Editor’s Note: Sunflower Dead has been riding some serious waves since their formation back in 2012. In a relatively short amount of time, Sunflower Dead has had a top 40 Billboard Mainstream Rock chart hit with “Victim” and have shared the stage with the likes of In This Moment, Korn, Hellyeah, and Avatar. They have recently released a song under Dave Ellefson’s EMP Label Group entitled “Turn Away”, which has a strong anti-suicide message, and they will be touring with Scott Stapp(ex-Creed) and Messer this summer. In this interview with Madness To Creation, Sunflower Dead fans can learn about their latest single “Turn Away”, how seriously this band takes mental health awareness, along with other fun topics pertaining to their music. Fans can find Sunflower Dead at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: Let’s start off with a direct question in regards to your band. What makes Sunflower Dead work?
Michael: I would say the guitar player is the inspiration guy. He’s the one that comes up with the somatic musical ideas, he goes home and crafts them and comes out with these incredible musical ideas and allows the band to build upon it. What I bring to the band is that I’m kind of the structural guy, I take what he wrote and we work together and put it together in order for it to make sense with the lyrics and melodies, things like that. What Jamie[our other guitar player] does is that he kind of keeps things in check, he has the ability to say, “you know what guys, that’s a little too corny, or maybe we should go this way with it”, he kind of has this outsider’s ear that makes it a little bit different than what Jaboo and I do is add a bit of a different flavor to take us to a different spot. Since we’re the three that wrote this record, “Coma”, that’s kind of how it works. What Christian and Brett bring to the table so far as the bassist and drummer is just top-notch pro-rhythm sessions, when it comes to writing.
Madness To Creation: Our site talks about mental health, also with exercising and tips on how to cope when one is going through mental health disorders in its various forms. I listened to “Turn Away” and it kind of choked me up a little bit. I’m going to give you the floor to talk about the subject matter and single, and what inspired you to write turn away.
Michael: As far as the song itself, it was the last song written for the record on the last day. It was also the last song to be chosen on the track listing for the record on the last day before it got mastered. It was the song that almost didn’t make the record, I don’t know why, we liked it, we just weren’t sure. It’s also the last song on the record, it finishes the record, but it was one of the first songs picked by the fans and our team of people that work with us, and we kind of went with it. As far as the meaning of it being an anti-suicide song or just a song that’s about not giving up, not just giving up but sometimes when you feel like that you’re at the end of your rope, and you just have to kind of give in to what’s going on and let go instead of fighting it, just go with the current, that’s the only way that you can move on. That’s kind of my approach with the song. It’s not a song that I thought about writing or having an agenda. It’s a song that when I was given the music, Lou wrote the song front to back along with the drums, the bass guitar everything by himself, and he handed me the structure and said, “go ahead and write the vocals to this”. It’s one of the few songs where I didn’t change the structure of the music or anything. I literally just came up with vocals, lyrics and melodies all in one shot. It seemed like it was like a conduit and somebody was speaking right through me and I was just relaying the words and the emotion of what the words mean, and that’s pretty much it.
It’s definitely not something I thought I would sing about or planned on it, but I did, when I read the lyrics back and when I heard the song back, I thought, “wow, this is really important”, it’s about trying to give people hope, not just that simple hope for a minute, but real hope, to let people know that there is real help out there, and that there are people that care that have gone through it or thought about it or understand it, so even though you feel completely alone in heart, mind, and soul, there’s still people that care. It’s the kind of issue that constantly needs attention on it because the more attention that’s on it or any issue really, the easier it is for people to deal with, and I think it’s a universal topic, everyone from our Armed Forces to our friends, to our families to people we have known. Suicide has touched a life in some way unfortunately, I’m more than happy to bring more light to it, and hopefully people get some kind of solace from it, and what I’ve noticed since we’ve released the song and video, we’ve been getting email after email thanking us for the song, and for the lyrics and for people being able to relate to it, and for them not feeling alone, and that’s a really touching thing to me.
Madness To Creation: I can’t imagine the feeling of having someone coming up to you after a show and thanking you.
