I was fortunate enough to catch up with Jamie Teissere who is hard at work with his new project Sunflower Dead. After over a decade with the heavy metal band DROID, his new endeavor is a much more diverse band that brings something to the table with everybody. Aside from Jamie, Sunflower Dead also consists of former members of In This Moment, Two Hit Creeper and Buckethead, so they are no strangers to the game either. Sunflower Dead is a name that will be heard quite often in the near future with such a diverse sound and great musical talent to be had. On August 21st, they will be releasing their debut self-titled album which was produced by former Fear Factory bassist Christian Olde Wolbers through their own Bloody Bat Records.
John Gehrig: So are you excited?
Jamie Teissere: Excited to get this record out, we’ve been working hard for almost two years.
JG: So that’s what you’ve been doing ever since the whole DROID thing?
JT: Yeah, I pretty much started this right away once I knew the DROID band was over. Once I knew it was really going to be over, that’s when I called Mike and Jim because they had hit me up before to play second guitar with them, but I was committed to the Droid thing so I told them I couldn’t do it. Once it was over I called them up and me and Jim started putting songs together and just working on music and pretty much put the band together and once we had enough songs to make a record we called up Christian Olde Wolbers from Fear Factory and asked him if he wanted to do the record for us. That’s pretty much how that all started.
JG: I take it that DROID is dead now? I saw “indefinite hiatus” on Wikipedia but you know how Wikipedia is.
JT: Yeah, it’s like a couple of the guys quit, you know? And a couple of the other guys wanted to do it. I don’t want to get into details or make any bad blood or anything like that, you know? But a couple of the guys that quit called me up when I was in the middle of doing Sunflower Dead stuff and wanted to put another DROID record out, and I told them that I was committed to what I was doing now and I wasn’t going to let these guys down and leave them hanging. So I said maybe later or something. I can’t say that there will never be a DROID record ever again, but, we’ll see what happens in the future.
JG: I only have one other DROID question and it’s actually because of my girlfriend because she is a huge fan of the TV show Bones. So how did you guys get on the “Mayhem on A Cross” episode?
JT: I think our manager hooked us up with that. We didn’t really have a publishing person that went out and scouted stuff for us or anything like that, so I think our manager got that for us. She got us a few cool things like that. I actually still get paid for that every three months.
JG: That’s pretty cool. It’s nice seeing heavy metal on FOX at least.
JT: Yeah, it was funny too, they had the actors playing our music and they looked nothing like us.
JG: I know, they’ve got these corpse painted, black metal guys doing it. It’s good publicity at least.
JT: It’s fun to see stuff like that.
JG: About the new album; I like it, it reminds me of something like I grew up with because I’m 26 and I grew up to the whole nu-metal thing and then was kind of all over the board. So what kind of audience are you aiming for?
JT: You know what? I just really wanted to reach a much broader audience than I was able to with the music I did with DROID and I think a lot of kids that are younger will like the stuff and I also think a lot of people that are older. I can see people in their 40’s liking some of our songs. It’s kind of up and down; it’s not balls to the walls the whole time. There’s a little bit of beauty involved as well.
JG: Whose idea was The Police Cover? Is that you?
JT: No, that was actually our other guitar player Jim. He was drunk at a bar and mentioned it to Mike one night and Mike actually took him serious and we started messing with it and, you know, it just came together.
JG: It’s definitely original, I’ll give it that. It’s not something you’d expect.
JG: Who is Bloody Bat Records? This is the first time I’ve heard of them.
JT: Yeah, I know. That’s a record company that we started on our own. We kind of partnered up with THC records just recently so we’ll be putting our stuff out kind of underground I guess you can say. We weren’t gonna wait around. Record deals are horrible these days anyways. We just weren’t gonna wait and do the whole shopping and whatnot. We were like let’s make a record, so we went to B-Real from Cypress Hill and Raymond from Fear Factory. They have a studio together, that’s where we tracked all our drums and then we did all of our strings and vocals at Christian’s studio. Then we ended up mixing it at the House Of Blues studio up in Encino on this old board to get a real sound. We didn’t want it to sound real processed like a lot of metal records do these days. We didn’t really have a big plan, it just all came together. Most of the people that are working for the band right now are people that worked for Munky from Korn’s label when we put out the DROID stuff. I just started contacting people that I worked with before in the past and everybody jumped on board. We’ve got a nice little team together working for us right now.
JG: Does it make releasing it at places like Best Buy harder?
