Interview with Michael Del Pizzo of SUNFLOWER DEAD
Interview and Photos by Robert Forte
Recently I had the opportunity to catch up with Michael Del Pizzo, lead singer of rock outfit Sunflower Dead, backstage at the Orange Peel in Asheville, North Carolina minutes after their performance opening up for Hellyeah and In This Moment on this year’s edition of the Hellpop Tour.
Del Pizzo took some time to discuss with AntiHero Magazine Sunflower Dead’s most recent record It’s Time to Get Weird, their current touring cycle, their grass roots generated fan base known as the “Evil Seeds” as well what the future may ultimately hold for the band.
Sunflower Dead’s 2012 self-titled debut received somewhat mixed reviews from the hard rock and heavy metal press community but it clearly possessed enough quality and promise that established acts such as Korn, All That Remains and Hellyeah all chose to bring the band out on tour with them a few years back. Additionally, Revolver Magazine also saw fit to make the band’s debut effort one of their “Albums of the Week” shortly following its release.
For those not familiar with Sunflower Dead’s sound it’s rooted in somewhat of an eclectic mix up of nu-metal, mainstream rock and alternative soundscapes. However, what helps to separate Sunflower Dead from many other acts on the precipice of stardom is that they cannot easily be bucketed into any one specific genre.
The band also has at their disposal a front man in Del Pizzo whose vocal range is dynamic enough to tackle complex melodies while also not sounding out of place when blasting the listener with some of requisite scream elements that exist within their music.
Sunflower Dead chose to enter the hard rock and metal world donning make up, costumes and somewhat of a macabre back story that will sometime in the near future be transferred to a different medium in the form of a graphic novel.
Bands can typically only go one or two ways with a theatrical approach to their persona and appearance. They can either adopt the Kiss and Alice Cooper methodology of allowing those elements to be more of a part of the show and their attempt to draw the audience in for entertainment purposes or they can go the way of Marilyn Manson and Slipknot where the get ups and back stories are primarily in place to simply inject a shock and awe element into the band.
“We are definitely more Kiss and Alice Cooper, the world doesn’t need another Marilyn Manson,” said Del Pizzo. Marilyn Manson in the 90s was what the world probably needed at that time because they needed a villain and Manson provided that.”
Del Pizzo further went on to explain, “I personally could never get up on stage with the makeup and all of it believing that’s who I really am. I think you’d be some kind of a dumbass if you chose to wear make up and masks and shit and believe that’s who you actually are.
The five crazies that comprise Sunflower Dead, Del Pizzo (vocals/accordion/piano), Jaboo (lead guitar), Jamie Teissere (guitar), Leighton Kearns (bass) and Jimmy Schultz (drums) have chosen to let their music speak for itself, with their personas being something they deploy to enhance their live performance versus it being something that defines who or what the band is all about.
“For us the goal from day one has always been to entertain people and do our best to make sure the audience is having a good time. The makeup and the costumes are simply just extensions of that thought process,” described Del Pizzo.
Going into more detail in regards to Sunflower Dead’s mission Del Pizzo went on to say, “Our goal is to write great songs for the radio that people can sing along to and have a great time with. I’m not shy or embarrassed to say that either.”
“When you break down what we do there’s that element of weird s that’s fun, however, lyrically I’m dead serious. The Sunflower Dead story is about my life and my journey. I love performing, getting up on state and making people smile and laugh but at the same time I’m singing lyrics that mean a lot to me and that many people in the audience have been through themselves.”
“You do have to be carful about not coming off as too much as a gimmick. So one of the cool things going on right now with the band that showcases our musicianship are some of the acoustic performances we are doing as part of some of our radio appearance,” explained Del Pizzo.
“So obviously with our look we are having fun with it so there’s a gimmicky part to it but when people get to see us sit down and play these songs acoustically or I bring out the piano on stage, the fans or the audience can really see that, hey these guys aren’t a gimmick they are actually legitimate musicians doing their thing.”
Every genre of music has their fair share of dedicated followers however I would testify that the hard rock and especially the heavy metal community have this unspoken bond of brotherhood and pride that resonates across their entire fan community.
Hellyeah’s “Hellions” and In This Moment’s “Blood Legion”, both of whom happen to be Sunflower Dead’s tour mates at the time of this interview, are but two of many examples of heavier bands’ feverent devotees. Sunflower Dead has some home grown zealots of their own that go by the moniker the “Evil Seeds”.
Del Pizzo went on to offer up some of his thoughts on the band’s fan base and specifically the “Evil Seeds,” “The evil seeds weren’t something we planned on it. We didn’t create them or name them. Like everything else in this band it happened organically so we went with it.”
Further offering up more thoughts on topic Del Pizzo stated, “Our fans, when we were making this record, they wanted to talk to us and they wanted to be a part of what we were doing. So we wrote a song about them on the new record, called “Anthem of the Seeds” to kind of pay homage to them and to recognize their support.”
Despite some fairly favorable press and successful touring in terms of their debut self-titled record Sunflower Dead decided as a band to take a cautious approach to releasing new music with the band ultimately waiting three years to put out their sophomore release, It’s Time to Get Weird last year.
“One of the biggest things missing in music today is there is no artist development any more,” explained Del Pizzo. “The things that made the Def Leppard’s, ACDC’s and the Bon Jovi’s and all those great bands great is it took time and commitment. So we decided to do all of it ourselves. And the growth from the first record to the second one was immense because of the time we put in.”
Although Sunflower Dead has already achieved a large measure of success in terms of both recorded music as well as touring with some of hard rock and heavy metal’s industry titans, Del Pizzo and the band have their sights set on a much loftier goals.
“I want to be the biggest band in the world and there’s no doubt about it. I want shit blowing up on stage, I want fifty foot versions of my head spinning around with lasers beams coming out of head,” Del Pizzo said while letting out a huge laugh.
Del Pizzo concluded, “Don’t’ get me wrong I’m very proud of where we are at and what we’ve accomplished as a band so far but there’s so much more we have to offer and what we want to achieve.”
Sunflower Dead Links: