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Elly Watson. 24. Freelance journalist. 

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Flora Cash

Flora Cash

In a meet-cute story that will make you want to instantly up your online dating game, Flora Cash have an online love story so cute it’s verging on some Jane Austen shit. First “meeting” while surfing the Soundcloud waves for new music in 2012, Shpresa Lleshaj and Cole Randall stumbled upon each other’s music in a moment of serendipity. As soon as they heard each other sing, it was love at first listen and the pair embarked on a whirlwind romance from opposite sides of the globe, in the beginning relying purely on iMessaging and Skype dates. Completely defying everything we’ve witnessed during our bingewatching sessions of Catfish, the online romance turned out to be the real deal and Shpresa hopped on a flight from Stockholm to Minneapolis to meet Cole where they subsequently became inseparable.

Five years on, the husband and wife duo are still creating music. Releasing their debut LP, Can Summer Love Last Forever, in 2016, the pair quickly followed it up with stunning sophomore album, Nothing Lasts Forever (And It’s Fine), which dropped earlier this year. Throughout the record, Shpresa and Cole deal with the complexities of relationships, giving us an honest and emotive look at the dark days that every couple experiences. Describing pain, heartbreak and anger, the album is a beautifully raw exploration of emotions delivered to us in breathtakingly gorgeous acoustic songs.

Eager to find out more, we met up with the Shpresa and Cole during their brief stay in London to chat about their online love story and the music that it’s inspired.

You two have the most amazing story of how you met. Can you tell us how it happened?

Shpresa: I was looking for some new music and I found Cole’s music on Soundcloud. He was living in Minneapolis and I was living in Sweden.

Cole: Originally, the idea was that we would collaborate musically over a distance, that was what we were thinking. Then we started exchanging messages with each other.

Did you slide into the DMs?

C: Exactly! The messages gradually began to take on more personal undertones. Actually the funny thing that we never tell people is that I was super afraid to actually talk to her. It was all texting and then she was like “We have to actually talk on the phone. We have to hear each other speak.”

S: It’s different from hearing each other sing!

C: Yeah, but I just really did not want to! I was worried that she would think I sound stupid.

S: Which you do…

C: Then we had our first phone call. It was long distance and we talked for about 10-15 minutes. After that, I was so excited. I was like “I really met the one for me.” I actually had that feeling. Like, I actually opened my window and yelled it out! It sounds really cheesy and like a stereotype but I actually did do that. I don’t know what I said but I yelled something. And then, because we did that, she was like “Well now we have to Skype.” I was like “Jesus Christ” and had all of this anxiety again. Then we had our first Skype meeting and after all of that we Skyped as much as we could almost every single day. With the time difference, we’d have Skype on when we went to bed and the other one would be watching. It was kind of creepy. Our families started to worry about us.

S: They actually did though!

C: I remember getting a talking to like, “Is this healthy what you guys are doing? Because you’re not talking to your family.”

S: Then we met in real life. I flew to Minneapolis and met Cole. Then we lived in Minneapolis for the summer.

C: My grandparents have a lake property and so we lived there together.

S: Then we flew to Stockholm together and lived there.

C: Then London, then Minnesota… We got married in 2013. Basically, ever since Minnesota, we’ve been together. We haven’t spent more than 12 hours apart; I don’t even think 12 hours actually.

So cute! Could have been the best episode of Catfish ever though…

S: Right! We always say that! We love it so much. This would be such a great story for them though to see that shit can work out!

C: The thing with us is that we took it so fast to actually FaceTime and shit that it almost couldn’t have happened. But before we did actually speak on the phone or Skyped she full on messed with me one time. I was texting her on the phone and then she was like “Who is this? This is Olga.” I was like “What the fuck? Someone’s been fucking with me this whole time.”

S: You did the same thing to me!

C: The first time she came to Minneapolis, I was on my way to pick her up at the airport. Here she is, taking this huge chance, because this is a huge risk and I could still be a massive creep because we haven’t actually met in person. When she landed, I was on my way to go pick her up and she texted “I just landed” so I was like “Who is this?” She really freaked out.

S: Of course! But then I was thinking that I had your grandma and grandpa’s number so I would have been fine.

C: I got even on that one.

When you came together, did you guys find that you had a similar taste in music?

S: I would say so, yeah.

C: More or less. Neither one of us was, like, into heavy metal and the other ambient music. It was on the same spectrum. We like singer/songwriters. You have a little bit more of a Jeff Buckley, Anthony & The Johnsons thing. You like that kind of waily vocal. I was a bit more acoustic. Our tastes converge though, for sure.

S: I must say, when I heard your voice, a little bit of my soul just died… In a good way!

