Twelve A.M Flowers are a band originally hailing from New York led by Kevin McGinnis, who tends to describe his music as “a bright reflection off a black window”. The name Twelve A.M. Flowers is a product of catching a tiny gift from the universe out of the corner of his eye. Two newspapers sat on each other, and where the text met from each one, it said “twelve a.m. / flowers”. He put the two together and Twelve A.M. Flowers was born.
Kevin has been a performing musician in the New York music scene since the mid 90s. He has played with bands like the New Rising Sons and Dopo Yume (with Sean Lennon). With the New Rising Sons he had a demo deal with Capitol Records and was offered a multi-album contract with Virgin Records.
You grew up in New York, how did that shape you? Do you still live in New York?
“Geographically, I am sitting in Ybor City, Tampa. I no longer live in New York. It’s been about 4 years since I split. Philosophically, I am somewhere between Camus and Yogi the Bear at the moment.”
“I guess what’s most distinctive about growing up in NYC is how one can be perceived objectively in other places that are not NYC. The more you travel and people hear your accent or inquire about where you’re from, the more you are given opinions about what New Yorkers are like, or and how you are liked or not liked.”
“It’s hard not to be shaped by the amount of culture, opportunity, art, food and millions of people that are right at your fingertips everyday. I’ve found it puts me ahead of the game in many instances compared to those who have grown up more isolated, so to speak.”
You play quite a few instruments. I understand you started with guitar. What originally drew you towards the instruments you play?
“The guitar was ubiquitous when I was a kid. Somehow, somebody you knew always had one. I think that’s because it was right after Rock n Roll became a huge presence in the world, coupled with the onset of Heavy Metal. Heavy Metal was the main factor in me getting off my ass and getting a paper route so I could buy a guitar and be in a ‘band’.”
“Most of the other instruments I started to play were out of necessity, or being stoned and bored and seeing what kind of noises I could get out of them.”
When did you start writing your own songs?
“I don’t remember exactly but it was in my mid teenage years for sure. There were some good moments peppered in there as far as song structure goes, but initially it was about doing covers and trying to get your dexterity and endurance up as a player. That was a bit of the thing then, the ripping and shredding on the guitar. The song writing focus came a little after. That said, there were songs that began in my teen attempts, that made it onto The New Risings Sons record, that ultimately was for a major label.”
You started your musical career with New Rising Sons (1997) and you were offered a multi-album contract with Virgin Records. However, the debut album was never released through Virgin. What happened?
“Oh boy, there is so much that can be said here. Some of it unique, some of it cliche. A documentary film is being made about us by Via73films and that time in New York City, the music biz, and all that craziness, so check out the trailer to start and some of the story can be revealed…. but, long and short, people sometimes don’t and can’t live up to an image they portray, whether it’s the cocksure musician, or the ever promising record label exec. The stars were aligned but the fog rolled in, very quickly.”
After the breakup of the New Rising you joined Dopo Yume. What are some of your favourite memories from playing with Dopo Yume?
“It was a very strange time for me. I was still in my mid twenties when the Virgin deal fell apart, and also a very serious relationship disintegrated simultaneously. Plus, 9/11 was still pretty fresh in all our minds and hearts, and that absolutely had some PTSD impact on me and my behavior/thoughts. I was asked by a friend managing the band if I knew of anyone that would be interested in playing guitar for them, and after taking a listen, I said that I would do it.”
“It was nice to walk into a band that was playing to crowds and had a direction after the successes of the New Rising Sons. At the same time though, I was struggling with the big changes happening to me and of course they had their own internal issues. We did come from different worlds, but I did find friendship with a couple of the guys. Jordan (Galland, ed.) and I still are in touch.”
“Yet, another band that had potential to make it but all the obstacles that crush bands and spirits got in the way.”
You are the main band member of Twelve A.M. Flowers, with other members coming and going. ‘Darling, Darling’ was the first single in 8 years. How has the sound of Twelve A.M. Flowers evolved since your first EP in 2002?
“The initial TWELVE A.M. FLOWERS EP I did right after the New Rising Sons fell apart and prior to joining Dopo Yume. Those songs would have been New Rising Sons songs, or at least they were written with that in mind. One of them, ‘Enjoy It While It Lasts’, actually is on the final New Rising Sons release. Carl Glanville, who was the engineer on the New Rising Sons stuff, recorded all those songs with me between my rehearsal space and his apartment. It was good to focus on those tunes while the whirlwind around my personal life continued. We did the best we could under the heavy circumstances.”
“‘Darling, Darling’ will be the ninth release from the band. There is a lot of material from the past regarding Twelve A.M. Flowers that I could put out but I’m just not sure it’s the best idea at this time.”
“When it comes to the evolution of the sound, it’s not so much about evolution, as much as it is about learning new dance steps and ways to navigate the clutter, to make nebulous ideas more clear and tangible.”
