Floorwalkers will be at Rumba Café 12.18. Tickets are $10. To check out Kids, Are You Listening?, visit thefloorwalkers.com.