Not too long ago, the British girl group FLO were a newly signed act trying to persuade their label to drop a song called “Cardboard Box” as their debut single. The label wanted to try other songs first, but Jorja Douglas, 21, Stella Quaresma, 21, and Renée Downer, 20, collectively agreed that the lively R&B breakup track was the one.
“It’s just a thing between us three,” says Douglas. “When we’re all on the same page, we’re a force to be … what’s the word?”
“Reckoned with,” finishes Quaresma.
“That’s exactly the one,” says Douglas. “When you trust that gut instinct, it really pays off.”
“Cardboard Box” went on to get more than 34 million Spotify streams and 8.5 million YouTube views, helping attract a devoted fan base for FLO’s effortless harmonies and nostalgic early-2000s R&B sounds. They just wrapped up their first-ever tour, where stars like Wiz Khalifa and Victoria Monet were spotted in the crowds, and they’ve earned co-signs from Missy Elliott and Stormzy.
Now, FLO are translating the energy of “Cardboard Box,” and their recent tour dates, into the recording studio as they work on their debut album. All three members are involved in the songwriting process, a rarity for a new pop act. “We’ll jump on the mic and freestyle some melodies and see where the wind takes us,” Downer says. “We like to work very militantly to get a song done.” Helming the project is Grammy-nominated producer MNEK (whose work with U.K. group Little Mix is a major influence on FLO). “He’s so integral to our music and journey. He’s literally the fourth member,” Quaresma says.
Despite only having worked together for a relatively short time, the trio has already established a firm foundation of collaborative friendship. They say they’re hopeful that by grounding their success in honesty and communication, they might be able to enjoy the longevity of some of the classic groups they admire. All three members of FLO name Beyoncé as their greatest inspiration. “It’s a very cliché thing to say, but it’s just so real,” Downer says, adding that hearing FLO compared to iconic acts like Destiny’s Child and TLC makes the group feel “like we’re doing something right.”
Several months ago, FLO got in the studio with producer Rodney Jerkins, whose catalog includes Beyoncé’s all-time greatest song, Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name,” two songs from SZA’s most recent album, and many, many more pop and R&B hits. They got to hear some stories about Queen Bey from back in the day that “further confirmed why she’s the Number One.” Working with Jerkins proved productive, leading a few new songs, and they plan to go back in the studio with him soon. “He can literally do it all,” Douglas says.
FLO hope to get their debut album ready by sometime this year, “We’re trying to do things a little bit differently,” Douglas says. “We have to be really honest with each other and with the people we work with. We have to make sure how we feel is being heard.”
“It’s very important for everybody to speak up,” Quaresma adds. “Don’t let anybody make you feel like you’re being a diva or you’re being dramatic.”
“Preach!” Douglas responds.