Dead Flowers Talk About Bad Tattoos, Heartbreak Songs and Getting the Band Together
If you regularly go to LaGrange, Single Wide or Double Wide, you've seen a member of the quintet Dead Flowers. Earlier in the year, frontman Corey Howe was the opening act for The Revival Tour's stop at Trees, playing alongside Hot Water Music's Chuck Ragan, Alkaline Trio's Dan Andriano, and Against Me!'s Tom Gabel. We caught up with them at their practice space and talked about their experiences as musicians, and heard horror stories about first tattoos.
What was the first instrument you learned to play?
Evan Johnson (bass, backing vocals): I started on violin. I started in elementary school.
Vince Tuley (guitar, backing vocals): It was guitar for me. It was a little Mexican guitar my dad found on the side of the road.
Tony Webb (guitar): I played sixth grade trumpet.
Corey Howe (vocals, guitar): My mom said that when I was a kid I used to play with myself more than anything. But I didn't pick up my first instrument until I was 18. It was guitar. I was a freshman in college.
Ed Chaney (drums): I've always been a drummer. I started when I was nine. It's all I ever wanted to do.
Howe: He plays a mean ukulele at six in the morning.
Johnson: He has a cool story about how he got into drums.
Pray tell. We love to hear these things.
Chaney: Well, I grew up with hard-of-hearing parents, so it was perfect for drumming. My dad used to sell telecommunication devices for the hearing impaired out of our house. One day, I was either 10 or 11, I was setting up my drums in my room and this guy came by and did a double take. He said, "What's going on? You got some drums in here." I was like, "Yeah, I'm just starting out." Long story short, he ended up being the bass player for James Brown and a whole bunch of heavy hitters back in the '70s, but he lost his hearing on stage in the early '80s. So he was at my dad's house to get door bell ringers where the lights would go off, but I ended up taking drum lessons for about three years. Played my first gig with him. Got to play with a lot of different people. Got into different styles of music because of him. Got to meet Ray Charles through him. I was I was a little older so I could appreciate it.
What are your earliest memories about being obsessed about a band? For me, it was U2 in seventh grade.
Chaney: It was The Police for me in '82, '83.
Howe: When I was four or five years old, me and my mom lived with her parents in Dallas. I remember we'd drive this one route - it was over on Preston, somewhere - there were these apartments and I'd always tell my mom that I wanted to go the Grey Way. She had Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet. I'd come out of daycare and listen to Slippery When Wet just singing my ass off, going the Grey Way. And I was obsessed with "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" and some other really sad war song and she'd say she always felt bad singing it, but it was always familiar, which makes a lot of sense.
Tuley: My first musical obsession: I was about 13 years old, I was always obsessed with sports until I heard Sonny Boy Williamson playing harmonica on old blues records from 1936. I just picked it up randomly and it changed my life completely. It spawned into going from Robert Johnson, working up to B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and then Stevie Ray Vaughan. I remember distinctly hearing "Pride and Joy" and thinking, "Oh-hoo! This is where it's at. This is what I want to do." My dad was like, "Yo, I'll teach you guitar whenever." Never pressured me into it. My dad was a jazz guitar child prodigy then decided to go into singing. He taught me how to play guitar and play chords. I still have that Sonny Boy Williamson album, Trains on a Highway.
Webb: In 1995, I got deep into Nirvana. I was full of angst, but when you're a kid . . . Kurt had been dead for a year and his catalog had been blowing up at that moment. I was never into music until that point. "I'm in this horrible place. Nobody understands me!" I don't know what I was thinking.
Johnson: I can concur with that one. I discovered grunge: Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Nirvana.
Howe: Don't forget about post-grunge. Blind Melon!
Johnson: I liked Blind Melon, but I never got into them.
Howe: "Ana's Song" made me not want to eat at 15 years old. It was like, "Yeah, this is the best shit ever!"
Johnson: Saw them at the Bomb Factory way back when I was in fourth grade. Bomb Factory was amazing. I only saw terrible bands there. The only person who I could get to take me was my step-dad.
Never asked this question to a band before, but when you got your heart broken for the first time, what was the record you listened to?
Webb: I don't remember the song, but it was on that damn album by The Cranberries.
Which one? I'm a huge Cranberries fan.
Webb: It's the one with "Ode to My Family" on it.
Oh, yeah! No Need to Argue.
Webb: Yeah! That whole album is incredible. I broke up with a girlfriend in sixth grade and that entire album helped me get through a really tough time.
It was Sunny Day Real Estate for me. Driving around, listening to LP2, especially "5/4" and wondering, "Why doesn't this girl like me?"
Johnson: Yeah! Great album. There's a song that didn't help me get through it, but I always associated with breaking up with this girl because she was all about it. It was a Dashboard Confessional song.
Howe and Chaney, singing: "Your hair is everywhere!"
Johnson: I cannot hear that song without thinking of that girl crying.
Howe: Mine is Left and Leaving by The Weakerthans. Anything on Exile On Main St. What about you, Ed? You ever have a broken heart?
Chaney: I think the album I can associate with the worst breakup I've ever had was The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails.