L.A.-based rock band Dead Posey are wedded duo Danyell Souza and Tony F. New EP ‘Malfunction’, has just been released on Sumerian Records, and sees the band going down a darker, more industrial path. We spoke to Danyell and Tony about the EP, as well as the heartache surrounding the cancellation of this year’s Download Festival. Other topics discussed include sexism in the music industry, touring the UK with Theory, and who should play Lemmy in the recently announced biopic…
How are things in L.A? What is the lockdown like at the minute?
Danyell: Here in L.A. everyone has their mask on when they go outside. We’ve just been staying away, just going for drives, going out for walks, eating at home… so it’s still very bizarre here. It’s definitely something that no-one has seen in their lifetime. I feel better though that California specifically, and then L.A. even more, have been stricter, because some states are acting like it doesn’t even exist, which is crazy.
Tony: It’s really impacted so many different walks of life, so many people are still affected. Obviously, being musicians, it means not being able to tour, not being able to make any appearances that aren’t online. What a year!
In the UK, there have been many campaigns springing up to put pressure on the government to put some emergency funding into the arts, to stop venues etc closing down for good. In America, has any sort of funding been put in place to help the arts?
Tony: Ah, no! (laughs)
I could tell by your laughs that the answer was going to be no!
Tony: That’s America for you! There’s nothing particularly for artists. They kind of expanded the net for unemployment to include “self-employed gig-workers”, of which a lot are musicians, so that allowed them to apply for that help, but there is nothing specific for the arts.
It doesn’t help that Live Nation have told musicians that they want them to take a 20% cut in their guarantees once live shows resume.
Tony: I saw that. We’ve done quite a bit of touring now, but for us, our guarantees are on the lower side, as we are an opening act. I don’t even know how we would manage. We have to take support from the label just to tour with the guarantees that we were getting. Touring is a very expensive proposition because the prices of everything else have gone up over the last 20 or 30 years; gas, food, lodging, and now musicians are supposed to take less?
Danyell: And get no help on top of that..
Tony: I understand that Live Nation are thinking that if venues have to run at 50% capacity to follow rules, then they will lose out. It’s a tricky situation for everyone, but of course it will be the musicians that get hurt the most.
Also, a major part of a band’s income is merch sales at a gig, so once we hopefully get gigs back, what kind of restrictions will be placed on a band such as Dead Posey pressing the flesh at the merch desk? That could cause major harm to your income..
Tony: Correct. We don’t even know what that would look like after this? If you are a band on the way up, you need to do that, not only to keep the wheels moving to the next town, but to keep your fanbase happy. It’s a good connection to have.
Danyell: We need to have that one-to-one personal connection. You’re shaking hands, you’re giving hugs, taking pictures, it’s going to be bizarre. I was even thinking that, onstage we’re close enough to the audience, and there might not be anything dividing us. I’m always grabbing peoples hands. I don’t know how this will work? Even thinking about it is making me irritated! Can we push the fast forward button so we can get to the other side?!
Tony: We’ll find a way! It will feel very odd for a while, but we have to adapt.
Can I just ask how you are after your recent emergency surgery, Danyell?
Danyell: Thanks for asking. Yeah, I’m great now. It was scary when I had to go in for the emergency surgery, but all good now. 100% recovered, and I have a clean bill of health. I had this horrible pain in my side, and I sucked it up for a day before finally going to the emergency room. They did an ultrasound, and they saw that there was an 11cm ovarian cyst there, but it wasn’t twisting at the time they were looking at it. It started hurting more and they gave me a full CT scan, and then that’s when they saw that it was twisting, so it was a case of, “Okay, we’re going to rush you in for emergency surgery”, and we were like, “What!?”
Tony: This was like at 4am. It was so scary.
Danyell: I was under for four hours, and then was kept in overnight for monitoring. I came home and had been recovering. Now I’m like, I’m ready to go back out in the world, but the world is not ready for me!
Tony: We were lucky that it happened right before the virus started shutting everything down. A few weeks later and it would have been much worse.
That must have been a terrifying experience. Great to hear that you have recovered. Now, with regards to the new EP, ‘Malfunction’. I don’t think that I could start anywhere else but the incredible cover artwork. Danyell, I believe that you came up with the concept at the last minute, after changing your mind about the original?
