LA artist Josh Smith, who goes by the name Yoshi Flower, exploded onto the scene in March with his debut track “Movies”, having since released tracks “Just On Drugs”, “Woke” and “Brown Paper Bag”, to name a few. Originally from Detroit, Smith was a member of the “cosmic trap” duo Gosh Pith before making the trek to LA and starting his solo career. He met the artist Elohim, with whom he is now roommates and wrote the track “Panic Attacks”, and has been creating music ever since. With a sound that’s expansive and unique, he’s not concerned with fitting into one particular genre. With musical tastes that span from 2Pac, Biggie and Eminem to Metallica, Oasis, Bob Marley, Diplo and Griz, he blends all of his influences into a mix of glitchy beats, hip-hop rhythms, indie rock and electronica to create a sound that is uniquely him. Yoshi had the opportunity to perform at Bonnaroo last year, the first performance of his solo career and has opened for artists such as Princess Nokia, Flint Eastwood and Dua Lipa. He recently toured with Whethan and SG Lewis, making plenty of new fans along the way. Having recently signed with Interscope Records, Yoshi’s debut recording with the label, a mixed tape entitled American Raver, was released on October 12th. The mixed tape is a collection of songs that he wrote as a way to cope with the crazy happenings in America and in the world right now, stuck at the crossroads between radicalism and utter apathy. With an album in the works for next year and plans to tour the world, it’s safe to say that Yoshi Flower is only getting started and has a bright future ahead of him as an artist! Staff writer Emily May spoke recently to Yoshi about his new mixed tape, growing up in Detroit and what’s next for him. You can stay up-to-date with Yoshi Flower and all upcoming music and tour news, and can stream and purchase his music via the following links-Website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Apple Music/iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud, Deezer, Pandora and YouTube. Check out his video for “Brown Paper Bag”, as well as the track “For Which I Dance” featuring Jesse Rutherford from American Raver below. Photo credit: Daniel Marty.
You grew up in Detroit with parents who were in the music industry. What did your parents do within the industry and what influence did they have on your musical aspirations growing up? Did you always have a love for music?
Yes! My dad managed local rock bands and he also helped them with law work when they couldn’t afford it. It’s hard to be an artist and a working musician and always be able to get the help you need, so he taught me the importance of working musicians. My dad would have me, like, play acoustic guitar and sing at a bar called PJ’s Lager House in Corktown when I was, like, 12 years old. Like if an opener dropped out, people would ask the bar owner “Why is this kid here?” and he would be like “No, it’s cool. He’s just doing his thing”. And I was so shitty and some people hated it, but some people liked it. My mom was a singer, a background singer for all sorts of different people. She came up in the New York scene in the ’70s, so it was kind-of like post-Warhol. They just taught me that…I mean, I was just exposed to working musicians at a young age. I had a mentor at a young age, a guy named Stuart Frankie that not many people know. He made a living off of loving music, so I always knew that was a thing. I think that was really important to me.
What was the Detroit music scene like when you were growing up and how do you feel that it shaped you as an artist. Who were some of your favorite artists growing up and are there any artists coming out of Detroit right now that you are especially excited about?
As a kid, there were some Detroit artists that were becoming huge. Like when I was mad young, I remember Eminem’s second and third albums, when he had the “Without Me” song, it was like the biggest song in the world. That song was coming out and so was “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes, and they were all from Detroit and I was like “Holy Shit!”. These people grew up like 3 miles away from me. And then at the same time I was lucky enough to be exposed to…they used to have this festival called DEMF, now it’s called Movement. It used to be free. That was before the proliferation of the modern electronic festival, but that cross-section of those three things I think made me kind-of who I am because I had a guitar and was obsessed with Jack White and was obsessed with rap music through Eminem. I was exposed to techno and dance music through DEMF. I just lived in the middle of that triangle for, like, 10 years. Then, when I was living in Detroit and able to go out, there was this band called Jamaican Queens. I don’t know if anyone is familiar with them but they literally changed everything for me. They were my first contemporary peers. I played a show in an abandoned factory that some skaters had put some ramps in and there were maybe 3 people there and one of them was a guy from Jamaican Queens. He was like “Hey, I like your stuff. You should come and play this show that I’m curating”, like each member of the band threw a show, and that literally changed my life, playing that show. Their albums were so important to me and still are to this day. They only made two albums and then they broke up, which is some super Detroit shit, but they were my biggest Detroit influence to be honest. Right now there are some really cool Detroit artists. I like this kid Sam Austin and a girl named Sienna Liggins. I mean, it’s a dope landscape. I really don’t think I would even be close to the type of person I am without witnessing the mixture of grit and beauty that Detroit has to offer.
You were in the electronic duo Gosh Pith. What made you decide to branch out on your own and launch a solo career?
