HNRY FLWR meditates on a ‘moment of trust’

The new single from Brooklyn-based songwriter HNRY FLWR starts off slow and brooding, a haunting Nick-Cave esque vocal over a lone piano setting the tone for what’s to come. When the band enters, it’s something out of a Netflix-era Western thriller. He sings of visions and perspectives and mirages, clearly operating on his own unique plane. We caught up with the artist – real name David Van Witt – about his upbringing and how it helped lead him to where he is today. With one of the most interesting perspectives you’ll read about today, HNRY FLWR is an artist to keep an ear on.

David, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us! First and foremost, tell me where the name for your project comes from. I’m sure you’ve been addressed as Henry before…

Hi! Yes, a lot of people I meet and know call me Henry – I like it. The name Henry Flower comes from Ulysses, the James Joyce novel. It is the pen name of Leopold Bloom – the Odyssean character. 

Your back story – the little I know of it – is fascinating to me. Without taking too many words out of your mouth for our readers, you grew up in a cult in Iowa – how much of your childhood was spent in that environment?

I usually call it a meditation community because I’ve noticed people cannot imagine a mostly peaceful and harmless cult. The negative cult messaging is vast, but I think cults can play an important role in exploring unpopular ideas. That being said, we were involved with it until I was maybe twelve years old.

At the risk of asking a stupid question… looking back now as an adult, what was it all like?

There are no stupid questions! It was beautiful! It certainly had it’s problems but I think any organization of people and ideas will have conflict – it’s human nature. But I felt warmth from the people around me, and i’m always grateful because growing up with esoteric adults around me teaching me about clairvoyance, UFOs, levitation, world peace, really gave me this sense of wonder that I wouldn’t have gotten in a traditional American environment. It felt safe to be different and believe in the unknown.

Hearing about this reminded me of Mikel Jollett’s (of Airborne Toxic Event) recent memoir about being raised in a cult out in California. He poignantly describes music as his only meaningful escape. How has your experience as a musician been impacted by your childhood? 

That is interesting. It’s hard to compare cult experiences, but I can definitely see how music can be an escape. My childhood was filled with a lot of Indian raga music. That has certainly influenced me and the way that I write. Making music is a spiritual practice for me – it’s hard to separate the two.

How about vice versa – what role did music play in your upbringing? What were some of your first musical discoveries?

Besides ragas, I would spend a lot of time with my mother’s CD collection. I love hearing these stories from other music lovers. They always have some special moments where they discover music and it feels like pure magic – changes their trajectory forever. I remember finding a Whitney Houston album and melting, The Beatles would make me twist and shout, and I still feel blessed to have found some Pure Moods compilations.

Your new single, ‘Moment of Trust’, just came out on Friday. When was this written?

I wrote it in 2019 and then it sat dormant until Sam Cohen and I revamped it.

The song has – for lack of a better word – a real “traveler’s” vibe about it. Sort of like if Lord Huron and Nick Cave melded together. What inspired the song?

What a lovely comparison, thank you. The lyrics came to me when I was feeling really tense and almost trapped in an anxious cycle. I had a panic attack for the first and only time – and it just poured in, like a letter to myself, to my friends feeling the same way, just let go. It’s weird and miraculous to get a switch like that.

Alongside you are some notable featured players, including a member of The Shins and a member of Sharon Van Etten’s band. How did you connect with these folks, and what was it like working with these session musicians?

There’s a running joke in the Broolyn music scene that if you haven’t been in the HNRY FLWR band you’re not a Brooklyn musician. That’s ridiculous of course but it’s true that I love exploring collaboratively with anyone who inspires me and I think searching for that special feeling that you got when you first heard Whitney Houston keeps you hungry for more connections. I wouldn’t call my collaborators members of those bands but they did work with them, and so many more, and it’s an absolute joy to be in the presence of greatness.

Now that the single’s out, what’s next on the horizon for you? Can we expect an album soon?

Yes! Our debut full-length album, Visions of the Daytime Moon, comes out October 6th. We’ll be playing two shows at Sleepwalk October 7th and 8th, and then flying to Paris to celebrate the release with our distributor, Groover Obsessions on October 25th.

Pre-save ‘Visions of the Daytime Moon’ by HNRY FLWR ahead of its release next month right here.

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