In collaboration with
- Words Notion Staff
- Words AMELIA FEARON
- Photography SULEIKA MUELLER
- Photography assistants OLLIE PATTERSON + FAVAZ AHAMMED KOZHIKKODAN
- Creative Direction DAISY DEANE
- Fashion JAIME JARVIS represented by STELLA CREATIVE ARTISTS
- MUA MAHA ALSELAMI
- Hair MAYUKO NAKAE
- Production SUNAYAH ARSHAD
- Art Department LOTTIE TOON
- Art Department Assistants LADY DIVINE WALKER and RUSHELIA JOHNSON
Covering Notion 92, flowerovlove reflects on her introspective creative process, the meaning behind her moniker, and her latest EP, 'A Mosh Pit In The Clouds’.
Grounded by an unwavering sense of self, flowerovlove is casting her eyes beyond reality to realms of the imagination. Creating a space for individuality to flourish and the subconscious to run free, she talks us through the creative process behind her latest project, ‘A Mosh Pit In The Clouds’.
It’s considered a common notion that imagination is the opposite of reality. We collectively define what is ‘real’ by a marker of several things — for example, what we can touch or see. Reality is often measured by what our five human senses can tangibly comprehend, like the warmth of another person’s embrace or the sound of ocean waves crashing on the shore. To further explain what ‘reality’ is with metaphysics, it is the totality of all things possessing actuality, existence, or essence. Our brains construct this for us with endless amounts of sensory signals from the external world, sparking off neurons like a firecracker, processing as much data as possible.
So, where does reality end and imagination begin? These are questions 17-year-old Joyce Cisse, known by her psychedelic-pop title, flowerovlove, asks. For her, reality and imagination blur into one.
When we speak, Joyce has a firm comprehension of these existential theories despite her age. It doesn’t puzzle her; in fact, she describes how she concurrently exists in multiple worlds and realities with ease. Imagination has a realm of possibilities — just as much or even more — as the ‘real’ world. Her music simulates a reaction to different stimuli: places such as her teenage bedroom, favourite London hangout spots with friends, the studio with her brother, or the door located down the corridor, on the left and into the forefront of her mind. Taking a file out of the art design group Hipgnosis’ folder, the videos and artwork illustrated for her music toy with surrealism and abstract design. Joyce clarifies: “I don’t just want a picture of my face. That’s boring. I like weird, and I think being weird is incredible. My music videos show that side to me.”
This conversation soon arrives at her latest EP, ‘A Mosh Pit In The Clouds’, as Joyce cogently details how music and art are illusory to her. “When I look up at the clouds, I wonder what they would feel like. If I were to sit on it, would it feel like candyfloss, or would it evaporate?” She says. “They’re not just clouds to me. This is how I imagine things in my world, and that’s kind of what the EP name means.” She further opens the visual process, articulating how the optical element spills out of her consciousness onto the blank page like splattered paint. The music video for recent single, “I Gotta I Gotta”, shows Joyce in the streets of London in a bright violet suit carrying a yellow school pencil bigger than herself. The scene transitions to show her opening door after door, transporting her to endless alternative portals until the viewer eventually confronts an animated version of herself. “I imagine things, and the story starts to write itself. There’s no intentional thought behind this process. I dream, and my subconscious is coming to play.”
This dreamlike process is where flowerovlove really began. Joyce started working towards her first single release, “Kiss & Chase”, in 2020 during the Covid-19 lockdown when she was 15. Following the pathway of pop sensation Billie Eilish, she formed a sacred sibling-producer bond with her brother, Wilfred Cisse, and began writing songs. The music they wrote in the early stages was the blossoming of her now-defined psych-tinged indie sound. The lines ‘I don’t wanna be with my friends / Time alone, giving my mind rest / Clearing the soul / I don’t need your stress’ highlight Cisse’s budding autonomous character development, and since then she has grown even further into a self-assured artist. “Being a musician is what feels right to me, you know? I wanted to be a model — but with this, I have more control over how I want to be perceived and more opportunity to create what I desire,” she discloses with a confident vigour.
Falling into an age bracket associated with crippling insecurity and teenage angst, often displayed in social media crusades and TikTok videos, Joyce is quite indifferent to self-doubt. Light-years ahead of her age, she describes awkwardly growing up as simply part of the process. Explaining the artistry behind the project, “That’s what the name, flowerovlove, means. It’s how I want other people to see themselves.It’s an experience. We rise like flowers in love.” Joyce expands, “To me, it is a daffodil. Vibrant and yellow. The most important part is the metaphor — if you pick a flower, it will grow back. We’re growing all the time.”
