by Carl C. Sundberg
Take everything you know about the typical rock tale and throw it away. It's time to get weird.
We're talking accordions and face paint. We're talking zombie clowns. We're talking dark, bizarre fantasy worlds. We're talking car crashes with rich, wasted Vegas strippers. We're talking golden showers in hotel hallways. We're talking Jonathon Davis of Korn. We're talking about Sunflower Dead, a band you will not forget any time soon.
They rose from the ashes of the band Droid back in 2011, when ex-Droid guitarist Jamie Teissere joined up with old friends and fellow musicians Michael Del Pizzo and Jaboo to discuss a new band with a goal of “entertaining people”. As time went on, the lineup emerged, which including Buckethead bassist Luis Gascon, who was later replaced by Lats Kearns of Memento and drummer Jimmy Schultz, who, among other high-profile gigs, was a touring drummer for In This Moment at one point.
“The music industry is hard, and I can see how much it weighs on other bands we are around,” says Michael Del Pizzo, vocalist and accordion player for Sunflower Dead. “Everyone is scrambling to fit into a mold and hang on to any dollar they can bring in just to survive. I feel people have lost focus on the point of rock… you know, to throw all the rules out the window and have some damn fun. I had been feeling for quite a bit before we started SFD that the world needed something like us.”
Sunflower Dead had to be beyond guys in T-shirts and jeans on stage, it had to larger than life. “I have 5 guys that have submitted to the idea of just being themselves 100% artistically,” says Del Pizzo. “And yes, the makeup allows us to take it to places performance wise that I don’t think would be there if we wore the fad of the weeks clothes.”
To achieve their different approach and goals, they took a different approach to creating the band, spending their time crafting songs and stage personas rather that doing the old-fashioned “record demo - play local shows - rinse and repeat” technique that so many bands use in their early days.
The band had a goal to create a world where fans could escape into a dark, complex, twisted world, if only for a little while. “It’s no longer time for the world to have a villain to help them escape,” says Del Pizzo. “In the 90’s, Marilyn Manson was that villain and it was amazing. But today, we don’t need the villain, nor do we need a saint. We do need the Anti Hero. In the SFD back story which is being turned into a graphic novel, our characters are these undead vigilantes that rise from the dead and destroy the evil. We are the good guys in a sadistic kind of way. That’s how we are on stage, we might kinda look creepy, but we are a hell of a lot of fun.”
Their approach has worked, as they started their career with a 2012 self-titled debut, produced by Christin Olde Wolbers of Fear Factory.
“Christian is a friend of ours and we were such a new band and at the time and he was trying to get into producing bands that we just said, f it, let’s do it,” says Del Pizzo. “Chris is hilarious and a great musician. We had a lot of fun with him and his stories in his accent, haha.”
The album includes a darker, creepier and more sinister take of the Police's, “Every Breathe You Take”. “I am really proud of that one and it goes over live great,” says Del Pizzo. “After we wrote our debut album, I asked the guys if they wanted to do a cover. Us being the kind of guys that are generally too preoccupied to learn the correct way to play a song, I sat down with Jaboo (my lead guitarist) and rearranged the song to make it fit SFD. I believe we truly tapped into the stalker vibe of the song and brought a killer dynamic to it. It’s not a love song when we play it!”
Their most recent album, the 2016 release, “It’s Time to Get Weird” is gaining traction on radio stations across the country as well as online, with the help of an old friend and special guest, Jonathon Davis of Korn, on the self-titled lead single, “It's Time to Get Weird”.
“The guys in Korn have been friends with my one guitarist Jamie Teissere since before they were Korn,” says Del Pizzo. “I mean real friends. Jamie even took guitar lessons from Munky back in the LAPD days. It wasn’t our idea though to put him on the song. Our album was completely finished, and the original version of the song just has me. We were meeting with record labels in early 2015 and one of them suggested since we were going to tour with Korn in the summer if 2015 in the UK that we should ask JD to sing on a track. Weird, we actually never thought of that. We didn’t end up signing with the label, but we did take their great idea. Jamie sent Jon a text, then just like that we were in Bakersfield, CA at Jon’s studio tracking his vocals. It was awesome, and Jon is so rad. What a nice person he is, and I was humbled to get to work with him.”