JT: Yeah, we’re not even going to release it physically right away. We’re just doing the digital release through iTunes, Amazon, stuff like that. If you want a physical CD you can order it online, but we’re not going to a physical release until next year sometime when it makes more sense once we get some more touring done. Hopefully we can get on some summer festival tours next year. It actually costs money to put your CD’s out there. You gotta deal with returns and you gotta do all the stuff like that. It’s not really the way the music industry is these days. Most people go to iTunes or something and just buy the music they want anyway. So we’ll probably do a physical release sometime next spring.
JG: Do you have to team with somebody else to release it?
JT: Yeah, we’ll probably do a distribution deal with somebody or something like that.
JG: I have to ask because my favorite song on the album was ‘Starting Over Again’ because it sounds very power metal like something Iced Earth or Evergrey would have done. Was that experimental or is it just showing how diverse you guys are?
JT: I think it just shows the diversity. Mike is really good at piano and plays the accordion and stuff like that. That song is all him. That’s something he wrote and put together and just shows a different side to us. I think you’ll see more of that in the future as well.
JG: It’s funny because my last interview was with Stolen Babies and they use an accordion as well, and I was saying that nobody uses an accordion anymore. Who had that idea?
JT: He had a band before years ago, and they used the accordion in that band and I was like “Dude, you gotta bust the accordion out again!” I had DROID since ’98 so they were in other bands and we played together and stuff like that in the past. It’s just one of those things that caught my attention.
JG: It’s unique; it’s kind of like Jonathan Davis and his bagpipes. You see an accordion and people shit.
JT: It’s an odd instrument to be in a metal band.
JG: So when are planning on hitting the road with this?
JT: Late September, we’re submitted for a handful of tours right now and hopefully we’ll be able to get on one of them here in late September or early October at the latest.
JG: Any bands you’re trying to get on tour with or you want to tour with?
JT: Yeah, we’re submitted for a few but I don’t really want to say anybody’s names because we haven’t got confirmed about them yet and I don’t want to start rumors. But we’re submitted for a handful of tours and I’m sure we’ll get one of them.
JG: I have to ask, is the whole face paint and spikes you guys have in your pictures, something to expect on tour?
JT: Oh yeah, absolutely. We want to try and put on a show for people instead of being a band up there playing. You know, try to put more of a theatrical type show on and give people something to watch.
JG: Yeah, that’s always nice for new bands. It sucks when you go see a new band and they get 20 or 25 minutes and its like “Wait, who the hell was that?”
JT: We’re just trying to market ourselves and separate ourselves from other bands.
JG: Has that gotten a lot harder since you started DROID compared to now just trying to make a name for yourself now even though you’ve already made a name for yourself once?
JT: I feel like I’m just going through the whole process over again which is fine. It’s not really a big deal to me.
JG: You still have fun with it right?
JT: Absolutely. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t.
JG: Well we know it’s not for the money anymore. (Both Laughing)
JG: I see the sites like ThePRP and Blabbermouth have already caught wind of the press release, then obviously the first thing to come out is the kids with the “That guy looks like he’s from Disturbed, etc.” Does the whole stereotype thing annoy the shit out of you?
JT: Nah, I just laugh. I mean those same people seem to do that. It seems like it’s always the same people talking shit (laughs). I don’t really care, you can’t please everybody. I just figure some people are gonna love it, some people are gonna hate it. If you don’t like it, don’t show up to the show or buy our record.
JG: I know there are so many bands that get upset about it, but it’s the internet, you’re not going to kill the internet.
JT: Yeah, I don’t even care. I think it’s all good. Every band gets hated on by somebody.
JG: With all of the different bands you guys come from, when you go in to start the record, did you say we’re going to take a little bit of each member’s style, or do you just leave everything at the door and say “This is Sunflower Dead, this is something completely new.”?
JT: It’s definitely completely new, but you can hear everybody’s personalities and stuff in the music for sure. If you know anything that we’ve done in the past, you can hear the influences from each member putting their part in it. It kind of made us what we are. Like Jim had a few songs together before I even started playing with them and he was showing me riffs and parts he was working on. By the time we were actually finished with the songs they were completely different. We all put our two cents in and made them the songs that they are now.
JG: Did you know all of these guys and say “Hey, let’s get a band together” or were they jamming and was it a “Hey, let me in” type of thing?
JT: No, Mike and Jim are from Philadelphia. They moved out here over ten years ago to do music and I knew them from the past. Then our bass player Luis, he played with Buckethead and a couple of other bands, and we had done shows together years ago. Same with Jimmy, I never really knew Jimmy our drummer, but I knew of him from his bands, but didn’t really know him as a person and we needed a drummer. We actually started this whole project with the DROID drummer but he just couldn’t commit enough time because he was working at some company managing it. So he just didn’t have as much time as we needed him for. He ended up not being able to do it and we got a hold of Jimmy. He’s played in a lot of bands. He’s a really solid drummer. He actually came in and rehearsed with us three times and then he tracked the whole record. He had his skills for sure.
