Athens-based electronic rock band FLT RSK (Flight Risk) is looking forward to a high-energy full sensory concert experience at Pensacola’s Handlebar. On the heels of their debut album, synth and keyboard player JB Lawrence took time off from his busy schedule to chat with the IN about what to expect from the band’s upcoming Aug. 13 show that will feature extra lighting from Grateful Funk and live art by Scott Bond.

IN: How did you guys come together as a band?

Lawrence: Our very first show was a very special experience. We were booked to perform at the first annual Purple Hatter’s Ball just outside of Tallahassee in Live Oak. The Ball is a memorial festival for one of my friends, Rachel Morningstar Hoffman, who was tragically killed during a sting operation in 2008. To have a hand in carrying on her spirit was an incredible honor.

IN: What are some of your major influences in the way you approach your music?

Lawrence: Most of my background is in the electronic rock and hip-hop genres. Sound Tribe Sector 9 is a huge influence. I’ve probably seen them upwards of 100 times. Although I’ve strayed away from that scene a little bit, they still write some of the best electronic rock music out there right now.

IN: Describe your sound for some of our readers unfamiliar with the electronic music scene.

Lawrence: We have drums, bass and synth up there. We try to create a textured atmosphere with our sound that has an up-tempo cinematic feel to it. I usually defer to what the fans are saying to describe it any further. There’s a soul in what we do. It’s not just shallow beats. I don’t mean to talk negatively about anyone in the electronic scene, but a lot of times when you hear electronic music without words, you can tell there’s not much heart in what’s been put together. We use a lot of vocal samples, but other than that, the music really speaks for itself. It’s very danceable, but it’s not just a dance party when we play. There’s more to it than that.

IN: Has music always been something you wanted to do as a career?

Lawrence: I actually didn’t learn to play anything until my 19th birthday, when I bought myself a cheap Casio keyboard. The first song I learned was “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin”. It’s funny to hear myself say that, but it all started with Aladdin. The love for music has always been there, though. In high school, I was big into 311 and Incubus. I went to my first 311 show when I was in sixth grade. I remember head banging in the rain at that show like it was yesterday.

In all my previous bands, I had been playing other people’s music and learning what other band members had already written. It was a great introduction into playing live music, but my heart was never really into it. That all changed when I got together with these guys. I’ve learned so much from Matt. Because he’s played all over the country with Dubconscious, he really knows his stuff. It’s amazing playing with people who are so professional. It’s been a huge growing experience.

IN: Talk about your decision to release your album online for free.

In this day and age, it’s foolish to think you’re really going to get that much money for selling your albums when it’s so easy to be uploaded to Mediafire or something like that. We certainly would have made some money. We have enough fans that would have wanted the album and paid for it. Our real goal, though, was to get the music to as many people as possible. If people are anything like me, they’ll download a record if it’s free and recommended by someone they respect.

IN: This show will have extra lighting and live art during the show. Do you find that activities like that add to or subtract from the music and the concert experience?

Lawrence: Adds to it, without a doubt. The creative energy in a room like that is definitely noticeable from the stage. I can totally tell it’s different. When we play with someone running lights, we feed off it and usually play a better show. And having artists painting is a beautiful expression of creativity. They’re in the moment as well, which is what live music is all about.

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Photo: FLT RSK Official