I have forever been fascinated by The Dead Flowers, the straight-outta-South Jersey garage rock band with a taste for sweet, swelling balladry. After several singles and scores of live gigs from the Stone Pony in Asbury Park to Connie’s Ric Rac in the Italian Market, songwriter, guitarist and singer Mike Parry, and co-founding guitarist Zachary Tyler and drummer John DiNunzio take over Johnny Brenda’s for a Saturday night on February 1.
I grabbed Parry fresh from rehearsal to talk about Dead things.
A.D. Amorosi: How and why did you get this particular group of people together to be The Dead Flowers? And why does that band name ring true for the lot of you, when all is said and done?
Mike Parry: The band was started by my guitar player Zachary and drummer John – I was a later addition. Zach and I joined the same fraternity in college and instantly bonded over our love for music. We eventually moved into the fraternity house together and started jamming which led to him asking me to join the band. He said it was a classic rock band but it didn’t have to exactly stay that way. We slowly collected band members like our bass player and fellow fraternity brother Matt Szkaradnik and keyboard player Steve Verdi who fronted another college band we frequently played with. The name “The Dead Flowers” comes from the rolling stones song which we would typically say is our biggest influence. Our sound and style have drifted from that initial image but the name still feels like the right fit.. maybe because it’s been so long.. maybe because it sounds cool. I guess it is just something we all identify with after growing with it on our sleeve throughout our college years.
A.D. Amorosi: As a songwriter and as a player/bandleader, is your art – or how you ply your aesthetic/tools – up to the trajectory you set for it? Were there goals, ideals, conceits, concepts that you had a timeline for: what you wanted to say how, and when? Or, are you just winging it?
Mike Parry: I’ve always been sort of turned off by the idea that you need to create an image/brand for your music… although being an avid KISS fan might suggest the opposite). My taste changes pretty frequently and so does my writing style. Still, I try to keep a somewhat consistent sound for the music I write for the band. At its core, we are a rock n roll group, and that genre will always hold a really strong place in my heart. It is also a collaborative effort as we need to combine our wide-spread tastes to create something we all think is awesome. The trajectory we take isn’t predetermined in any way, we are just writing what we feel. We are definitely winging it.
A.D. Amorosi: If “What I’m Lookin’ For” tells us anything it’s that you are unafraid of a ballad. What can you tell me about how that track came together, perhaps, differently than your other originals?
Mike Parry: “What I’m Looking For” was definitely a new approach for us. I wrote the majority of it not thinking of it as a Dead Flowers song. It was more of a catchy/airy folk melody that I didn’t have a place for. I played it for the band on a weekend trip for kicks and it instantly turned into a whole different animal. The band helped me turn it into one of my favorite songs by us and eventually our first track to get onto a major radio station.
A.D. Amorosi: How are you writing far differently for yourself than you are The Dead Flowers, and explain, please all the differences – lyrically and melodically?
Mike Parry: The music I write for the band is different from the music I write for myself in that it has a common style that fits with what (I think) we are all going for. Me and Zach share the songwriting and we try to meet in the middle as much as possible. My own non-dead flowers songwriting tends to dip deeper into different styles in the indie/pop/folk territory. Lyrically I try to use the same language across all my music, but the band has a certain attitude that tends to naturally push my lyrics in a slightly different direction.
A.D. Amorosi: Consider the tracks you’re committing to wax/DL/stream at present – releasing now, thinking about releasing now – how do they portray The Dead Flowers? What have you played upon as recognizable Dead Flowers signatures then turned on its head(s)? Or not?
Mike Parry: The newest EP I think is the most developed and cohesive mix of songs we’ve had yet. We’ve always stuck to the hard rock feel, using inspiration from bands like Jet and The Black Crowes, but I think this is the first time we’ve incorporated our folk/pop side in a way that feels natural. We’re not trying to switch anything up with our sound, we just want to hone in on what’s best about it. I think this ep was a big step in that direction.
A.D. Amorosi: Does music seem real/feel real to you or is it still just a dream?
Mike Parry: I think music is the realist thing I’ve got in life. Me and my band mate’s worlds revolve around it. It’s always been fundamental to my identity regardless of where it takes me.