Interview: The Flips

The Flips
The Flips - Photo credit: Colette Marie Photography

It’s been just about a year since we first caught up with Chicago’s indie rock band, The Flips performing at the House of Blues. Over the past year, the band has been hard at work finishing up their second full-length album, “Better Days.”

With the release in November 2015, the band has been performing shows throughout the Midwest in support of the new album, starting with an album release show at Cobra Lounge in Chicago on November 28, 2015. Even with the craziness of all that’s involved in a new release, The Flips took a little time out of their hectic schedule for an interview with Front Row Music News.

After reading the interview, be sure to check out “Better Days.”

The Flips are:

  • Nick Sintos: Vocals , guitar
  • Mike Carlson: Drums, percussion
  • Annette Nowacki: Keys, vocals
  • Maccabee Kelem: Bass, vocals
  • Dustin Martin: Guitar


John Kosiewicz: How did the band, The Flips, get formed?

THE FLIPS: High school and Craigslist. Mike and Nick have been friends since high school when they started playing music together in another band, before deciding to form The Flips with Mike on drums and Nick on bass. That iteration of the band lasted a few years, until the original guitarist/singer left and the two of them decided to change things up. Dustin joined off a Craigslist ad, originally as a bassist, but switched to guitar to fulfill the sound we were looking for. We’ve been through about 10 bassists (not exaggerating), but eventually Mac was recruited off Craigslist to round out the lineup. Annette actually joined through mutual friends; her sister is Mike’s best friend’s girlfriend, and heard we were looking for a keyboard player. Mike saw her at a show with her old band, and asked if she wanted to be in The Flips… she was pretty eager to get out of that band, so naturally she immediately accepted.

John Kosiewicz: What’s the biggest challenge of your band?

THE FLIPS: The biggest struggle is probably trying to balance our full-time jobs while pursuing music. We’re doing what we love and want to make a career out of this, but in the meantime you need something to pay the bills. That said, we dedicate a lot of our free time and weekends to music, and try to play out of town at least one weekend a month. Besides that, our biggest challenge is probably just trying to get noticed in the Chicago scene. There are so many bands in the city that sometimes you can feel drowned out, but we’ve been fortunate in the last couple years to connect with some really great bands and venues in the Chicagoland area, and we feel like we’re slowly building a strong community amongst us.

John Kosiewicz: With your newest release of “Better Days”, tell us about the writing process? Are songs accumulated over time or do you sit down as a group and produce all the songs in a short period of time?

THE FLIPS: Definitely over time. Usually Nick will write songs on his own, and then bring them to the band to finish. So we all have the finished structure of a song to work off of, and then bring our own parts to the table and finish the song as a band. Occasionally songs will start from jams or riffs that come up in rehearsal, but usually that’s the start of the process, and Nick will take those bits home to write a new song.

We actually started writing this album pretty soon after releasing our first LP, A Harm Deep But Shining; that album came out in November 2013, and by March of the following year we were already playing “Better Days” and “Take Cover” live. So the writing process for this album spanned about a year and a half; when we started recording in January 2015 we had maybe half the album written, and the final songs (“Don’t Have to Die” and “More Than You’ll Know”) were written during the summer, shortly before recording wrapped.

John Kosiewicz: What inspires the group’s songwriting? Do you need music to write the lyrics? Do you write as a team or individually bring in pieces of a song?

THE FLIPS: Nick’s songwriting is very personal, and we try to respect that when he brings a song in; we don’t want to throw something on there that doesn’t fit the song just because one of us thinks it sounds cool. Rather, everything is done with the single goal of serving the song.

As far as themes go, it’s all personal experience: on AHDBS there was a lot about struggling with faith and who you’re becoming as a person, a lot of introspection. Better Days is entirely about mental health issues, particularly depression, and the difficult journey to become better. This is something that Nick has been working on for a long time now, and writing these songs was a necessity to help him get better. The album was more or less written in halves, half before he attempted suicide, and half after. As a band, we knew these songs were important, both musically and on a personal level, and we put in a lot of effort to present them in the most emotionally direct and honest way that we could. The album is about trying to maintain hope when there doesn’t seem to be any, and believing that there is a way to get past hopelessness.