Michael: If it’s in person, I always give them a hug, I’ll grab them and let them how happy I am that they took the time to express that to me, and to answer your question, no it never gets old, the reason is as much access as there is to social media, the fans and the artist are not very separated like they used to be, I used to be “wow they’re reacting to it and listening to it”, and all of a sudden you get these emails or these people coming up to you, and then you think, “oh wow, it really does mean something, more than just what it means to me”, it never gets old and it never will get old, it will always be a fresh moment that I’m absolutely in love with.
Madness To Creation: What do you do in your personal life to break through or to get through the trials of life?
Michael: I think the most important thing that you can do is always do is when things get so tough and overwhelming is when that depression, anxiety or anger gets high, or when you feel lost, the first step that you should always do is just sit down and take a deep breath and relax. I know it sounds kind of cliche but it really helps to just stop, relax, take those few slow deep breaths and kind of regroup, not that it’s going to fix everything that’s wrong, but it’ll put you at ease for a second so you can think, “okay what do I need to do, do I need to reach out for help, do I need to call someone, do I need to talk to someone, do I need to apologize to someone to fix the relationship”, whatever it is that’s causing you the problem. You can’t come to a conclusion or a solution when there is so much clutter in your brain. It’s something that I always try to do is just clear my mind and relax, try to think of something that is good, and take those deep breaths and try to tackle the problem at hand. Now, I am not saying that if you’re at the end of the rope and considering suicide, obviously there is something going on inside of you that is ripping you apart, I’m not saying it’s that easy, I’m saying at least give yourself a chance, breathe for a second, realize that you matter, you’re loved, it’s okay, and there’s always a way out.
Madness To Creation: I really appreciate you pouring your heart out in that response and being absolutely genuine about it. Let’s talk about your band some more, you’re going to be on tour with Scott Stapp(ex-Creed), how freaking cool is that?
Michael: We join up on August 23rd and when we got the news, I got super excited because I’m a huge Creed fan, I think Scott Stapp is a master hook-maker, when he sings something, it’s so catchy and direct that it just gets to the listener, and I believe that’s why Creed was so big, it has to do with those melody lines and those hooks that he wrote. I can’t wait to meet him, I hope he’s a nice person, I’ve never met him, I hope the band are cool people. I hope we have a good time for the two months that we are out with him. I’m a fan, I’m looking forward to hearing those songs, I love those songs, I’ve heard a few songs on his new solo record, they’re great too. I think it’s gonna be awesome.
Madness To Creation: Scott Stapp is definitely the American comeback story. He’s definitely the comeback kid. Let’s say Sunflower Dead calls it a career 30 years from now or whenever, what do you want the band’s legacy to be?
Michael: I want my legacy to be not only that I did everything that I could to accomplish everything I wanted, but to live in the moment when I did this thing, when I’m on stage, when I’m writing a song, when I’m talking to someone, when I’m doing an interview, whatever it is, that I was in the moment at that time, because that’s all I really can do. I can’t live in the future, I can learn from the past, but I can’t dwell on it, that’s not a good idea. I just want to be in the moment while I’m being my truest self, that’s the journey that I’ve been on to find out who I truly am and to get down to the root of that. I think at the end of the day, it’s just being in the moment. That’s what we do when we’re on stage, our guarantee is for those people that are interested in Sunflower Dead is what you see is where we are in that moment, and that’s it.
Madness To Creation: One moment in your career where you think, “I want to do this forever and ever”?
Michael: There are two moments that I will share with you. Back in 2013, we were on tour with Hellyeah and All That Remains, I was sitting backstage and the lights were out, I was on the side of the stage waiting to go on, and I could hear the crowd and they were getting loud, and I could see the stage lights and the smoke, I just had this feeling, “this is what I want to do, this is what I love doing”, right before you walk on stage before the action starts and just thinking “this is where I want to be”. On 2015, with Korn on the 20th anniversary of their debut album, they were playing their first record front to back, and they took us over to the U.K. and we did a couple of shows with them and to walk out in front of all those people, and by the end the show have them respond the way that they did, we made a lot of new fans, they appreciated us so much and I thought, “I want to do this forever, this is what I’m talking about”. Those two moments stick out in my mind for sure.
Madness To Creation: Fun question for you, what are your three favorite Korn songs and three favorite Creed songs?
Michael: As far as my favorite Korn songs, they are “Good God”, “Faget”, and “Blind”. Early Korn is my favorite. And for Creed, I would say “One Last Breath”, “My Sacrifice” and probably “With Arms Wide Open”, although it’s a little bit more corny, but I would walk around singing it all the time and I don’t know why. I’ll be out with my friends and singing it and people are like “really, that song again”.
Madness To Creation: I’m giving you the floor to talk about “Coma”.
Michael: “Coma” is an album that we recorded and released back in 2017. It was produced by Dave Fortman who produced Slipknot and Evanescence. He also did a bunch of goth records and also played guitar in a band called Ugly Kid Joe. “Coma” came about after our second record after we finished that touring cycle for “It’s Time To Get Weird”, we came home with a much different mindset and a much different band, we were wearing makeup to look like dead zombies or KISS, and we kind of realized in that touring cycle that we didn’t feel that we were being taken seriously, we felt that we had much more to offer musically and emotionally, so we decided to come home and write a record that was much more emotionally weighted and real, bigger grooves and more important riffs, more direct vocals, things like that. But the problem was when we came home from that touring cycle, there was only three of us because our drummer and our bassist quit. It could’ve been a problem but it wasn’t, we just moved forward, we used some studio guys on the record, we used the bass player of Ugly Kid Joe on our record, we used the drummer from Downset on drums, and everybody did a great job, we ended up with a record that was way better than anybody envisioned when we were writing it, and then when we heard it, we realized that we did not want to wear the makeup anymore, that the music did the talking for us, we didn’t need that pomp and circumstance, and to try to do a show on top of our music, our music for us is really the show, so that’s kind of how the record came together and we ended up shopping it to labels and EMP Label Group, who is owned by Dave Ellefson of Megadeth, he came to the table and said that he wanted to put the record out, so we signed with him for this record and they put it out in October, and then our first single “Victim” came out, which charted on radio, it got to No. 36 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts, and now here we are with “Turn Away” and it’s just getting started and so far so good, and we’re getting ready to tour with Scott Stapp and we’re always on the social media stuff, our website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and Spotify and Pandora, buy our songs, stream our songs, add our songs to playlists because it really helps you in this day and age, it’s about those streaming numbers, we’re looking forward to a lot of months on the road coming up.
And there you have it! Check out Sunflower Dead as they will be on the “Space Between The Shadows” tour featuring Scott Stapp and Messer. Here are the gig dates below:
Fri. 8/23- Perham Hall in Zillah, Washington
Sun. 8/25- Revolution Hall in Portland, Oregon
Tue. 8/27- Triple Door in Seattle, Washington
Thu. 8/29- Riverfront Park in Spokane, Washington
Sat. 8/31- Fort Randall Casino & Hotel in Lake Andes, South Dakota
Mon. 9/2- Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado
Tue. 9/3- Sunshine Studios Live in Colorado Springs, Colorado
Fri. 9/6- Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas, Nevada
Sat. 9/7- The Canyon in Montclair, California
Sun. 9/8- The Canyon in Santa Clarita, California
Tue. 9/10- Crest Theatre in Sacramento, California
Fri. 9/13- The Cave in Big Bear Lake, California
Sat. 9/14- Canyon Club in Aguora Hills, California
Sun. 9/15- Coach House Concert Hall in San Juan Capistrano, California
Thu. 9/19- Paramount Theatre in Rutland, Vermont
Fri. 9/20- Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts
Sat. 9/21- Strand Center for the Arts in Plattsburgh, New York
Tue. 9/24- Bogarts in Cincinnati, Ohio
Thu. 9/26- Capitol Theatre in Clearwater, Florida
Fri. 9/27- Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Sat. 9/28- The Ranch Concert Hall & Saloon in Fort Myers, Florida
Mon. 9/30- The Vista Room in Decatur, Georgia
Tue. 10/1- McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square in Charlotte, North Carolina
Thu. 10/3- Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida
Fri. 10/4- Hard Rock Live in Orlando, Florida
For tickets and further information, click here.