Boston indie pop group pushflowers are bursting with identity on 'Abre'
The opening moments of pushflowers’ newest single “Abre” (out now) are scored by a plush of coquí, a common frog native to Puerto Rico. Singer Rocío Del Mar, one of two vocalists in the Boston-based pop quartet, recorded the frogs while visiting Puerto Rico for her wedding to bandmate Ryan Alfonso last year. The wedding, originally scheduled just one month after the 2020 lockdown, was, in many ways, the catalyst behind “Abre,” a bubbly, bilingual synth-pop celebration. “Abre la puerta/ te quiero sentir,” she belts in the song’s spirited chorus (“Open the door/ I want to feel you”); “The [song] was [about] missing my friends, missing my family, wanting to be in Puerto Rico—and I mixed it all together,” she tells me of the song. The frogs were a clever homespun touch.
“Abre” is a stark benchmark in the band’s brief, yet compelling catalog, one that begins with a slew of singles starting in 2017 and the “close for comfort” EP released in 2019. Formed in 2016, Del Mar, along with co-vocalist/songwriter Justine DeFeo, drummer Josh London and Alfonso on bass, bonded over a shared love of the indie/pop punk scene of the Boston suburbs. Their initial releases reflect their tastes at the time; she cites Mitski, Japanese Breakfast and Tegan and Sara as major influences.
But “Abre,” along with the feel-good, sprightly “Peak” (released in July), marks a noted departure from the group’s genesis as a fuzzy indie rock outfit. Most notably, drum loops and snaking synths replace jangly guitars and a plodding rhythm section, while the earworm sensibilities of Rosalía and Charli XCX are favored over the Liz Phair-esque affectations of their once ‘90s-inspired grunge pop. But what makes the group’s newest release so inviting is its stated sense of identity. Despite Del Mar’s Latin heritage, this is the first pushflowers music to bear such an outward facet of her Hispanic culture.
“Abre” is as much an ode to her Puerto Rican roots as it is an ode to breaking through boundaries, both hypothetical and physical. “I feel like pop is so much about confidence, about being an elevated version of yourself,” she explains. “With ‘Abre,’ I felt more confident singing and writing in Spanish. I’m Puerto Rican—I thought that was something I had to shy away from, and try to fit into somebody else’s version of what indie music is. But we decided that it’s now or never, and we have to be true to who we are.”
“I feel like pop is so much about confidence, about being an elevated version of yourself.”Rocío Del Mar
The song’s video, a charmingly DIY imagining of a caged spirit in isolation, finds Del Mar drinking wine, hitting bong rips and dancing in a club-lit apartment with a black-masked entity. “It’s about taking memories of the people around you and the vibe they bring and creating a world for yourself,” she says of the video, cheekily noting that her bandmate DeFeo is the video’s saucy costar.
What I took away most from my conversation with the pushflowers vocalist was how heavily she pressed the concept of confidence and elevated personality in pop music, as if it’s been a centerpiece of achievement for the group since their pivot in 2020. “Justine and I have always loved pop music,” she admits dauntlessly. “I think that because we come from the indie/pop punk background of our area, it was hard to feel like it was okay to make pop music.” “Abre” strikes down such fears with brazen authority. We’re hearing pushflowers in their prime, and there’s plenty more celebration to be had.