Dead Flowers Are the Bastard Children of Punk and Texas Blues
Dead Flowers bring their own distinctive style to "His Blues"
Last year, Dead Flowers frontman Corey Howe had a pretty bold declaration about his band's future: "I would die if we're not on the road in the next six months." Though the band bought a van and had plenty of shirts, LPs and CDs to sell, they didn't hit the road in 2013.
Howe, who is alive and well and happy to be alive, says the change of heart came from a practical decision. "We decided that it would be better to go on the road with two records and still be a band that nobody knows about than be a band nobody knows about that only has one," he says.
The band, rounded out by lead guitarist Vince Tuley, bassist Evan Johnson and drummer Ed Chaney, decided to use the money they had budgeted for a tour to fund the recording of a second album entitled His Blues. They figured they could offer people how the band sounds now, as they're no longer entirely entrenched in the blues-influenced country rock of their debut, For You.
"We decided to just go ahead and focus on crafting the new material we had at the time," Chaney says. "We knew we were growing as a band and songwriters and wanted to capture that."
In the meantime, the band got some great opportunities to play for some major acts, like Reverend Horton Heat, Delta Spirit and the Murder City Devils, as well as an appearance at the Untapped Festival. The size of their audience has grown with every show. The guys have also enjoyed introducing their fans to some of their own favorites. "We have a draw in Dallas and we wanted to use that to put people in front of Two Car Garage and Lydia Loveless," Howe says. "We've been playing so much that we haven't had a gap."
Recorded and mixed in 10 days, His Blues expands the foundation established on For You. It offers much more mystery with diverse moods that evoke a raw, whiskey-soaked feel. His Blues was the first record without guitarist Tony Webb, who amicably left the band before the release of For You, and the sound is noticeably different. "We're not trying to create new sounds or change who we are," Johnson says. "They still sound like Dead Flowers songs. It just keeps growing. I don't think we came into this band wanting to sound like anything. We wanted to sound good."
Chaney concurs, adding, "We went in with a blueprint of tracking our parts like a rehearsal or a show. All of us in the same room together hashing the tunes out. I think it came out of more of a representation of what we bring to our live shows."
What came out on For You was natural for where the band was, and the same thing happened with His Blues. No matter what, the influence of the blues will always be there. "I think we were originally stuck with the whole blues-ish sound," Howe says. "There's a blues undertone because Vince is my favorite guitar player in the whole world." Johnson is more succinct, declaring, "We play rock and roll and we're from Texas."
Long before Dead Flowers formed, Howe and Tuley played around blues bars in Chicago. Howe comes from a background of singer/songwriter folk and country, and Tuley's love of the blues was going to come out in some form or fashion with Dead Flowers. Filtered through other influences like punk rock, though, the band has never been a traditional 12-bar-blues band playing the regular I-IV-V melodic progressions and set for a life playing old blues bars. "We own what we're doing, and it's cool," Howe says. "I think everybody in the band pays enough attention and is good enough, to where we can get away with it."
Though Dead Flowers don't ape their influences on His Blues, they are happy to point out the influence of the Replacements on the material. But the influence does not include the famously self-destructive arc of that legendary Minneapolis band. They're not blowing opportunities out of a sense of anti-rock-star attitudes brought on by punk-rock guilt. Instead, it's an ethos to do whatever you want to do. For Dead Flowers, if they want to make a more aggressive album, have the artwork be predominantly pink and have certain band members show up to a gig in dresses or leather shorts, that's their call. "We push ourselves to the best we can be, all the time," Johnson says.
The band's songwriting pace isn't slowing down anytime soon, and Howe hopes for the band to release a new album every year. They also can't wait to play even-newer songs live. At the For You record release show at Three Links, they played two songs that wound up on His Blues. At the His Blues record release show earlier this month at Dada, they played two new songs that might end up on their next album. "Our potential third album is already four songs in, as far as being written," Howe says. "I have two more songs that I have written during this whole record release process that I haven't shown the band yet."
Working with a booking agent and a publicist, they hope to do some short tours throughout the country in 2015. As evidenced by packed audiences at their local shows, especially both record releases, Howe says the band's motto is a personal, involved one: "We're not out to make fans," he says. "We want friends."
The band has no fear about playing shows in new towns that don't know about them, even if it's a close town like Denton. "The way that I see it, all we need to do is play in front of people," Tuley says. "You come away from it how you wish, but we're going to give it our all." (Though the band played to four people at Rubber Gloves one night, those four people showed up at Club Dada for the His Blues release show.)
The desire is to go about the traditional, organic way, which is how most bands endure. "I hope to spread our music to as many people as we can," Chaney says. "To continue to write music we enjoy, to play out for our friends and family."
Dead Flowers wants to do as much as possible. And Howe isn't fearful of his emotional being in the next six months. He's looking forward to what comes next and knows he has to play this music with his band. "I'm hoping that everything works out with this booking agent and most of this next year will be spent on the road," Howe says. "We'll see how it goes."
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Dallas, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.