Analogue Music | Slow Joy

Slow Joy

By Matt Conner

It's going to be hard for Esteban Flores to keep holding things loosely.

Flores is the cornerstone of Slow Joy, a newer band guided in equal measures by a glorious emotional '90s rock and roll amalgam and Flores' earnest, spiritual center. The resulting songs on early EPs like Wildflower (2023) and Mi Amigo Slow Joy (2024) have given way to a nice early career momentum—all of which has come after setting industry expectations aside.

There was a time in which Flores was chasing success in music a bit too much—with preset expectations and hopes that remained distant despite his best efforts. Even with his obvious gifts, the timing just wasn't right for whatever reason, and it wasn't until he set it all aside and began to actually enjoy the music again that things began to change.

These days, Flores is promoting his latest EP, a killer four-song set made with producer Mike Supone (Brand New, Oso Oso) that proves there's plenty of inspired music to come. Future success might make it hard to keep an open hand, but those are lessons he'll have to learn later. For now, there's a bright musical future to discuss.

Analogue: Your story as I understand it is about having set musical career aspirations aside at some point and then finding success thereafter. You're touring now so what does that mean for your relationship with the road and live show?

Esteban Flores: Honestly, the live performance aspect is something that I’ve always loved. I’ve always loved live music and I’ve always been a performative person. So my love for it has never changed. It was mostly me giving up the hope of even getting to do it; it was me coming to terms that the lot had been picked and it was not for me. So when this came back and I had the chance to do this for a living, I had a deeper love for it.

And that was fine. I was totally okay with it. A world without a career in music is where I get to be at home with my wife all year as opposed to just some months. That’s all fantastic. But it makes me cherish the moments when I am on stage and performing because this would not have existed otherwise. Leaving for a tour is never easy but those 30 minutes on stage is always super-rewarding.

Mi Amigo Slow Joy cover
Mi Amigo Slow Joy cover

Analogue: Has music always been a part of your life?

Esteban: Yeah, I grew up in an extremely musical home. My grandpa was a pastor of this small-town church, so everyone in my family had to play every instrument. If the bass player didn’t show up that day, you had to play bass and so on. It was just part of my life. Everyone knew how to play something. Even my dad didn’t play music but he ran sound.

One of the first gifts my grandparents ever gave me was a guitar. It was beautiful and something that really mattered to me when I was young. Then at some point, it became more of a pursuit and that’s where it became muggy and not so great. That’s where it was for a lot of my adult life. Then around the time of my mom’s passing, I just kind of gave it up and thought it wouldn’t happen for me.

Once that happened, I began to enjoy music again as an artistic medium. I was a lover of music again. And that’s where Slow Joy started.

Analogue: Do you remember the first time something felt like it was really happening here beyond what you expected?

Esteban: On an emotional level, when I went into this home studio I used to work at and was recording “Crawling”, I just knew that life would be different when that song came out—even to the point where it was kind of scary for me. I didn’t want to change as a person. I felt like I was in a really cool spot where I was holding everything with an open palm and not letting this thing change me.

Music had been such a tough force in my life that I was scared of it. So when I was done with “Crawling” in the studio, I had to do a lot of editing and what a producer would do on my own to save money. I ended up not touching the stuff for months and months because I was afraid of it. Every time I would open it up, the emotions were there because I knew it was different.

As I started to share the songs on the internet, that’s when I knew it mattered and would be different. The first video did really well it and I was blown away. I wasn’t shocked but it was surprising.

"I don’t want this to be the end of the world for me if this massive single doesn’t do well or sell well. I just want to let whatever happens happen."

Analogue: How is that to hold things with an open palm these days?

Esteban: Now that I feed my family with this, it’s harder to hold things with an open palm in the same way you want to hold onto a job. I think the moment when it becomes my only thing is when it becomes dangerous. So I try to counteract that a bit. Sometimes artists can be full of themselves when they’re around people who value that so I try to do things I’m not so good at, so that it will never happen. I think you need to be punched in the face. I used to skate and the rail doesn’t care that you played a show to 1,000 people last night. If you get on wrong, you’ll get pushed off. Now I do martial arts and there are days where at a 14-year-old kid who’s been training for a while can beat me up. That’s a very humbling experience.

Analogue: [Laughs] That’s not at all what I expected there.

Esteban: I mean, that’s how you do it though. You have to realize you’re not everything and need to be humbled by the other aspects of life.

Analogue: What we’re talking about now, does it affect the actual craft?

Esteban: No. It doesn’t come into play when it comes to my passions, just expectations. So when you’re working on something you really care about, you really care about it and that’s all that matters. What you expect from it is where you keep that open palm. You can do well or not do well. I don’t want this to be the end of the world for me if this massive single doesn’t do well or sell well. I just want to let whatever happens happen.

Analogue: Other artists might be reticent to put certain things out there that won’t match fans’ expectations. That doesn’t come into play for you?

Esteban: I’m sure it comes with experience. I just haven’t had those experiences yet. For right now, I know if this thing goes belly up, I still know who I am as a person and I’m thankful for that—at least on my best days.

Analogue: On the new EP, are these all new compositions?

Esteban: They’re all fairly recent. I recorded them in September and they were all written specifically for this. I was getting into the studio with Mike Sapone, a producer who’s made a lot of records that I really care about. I thought if I was going to make an EP with him, then I needed songs that were worthy of that level. So I really pushed myself to write songs that could stand up to the test of time.

Analogue: Were you nervous to share those songs with Mike at first?

Esteban: I thought it would be, but the moment you meet him, you’re right at home. I knew it would be a very safe place and he’s such a good champion of stuff. I also overwrote for it. I always try to do that when going into the studio where I’ll try to write four times as many songs so we can pick and choose and find the things that are special.

Analogue: So you had another dozen or so songs?

Esteban: Oh yeah, I think I counted like 40 songs or something. And by that, I mean parts of songs where it could be just a verse and chorus or something. By the time you get to the first chorus, you know whether you’ll like the song. So I’ll cut everything off at a minute-and-a-half in order to be able to come back to it and be objective about it. From there, you can get into the nitty gritty.

Analogue: You had these expectations of working with Mike, so how was it?

Esteban: He has incredible ideas sonically. He’s really good at pushing you to do things you’re not so comfortable with in a great, creative way. He’s great at saying, ‘Hey, this is a pretty section, so let’s make this as beautiful as possible.’ Whereas I thought we’d need to dirty it up. But he also gets what you do, which is something I really enjoyed. I’ve worked with some people who don’t understand some lenses that I have. He lets you push on that end, too, which is really fun. Every idea could be one that works so you just have to A/B test it.

VISIT: Slow Joy

Photo: Jay Martin