Over the course of the past decade or so, Los Angeles-born and-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Chad Ubovich developed a reputation as a mainstay of his hometown’s fertile music scene: Ubovich had a lengthy stint playing guitar in Mikal Cronin‘s backing band. He plays bass in Fuzz with Ty Segall and Charlie Moothart. He’s also the founding member and frontman of the experimental noise rock/freak rock outfit Meatbodies.
By 2017, Ubovich reached a crossroads. After years of increasingly insane shows in front of heaving crowds with an ever-evolving and rotating door of personal, fatigue had taken its toll, and he realized that another change was just on the horizon. “It was like the car had run out of gas in the middle of the road, and I knew I had along walk ahead of me,” Ubovich recalls. He retreated to Los Angeles’ seedy underbelly — in search of meaning and a much-needed reset. But Ubovich gradually escaped into that world, ignoring his own physical and mental well-being, licking his wounds and trying to forget his successes. “I was living like a 90’s vampire out of a comic book. Stumbling around LA with the socialites, partying away my sorrows, trying to forget,” the Los Angeles-born and-based artist explains.
Around this time, the material that would eventually comprise Flora Ocean Tiger Bloom, a project conceived and written by a man searching for new beginnings and his own sense of self. After getting sober, writing sessions began at Ubovichs’ home and various studios with longtime collaborator Dylan Fujioka (drums). The official production for the album began back in 2019, but due to discrepancies with the studio and high tensions, the plug was pulled. With only about half an album, it seemed that Flora was shelved — perhaps permanently.
After some time away, cooler heads eventually prevailed and there were many discussions about the album’s future. Ubovich finally got the green light to finish production on Flora back in 2020. But he hit another snag — the COVID-19 pandemic. And with everyone’s lives and plans at a forced, indefinite halt, so did the idea of Flora Ocean Tiger Bloom.
Not wanting to sit still at home, Ubovich began combing through his previous demos with Fujioka while writing for Flora. And through those efforts, came Meatbodies’ third album, 2021’s 333. However, Flora Ocean Tiger Bloom was never far from his mind, and he once against resisted the idea of completing the album.
As restrictions were gradually lifted, Ubovich along with engineer Ed Mentee and a team of colleagues and friends, headed to Los Angeles-based Gold Diggers Sound to complete the album. But he now faced a new crisis, one that was more dire and terrifying than anything he had faced before: The home he had spent the past eight years in had been deemed uninhabitable and he wound up spending the next month of his life in a hospital bed.
Having to not only learn to walk again but also learn to play again, Ubovich used an upcoming tour with FUZZ as a motivating factor and hit the road for a year trying to regain a sense of normalcy. By the time he returned from that tour, he felt centered, energized and ready to conquer his own white whale – Flora Ocean Tiger Bloom.
Armed with a new home and a new studio, The Secret Garden, Ubovich mixed the album himself, recruited Magic Garden’s Brian Lucey to master the material — and finally Flora was completed, five years after those original demos with Fujioka. “A lot happened with this record – it took me five years, I was out of a band, I had a drug problem, the album almost didn’t happen, the pandemic made it almost not happen again, and then in the end I almost died in the hospital, lost my house, and had to learn to walk again. It’s been quite a road, but I could not be more thrilled with the final output. I guess the juice was worth the squeeze?” laughs the Meatbodies frontman.
Slated for a March 8, 2024 release through In The Red Records, Flora Ocean Tiger Bloom is in many ways a story of iron clad will and steely determination. Sonically, Flora Ocean Tiger Bloom is a massive step forward, both by conventional standards and considering its tumultuous path towards completion. The album recalls the Blue Cheer-meets-Iggy Pop-wtih-psychedelia that permeated the band’s previous releases, but with elements of shoegaze, alternative rock, Brit Pop, drone and even hints of country — without ever sounding forced or alien. But the album sees Ubovich crafting an eclectic yet unmistakably cohesive work.
Thematically, the material touches upon love and loss, escapism, defeatism, hedonism, psychedelics and much more — informed by Ubovich’s own life. “The last record was more of a cartoon version of who we were– simple and fun without delving into heavy concepts,” recalls Ubovich. “The whole thing before with Meatbodies was never sit down, next part, next part, but I wanted to make something with more depth. After everything that had happened, and my personal life, I was left with this feeling of emptiness and loss. So I wanted to make music that was absent from things– songs that were more about conveying feeling.”
Flora Ocean Tiger Bloom‘s lead single is the Siamese Dream-like “Hole,” which sees Ubovich and company pairing fuzzy power chord-driven hooks and choruses with Ubovich’s dreamily yearning falsetto and a driving groove. In many ways, “Hole” will appeal to shoegazers while featuring enough guitar pyrotechnics for headbangers — but with enough of melodic quality that gives the song a power pop-like sensibility. “That was one of the first songs I wrote, and I think it’s really indicative of that time,” says Ubovich. “How I was thinking and feeling and what I wanted to accomplish with this LP before I even knew it.”
Directed by Matt Yoka, the accompanying video is fittingly 120 Minutes era MTV-era video that features Ubovich and company performing the song in the song with some trippy visual effects. Play loud, then tune in and tune out, y’all!