Your recent single ‘Darling, Darling’ is rather synth pop orientated. Is that the direction we can expect on your upcoming EP ‘As They Kiss Consume’? What can you tell me about the EP? Do you have a release date set?
“Yes, 100%. The direction of the other two songs is very similar, if not a bit more synth pop then ‘Darling’. The songs will hopefully be ready before the end of year, but if not, they will be good to go in late winter, early spring. The other two songs are titled ‘Dangerous, Darling’ and ‘Damaged, Darling’. A minor concept album, if you will. They’re being recorded in Charlotte, NC, with Engineer and Mixer, Justin Hertzell.”
Who are your main musical influences?
“My musical influences have certainly grown in both scope and spectrum over the years, but I still go back to Metal and Jazz most often when I listen to music. That may seem strange based on the music I create and write most of the time, but it just so happens to be what’s affected me. At this point though, and for a bunch of years now, I’m not really interested in following any influences in my creative orbit. I do and write what I think and feel, whatever the outcome may be. I can never release it or not put out anything I don’t like.”
I’m always curious to hear about the creative process. What can you tell me about yours? Is the song writing process for your other band Twiggy Branches different from Twelve A.M. Flowers?
“These days it’s pretty quick how things manifest and come together. I don’t force anything. That has definitely come via hard work and experience, though. It wasn’t always that way, but for the most part, I’ve tried to put forward the approach of letting things happen naturally, then and now.”
“So, basically, I hear something, start playing with it in my mind, then when that hits its breaking point, I start doing it in real time. I’ll then let it marinate, and come back to it and finish the basic skeleton and lyrics and structure. If it’s Twelve A.M. Flowers stuff, I will then start seeing how it will develop in the studio. I start with what I had originally heard, but sometimes a little mistake or new sound will show a new direction that the song was meant to go in.”
“When it comes to Twiggy Branches it’s pretty much the same, but the energy is more aggressive and primal, so to speak. I have the luxury of having musicians I’ve played with for ages in the band. Therefore, I can get away with a lot. I can throw crazy ideas at them knowing they can pull it off or add exactly what is needed and what I was missing.”
Twiggy Branches are: Christopher Pravdica (SWANS, Human Impact) on bass, Drew Thomas (Dead Heavens, Into Another) on drums/percussion, Phil Costello (Witch Taint, Satanicide) on lead guitar and Kevin McGinnis on vocals, guitar and piano.
Are you making a profitable living off music?
“NO. NOT EVEN CLOSE.”
What are you hoping to achieve with your music?
“Well, I have nothing to prove anymore, so that redefines the notion and concept of achievement for me. I’d love to make a better living and have my following grow exponentially, but if none of that occurs, I’ll just create at whatever pace I find sustainable, whether that’s not at all, or constantly, etc. It might be that I find my biggest audience years from now when I’m ‘rediscovered’ and finally ‘understood’. (Laughs)”
“I’m beyond happy that I still get attention and support from great, cool blogs and stations like yours, and that there is an appreciation for what I’ve created, even though I’m not functioning from a very high peak of success. Twenty years later all the New Rising Sons music has finally been released and I’m still writing and putting out good tunes…. so, I figure that plays into the idea of leaving a legacy behind no matter how I feel about the present or possible future situations.”
With The New Risings Sons you’ve shared the stage with Iggy Pop, Manic Street Preachers and Pink. With Dopo Yume you’ve opened shows for Rufus Wainwright. If you could open a show for any artist or band who would it be?
“The best reason to open for a band is exposure. So, to be honest, I’d like to open for any big band that could make our endeavors more fruitful. Unless, they’re just obviously not compatible or completely major assholes. It’s not a dream of mine to open for anyone at this point, but I would love to have been talented enough and around to have played with Miles Davis, or even be a member of Megadeth… blah blah blah. These answers may come off a bit self assured, but it’s really just a product of being in this lane for so many years.”
What advice would you give to your younger self and why?
“The music world has changed so much since I started. It would be near impossible to send helpful advice back to my earlier self that could actually predict the massive shift in the business. With that in mind though, if I was just beginning amongst all the rubble that is the music business today, I’d tell myself to run far away from it. The opportunities are just so minimal and truly few and far between. Unfortunately, because of decisions I’ve made, I’m still wading through it daily, as I strive to reinvent myself.”
What’s your favourite song from the Cool 20?
“I’m digging the song ‘Wasted Time’ by Candid, from the Cool 20.”
What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?
“I’m going to pick the song ‘All Night‘ by the band Low, from their latest LP ‘Hey What’. I really feel this is a brilliant effort in songwriting and production twenty years into a career, and a beautiful way for them to stay artistically relevant all these years later.”
Want even more Twelve A.M. Flowers? The band’s music is out on all streaming platforms. You can also contact them for merch options.
Twelve A.M. Flowers on Facebook
Twiggy Branches on Facebook
The New Rising Sons on Facebook
Twelve A.M. Flowers on Bandcamp
Twiggy Branches on Bandcamp
(Photo credits for cover photo: Jacqui McSweeney)