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I TALK TO Flo & Joan

Following a sell-out run at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe and two stints at the Soho Theatre, Flo & Joan are bringing their new show, Alive on Stage, to the Fringe this year.

You've probably seen/heard them on the Nationwide adverts, you might have seen their 2016 song which went viral and you absolutely should see them live this August in Edinburgh.

This is your third Edinburgh show. What keeps you coming back?

Rosie: At the moment it's just a good way to showcase yourself and it's also really fun. The last two years that we've done it have been really fun and I think if we didn't do it we'd feel left out of the loop. You'd get some FOMO.

And last year went really well for you didn't it?

Rosie: Yeah, really well! We ended up selling out the run which feels nice because the most stressful bit about Edinburgh is having to flyer and force people to come and see your show. So we were extremely lucky not to have to push it too much.

That's the most worrying thing about Edinburgh - "Will people turn up to your shows? - so we were so fortunate to get great crowds in.

When did you both start performing together?

Nicola: So we were in Toronto and we lived in Toronto for three years to study at The Second City on their sketch comedy programme.

We went separately and have always enjoyed musical comedy so we started doing it out there and it was a real risk-free place to do it because we didn't know anyone in Canada. And if we weren't really good, no one in the UK would find out!

The first show went well, so we kept doing it and then we went to the Edinburgh Fringe just as punters a couple of years before so Edinburgh then became a goal for us. Let's get an hour of material together and see if people in the UK enjoy it or whether it's just a thing that the Canadians are tolerating!

Where did the name come from?

Rosie: It's just the name of our grandma and her sister but we don't reference them in the show and the show's nothing to do with them. We didn't have a name and the first show we did our friends said "What should I introduce you on as?" so we just came up with those names and they stuck.

Nicola: And we're not characters. We don't say "the characters of Flo & Joan" it's just the name of the act.

Your timing in immaculate. Do you think it help that you're sisters?

Rosie: I think so. I think the more we do it, the more we tune in to each other more. Even if yu were double-act not with your sibling, you eventually get that relationship. We just had a 23-year head start.

How did you settle on this year's title, Alive on Stage?

Nicola: We've got a pattern in the titles that we've done so far, of just changing one letter to change a word. So the first year we changed "Laps" to "Flaps, last year we changed "Strangers" to "Stranglers" and this year is "Live" to "Alive".

Live on Stage is such a classic title for people in music and shows so we just added an extra letter and we are fortunately, alive on the stage as well.

How long have you been working on this year's show for?

Rosie: We had a bit of a break after last year's show but now we're in panic mode where we're trying to finish the hour! We've been a bit too chill about it.

Nicola: If you know that you're coming back you know that there's not much of a gap and you're already floating around ideas and then it's just about when you sit down to write it.

How does the writing process work between the two of you?

Nicola: We'll pitch an idea for a song and maybe one of would write it and then we edit together. Nothing is ever one person's job. Even if someone has the first go at it, we edit it together.

We've discovered Google Docs this year which has changed our lives! You can edit the same document at the same time in different locations which is so amazing. The future is looking good!

It's a bit like asking "How long is a piece of string?" - But how long does it take you to come up with a Flo & Joan song?

Rosie: It really depends. We sort of have a rule that if something takes too long to write, it's probably not very good. Some of our best songs get written in the shortest amount of time. Lots of songs haven't been rewritten, maybe only a couple of changes.

But here are some songs that are a labour of love as well, you love it so much that it might take you three months to get it right. They're all different. The piece of string, we're unsure as to how long that is!

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Nicola: We don't read something in the news and then have to write a song about it. But you do notice the zeitgeist people are aware of and if we can find an interesting angle on it, or how we can address it, we will.

Other times we would look at a picture of something and write a song about that, or watch something on TV and write a song about that, or people or events...

Rosie: It's always "How can we address this? How do we do this differently?" Often you'll come across something and for a few years now you'll know it's a Flo & Joan song. The more and more we do this, we know what a typical Flo & Joan song will be.

In this year's show, what topics do you cover?

Nicola: Oh we have got some weird things this year. We've got a song about weddings and divorce. We've got a song about sex robots. Drinking too much. Maybe crisps.

How have the previews been going?

Rosie: They've been going great. We're having good fun although some are better than others. They're always helpful and you have to hope that during a preview your audience are going to be kind to you because testing out new things for the first time is horrifying.

We don't have a great track record of getting our stuff right the first time we do it. We put a lot of pressure on our audience to be patient with us. But it is fun and I hope it's fun for an audience to watch things that aren't quite polished yet.

Nicola: It's always cool that people come out and see them! I'm never not surprised that an audience has turned up and people have chosen to come and see our show.

You're adding extra dates to your Fringe run because you're already selling really well. Does that add extra pressure?

Nicola: We're very very grateful and very very scared. It makes you realise that now we really can't screw this up! But it's such a fortunate position to be in.

Who are you looking forward to seeing this year?

Rosie: There's a girl called Kate Berlant. She's an American character comedian and I think this is the first time she's performed in the UK. She's got a character thing on Netflix and I saw her name in the programme and I'm so excited to see her. She's my big tip this year.

Nicola: I like Tom Walker who's an Australian comedian who we found the first year we went, and he's a clown. The only time we get to see him is when we come to the Fringe.

Finally, how would you sum up your show in just five words?

Fast. Dark. Fun. Questionable. Varied.

Flo & Joan: Alive on Stage runs from 1st - 26th August (Not 11th) at 4pm at The Pleasance Courtyard (Cabaret Bar) with extra performances at 2.40pm on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th August. Book tickets here.


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