Synthpop duo Red Flag -- brothers Chris and Mark Reynolds -- were originally Liverpool natives before moving to San Diego in the mid-'70s.
Comprised of siblings Mark and Chris Reynolds, Red Flag released a dozen albums between 1988 and 2002, and nearly twice that many singles and EPs. The duo said their music was inspired by bands like Depeche Mode and the Cure, describing their sound as “a blend of synthpop, new age, & ambient.”
The brothers first started playing electronic music in 1982, when Mark Reynolds bought a Roland Juno-60 synthesizer over a guitar on a trip to a music store. The first song they recorded, "Distant Memories," under the name Shades of May, was selected for a compilation album, Local Heroes, by San Diego radio station 91X in 1984.
Signed to Enigma Records in 1988, the LP Naïve Art (produced by Paul Robb of Information Society), released the following year, earned them two top ten hits on Billboard’s Dance Charts (“Russian Radio” and “If I Ever”), as well as an appearance on American Bandstand and opening slots on tour with Devo and Thomas Dolby.
Red Flag's 2002 remix album Who Are the Skulls? featured other synthpop artists such as Information Society's Paul Robb, Cosmicity, Provision, and Rob Rowe of Cause & Effect. The concept of the album was to organize a project in answer to the many requests from other remixers to work with the band.
Following the closure of Enigma, Red Flag briefly recorded for I.R.S., who released the album Machines in 1992. The duo then decided to form their own label, Plan B Records, to supervise and market their work.
In late 2001, Red Flag released Codebreaker T133, a pure electronica dance album entirely recorded and programmed to the tempo of 133 bpm (beats per minute). On March 31st, 2002, the Red Flag song “I See You” was featured on MTV’s Road Rules/Real World Battle Of The Sexes.
Among their last area gigs were Club Xanth on 30th Street (May 12th ‘02) and ‘Canes (April 13th ’02), where they opened for former Bauhaus and Love And Rockets guitarist Daniel Ash.
Red Flag fan Jerome Nivolosi attended the ‘Canes gig and said “Mark was looking kind of worn out and…not well at the time. He’d shaved his head and seemed like he’d lost a lot of weight since the last time I saw them at the Troubador [L.A.], just a few months before that. My friends and I were talking about it…we wondered if maybe he was on chemo[therapy], whether he might have cancer or something.”
Mark Reynolds passed away in his home on 2nd Avenue on Monday, April 7th 2003, reportedly from complications related to respiratory failure, though it was later reported to have been a suicide. Reynolds’ wife said in a statement "We are all shocked and deeply saddened by this unexpected loss. Mark was a wonderful person, a loving husband and a talented and gifted musician. He will be missed terribly. I’m sorry it has taken me this long to let you know, but I hope you can understand how terribly difficult this has been for me and our family."
Mark’s death brought operations to a halt until 2007, when Chris released Born Again. Since then, he has played a handful of shows and is now looking to return to music full time. A revived version of Red Flag performed for the first time in San Diego since 2002 on April 22, 2009, at the House of Blues.
For Reynolds the decision to use the Red Flag name wasn’t taken lightly. “It’s something I still think about; it was a hard choice. But, I was Red Flag too, and in the long run, I think it would be a disservice to the music and all that we’d built up to use something else.”
In 2010, Reynolds began planning a ten CD Red Flag box set, complete with updated versions of early hits. New tracks that year included “Glass Spider” (for an edition of the Staring at the Sun local compilation series) and a cover of Judas Priest’s “Hell Bent For Leather.”
A change in the current edition of Red Flag is the use of live musicians. “It’s an electronic band, so using computers I could do it all alone, but I get lonely by myself up there,” he joked. “Besides, there’s no way that a bass player, for example, could play what’s on the records without computers involved, as some tracks have three simultaneous lines interlinked. But having live musicians adds something that’s both visually appealing and makes the sound more epic.”
“In starting over, I’m being very selective about the shows I’ll play. I have a family, and touring is grueling.”
The 30th anniversary of the band's debut album Naïve Art was celebrated in early 2020 with a double vinyl reissue containing four bonus tracks, limited to 1000 copies available in three separate colors: red, white and black. A double CD version features 18 bonus tracks.