Next month will see the release of guitar-fuelled Auckland rockers Dead Flowers’ second album on Wildside/Festival. ‘Sweetfish’ finds the Auckland band working ground well fertilised by their 1993 debut album and some comprehensive national touring. Bassist Dave James talked over the recording and the road ahead with Kelly Bennett for NZM.
Dave James says he never really pictured himself owning a record shop, but as far as his fellow band members in Dead Flowers are concerned, it’s probably just as well he does. James’ shop, Auckland’s Corner Records, has seen band members through some troubled financial times and continues to supplement the support they receive from their recording label Wildside.
“The band owes me a bit of money,” says James jokingly. “But the shop is great because I’ve got a full time employee and I can spend as much time as I want working with the band.”
Dead Flowers has had something of a holiday for the last six months, but bass player James says the break has been beneficial. The band is fresher, he says, and looking forward to picking up where it left off last year with their well received debut album ‘Skin Of A Stone’. The album sold well here, but James says that if the band is ever to do well financially then it has to do well overseas.
“Realistically we have to have a similar level of success, if not more, in a fairly major market. If we were as successful in Australia as we have been in New Zealand, then we might start to see some money back. We want to try and do that and I believe the band has enough appeal. The songs are good enough, and I think there’s a lot of talent in the band, but basically the whole thing is like a lottery.”
Also in the Dead Flowers line up are guitarists Damon Newton and Riqi Hadfield, drummer Rob Dollars and singer/guitarist Bryan Bell. Any further success the band is likely to achieve will depend largely on their new album, ‘Sweetfish’, due for release in early July. James says the album differs from the first effort in a number of ways, but principally in the way the songs are structured. First single, Watch Her Play, will be followed by Home in late June.
“There aren’t as many parts to the songs, and they don’t sprawl around as they did on the last album – it’s straight down to business. In the first seven songs there’s only one over three minutes long, whereas on the first album I think there’s only about two songs under four minutes. I think that this time around the songs are more intense, and I think the sound is a lot better. Production-wise, it’s basically been done working as a team with Roger Green and Neil Baldock.”
James describes the recording process for the first album as “hellish”, explaining it was characterised by arguments and wasted time. This second album was recorded at Revolver Studios, and the band nominated lead singer Bryan Bell to take charge in the studio. Bell wrote the majority of songs on the new album and James says the band were confident that appointing him to take control was a way to eliminate their earlier recording problems.
“On the last album everybody just turned up whenever they felt like it, passed comment, and basically it just meant that there was a whole lot of friction – you can’t mix things that way. This time we simply told Bryan that it was his job to be there, and we felt good about letting him take control. Artistically we are fairly united, so it wasn’t really a problem.”
They may well have been busy in the studio, but in terms of performing live the band members have been taking a break. Aside from a recent performance at Auckland’s Powerstation, their last important gig was at the Big Day Out, and James says the band were more than happy with their reception on the second stage.
“It was great, but we were a bit worried because we played at the same time as The Cruel Sea, and then the Smashing Pumpkins started about 10 or 20 minutes before the end of our gig, so we could understand people wanting to piss off and watch them. That’s what we wanted to do too!”
Dead Flowers are scheduled to start another national tour in mid-June and tentative plans are being made to organise performances with Head Like A Hole. They are still keen to tour overseas again, and James recognises they will have to if they want to make the break-through he feels they are capable of.
“When we went to Australia it basically cost us money to get there, and as yet there aren’t any promoters saying, ‘Yeah, we’ll cover your expenses.’ We’ll get the album off to the UK, shop it around and see how we get on.”