Interview: Floor’s Steve Brooks Talks About the Monolithic New Album, Spirituality, Optimism

It’s no understatement that we haven’t heard the name Floor in regards to music, for quite a long time. In fact it’s been so long that when you say the name Floor, people might think you’re talking about the first name of the current Nightwish frontwoman Floor Jansen. But that is certainly not the case, as this legendary Floridian doom act has arisen to create one of the brightest and beautiful doom albums that I’ve heard in the history of the genre. Steve Brooks (Vocals, Guitars) walked me through the history of the band and discussed its monolithic new album as well as explaining some rather eye-opening observations on spirituality and optimism.

Almost twenty years after the release of the self-titled debut album, Oblation finally sees the light of day. Why did you decide that it was time to create a new record after such a lengthy hiatus, and what would you say to those who have already passed from this mortal coil while waiting for a new record from Floor?

The Self-Titled album came out around twelve years ago in 2002. We’d recorded two albums before that in 1994 and 1995, but they weren’t released until after the ST. When we got back together to do a few shows in support of the Below & Beyond box-set, we noticed that the audiences were much larger than they used to be. The popularity of the band had grown in our absence. We did a few more tours after that but it got to the point that, to continue, we really needed to do a new record. As far as what to say to those who may have passed on while waiting for the album… man, that’s a question out of left-field. But hopefully, it’s part of the soundtrack to however and wherever they’re existing now.

As a newcomer to your music, I certainly notice the doom overtones and I’m liking every bit of it. Really gentlemen, this is great stuff. But other than the obvious doom influence, who else would you say helped to inspire your sound?

Melvins, KARP, King Tubby, Gary Numan, Rush: these artists have been inspirational.

Lyrically, what is Oblation about? There are so many diverse topics here relating from everything to what sounds like ceremonial magick or metaphysics (Sign of Aeth, Raised To A Star) to personal experiences (Trick Scene, New Man) and even personal poetry. You could really say that much of the music is traditional poetry put to music more or less, which gives it an incredibly artistic feel.

Thank you. Yeah, each of us had been through some serious ordeals and changes since the release of the Self-Titled record, and some of the lyrics reflect that. An oblation is an offering to a deity, so that’s how I look at it: an offering to The Highest and our fans. We tried to keep things upful and positive, but even though some lyrics have personal meaning, they all remain open for interpretation.

After hearing this album, I’ve also noticed your style being regurgitated throughout other bands, like Queens Of The Stone Age and Mastodon. They say that there’s always someone out there who influenced someone else, even if they’re not aware of it at first. How do you feel when you hear some of today’s bands utilizing styles that you first built on your debut record and EP’s? Is it surreal?

It’s always cool when someone comes up and says that we’ve been an influence on them. And not just musically. Every now and then someone will come up and tell me that our record got them through a hard time in their life. That’s rewarding beyond words. Creating something new in the realm of art, in any medium, is very difficult. Our tuning was always unique and, though we had our influences, we felt the Self-Titled record was something new; doom-pop or whatever you want to call it. And that we’ve influenced some of the bands out there, some of whom are more well-known than us, is a trip.

Let’s talk about the writing process for the album. How far back do some of the ideas go for the songs on this record? Would they go back to Torche, or even before the days of Torche? Also, how did you want to approach this album?

There were a few ideas that went back prior to the band breaking up. Mainly “Sister Sophia.” Part of “Rocinante” was something I’d been working on, which can be heard on “Serendipitous Montage” from the Below & Beyond box-set. Also, one of Steve’s riffs on “Homegoings and Transitions” goes back to that time. Everything else is new. Our approach was to make the best album we could, to satisfy ourselves and the fans that had been waiting so long for it. We have our sound that is unique to us and feel we accomplished what we set out to do.

With a brand new album, one might think that the next step for Floor would be to tour. (No pun intended there.) At any rate, is it possible that a tour is on the horizon? If so, where will you be playing and with who?

We did a US tour in May, immediately after the album came out. We headlined and brought some cool bands with us. Hot Victory, Darsombra, Thrones, to name a few. All great bands and people. Not sure what we’re going to do next. We definitely want to play out of the country. Hopefully, we can get over to Europe at some point. It’d be awesome if we could do a tour with Mastodon or High on Fire. But for the time being, I’m just working on new songs.

How have you evolved as musicians since the release of the debut album and do you think that playing in Torche allowed you to discover some new ideas that you previously hadn’t thought about in Floor?

Our first album, Dove, was recorded in 1994. Our second, Saturnine & Tears, in 1995. But it wasn’t until after the release of the Self-Titled in 2002 that those records were released. When the band broke up in 2003, Steve took some of the things he’d been working on which became the basis for the first Torche record. Over the years, he’d written a lot of music. So when we decided to do a new Floor record, he pretty much left it up to me and Henry. When he heard what we were working on, he started contributing.

Since there are some deeply spiritual topics on this almost euphoric sounding record, what do you think about the concept of God, religion and spirituality?

Each of us has different opinions on those subjects, so I can only speak for myself. It’s a profound subject that has held my attention for many years and something I continue to research. For me, it’s about consciousness and spiritual evolution. I have no problem reconciling God and science. Some really intelligent people have come to different conclusions. Personal experience has proven otherwise to me. It’s just a drag when one group of people believes that their way is the only way and they’re willing to cause harm or kill for it to subjugate others.

As of late, I’ve been getting into debates with those who consider themselves atheists or do not believe in any sort of afterlife or spirit, citing science as their conviction. What are some things that you would say to convince someone of the spirit and otherworldly existence outside the body?

I don’t think there’s really anything I could say to change someone’s mind. I was an atheist for years, beginning in my teens and no one was able to convince me otherwise. From the point of view of science and logic, there is simply no demonstrable proof. Nothing that can be quantified or qualified. I wasn’t beaten over the head with religion while growing up, so it became a matter of personal experiences as I got older. I kept an open mind and started doing research. One experience led to another and I discovered a science and logic and truth that made sense to me. I know that the feeling of a spiritual experience can be recreated in a laboratory but what I’m talking about goes beyond that. There’s a system of consciousness-evolution ingrained within every one of us and though that may not prove the existence of God to the average atheist, it has proven to me that there is certainly more going on than what I used to believe. Religions, magick, alchemy: they are all based on this system, this divine spark we each possess. But it’s up to individual to step out on their own path, to do the research and discover it for themselves.

What exactly does the band’s name refer to? Floor is a very intriguing name for an act, so it always struck me with curiosity.

My mom was trying to explain to a friend what kind of music we were playing. She said, “Well, they’re very low,” which we thought was funny. We had a song called “Beneath the Floor”, so it just kind of came from there.

What do you do when you’re not playing music? What hobbies do you have?

Most of my time is spent in my room, so I read, do some research and writing. Meditate. Work on songs. I’d like to write a book but don’t seem to have the discipline to start it. And I need a good ending.

What are some of your best live experiences and who were you fortunate to meet on the road? Were there any rough tour experiences in the early days?

Some of the best shows were in Gainesville at the Hardback and a place called The Utility House, which was really just a house. We’d crank on the smoke machine and fill the place up so you couldn’t see anything in front of you. It’d be this loud, insane chaos with bodies flying everywhere. I’ve had people come up to me crying, saying it was the most beautiful show they’d ever seen. Or call it a religious experience. No bullshit. On tour, though, there were many times we’d drive hundreds of miles and play in front of no one or a handful of people. Still, sometimes it was the right handful of people and the show would be great. One of the coolest people we met was Joe Preston of Thrones, who we’ve stayed in touch with over the years and continue to do shows with.

What would you say to bands who are trying something new in the way that you attempted with Floor those many years ago? Do you think that everything has been done these days, or is there still room for innovation in music?

That’s difficult to answer. Part of me does feel that everything’s been done and in a sense, that’s true. Fast, slow, technical, minimal; music seems to have been pushed in every direction with all kinds of speeds and dynamics. Still, the potential for someone to take their influences and do something interesting is possible. And with more bands out there than ever before, odds are someone will come up with something.

Furthermore, what do you think of the current mainstream music scene? From listening to today’s popular music I can tell that there is “some” spirit in the vocal expression, but it just seems kind of empty, compared to less restrained styles of music. It wasn’t like that in the 60’s and 70’s, even in the 80’s.

I have to admit that I rarely get to hear any new music these days. Every now and then a friend turns me on to something that I dig. But yeah, I feel that everything was initially mapped-out during those decades. That’s okay though, because if someone does a good song today, it’s a good song, you know what I mean?

To end this interview, Oblation seems rather optimistic, somewhat otherworldly. But does this optimism translate to an optimism for the current world? Some people believe that we’re “awakening” into some kind of new age, while others believe that we’re headed for extinction. What is your mindset?

I used to be of the most miserable opinion that the world and everyone in it sucked. Extinction was imminent and I thought I was content with that. But then some real crazy things started happening and I began seeing things differently. I do believe there is some kind of awakening going on, whether it’s spiritual or simply because of how broad communication is today. More people have access to more information than any other time in history and it’s instantaneous. Information and ideas that were known to only a few are now available to everyone. Transparency isn’t quite where it needs to be but, given enough time, I think we’ll eventually have the capability to truly make a better world. Thing is, people are going to have to let go of or readjust some of their ways of thinking and their beliefs. And therein lies the problem. But I have to remain optimistic.

Thanks for answering my questions, this amazing record and for bringing the musical gift of Floor back to those who’ve desperately longed to hear it once again. This is a pristine effort that was worth the wait. One of the best of the year, guaranteed.

Thanks, man. You asked some interesting questions. We put a lot of heart and soul in this album and appreciate the response it’s received.

Purchase Oblation here.

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