I got addicted to hardship / Adrenaline in my blood, confides Sphresa Lleshaj. One-half of alt-pop duo Flora Cash, her voice shines like a light in the darkness. With their new song “The Bright Lights,” string-bound with a slight sinister edge, Lleshaj and her husband/collaborator Cole Randall explore “being addicted to your struggles and your vices.”
“Self-sabotaging for the thrill of the darkness” also comes into play, as they describe, “but knowing that ultimately you’re capable of more and being determined to eventually actualize the ‘more’ that you are. The song also touches on our experiences with and around people who struggle with addictions or personal habits that slowly grind them down until they’re in some hole somewhere trying to figure out how they got there.”
Despite how dark and impossible addiction might seem, it will eventually break, leaving a clear path out. “We believe people can climb their way out of anything, and the song is meant to be a reminder to have hope and courage no matter how bad it gets,” they add.
“The Bright Lights,” recorded and produced in their Stockholm apartment, finds Flora Cash building the arrangement to explicitly mirror the emotional current. One day you will see that the bright lights will shine on me, sings Lleshaj on the chorus. And the dark side will disappear / And i’ll shine like a star.
The somber new track follows the release of their latest studio record, 2020’s Baby, It’s Okay. Taking stock of their creativity since then, they pause. “After the record came out, our year (and our lives) got flipped upside down. Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined we’d release the record and then be unable to leave home for the entire year.”
“We had a tour planned with a bunch of sold out dates, we were excited to get back on the road again, and we felt great about how people were receiving the record. Then, the pandemic struck, and we got news that the tour wasn’t going to happen. At first, we were shocked and disappointed, but we ended up turning lemons into lemonade. It ended up turning into a year of growth for us personally and professionally and a much needed respite from ‘road life.’”
Plenty of time to reflect and simply write, Flora Cash were in the throes of a full-on creative renaissance the last 12 months. “All the stuff we didn’t have time to get out of our system creatively over the past several years of grinding on the road finally had an outlet. There was nothing but time! And the usual distractions were more or less gone. Basically this past year reminded us why we actually do what we do; we love writing songs. If you strip away everything else: the stage, the promo, and the outward appearance of things ─ you’re left with what it’s really all about. Without the songs, there are no bright lights.”
Randall and Lleshaj have been afforded plenty of time to process the massive streaming success of “You’re Somebody Else,” which has vaulted over 200 million collective streams on Spotify, recently, as well. Feeling nothing but “gratitude,” the two musicians are “extremely lucky and extremely humbled that our song could reach and touch so many people,” they remark.
“We think [this song] touches on feelings that a lot of people have but don’t always know how to put into words; or feelings that we are embarrassed to admit we have. It’s also a song that feels both very specific and personal,” they continue, “but then also manages to be universal and general enough that people can interpret it in many different ways. One of the biggest surprises to us is just how many interpretations people have for this song and that each one feels like the obviously ‘correct’ interpretation. That’s a powerful recipe.”
Nine years ago, the Minneapolis-born Randall uploaded some music to SoundCloud, sparking Lleshaj’s all the way from her home in Sweden. The two began to swap Facebook messages, eventually leading to a phone conversation — and the rest is history. They got married and have been making music ever since. Three full-length records later, they show no signs of slowing down or settling for mediocre music.
Their songwriting journey directly reflects their commitment on raising “our standards of quality, at least from our own point of view. With every passing year we are more and more determined not to ‘settle’ for a line or a vocal pass that is just ‘good enough,’” they conclude, “but to strive for what we consider our best. Sometimes, we fall short, but we are always trying to raise the bar.”