JG: How did you meet up with the Fear Factory guys?
JT: We were managed by the same management company as them in the past so I just had relationships with them. I’ve known Christian for a while, he’s a friend. I knew he’s made a lot of records for a lot of bands on Metal Blade and Nuclear Blast and different stuff. It was an outlet to go to make a record.
JG: Definitely a good person to have on your side there.
JT: Yeah, for sure. He’s super easy to work with too. Super comfortable tracking with him. No pressure, you know what I mean? If I was having a not so good day, he just knew how to handle it to get me in the right mind frame.
JG: Whose idea was the name?
JT: My singer came up with it. He has been writing a graphic novel and it was kind of based off of some of the story he’s been writing. Also he lives off of a street called Sunflower, so he came to the studio when we were trying to figure out names and everything that anybody would say just sounded so stupid. We were all laughing about them and stuff and he brought up ‘The Sunflower Dead’ and it kind of stuck. Then I told him we should drop the ‘The’ and call it Sunflower Dead.
JG: At least you didn’t call it ‘The Dead Sunflowers’ and people would think it was an emo band.
JT: It’s cool, it kind of shows darkness and light in the name. The band is kind of like that. We’re heavy but we’re not all heavy. The songs are thought out, the guitar solos are thought out, the vocal harmonies, everything. Its music, it’s not just a bunch of dudes slamming a bunch of riffs together going as fast as we can, as heavy as they can from start to end. There’s peaks and valleys.
JG: Is there anything you want to say to people who are just now hearing about you guys?
JT: Keep their eyes peeled for tour dates because I’d like to get people out there to come see a show. We’re definitely not just gonna come out and put on a show in jeans and t-shirts. We’re gonna put thought into our show and try to entertain people and build this thing from start to finish.
JG: Is this a long term thing where 10 or 15 years from now you hope this is the same thing? Is everybody loosely committed, or is everybody in this and this is Sunflower Dead and this is their band?
JT: Everybody is super committed; we’ve all got a lot of time in starting our own label and doing a lot of stuff and doing all of the ground work on our own. We’ve got a lot invested in this. We’re doing more for ourselves than any label would even do for us right now. We’re putting out full page print ads and internet banners. We hired a manager, hired a publicist, hired a radio rep, and hired a guy that is gonna service our full length video. I’ve got a marketing and advertising team of a couple people and I like where we’re at. We’re in control of our own destiny in other words. We get to make the decisions of what we want to do, where we want to spend the money, what priorities are more important than others. So it’s kind of cool being hands on. I learned a lot doing the DROID thing because Munky was starting his label from scratch back then, so I was able to pay attention and see what really goes on.
JG: I know Munky would have a lot more resources than a lot of people would, so he’s lucky in that situation.
JT: Yeah, well our manager really ran the label. He (Munky) was the money, and obviously he had the artist relationships to get us on tours and stuff like that. But our manager, she ran the label. I would help her with stuff she needed and I was able to learn a lot from her. She has helped a bit with this too. She’s not managing bands anymore but I gave her a call and she is super helpful. We’ve got a good group of people around us right now.
JG: Do you plan on expanding the Bloody Bat Records to other bands or is it just for you guys right now?
JT: Right now, it’s just for us. I can see us doing something with it if the level of success is great. Right now our budgets are all concentrated on us. We don’t have budgets to expand with other bands or anything right now but I can see that being something in the future if we’re successful at this. I wouldn’t mind helping. I mean it’s so hard these days. If I see a band that was super talented I wouldn’t mind helping them get their stuff out there because I’m just worried about all of these bands. Nobody is spending money on them and the music industry is just really going to hurt. There’s a lot of great talent out there that will never get heard because of how messed up the industry is.
JG: Is there any fixing the industry? Or can everyone just blame the internet?
JT: I don’t really know any way to fix it. If there’s a way to fix it, I think it would have been fixed. Music is pretty free these days. Bands survive off of live shows and selling merch. It’s just tough, I think what we’re doing is we are putting ourselves in a really good spot. We don’t have to recoup a bunch of money to a label; we just have to recoup our own budgets that belong to us anyways. It’s motivating to know that I know exactly how many dollars and cents we’ve put ourselves in debt with doing this and I know what needs to be sold to recoup. It’s not going to be as hard as doing it through a label that’s spending a bunch of money on you.
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