It was kind-of circumstance and impulse. So yeah, I chased this girl named Thalia to LA so here I am. That’s the honest story of it. I haven’t really told anyone that. It’s cool now, but her name is Thalia and she’s so fire and I just chased her to LA. I knew I had to keep making music so now here I am.
How did you meet and come to live with Elohim? What can you tell me about your collaboration together on “Panic Attacks” and do you have any other collaborations in the works?
Yeah, so when I first went to LA it was pretty impulsive. I was like, “Fuck. How am I going to be able to keep making music?”. That was really all I cared about other than helping whoever I encountered. But I could do that if I was like broke as hell and homeless. I was moping around a studio and didn’t know what I was going to do. I had nowhere to stay and didn’t want to keep imposing on all of these people who were conspiring to help me and feel like I couldn’t give back to them. I didn’t want to keep crashing on people’s couches while they were working their asses off to just fulfill their own dreams. She just overheard me and was like “Hey. You should come crash with me”. We barely knew each other but dug each other’s music and had mutual friends, so she offered to let me crash with her. We became best friends literally instantly. She left two days after I moved in to go on tour with Louis The Child so I was just alone in this cabin in Topanga, CA. I just got a credit card and ordered some monitors off of Amazon. I didn’t have a car so I couldn’t go anywhere, so I just sat there…I didn’t even know how to work the heat in the house so I was freezing (laughs). I just sat and made what became my first beats, like “Movies” and “Just On Drugs”. When she got back, I went back into the studio where we actually met and they were like “Holy shit! These beats are sick. Do you want to track vocals on them?”. I told them yes and tracked those and it just spiraled into one of the best relationships I’d ever had in my life. I’ve seen how she grinds. She wakes up and works all day and I’d never really been around that because Detroit a very explorative but also sedated environment at times. “Panic Attacks” just came out of me sitting in my bedroom. I didn’t have a door. I just had, like, this little staircase where you could hear everything. I was just playing the chords and singing the chorus and she just yelled down “What is that?”. I told her it was just a song I was thinking could work for her fans really well because I had just been learning so much about her so it was easy for me to just step into that world. We wrote it right then, in like 15 minutes, and then the next day went to the studio and re-tracked the vocals and that’s how the song happened. She’s cool because she let’s me in…she’s really, really insular with her creative process. Since we’re best friends I’ve been there co-writing with her. There’s a song coming out at the end of October with Louis the Child and her and I got to be there to help write and be creative on that. She has an album she’s working on that’s just amazing that I’ve been able to peer into and jam on. We’re always working on stuff. I have a remix that I made for her that will probably come out in the next couple of months.
You have a pretty eclectic mix of musical tastes and influences but aren’t really concerned with fitting in with a particular genre. How would you describe your sound and where do you get your inspiration from when writing music?
I wouldn’t describe my sound with words. I feel like music is that bridge between language and feeling. I’ve tried to describe it but it’s just so hard to do. I hope more and more people can just listen to it and define it for themselves. As a human that’s how I realized for so long until recently I let my surroundings kind-of define me. It can sometimes be awesome and sometimes be whack to do that but it’s just a natural process I think until we figure out how to turn inwards. For inspiration, I don’t know. I think that I’m just a really permeable observer. I grew up middle class and am moderately educated and my parents told me about God but didn’t force me into shit so I’ve always been in the middle of everything. I don’t even look like a model, but sometimes I feel hot somedays, but I’m just, like, in the middle. That’s how my inspiration works, just being in the thick of things until they ooze out of me. It’s very rare that I just wake up and like “Oh, I wanna write about this exact thing”. I mean, sometimes I do that but most of the time it’s just, like, touching the computer or the guitar or just saying something and it just inspires me.
You were accepted to perform at Bonnaroo last year and that was your debut performance. What was that experience like for you, having your first performance be at Bonnaroo? What were some highlights?
It was insane! We had an email that we shouldn’t have had access to and we sent a tune to them and shortly after were offered to play the small stage and were like “Holy Fuck!”. I had never been to a festival like that ever because it’s so expensive and was never something I had done. When we got to the stage, there were hundreds of kids there and we had no idea how that was possible. Me and everyone I went with were just wondering how this was possible! We finished the show and a hundred kids stuck around and took this photo with me and we were all calling ourselves “the flower children”. Kids still message me all of the time from that performance and come to my shows on tour. We realized when we got home that on Reddit there was this thread predicting what Yoshi Flower was because I didn’t have any music out yet. Some people thought it was going to be a secret set by Cage The Elephant or something like that, so all of these people were there under the pretense of not knowing what Yoshi Flower was. It was just one of those universe ally-oops where I was like “Wow. Thank you that I can be a part of this”. It was great. I couldn’t envision any other way to have played my first show. I messed up in the middle of it and it made it that much more real. It was special for sure.