C: I don’t ever know how to follow that because I felt extremely taken with your stuff as well.

How is it working with someone that you’re in a relationship with? Can you balance the business and personal sides?

S: I mean we balance it because we do it all the time. I think one of the things that is both a good and a bad thing is that we never feel like we’re resting. We can always write music, we can do it anywhere.

C: We feel guilty to just be relaxing.

S: Yeah. At the same time we get to do what we love.

C: But it’s not easy.

S: It’s super hard sometimes. Like, sometimes I just wanna claw his eyes out. When we have different opinions then it can become a bit hard, but most of the time, when we do have those, after that we get really good songs! I think it works really well.

C: Yeah, it works really well but it’s obviously a challenge. Relationships on their own are a lot of work. They’re a growing experience. You always have to be communicating about everything otherwise it doesn’t work. It’s the same thing with work partnerships. It’s kind of double the growth opportunity.

How have you guys grown as artists, since you first started making music together in 2013?

S: Being with Cole has totally changed the artist part of me, in a good way. There’s so much stuff that I don’t know how I would have done it alone. Just the way of writing songs, when you’re writing with someone it’s just such a different thing.

C: I would say that I think working with Shpresa has taught me to be less structured in how I do things. When I write a song, I’ll start verse one and have it all there and I like to have the structure making sense. Even melodically, I tend to be precise and she’s more flowing.

S: If I’m writing on a piece of paper, I write a little bit there then a little bit there…

C: And then she rips out the paper and there’s a stack of paper… Just sheets of paper scattered about.

S: But you’ve helped me because you sit there and organise everything for me!

C: And you’ve helped me to stop me being so boxed in in the way that I approach things. And I’ve made you be more boxed in!

Your album, Nothing Lasts Forever (And It’s Fine), came out last month. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

C: A lot of times, for me, music is like therapy. I know a lot of people say that, but for me it’s like the driving force. If everything’s going well for me, I never want to write a happy song, and when things are tough, writing is the best thing for me to do. I think a few tracks on this album, at least my contribution because we write everything together, my contribution came from a place where I was having some troubles.

S: Anxiety.

C: Yeah, some anxiety issues. It’s reflected in the lyrics and in the writing more so than in our previous material.

S: I think it’s important. So many people have it that I think it’s good to write about it. If you think about some of the songs as venting your anxiety, then it’s kind of good.

C: Yeah. I hesitate to speak about anxiety because I just read this article like “anxiety is the most fashionable thing to have.” To be honest with you, I think it’s just so telling that so many people have it. Like, why shouldn’t we take these people for their word that they have it? We need to ask ourselves why so many people in our Western societies suffer from anxiety. It must be our culture that’s promoting it. I think our album is a little bit of a commentary on that as well. There’s a bit of a social aspect of it as well… Not to sound too pretentious.

S: Yeah, that time was rough for both of us. Me having to watch you… It affected me a lot.

C: Then also there’s the thing that we just want to make music that we like and do it better. In our opinion, better. We wanted to evolve. I think it is an evolution for us.

S: Yeah, from our own previous music, it’s definitely an evolution.

Do you have a favourite song from the album?

C: I think the one that we both like where it coincides is on “Sadness Is Taking Over”. Then we both have our individual favourites which are always changing. I really like “When Pleasure Fails”, which is mostly her singing. That’s not the only reason why I like the song! I like the message as well. I like that it’s more minimal.

S: I like “You’re Somebody Else”. In the beginning, I didn’t really get that song that much. We interpret our own songs differently and it’s just such a great song.

C: We write everything together but some things start with just one of us which is very common. That song started as one of my ideas and I think when I actually explained to her later where some of the lyrics and inspiration came from for me then she began to like it more.

And is there a song that gets everyone taking their lighters out when you play it live?

S: Oooh, I don’t know! A lot of people like “Sadness Is Taking Over” and also “California”.

C: Yeah, that one tends to be really well received live. It’s a good live song. It’s got the whole range, there’s some soft parts and then there’s that nice kick after the chorus.

What else do you guys have lined up for the rest of the year?

S: We’ve got a lot of stuff going on in Sweden. A lot of gigs and festivals and stuff. Then we’re going back to the US.

C: We’re doing a Daytrotter session which I’m very excited about. It’s been a bit of a dream of mine for a while.

S: Maybe coming back to London too.

Are you getting back into the studio anytime soon?

S: Yep! No breaks. We’ve already started on the next thing.

C: We actually already almost have a full album ready to go. Our favourite thing is writing and recording. We never stop!


Photography - Marton Gosztonyi

Fashion - Jessica Gardener

Hair - Jason Crozier at Stella Creative Artists

Makeup - Georgina Murtagh at Stella Creative Artists

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