Visqueen: From Cancer, A Rock 'N' Roll Triumph Rachel Flotard is the frontwoman for the Seattle-based band Visqueen. The band has a new album out called Message to Garcia. Flotard talks to Ari Shapiro about the new recording. She wrote many of the songs while caring for her father, who died earlier this year from prostate cancer.
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Visqueen: From Cancer, A Rock 'N' Roll Triumph

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Visqueen: From Cancer, A Rock 'N' Roll Triumph

Visqueen: From Cancer, A Rock 'N' Roll Triumph

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The band Visqueen has been out of the public eye for a while. Rachel Flotard, the lead singer and songwriter, had more important things to deal with than putting out an album. Her father was fighting prostate cancer. She became his caregiver and her Seattle home became his hospice.

Ms. RACHEL FLOTARD (Lead Singer, Visqueen): We lived together for seven years. He was my room mate. And the last couple of years we were little gladiators together. And I lost him.

SHAPIRO: The songs she wrote during her father's sickness became the unexpectedly upbeat rock album, Message to Garcia.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. FLOTARD: (Singing) (unintelligible)

SHAPIRO: Rachel Flotard visited the studios of KUOW in Seattle to talk with us about the album and about her father.

Ms. FLOTARD: Well, he died April 7th. And so I tried to shoot myself into something pretty quickly. You know, that summer is when I added a lot of the organ that you hear and the cello, and I was using the record and this recording as, you know, something to keep me alive and keep me kind of normal during a completely abnormal time.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. FLOTARD: (Singing) Going to be leaves strong enough to bury me. Walking through the leaves falling back to stare at me, tonight you'll see a shimmer up above you, hollow branches just to love you, taking measurements to fit me in your day.

SHAPIRO: What's this song about?

Ms. FLOTARD: I don't know. I like songs that paint a little bit of a picture, and aren't like an immediate give away. There are some on here that are like, you know, pretty direct, but


Ms. FLOTARD: Yeah. That's a direct one.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song, So Long)

Ms. FLOTARD: (Singing) I'm gonna live after you're gone, and I'm sorry that it took so long.

Ms. FLOTARD: I mean, I played that song for my Dad once. He would be like why you gotta play that pling, pling chug, chug stuff.

SHAPIRO: Is that what he called it? Pling, pling, chug, chug stuff?

Ms. FLOTARD: Yeah he called it pling, pling. He's like why don't you write something with a melody? Why are you doing all that country stuff? And so I figured this song since it was a little more subdued and acoustic that he would like it. Not realizing that the lyrics are basically like you're going to die, pal.

SHAPIRO: You didn't realize that?

Ms. FLOTARD: Well, I did, but at the same time, it was like, I - I - it was like kind of out of body in a way.

(Soundbite of song, So Long)

Ms. FLOTARD: (Singing) I'm gonna tell em all about you, what you did for me all of my life.

Ms. FLOTARD: Only now does that song kind of level me, you know, and I really think about the gravity of all of that's about. But I played it for him. He's like, I mean, he thought it was beauty. He's like is that about me? And I was like, no.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FLOTARD: And then, I think, we went upstairs and like had pea soup.

(Soundbite of music)

SHAPIRO: Tell me about the first song on the album Hand Me Down.

Ms. FLOTARD: Oh, what a rocker.

(Soundbite of song, Hand Me Down)

Ms. FLOTARD: (Singing) When you're walking and you're feeling and you can't believe it's real, it's my love, it's my love.

Ms. FLOTARD: I love playing that song.

SHAPIRO: It has improved my running time dramatically.

Ms. FLOTARD: That's so - you know what? I'm telling you, a lot of people come up to me that are runners. They're like, thank you for making this. I run to it all the time.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SHAPIRO: That's so incongruous for an album that is inspired by the death of a beloved parent, though.

Ms. FLOTARD: Yeah, but it's not - I mean, it's - it came about because of a dead dude. Because my Dad would kick my backside if I didn't follow my guts.

(Soundbite of song, Hand Me Down)

Ms. FLOTARD: (Singing) Come and get your love baby, come and get your love that's handed down.

SHAPIRO: Tell me about the title of this album Message to Garcia.

Ms. FLOTARD: Message to Garcia was an essay that was written in the 1800s by Elbert Hubbard. And my Dad had given this essay to me when I was 18 or 19. It's basically a lesson about resourcefulness and not quitting. Basically, Garcia was a general and this soldier had to get a message to him, and instead of asking any questions or saying, well, where the heck is that guy? The soldier just figured it out and plotted his way to get to Garcia to get this message.

SHAPIRO: And so did this become sort of your guiding principle, your mantra?

Ms. FLOTARD: It did through my Dad. Whenever I was faced with something, you know, at a job, or whether I was on the road and things weren't going so well or we would usually be on the phone. And he's like, well, are you delivering it, and I would just say, yeah.

SHAPIRO: Delivering the message to Garcia?

Ms. FLOTARD: Yeah. It's just kind of like there are tougher things. You can do this.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. FLOTARD: (Singing) Walk down the streets and I look down and wonder why, it wasn't happening, distracted by applause, thought you might be the cause, and I remember it wasn't happening

SHAPIRO: I would imagine that every interview about this album to some extent becomes an interview about your father. And you've talked

Ms. FLOTARD: I don't care. I miss him and it's fine talking about him.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SHAPIRO: But does part of you want to leave it behind. I mean, I think about the song, Beautiful Amnesia. And it, maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it sounds in part almost like a wish just to sort of not have had to deal with this.

Ms. FLOTARD: Yeah, I mean, it's just what it is. You know, like I didn't want to like roll out and start talking about cancer and dads and all this stuff. But when people look at you like where have you been? What have you - Where, what have you been doing? And I'm not going to make up some grandiose story to cover where I was. Like this is the truth.

(Soundbite of song, Beautiful Amnesia)

Ms. FLOTARD: (Singing) Sympathetic medicine, deluding adrenaline, pretending to get high.

Ms. FLOTARD: Where I was, was in a hospital or watching Raiders of the Lost Ark for the 50th time with my dad, making him, you know, a meal that he couldn't keep down. You know, like this is where I was.

(Soundbite of song, Beautiful Amnesia)

Ms. FLOTARD: (Singing) Beautiful amnesia, oh come in brutal wash your mind away.

SHAPIRO: That's Rachel Flotard of the band Visqueen. The new album is called Message to Garcia.

(Soundbite of song, Beautiful Amnesia)

Ms. FLOTARD: (Singing) Beautiful amnesia.

SHAPIRO: You're listening to MORNING EDITION. I'm Ari Shapiro.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

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