Since the release of your first track “Movies” in May, a lot has happened. How has that adjustment been for you, having such a rapid rise in success in such a short amount of time? How do you stay grounded?
Hmmm…well…I just do the same stuff I did before. I just wake up and make music so I don’t really notice any difference other then just being grateful. I was kickin’ it with Griz yesterday and he was like “Yo, what if you woke up tomorrow and the only things you had were the things you were grateful for the day before?”. And I was like “Holy shit! I would still have all of my fans and I’d still have all my tracks and I’d still have the outfit I’m wearing today…I’ve been wearing the same clothes for, like, two weeks…but I’ve just noticed that I’m just way more grateful and way more hungry to be visible and connect with my fans. I didn’t have any experience with that and now when kids hit me up I think it gets me more grounded because, like, someone is about to put headphones in their ears and literally put my music into their ears, so it’s way more humbling then anything else.
Your latest single “Brown Paper Bag” was recently released. What can you tell me about the track and what led you to record a 2.0 version with Rico Nasty?
Brown Paper Bag was just about, like, control and dependency. I made this space, 808, and then jammed with just 808 for like a couple of hours and picked up my guitar and made the song in like 20 minutes. After we made it, we thought it seemed like such a fun track for rap. I just really wanted to have, like…I don’t know, I really like hip hop and rap but I don’t really like it when artists just throw a random rapper on their songs so I really wanted it to be somebody unique and somebody that I also respected and got off on their vision. I think that Rico Nasty is a really cool archetype of just a free-thinker. She’s a female and she’s so badass and I was like if she’s down with it she should definitely do a version. So I did a verse and she did a verse and she worked on the bridge and then it was finished, probably 2 days before it came out and yeah, it was magical. It was a dope moment.
Your mixed tape American Raver will be released tomorrow (October 12th). What can you tell me about the inspiration behind the album and the making and recording of it?
So I’ve been working on an album album since “Woke” came out and in the midst of it so much crazy shit has happened in the world and in our country. I just had to deal with it by just turning inwards for now, because I don’t have any formulated grandiose solutions of any sort but, for me, and from someone who comes from a town in the Midwest, it’s easy to get caught up in the woes of society and be like “Wow! There is so much fucked stuff going on, but there’s also a lot of beautiful things going on”, so I just kind of sent it out from a place of honesty really. It was the only way to cope with all of this shit going on. With the recording, I just went back to the acoustic guitar because I’ve always been able to just be honest when I fiddle with my guitar, especially acoustic. With an electric guitar I can just like brag basically with a rip or something but I didn’t want to do that. There’s only one electric guitar riff but it’s super subdued on a song called “Invisible”, but yeah, I just sat with an acoustic guitar and wrote what I honestly was feeling. Sometimes it sounds like it lives on the surface and sometimes it sounds deep but I don’t really care because it’s just honest. It’s all I wanted to do with my first release on Interscope and just show people like…like people from Detroit would be like “Yo, your signed to a major label and like your an industry client” and I’m like “Watch me put out this project that’s literally the most honest thing that you’ve heard from anyone who’s on a major label, an independent label, making shit in a room, in a car. That was my whole intention, to show beauty in the midst of modernity, really.
I can’t wait to hear it!
I’m so nervous. I can’t wait for you to hear it!
You are currently on tour with Whethan. How has tour been going so far and what have some highlights been?
It’s been great! I don’t know, like we’re friends, first and foremost, so coming off stage and having him be on the side of the stage and seeing his reaction..it’s just a really warm environment. I think it was really fun for somebody, whether is Whethan or Dua Lipa or SG Lewis, like for them to bring me into a world that they’ve spent so much time building, I just want to leave the landscape cleaner and better and happier then it was before I walked into it. That’s always been a rule. It’s like an old camp rule…when you pull up to the campsite you leave it better then when you got there and that’s really just my approach to it.
What can you tell me about the ideas behind the videos you did for “Just Cuz We’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Onto Us” and “Brown Paper Bag”?
They came from just dreams and the subconscious. I like surreal things, so I realize now what the meaning is but I wasn’t attributing anything to the narrative when they were first thought up. But now I’m like “Oh my god! I get why I made that!”. And I don’t really wanna talk about it but yeah, that’s really it. It was just another example of just, like, coping.
What’s next for you? What do you have coming up and what are your goals going forward?
American Raver comes out and I hope it’s dope! I’m trying to live more and make…I think a new goal for me is to make some really great experiences, whether it’s through audio or visually through a live show. I just want to make some experiences for people. I wanna make other people happy and make people feel things. So yeah, I’m going to put this mixed tape out and put an album out next year and tour and see as much of the world as possible and try to be of service really.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today! I appreciate it!
Of course! Yeah, have a great weekend and let me know what you think of the mixed tape.