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Jack Alexander

FLO just can’t stop making hits: ‘We’ve always held ourselves to a high standard’

New single ‘Not My Job’ is a testament to the trio’s musical chemistry and solidifies FLO’s welcome signature on the R&B scene.

21 Sep 2022

Six months ago, FLO released their inaugural single ‘Cardboard Box’, catapulting them into our collective consciousness and setting a new standard for debut singles with an air of early-noughties R&B. With harmonised vocals paired with catchy beats reminiscent of early Destiny’s Child, FLO have proven that R&B girl groups are not a thing of the past: ‘Cardboard Box’ went viral across social media, garnering 3.8 million views on YouTube and 8.9 million listens on Spotify. 

FLO is trio Renée Downer, 19, Stella Quaresma and Jorja Douglas, both 20. In a short space of time, the band have already made their indelible stamp on the music industry and are showing no signs of slowing down. 

The girlband comeback isn’t new, with groups like BLACKPINK and Citizen Queen carving a new brand of chart-smashing pop. But FLO are creating their own space firmly rooted in R&B, paying homage to artists including Faith Evans, Aaliyah, Lauryn Hill. Although their influences are nostalgic, they make throwback feel fresh, imprinting their own touch to each track. It’s why they aren’t phased by other girl groups out there. “Everyone’s ready for a girl group,” says Stella. “It’s not really a competition because I feel like we’re in one lane and the other groups are in their lanes. Everyone’s doing their thing and it’s nice to see.” 

The group formed in 2019 at a record label audition, striking up immediate chemistry. They were signed to Island Records, honing their craft in songwriting camps and studios, working  alongside a plethora of producers including MNEK, KABBA, Aston Rudi and LOXE. The trio are very close and have bonded over their similarities, such as being raised by single mothers who shared the same tastes in music. Each member started out posting vocal covers on their social media pages, further united by their earlier efforts of breaking into the industry. “We’re all very similar. We’ve had similar upbringings and usually get behind the same vibe.” explains Renée. 

Despite their recent rise to fame, the London outfit have already amassed a battalion of stans aptly named ‘FLOlifers’, a fandom that the girls recognise and value. “I feel like people like to have a community,” says Stella. “I think people can relate to one or all of us.” The band are very active on TikTok, giving their fans ample opportunity to interact with each member. Their closeness to their fanbase has paid off: every song from their debut EP The Lead has gone viral, racking up thousands of videos including dance challenges, remixescovers and memes

And it’s not only a legion of loyal fans backing them. FLO have secured the blessings of the R&B overlords with music titans including Kelly Rowland, JoJo, Missy Elliot, Brandy and SZA showing love for their songs. It’s amazing. As artists, that’s like, the goal,” says Stella. “One of the main things is having people you’re inspired by like you.” Some of the artists have even met the group in person and have shared guidance and career tips. “They’re so loving, you can feel that they’re rooting for you,” says Renée. “Just knowing that you have all these incredible people behind you makes you realise that it’s possible.”

New single ‘Not My Job’ is a testament to their musical chemistry and solidifies FLO’s signature on the scene. With each member cutting their teeth on technical harmonies, their vocals entwine effortlessly in sync, layered onto an electrifying bassline backed by sharp beats. “It’s not my job to make you feel comfortable / first of all baby / It’s not my job if you ain’t being vulnerable / it says it all for me,” they sing, the lyrics confronting power dynamics in relationships. “[The song] is about getting out your frustrations” and “being strong in telling people you won’t do their work for them”, says Renée. 

“We’ve always held ourselves to a high standard, if it’s not quality then it’s not going to come out”

With hit after hit, the band shrug off accusations that they’re industry plants who haven’t worked hard for their success. To them, their achievements come down to the fact that they love music and put everything into it. “We really have to think about our songs,” says Renée. “We’ve always held ourselves to a high standard, if it’s not quality then it’s not going to come out.” Jorja echoes the sentiment: “We’re our own main critic of ourselves, [our fans] are watching us, and we can’t put a foot wrong.” 

Each member has grafted hard to get to where they are now, overcoming challenges to make it work. They hope to show young Black girls that it can be done, inspiring a new generation to thrive in today’s industry. 

Their advice closely follows their own success story. “Post on social media,” says Renée. “Everything is within you, you don’t need to look to anybody else but yourself.” Stella echoes a similar sentiment: “If you have a goal or passion it’s in you for a reason… and yeah, post videos.”

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