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Sunflower Dead Interview

Sunflower Dead

Interview with Michael Del Pizzo

By: Nina McCarthy, Senior Music Journalist

Boston Rock Radio


I had the pleasure of sitting down with Michael after their set at Fete Music Hall in Providence, RI in May.  See what he has to say about the accordion, stage makeup, a new album, and what he likes to eat.



BRR:  Early on, you went through various name changes.  How did you settle on sunflower dead?


MD:  When we were deciding on a name, it was Jamie, our guitar player who actually decided he wanted something that reminded us of both the beauty and ugliness of what we were doing and he kept hearing something with a tulip or a flower.    I said I had a short story I wrote, because I used to live on Sunflower Avenue, called The Sunflower Dead and I explained it to them.  They thought that was really cool and said maybe we could be those characters, not in the song lyrics but by how we looked and they said, “Let's go for it, fuck it!”



BRR:  None of you are strangers to being in nationally recognized bands.  Can you give me a brief history of past projects?


MD:  I'll start with my drummer, who plays in 85 million bands, but most notably he toured with In This Moment, who are really good friends of ours.  He did that before he was in this band. Jamie was in the band Droid signed to Munky, Korn’s record label.  Tonight we have Chris Hamilton playing drums for us, since our drummer Jimmy is home.  He just had a baby.  Chris is from Blood Simple and Downset. Jaboo is the guitar player.  Me and him were in a band called Two Hit Creeper from LA.  We've had a ton of bass players and they were in all types of bands too.  We've always pulled from a great pool of guys so we don't have to deal with ameuter hour.


BRR:  Interestingly, you and Jaboo wrote the song, “Point of Decision”, at the age of 15 and you still play it live.  Tell me about that.


MD:  Yeah, it was our second band and we just started writing.  It was the first time he asked me to sing because in our first band it was all death metal.  So we were in High School and he said, let's start a band and why don't you sing?  He started playing this riff and I thought it was pretty cool and I wrote the lyrics that night and we had this song and boom.  We recorded it three times in our lives and the third time it was on our debut of the self-titled “Sunflower Dead” album and we finish every show with it.


BRR:  What made you decide to play the accordion as part of a rock/metal band?


MD:  I didn't really want to do it in this band.  I played accordion and the reason I do is because I play the piano.  I was really just bored when I was younger and thought it would be fun to learn it.  I used to play it in another band, Two Hit Creeper, that I was in.   When we started this band Jamie said, “Why don't you play that instrument you play.  I don't even know what it's called.”  I didn't want to but with the makeup and everything, it just works perfect.  I know, it's goofy and stupid and shit.



BRR: That leads to my next question.  What is the story behind the makeup?


MD:  Just kind of boredom overall.  When we started the band, we were bored with what was going on. We wanted to have some fun and said, “Let's put on some makeup.”  It really was that simple.  Obviously we are always dealing with people saying “Put it on!” “Take it off,” but we are enjoying it.



BRR:   I saw you guys with Powerman 5000 in Hartford.  That was the first time I saw you.  I took my son because he wanted to see Eyes Set to Kill.  At the time, there was barely anyone in the audience and him and I were up front and you guys played and we both fell in love with the band.


MD:  Right on.  I remember that show.  That was the last tour for our last album, so I remember that.  Eyes Set to Kill are cool ladies.


BRR:  It was creepy but it was so good.  You guys were coming up in our faces.  We never forgot that.  Speaking of which, can you describe your live show for people who haven't seen you?


MD:  Our live show is pretty much….we don't give a fuck.  We just go up there and have a good time and try to let the audience have a good time because this day and age everyone is struggling with trying to survive.  I see bands, even when they are good, I see this placiency  to not let themselves go on stage because they are trying to fit a mold,  We just go up there and pretty much say, “We don't give a fuck what anybody thinks.”   We're going to let our balls hang out and you might get slapped with them.  Not to be vulgar, but we just don't care. It's almost like a punk rock attitude because we are going to do what we do and entertain you and most likely win you over and if we don't, get out.


BRR:  That's what makes it so good.  I see so many bands and I like to see something different and that's why I immediately liked you guys.


MD:  I think of all the things we do it's the accordion.  Lots of bands do makeup but what makes us different is that we just don't give a fuck and have fun. Each show is different because of that.  We are always in the moment.  We are either our best or our worst or somewhere in between, but  you are getting what is real.  It's not prefabricated.  There is nothing on tape or backing tracks.  We are playing real and you are getting realness, which is sorely lacking in today's music climate.


BRR:  Which is good...the microphone in the mouth, whatever.


MD:  Whatever... hanging upside down.


BRR:  I got couple pictures of that.


MD:  Cool.



BRR:  You've been writing your third album now.  How does it compare to “Its Time To Get Weird” and what is your anticipated release date?


MD:  I can say that we only have half of it and we have to go home after this tour and finish the other half.  We are going to start tracking the record in September.  We are looking to release it in 2018.  We are going to sign to a label this time instead of being on our own.  We've put out two records out on our own label so we think it's time to partner with another label.  The way I see it, it's going to to be the flip side of “Its Time To Get Weird.”  The first album, our self-titled debut, we were just a new band trying to put stuff out there.  The second album, we honed it in and really showed that we are having fun on stage, we are going to have fun on record.  That's the whole “It's Time To Get Weird” thing.  If you don't like it, F off.  But on this record, I can 100% tell you that there is absolutely none of that.  It's very serious.  It's very emotionally dark.  The guys have asked me to go to a very deep level.  It's been very difficult for me so far because to do that constantly is hard.  We are calling it the Christopher Nolan Record because it's a very dark serious version of Sunflower Dead.  Not that we are going to come out and be a serious version, but that's the songs that are coming out now and it balances out the fun that we had with “It's Time To Get Weird.”


BRR:  I saw a demo of “Its So Mad.” Can you give me a little insight on that?


MD:  You heard little blurbs and stuff?  Yeah, that's probably just a working title.  It’s emotionally weighty, that's all I can say.  It just makes me feel like, not that it sounds like Korn, but when they first came out and you were like, “Wow, that guy is not messing around.”  It's the same thing we did with “Its Time To Get Weird” in the sense that we are doing what we want except it's just a dead serious record.  I think that anyone who thinks we are a joke or joking around will not believe that after this record.


BRR:  Speaking of Korn, you had Jonathan Davis sing….


MD:  ...on the title track, “It's Time To Get Weird”, yeah.  That was awesome to go to his studio and hang out with Jon and tell him these are my lyrics and he was like, “I'll sing it this way.”  It was so much fun.


BRR:  He's awesome.


MD:  He is so nice!


BRR:  So this is show three of 28 shows...


MD:  And what a 3 days it has been!


BRR:  How has it been going and how do you keep up your energy?


MD:  I started the tour sick, so I’m sick still and I'll probably be sick for another two weeks, but it doesn't matter.  We're going to go out and do a show and have a good time.  The first show we played in Hartford and we played on the floor because we played in the small rooom.


BRR:  Yeah, the Webster Underground.  I was going to go there because I live between here and there, but I think I had to work that night or I was sick.  You were in Laconia last night, right?


MD:  Yeah and that was great.  We are here tonight in Providence and we had an awesome time tonight.  Tomorrow is Poughkeepsie at Chance Theater, which we've been to twice.  That will be great.  Then we have a day off.


BRR:  I really enjoyed reading your Rock n Roll Journey online.  Ironically, you stated that you always wanted to be in a band, but you found instruments to be challenging and admit that you couldn't sing at the time, leading to your statement, which I loved, “Limitations create opportunity.”  Can you elaborate on that and explain how you became a lead singer?


MD:  Oh you read that?   Right on.  I kind of just feel that what makes us all individuals as people is who we are, personalities, what you can and can't do.  Your limitations make you find other ways to do stuff creatively that you can't do as easily as other people.  I think some of the best bands in the world have basically worked within their limitations to create something different. I use Korn as an perfect example. They had limitations and they created an entire genre because of their limitations.  Black Sabbath, when Tony Iommi got his fingers chopped off. Those limitations created heavy metal.  I felt the same thing with me.  I played piano as a kid but I had no interest in a guitar or bass, maybe drums, but I just felt like for some reason vocals were for me even though I was terrible at it.  I felt like I had something to say and I felt that my limitations as a vocalist have forced me to do things a little bit differently than everybody else and it's cool.  Like I said, every night we are on stage, it's a different thing.  My voice works differently and different things happen and I think that's what makes it interesting.


BRR:  Right before the tour, you had your trailer broken into and a flat tire right?


MD:  We did.  The trailer was broken into at our office in California that it is always parked at.  Do you know what they took?  Three bins of lights!  They maybe got like ten t-shirts.  They didn't know what was in the bins.


BRR:  They didn't get any of the other gear?


MD:  It was all locked up.  They did get two loose basses though.


BRR:  It's been happening a lot lately.  I find here it's when traveling bands are parked at hotels and they are breaking in their trailers.  It's bad.


MD:  It's a shame.


BRR:  I work with a lot of local bands so I always ask in my interviews if you have any advice for these aspiring artists.


MD:  Quit! (laughing)   A little advice is, 100% figure out who you are as a person and just let it out musically.  Don't try to be what you are not.  Don't worry about being what somebody else is.   Be what you are and work within your limitations.  Just go and I guarantee you will tap into something that no one else has done because we have our own unique fingerprint, right?  I’m me, you're you.  That's it.  The best artists figure out how to tap into who they are eventually and let it out naturally.  There isn't much creativeness in creativity because it's not really being created.  You're just letting yourself out.  Tap yourself into it and be who you really are.  It's a hard thing to do...hard, hard thing to do!


BRR:  I hear that a lot…”Don't try to be like anyone else.  Just be yourself.”


MD:  I mean, you can have idols and learn to do what they do to gain knowledge.  But when it comes to just doing your thing, do YOU.  If you are a singer and can hit four notes, hit those four notes amazingly, kill it.  Do your thing.  Let it out!  You will be closer to who you want to be than if you emulate someone else.


BRR;  That's all the questions I have.  Do you have anything you'd like to say to your fans or any further comments?


MD:  I've been on tour for three days now and nobody has brought me food, so let's get back on track here.


BRR:  I should have asked that. What do you like?


MD:  I like anything that is edible.


BRR:  There is a place that is still open now, New York System Wieners.  They have wieners and fries.  They are right next to the club.


MD:  Wonderful.  I think we are going to go over there now.


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