Flasher Are Redefining DC Punk
Living in the nation’s capital hasn't made the trio any more or less political—but they know that being political isn’t really a choice no matter what town you’re in.
Flasher’s debut ends with a repeated recitation of the question, “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” It’s an ominous way to close a record that’s as perky and bright as Constant Image, at least on the outside. Once you peel apart the layers of pulsating bass lines, colorful synths, jagged guitar leads, ping-ponging harmonies, and shy hooks that become more extroverted with every listen, the DC three-piece reveal themselves to be exceptionally thoughtful, self-aware creatives.
In one sense, Flasher are a punk band who wrote an entire album in a month’s time and polished it off in a breathlessly intense string of studio sessions. That facet of the band’s process is imbued in Constant Image’s verve, its danceworthy spirit. But Flasher are also a band who wrote a self-professed manifesto for their record’s title, derived from their inability to describe how they wanted it to sound. Here’s an abbreviated version:
The guitar doesn’t just sit next to the snare as they “play together,” the guitar is pushed and pulled and infiltrated by each snare hit. Just as the guitar can hide within the snare, camouflaged as resonance or chain rattle, or ensnare each transient in a cloak of noise…these images are images without thought but images all the same. A constant image asks us to consider not what the image “is” but “who” is the image for and what can the image “do”?
While speaking with the band’s three members—guitarist Taylor Mulitz, bassist Daniel Saperstein, and drummer Emma Baker—in early June, it became apparent to me that Flasher are the types to seriously consider what effect their “image”—as three white folks with an artistic platform, specifically—has on their surroundings. They seem like “weirdos who just [want] to make freaky art-punk and party,” as Mulitz says in reference to the current culture of DC punk, but also the kind of people who’d spend the night discussing the political minutia of partying itself. That space between spontaneous joy and critical examination is where Constant Image exists.
“It’s not, like, a protest album,” Mulitz says. “Depending on the way you look at it, maybe you could read it that way. It wasn’t a concept overtly about the political state of world affairs. But obviously everything is political at a certain point. Down to the socks that you’re wearing.”
“We don’t really wanna tell people what their politics should be. We wanna tell them that they should reconsider how everything in their personal life is already political.” — Daniel Saperstein
Until last fall, Mulitz was a member of the DC punk outfit Priests, a distinctly political band who, along with Mulitz, own and operate the fiercely DIY label Sister Polygon Records. Associatively, and considering their political outspokenness, it’s easy to bill Flasher as the same. Saperstein explains his hesitation to accept that tag. “We don’t really wanna tell people what their politics should be,” he says. “We wanna tell them that they should reconsider how everything in their personal life is already political.”
This isn’t to say that Flasher and the tight-knit community they’re participating in, and in some ways driving, aren’t making changes happen. According to them, the city’s historically hardcore-minded scene has become a lot more sonically—and therefore socially—diverse in recent years. Although their humble characters prevent them from explicitly taking credit, it seems that Sister Polygon and the Flasher-adjacent bands have been the major catalysts for a new, progressive wave of punk rock.
“I think part of it is Sister Polygon being under the flag of this powerful, political punk band,” Saperstein says. “Taylor and Priests are, like, curating and putting under the same tent lots of different music genres. From Snail Mail to us to Post Pink to Coup Sauvage & the Snips. Being helmed by [Priests] has allowed everyone to see punk in DC as available to build a community out of, that’s a lot more heterogeneous than the hardcore scene traditionally was… It really speaks to the multidimensional experience of the music here and what punk means.”
Mulitz, who does most of the design work and mail order for Sister Polygon when he’s not on tour, has had a direct hand in that artistic curation. He’s thrilled to see the scene in its current state, one where hardcore bands and disco acts can exist on the same bill, and one where Flasher, which cruises the gulf between the two, fits logically.
“The scene is that everyone sounds like an outsider,” he says. “They all sound like each other and not like each other at all. The thread between is that it’s all kind of weird.” FL