Flipping the Music Scene With Flipturn  

Words and photos by Carmen Macri


With influences drawn from the indie rock scene of the 2010s, timeless film scores and… whales, the captivating sound of Flipturn is sweeping the world by storm.


My introduction to the indie rock sensation occurred in 2018 when Flipturn emerged victorious in a battle of the bands contest, earning them a coveted spot to perform at the prestigious Okeechobee Music Festival. 


By sheer accident, I stumbled across them when I ventured away from my group in search of a quick bite, and as luck would have it, my favorite food truck happened to be stationed near the stage they were on. As I approached, the crowd was modest yet buzzing with energy. While waiting in line for my food, I found myself captivated by their distinctive sounds that echoed through the air. I wound up staying for the whole set and thus began my (healthy) obsession with Flipturn. 


Fast forward five years, as luck would have it (again), I was able to sit down with the band for a “Folio” feature. Instead of delving into the mundane questions that have been asked countless times before, I decided to spice things up and present them with a set of more entertaining questions that would tell us a bit more about each member. 


For a basic history lesson, the group got together when they were just teenagers in Fernandina Beach where frontman Dillon Basse, bassist Madeline Jarman and lead guitarist Tristan Duncan would meet in Jerman’s garage after class for a light-hearted jam sesh. When the trio began writing and releasing tracks like “Chicago” and “August” (which topped the Spotify new artist chart,) their reputation skyrocketed, quickly transforming them into a must-see band across the entire state. As their popularity grew, so did the band as they welcomed guitarist/synth player Mitch Fountain and drummer Devon VonBalson. Since then, the group embarked on a journey of headlining their own electrifying shows, while also hitting the road for nationwide tours alongside acts like Rainbow Kitten Surprise and Mt. Joy (both of which happen to be among my personal favorites). 


With the foundation set, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and dive right in. Already knowing where they drew most of their inspiration from (except for the fact that I hadn’t quite caught wind of their affinity for whales just yet), I couldn’t help but wonder: If they had the chance to collaborate with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why? 


“Prince, definitely Prince,” VonBalson said quickly. “We kind of feel like he watches over us. Like he’s our guardian angel. That’s our little pre-show ritual. We get ready to Prince.”


Simply getting ready while listening to Prince is not where the story ends. A few years back in Gainesville, the band was playing at Heartwood Soundstage in Gainesville where the weather had shown to be not too promising for their performance. So they turned to prayer and sought divine intervention from Prince himself. I mean, who wouldn’t try to amp up their spirits for a rain-soaked performance by blasting “Purple Rain”?


“I was like, let’s huddle, let’s pray to Prince,” VonBalson shared. “And we did. And when we took the stage, I swear to God, it stopped raining and it was an amazing set. So we just kind of decided after that, oh, we need to do this every time.” 


So now you know, prior to walking on stage, Flipturn is summoning the spirits of a legendary artist before each show. 


After reminiscing, Fountain was excited to share some inspiration behind one of their tracks from their “Shadowglow” album released last year. The track adored by millions was initially written as a gag. 


“There’s a song called ‘Whales,’ and it started as a joke,” Fountain explained. “It was just an annoying, pitchy piano riff. It was a stupid song at first, literally made to annoy the band, and it turned into an actual song.”


The enchanting masterpiece we now know as “Whales” was originally referred to as “The Monkey Song” due to Duncan’s spontaneous serenade about monkeys along with the off-key keyboard melody. However, it was only when Jarman added her mesmerizing bassline to the mix that they collectively realized they might have an actual song on their hands. Fountain switched the pitchy keyboard to a guitar riff while VonBalson decided to incorporate pitched whale sounds into their musical tapestry and thus, “Whales” was born. 


Whenever they reflect on the evolution of their music as a band, they fondly recall that moment. In the early days, the group consisted of bright-eyed high school graduates, eager to create music. As they journeyed together and matured as both individuals and musicians, their sound naturally matured alongside them.


 “As the years have gone by, we kind of learned to take away and add things to our style,” Jarman explained. “We just think more cohesive as a band and of a song as a whole.”


Basse chimed in on the matter, as well.


“I feel like over time as you write more and more, you start to find what’s you, rather than what you were inspired by,” Basse expressed. “I’d say that the newest album is very much what I think is us. It’s the first album, I’d say, that’s a really good portrayal of us.”


Back to the outside-the-box interview questions, I asked the band, “If you were on Death Row, what would your final meal be?” Because really, what could possibly capture their true essence more accurately than their last culinary preferences before facing the grim reaper? It’s a crucial detail that every true fan must know.


They were happy to oblige. Duncan made an unconventional selection with Zaxby’s Buffalo chicken tenders. Jarman chose the Brussels sprout tacos from Taqueria Cinco, while VonBalson’s took a sweet turn with the French toast from The Fox with two sunny-side-up eggs and a side of bacon (way to keep it local!). Basse chose his father’s swordfish. And last but not least, Fountain chose chicken fried rice. Special shout out to the band’s manager, Sam Heekin, who claimed the Five & Dime from Maple Street Biscuit Company with the gravy on the side. 


Maybe they should write a song about that.


About Carmen Macri

Since a young age, Carmen Macri knew she wanted to be a writer. She started as our student intern and has advanced to Multi-media Journalist/Creative. She graduated from the University of North Florida and quickly found her home with Folio Weekly. She juggles writing, photography and running Folio’s social media accounts.