John Kosiewicz: What is your personal favorite song from the new album and what sets it apart from the rest for you?

THE FLIPS: We all have different favorites off this record, and for different reasons. For Nick, it’s “Don’t Have to Die;” Mike’s is “Broken Road;” Annette’s is “No Hope for Me;” Mac’s is either “No Hope” or “Down in Waves;” and Dustin’s is either “Down in Waves” or “Doubt.” We all connect to the songs in different ways, be it for the lyrical content, message, or the music itself, but there’s always an emotional connection underlying everything.

John Kosiewicz: Who are some of your musical inspirations?

THE FLIPS: We get compared to Manchester Orchestra a lot, which is fair since Andy Hull is a major influence on Nick’s songwriting, and we do draw a lot of inspiration from their music and style. But we all bring a lot of influences to the table. Some of our favorites as a band are Manchester Orchestra, Silversun Pickups, Now Now, Brand New, and The Joy Formidable.

John Kosiewicz: Do you have any pre-show or unusual backstage rituals?

THE FLIPS: Usually we take a shot before going on, either Jameson or Jeppson’s Malört. Malört is especially great when we’re outside Chicago and the locals have never had the joy of experiencing it.

John Kosiewicz: Can you share one of your funniest stories about an on stage performance?

THE FLIPS: Usually, they involve people in the crowd who get way too drunk, and do things like telling us their life story while we’re on stage or doing a stripper dance to one of our songs. One place that never disappointed was Swing State, a now-closed venue in Lake Villa, IL. It was an all-ages hookah bar, and the crowd was extremely varied, but everyone loved local bands. We played one time on the last Sunday night of a tour, Annette had strep and most of us had diarrhea, and during the last song everyone in the crowd decided to take off their shirts and had a giant, sweaty mosh pit in front of the stage. There was a lot of skin…

John Kosiewicz: If you could have ANY special guest perform with you on stage, who would it be?

THE FLIPS: Probably Dave Grohl, but just to make us fresh pots.

John Kosiewicz: Do you spend much time on social media? If so, what is your preferred form of communicating through social media?

THE FLIPS: We love Instagram, especially because we like to share snapshots from shows and our tours. Sometimes it’s music related, but more often it’s a look into the downtime we have while we’re out of town, like meeting R2-D2 outside of The Force Awakens or meeting the pets of whomever we’re staying with that night. Or dancing when the venue we just played at suddenly turns into a club with a DJ set.

John Kosiewicz: What’s next for The Flips in 2016? What are the band’s plans in regards to touring for 2016 in support of the new album, Better Days?

THE FLIPS: We’re basically trying to keep up the momentum we’ve built, by playing shows around Chicago to try to establish a spot here, and playing across the Midwest both in towns we’ve made connections in and finding new ones. We also have a few big shows and radio spots lined up, and we’re trying to find new outlets in which to reach more people.

John Kosiewicz: What would you like to say to everyone who is a fan and supporter of The Flips?

THE FLIPS: Just thank you for everything you’ve done for us and continue to do. We’ve had an incredible amount of support behind us, and seeing you at shows or hearing from you online really does mean a lot to us. That probably sounds pretty generic, but when you’re a local band playing tons of shows to rooms of varying levels of crowd interest, having someone make the effort to let you know they appreciate your music is everything.

John Kosiewicz: Thank you for your time. In closing, is there anything you’d like to add?

THE FLIPS: Thank you to everyone who read all the way through us talking about ourselves, and thank you Front Row Music News for everything you do to support local artists!


About John Kosiewicz

A passionate photographer sharing his love of music and photography with the world though Front Row Music News.

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