Black identity, youth and nostalgia are the pollen nestled in the pistil of flowerovlove. Swaying in the breeze, Joyce opens up and reaches towards the sky with petals outstretched, bathing in the still air and morning sunlight. To be in love with oneself is a graceful experience, and she wants her listeners to join her in this exploration of uniqueness. She is devoted to individualism, styling quirky 70s geek clothes and fashioning her natural afro hair with pride.
“I don’t need to sing or write lyrics about my identity because it’s shown,” Joyce states. “I am me. You can see everything flowerovlove is with how I portray myself. People will always try to put you in a box; I’m OK with that. I didn’t have representation when I was young, but I am the representation I need now.” She explains further: “I love it when I see young people embrace themselves. Mothers send me photos of kids wearing their hair out for school. That’s great. I like that I can help with that journey of self-love in others.”
The artist explored identity in other avenues before she started writing music, successfully venturing into the fashion world, walking in Paris Fashion Week for XULY.Bët and featuring as the face of campaigns for brands such as Gucci, Maison Kitsuné and Pangaia. These are all awe-inspiring names to have tucked under the studded designer belt; however, when she speaks, she gives the impression that the need for self-sufficiency is imperative to her creativity.’A Mosh Pit In The Clouds’ is the closest Joyce has reached to manifesting her true artistic desires. She is happiest when creating. When asked how the plan of action came around for the EP, she pauses briefly to scroll on her phone before she replies. “My notes say: ‘EP release in November?’ I wrote that on July 20th 2022. The timestamp is 3:02 pm,” she says with an innocent smirk, emphasising that the time and date are essential as they tie into manifestation and spirituality. “What will be, will be. And it was.” She laughs.
The newest release channels her nostalgia for those fuzzy days, love drunk on sunshine, the feeling of warm grass poking between her toes. ‘A Mosh Pit In The Clouds’ captures a sense, like a snapshot in time; the sentimentality is rich with layered harmonies and a sugary pop groove. Each track is a new chapter in her book of love, and one of the singles, “Out For The Weekend”, perfectly encompasses the excitement of wide-eyed adolescence.
The song has a delicious synth-pop feel, the rhythm skipping along the melody like a group of girls playing double dutch on a summer’s evening. “In the songs, each melody is something I create, and I think ‘Out For The Weekend’ is my favourite song on the EP. We were actually about to leave the studio, and this song happened. I must hone in on that energy immediately; I must be present.” And when asked about spirituality, Joyce seems eager to expand. “I journal. I document my mind. I wrote the song, ‘Gone’, the last song on the EP, on my own. It isn’t a love song, even though it sounds like one. It’s about the feeling of disappointment in myself. I had a performance at a festival that went badly due to technical difficulties, and I was distraught. That felt like heartbreak to me. I experience vulnerability, but music and spirituality are my way of working through it.”
The song in question deviates from the upbeat, playful nature of the EP singles. Joyce curiously asks, “Does the track ‘Gone’ feel like an anomaly to you when you listen to it?” The response to her playful query is that it does. “I Gotta I Gotta” punches in with a beating kick drum and buzzy indie guitar riff that would stir up any crowd, and “Get With You” has sparkling doo-wop vocals performed by Cisse that are so catchy, it’s almost impossible not to sing along. Yet the final track on the EP, “Gone”, cuts in deep, exposing the same rawness heard in familiar songs like FKA Twigs’ “cellophane”. It’s fragile, but it feels essential that Joyce reminds her audience that the pressures of girlhood can sometimes get to her, too. And though it stands out from the rest of the songs, it ties the EP together flawlessly.
Despite going on tour in Europe with the American artist, Role Model, flowerovlove places emphasis on being a typical 17-year-old who attends school and does homework, experiencing the same daily normalities that most teenagers do. She just so happens to be going through this process in a space that many can see. Joyce clarifies: “I try not to divulge too much time to social media.”
The varied sounds of the EP align with her artistic integrity to display all aspects of self. ‘A Mosh Pit In The Clouds’ paints the picture of who she is and how she values collective identity by inviting other young people to accompany her in this journey of figuring it out.
flowerovlove is a coming-of-age story told so eloquently by Joyce Cisse that after speaking to her in such depth, it’s hard not to be captivated by her inquisitive charisma. Her otherworldly harmony with the universe and sincere passion for music, fashion and art is inspirational. “I want to give love and be kind to people, and that’s what I think I’m here to do. I have so much to offer,” she humbly expresses.
flowerovlove reaches out for all to climb in, and if you take her hand, she assures to take you on this journey with her. She’s still determining where she’s heading. Maybe to land on another planet. Or to daze upon the clouds. Wherever it may be, she promises it will be exciting.