It’s been a busy year for McKinley Kitts, Zach Grace and Dylan Bauld — three of the four members of the band rock band Flor. The group, formed while they were Hood River Valley High students (Bauld graduated in 2009, Kitts and Grace in 2010), released its EP “Sounds” in February, signed with the label Fueled By Ramen under Atlantic Records, went on tour in the United Kingdom with singer Halsey, played numerous venues in the U.S., and spent a good chunk of time putting together their first full-length album. Most recently, they released the song “still standing still” on Dec. 2, featuring Portland artist LostBoyCrow, available on iTunes and Spotify.
But what they’d rather talk about is how growing up in Hood River and the support they received here has shaped them and their music careers.
“We’re really grateful for Hood River’s involvement in Flor’s life,” said Grace, the band’s lead singer and multi-instrumentalist. “I’m not sure Flor would exist if not for Hood River.”
“Hood River had really shaped us, who we are as people,” added Bauld, bassist, producer and songwriter. “People look at us in the industry and ask why we’re so relaxed — our families and the town had a huge role in that.”
They credit “music teachers shaping us to the community loving that we were a little band going for it, and driving hours to watch us play” as a key part of their success, said Grace.
And it’s what has kept them grounded.
“We don’t let things go to our heads,” said Kitts, guitarist. “… The community wouldn’t let us get too full of ourselves. Mike wouldn’t let us get too full of ourselves,” he laughed, speaking of his father, Mike’s Ice Cream owner Mike Kitts.
Now based in Los Angeles, the trio has been playing together for about 10 years, under the name Sunderland until two years ago. They added drummer Kyle Hill (found on Craigslist, no less), a fellow Oregonian hailing from Tualatin, in 2012.
The name change to Flor came after switching lead singers — from Kitts to Grace — and finding themselves on a new musical path.
“We basically scrapped everything and started over,” said Bauld. “It made for a smooth transition.”
‘Our goal is to get out and play shows — that’s where we feel we shine the most.’
– Dylan Bauld
“It feels like two different bands,” said Grace.
Flor has released a string of singles — generally one a month — since the name change, to “test the waters and build momentum,” said Grace. When they released the “Sounds” EP in February, that was when Fueled By Ramen came calling. It’s a good fit for them because they have a clear vision as a band, and the label is only interested in facilitating their careers.
“You hear horror stories about labels who want to change a band’s identity,” said Grace; that hasn’t been their experience at all.
They’ve completed their first full-length album, “come out. you’re hiding,” with the first single, “on hold,” set for release on Jan. 6.
“It’s exactly what we want it to be and exactly what we want the world to hear from us,” said Grace. A lot of that has to do with the fact that this album is 100 percent Flor — produced by Bauld, who has an additional production contract with Benny Blanco of Universal Music Group.
“It’s insane to me,” he laughed. “That was not my plan. I just wanted to focus on the band, but I saw this open up and it felt like I had to take it. It’s helped Flor — production has gotten better, because that’s my job.”
Working with different producers, he added, exposes him to new techniques that he can bring to Flor to “make our music better.”
Incidentally, Bauld is up for a Grammy this February, for a song he co-produced on Justin Bieber’s “Purpose” album, called “The Feeling,” featuring Halsey.
Bauld tracked the vocals on Halsey’s “Badlands” — in addition to writing a couple of songs — and she asked him to engineer and produce her vocals on “The Feeling.”
“Now I’m in that list of producers somehow,” Bauld said. “All the names of the producers on that album are everyone I’ve looked up to as producers.”
He’s taking the nomination in stride — no, he’s not planning to attend the awards show. The band is more focused on what 2017 will bring.
“Our goal is to get out and play shows — that’s where we feel we shine the most,” said Bauld.
“We’ll be working hard on a year of touring,” said Kitts, noting that the new year will put them on the road for three or four months, and likely turn into six or seven.
Flor will play Portland’s Hawthorne Theater on Jan. 18, on tour with Great Good Fine Ok. They headlined in Portland for the first time earlier this month to a sold-out show, but are looking forward to playing at the Hawthorne as it’s bigger and is a sort of coming home.
It’s also the closest show for hometown fans.
“Growing up, Hawthorne was our stomping grounds — we went to shows and played there … that’s where we learned to perform, basically,” said Bauld.
Tickets are available at etix.com.