photo: David A Walega
In 1994 the power trio Flake bounded onto the Seattle music scene in a flurry of high energy shows. With a set list of songs crafted by front man Robert Middleton that showcased his talent for writing infectiously melodic hooks paired with a unique pop tinged take on the crunchy grunge guitar riffs of the era, the band quickly built a strong local following.
Longtime friend and band mate, Ken Ackerlund, from Middleton's previous project, the short lived but fiery Random Song Generator, teamed up on bass and Scott Schickler (formerly of Thrown Ups and Swallow) became Flakes original drummer. Rob Cunningham (The Lemons) would permanently take on drumming duties about a year later, and would help fully realize the band's trademark power-pop meets grunge sound.
Not long after storming the scene, Flake released their self-produced debut album Box, quickly followed up by their sophomore effort, Wild Cool Anger, released on the band's own label, Y Records. Joining Flake on Y Records were label mates Gary Heffern, Andy Davenhall's (The Lawnmowers, Dodi) band Sister Psychic, Chet, writer Vanessa Veselka's band Bell and the debut CD from Goodness featuring lead singer Carrie Akre, formerly of Hammerbox.
Both Box and Wild Cool Anger were met with highly favorable reviews including one from Seattle's preeminent music mag The Rocket which said that the band “...was proving themselves to be Seattle's finest power pop trio...”. Reviews further described Flake as a “peculiar beast” on the scene and that it was this “peculiarity that makes them so lovable.” It was also noted that Flake's sound, accented by Middleton's quirky use of his oddly tuned four stringed guitar, was a “power[ful], bludgeoning pop” that most certainly laid a solid transitioning bridge between grunge and pop rock.
Support from music writers and eager fans earned Flake an extraordinary amount of heavy airplay on college and public radio stations across the country. That, and the creative promotional strategies Middleton and Ackerlund came up with and deployed for the releases had Flake reporting regular addition to station playlists, their singles earning heavy rotation and the band doing on air promos for stations on a regular basis for months.
Wild Cool Anger did especially well. But, even though the record got such consistently heavy air play for the length of time that it did, the band was never reported to the college charts of CMJ. It has been speculated that this may be due to the fact that there was, at the same time, another band named Flake out of New Mexico that was on the rise as well. This Flake was subsequently sighed to Sub Pop and changed their name to The Shins.
After the release of their second CD, Flake continued to tour regionally and play local shows as Middleton and Ackerlund became increasingly immersed in the day to day running of the Y Records label that was seeing success with some select artists they were working with.
Since Flake officially disbanded in the early 2000's, Middleton has launched a project under the moniker RAWB Middleton and is now releasing a series of EP's on his and Ken Ackerlund's new label created especially for the release of his solo work, Pander Monkey Records.
- JM Cunningham