The band recently released the official video online, an animated tale that you've just got to see to appreciate. Check it out below.
In addition to the stage personas, the face paint and the dark anti-hero approach of the band's characters on stage, one of the more interesting aspects of Sunflower Dead is the use of the accordion, an instrument that may just be on the bottom of the list of expected instruments in a hard rock band.
“It’s under used for a good reason, it’s heavy and bulky and looks weird,” says Del Pizzo. “But for me, it makes sense. I started playing the accordion when I was about 20 out of boredom. I already played the piano (sloppily) so I figured I would go out and buy an accordion and learn it. It would be a good challenge. The first time I strapped the thing on, it just felt 'right'. I can’t explain it. It was like I was supposed to play this ridiculous instrument. I love the thing though. I call it my 'Inhuman Lung' because it feels like an extension of my body. When we put SFD together, Jamie actually requested that I use it in this band and he was right, it really is perfect for us. It has been with SFD from the beginning.”
The accordion is certainly a great tool to set a band apart from the pack. It's inclusion into Sunflower Dead has certainly worked for the band live.
“Since every show starts with me walking out in my makeup and holding my accordion, you can imagine I have gotten every possible kind of reaction,” says Del Pizzo. “People yell “Weird Al” or “Urkel”, haha. People have even straight busted out laughing. But, as soon as I play it, everyone shuts up and the cell phones comes out to record it. That’s the point of doing the show that way, especially for those that don’t what we are all about. When you walk out looking like a zombie clown and you are playing an accordion, everyone’s and I mean EVERYONE’s expectations drop as low as they can go. People think, this is going to be a catastrophe. It’s another band in makeup and this idiot has an accordion. Then we give it to them and the script flips. It is a set up on our part and done purposely and always works the same. Look at us getting all psychological on rock audiences haha.”
It even got the attention of nationally syndicated heavy metal TV and radio host Eddie Trunk, who was in the audience and caught the band's set at The Vinyl in Las Vegas for the RadioContraband Convention and Awards Ceremony. He dug it enough to tweet about the experience: “Checked out a new band called Sunflower Dead in Vegas the other night. Metal accordion! Was very cool.”
“The experience was incredible for me personally,” says Del Pizzo. “Being a people watcher, I was happily surprised that it wasn’t a room full of industry suits. I mean, you never know what something like this could turn out to be. The Rock Radio Community, from what I saw, was this amazing group of people that are huge fans of the music they promote. It was great to watch because these are the people that help build careers with their on-air support. You could tell their excitement to be doing what they do and how stoked they were on the bands performing. I absolutely loved that!
And speaking of Vegas, what rock band's tale would be complete without a wild night on the strip...
“Here is a fun little story that happened when some of my guys were coming back from the Killswitch Engage show at the Convention,” says Del Pizzo. “They were driving down the strip and they got whacked by a car out of nowhere. Apparently when they looked at the driver it was this banging hot stripper who was completely obliterated. This chick was so out of sorts, she decided to drive off, fast. The SFD guys, drove after her and were chasing her down the strip hanging out the window of their car taking photos and videos of her. She eventually pulled over and she was really, really messed up, haha. Perfect opportunity to make a deal, right?!?! Instead of calling the cops, they told her to give them $3000 in cash for the damage and they would let it all go. SHE DID, haha. So, they got the cash and went to the next party of the evening, which I won’t repeat what happened. But I do know that some hotel hallway in Vegas apparently received a golden shower. Ok, that’s enough, the convention was AWESOME!”
Originally published on radiocontraband.com
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