Daisy Dead gives a The Dead Deads history lesson ahead of ‘Tell Your Girls It’s Alright.’
Stream: “Deal with Me” – The Dead Deads
From the second we met, Daisy Dead surprised me. Entering our webcam meeting, her eyes were X-ed in makeup the way cartoonists portray a dead character — the trademark style her band and their legion of fans, the “Deadcorps”, have worn for nearly a decade of shows and public appearances. Daisy and I laughed upon realizing that this may have been the first time the X’s had been worn exclusively for print.
The Deadcorps know Daisy for her warm smirk and cool stage presence. Throughout the interview she asked me almost as many questions as I asked her, one insider trading stories with another kind-of insider. I was long overdue, I thought, for requesting my own Deadcorps name. But that would have to wait.
I gratefully listened as she recalled the past of the band that she had cofounded, and as she revealed the machinations behind the making of their forthcoming album, Tell Your Girls It’s Alright. Our conversation revolved around the evolution of The Dead Deads’ sound and the recurrent surprises that have given the ever-growing Deadcorps years of good music.
“Corey Taylor is going to be doing a duet — that’s big news,” Daisy told me about the new album. “And there’s a couple of wacky songs, but they’re not going to be weird to people who have been listening to us.”
The Dead Deads had announced the album’s release over one year ago, just prior to a tour on which they were slated to support The Darkness. When the tour got postponed, so did the album’s release.
“We pegged the album to that [tour], and that was what got us in the studio. The timing, it was like, ‘oh, alright: The Darkness… if we’re going to be out in March and April, then we need to have records,’” she said. “And so we booked the studio time, and it was a crunch.”
The band took to the studio with producer Matt Mahaffey and recorded everything but the vocals before having to postpone.
In September of 2016, I got tickets to see Chevelle at a Virginia club called the NorVa. By the time I walked through the doors, I had become a big a fan of one of the openers.
When I told Daisy I had been at that show, she gasped. “Oh my god, that was such a crazy show!” She and I both remembered the air of Friday-night mischief that hung over the drunken, claustrophobically packed crowd in that dark, vaudevillian theater. Where better for a morbid punk band to stage a set of first encounters?
“The most crazy thing I remember about that was when we were sound-checking, just making a little noise before we started the show. Our drummer was just kicking the kick drum, and the crowd started clapping and cheering, just really enjoying her kicking the kick drum,” she laughed. The Dead Deads proceeded to obliterate the crowd. After the set, fans new and old herded from the stage to the merch booth on a beam of energy, the kind that emanates only from the hardest working bands.
Six years before rushing to record Tell Your Girls, The Dead Deads and Mahaffey had found themselves in a similar conundrum while recording their debut album, Rainbeau. “The reason we did that [album] was because we had gotten a tour with Halestorm. I don’t remember it now, if at the time we had written a few extra songs just to have a full record’s worth or if we already had eleven songs,” she said. But she did remember that when the record got released, it contained “every last weird song.”
In preparing for the interview, I had written just two words about Rainbeau: “dancey” and “theatrical”. But those words hardly cover the album or its significance. The Dead Deads built Rainbeau on a post-punk foundation and gave it dark affectations that would permeate the rest of their catalog to date.
In 2016, the band returned to the studio, this time with Helmet guitarist Hamilton Paige at the control board. For Your Obliteration stands out in The Dead Deads’ catalog as being particularly heavy and dark, and also for being the last recorded as a quintet, featuring drums, bass, two guitars, and a keyboard. Since then, the band has changed lineups a couple of times.
“We went out as a four-piece, and then we had a tour with Ten Years and our guitar player got a country gig that was well-paying,” she recalled. “So it was a no-brainer, he took that.
“It was kind of last minute, like maybe a month before, so we had to figure out which [songs] we could pull off without a lead guitar player,” she said. “We were nervous. But then, there’s this thing that people like power trios — that’s a thing people just say: ‘I love power trios.’”
She laughed and told me that the change had worked so well that they decided to remain a trio. “We always get positive feedback I’d have to say, and a lot of it’s like, ‘yeah, girls rock, girl power!’”
With every gain and loss, the band have retained their energy while embracing the newness of change. It explains how The Dead Deads have managed to cover so many genres — often within each song — without ever releasing a slump of a record.
“Since our process is very organic — it’s us being in a room and fiddling with things and then getting in a groove and then starting to work on it as a song — it’s based on the humans. So, with different humans subbed in you get some new vibes that, say, Meta and I would not have come up with or brought to the table.”
On “Deal With Me,” one of the lead singles from Tell Your Girls, founding members Daisy and Meta are joined for the first time on a proper record by drummer McQueen Dead. Daisy told me about McQueen’s influence on the single — and the band — since her 2018 debut.
“I think the phrase [“Deal With Me”] came up because our drummer is from Huntsville, Alabama, and she’s got that accent and she has little phrases. I think she got a new pair of boots or something and was just like, ‘uh-oh, now you’re going to have to deal with me.’ And so, it’s just about when you’re feeling that way, like you’ve upped your game somehow.
“She surprises people. She surprises me!” Daisy laughed. “I know when I look at her playing… her wrists are thin and she’s thin, and she’s not coming up above her shoulders because she was taught that’s good for your ergonomics… it’s not a lot of movement, but there’s so much power in those wrists and it’s so cool
“And I know our singer, that happens the first time she growls. It’s just one of the things about shows, especially playing for strangers, you can see that they’re trying to figure it out. But then she growls for the first time ad literally, their jaws drop. And it’s so fun to watch it on their faces.”
Daisy deserves equal praise. Already a skilled pianist and trumpeter, she had learned to play bass so that she and Meta could start the band that would become The Dead Deads. Over the years she has blossomed as a bassist, sprouting a sinewy sound that connects Meta’s muscular riffs to McQueen’s bone-rattling beats.
“When you’re not that great at your instrument,” said Daisy, “you can still play punk rock songs and it’s okay. You can get away with it. But then as you get better and more technically proficient you can play stuff other than punk rock.”
Expect Tell Your Girls to be full of surprises. The band, which Daisy says is now “less punk,” has spent an extra year preparing the album. It now features horns, acoustic songs, guest appearances, and may be The Dead Deads’ most dynamic work to date.
The world has thrown a lot at The Dead Deads, much of it good and some of it troublesome. Daisy and the crew have always turned their lot into good music, and Tell Your Girls proves no exception, although they did have to strike four songs from the proper album to make it listenable.
“The four songs that we killed we’re putting on the last side of the two-piece vinyl,” she said. “That’s not going to be available anywhere else, at least for the time being.” Three albums in, and they’re still treating the Deadcorps to every last weird song.
So go check out The Dead Deads. Pick up some liquid eyeliner, don your X’s, and tweet @thedeaddeads: “What’s my deadcorps name?” Daisy will grant you your very own moniker to herd you into the fold. It’s a free luxury of recognition that few bands afford their followers, a level of dedication that just may surprise you as it did me.
– Putnam Dead
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