AFTER ONLY A FEW minutes of talking with her on the phone, Rachel Flotard feels like a dear old friend. Perhaps it's because she is quite possibly the friendliest person on earth, chatting about her sister's baby due to be born any second, her iPhone ("I am kind of like a crack whore for it," she says without a trace of shame), and her excellent band, Visqueen, who released its third album, Message to Garcia, in September of 2009.
It had been five years since Visqueen's previous album: "The way it works for me, I'm not the kind of person who wakes up every morning and sings and plays and whatever comes out comes out," Flotard says. "It usually just like explodes and a lot of songs come out at once. I'm a procrastinator on a lot of things so that's just kind of the way I think songs happen for me." During that period, Flotard had plenty to keep her busy—she acted as caregiver for her Seattle roommate, George, who was dying of cancer.
George also happened to be Rachel's father. The title of Message to Garcia comes from an essay by Elbert Hubbard, which her father—an East Coast steamfitter who eventually passed in April 2009—handed to her to read. The record deals with George's death and the countless memories left behind, but it's relentlessly optimistic and upbeat, with crunchy power chords, blasting drums, and indelible pop melodies. It contains perhaps a slight East Coast bullheadedness that is balanced perfectly with the record's generosity of spirit. "I was born right outside of Manhattan in a little suburban town," Flotard says. "All of my childhood is rooted there, so I never quite feel like I'm a true West Coaster, but it's a lot more easy-going here, and I feel like it's definitely shaped and helped me, instead of having that relentless keeping up with the Joneses kind of New Jersey thing, which is just friggin' tiring."
In the meantime, Visqueen continues to reach new audiences, in large part because of Flotard's determination, which she inherited from her father. "The band feels like it's at a good point," she says, "but it's kind of like Master and Commander, like I'm pretty much plotting the course of the band depending on which way the wind is blowing."