Danyell: Thank you. We actually had all the music done, and I was thinking that the cover which we had wasn’t speaking to the music anymore. It was a cat scan of my brain actually, which made sense for a long time with the EP title being ‘Malfunction’. I was looking around at home and thinking, “What makes me feel that feeling I get from the songs right now, and having that malfunction vibe?”. So I saw a little rat figurine that we have, and then got our gun, and rosary beads, put some lipstick on and smeared it. Basically, I was trying to insinuate that religion and war have been shoved down our throats, and how it’s the cause of all evil in the world, and how it creates malfunction in the world. We were the rat, and that’s the concept behind it.
Tony: Just to say, if people are finding strength in their religion, we are not damning that in any way. There’s a lot of good that can come from someone’s spirituality and faith.
Danyell: We definitely believe Albert Einstein’s quote that all regions are branches of the same tree. If it helps you, that’s great, as long as you are not hurting others. My family was never hardcore religious by any means. We did go to church, but as I got older, I started asking questions like, “How is it that this one religion where Jesus died on the cross for our sins is the only religion, when there is Buddism, Islam, Judaism?”. For me, I feel strongly about that, and growing up around the image of Jesus on the cross, even me saying that now has got me like, am I jinxing myself? Am I to burn in hell for saying that?
I’ve got to say, it’s so bizarre hearing you saying “…got our gun”!
Danyell: I know! We only have one, because a few years ago, I came home really late and I got a bad feeling that someone was watching me, and Tony was out of town. I got in the shower, and as soon as I got in, I heard a thump up against the wall outside of the house. I jumped out of the shower, and as soon as I looked up, there was a guy with his face up against the bathroom window watching me. I screamed bloody murder and called the cops. They came out, but they never found him. They found a piece of plywood up against the house with muddy footprints. As the window was about eight feet high above the ground, it was proof that someone was looking. So basically, me and Tony, we got a gun for protection, just in case the guy came back. We ended up moving. We’ve never had to use it, it’s in a case locked away. And now it’s used as a Dead Posey prop!
Yes, now it’s used as a Dead Posey prop. Fantastic! A cover like that deserves a physical product. Am I correct in thinking that this is your first actual CD?
Tony: Yeah. Any time we tour, we would go to the merch table at the end of the night and meet people. Pretty much every person would ask, “Do you guys have a CD?”, and we were like, really? People still want CDs? I guess the answer is… yeah!
Danyell: We love it, because we are able to put a little bit of extra art and love into our music.
Tony: We fleshed out the artwork a little more. We actually don’t have one ourselves yet! We’re excited to get one! It is available on the label webstore on its own or part of a bundle, and if and when we make it back out onto the road, come to a show and we’ll sign it for you! There are a few T-shirts surrounding the cover art, but we are also going to be doing one that is just the artwork. We’ll be selling that one on our own merch store, so we’ll let everyone know when it’s available.
‘Malfunction’ is quite a darker EP than your debut ‘Freak Show’. Is this a reflection of basically how fucked up the world is at the minute?
Danyell: We obviously wrote this before the world got in the state that it is in now, but I feel that it came from a place where there was already a lot of fucked up stuff in the world. Everyone has their ups and downs, goes through depression, so I feel that it’s a mixture of life in general, and the chaotic world that we live in. With the music, we wanted it to sound more in line with what the lyrics are saying, whereas the first EP, the music side of it was more shit-kicking.
Tony: The first one had more bluesy, swampy kind of stuff, which we love. That was a big part of our influences.
Danyell: We wanted this one to have more of an industrial feel.
Tony: More of an electronic sound. It did go with the lyrics, which are to do with the world at large, but came from a personal place at the start.
Danyell: To an extent, some of the lyrics on the first EP did as well, but the music felt a little more upbeat, so maybe the lyrics didn’t appear as dark.
Tony: I also feel like that, between the time we wrote the first one and ‘Malfunction’, the band had been through a lot. We had seen some of the ups and downs of the music industry. There is a lot of amazing stuff in this business, but there is also some not-so-amazing stuff. There are still sexism issues out there that Danyll encountered first hand.
Sexism within the industry definitely still exists, for sure, and it hasn’t, to an extent, moved on. You can go back to the ‘90’s and find Shirley Manson from Garbage talking about her experiences..
Danyell: I love Shirley Manson and Garbage! It’s interesting. As an example, when we are on the road, there is an automatic thing where say, for instance, a guitar tech from another band will say to Tony, “Oh, the songs are really great. How did you do it?”, but won’t ask me. It’s things like that. It is the way of the world. It will catch up one day. Also, because I don’t play any instruments in the band, there is a perception of, “Oh, she’s just the singer”, which is funny, because… I’m not, but I’m secure enough that it doesn’t really bother me. These are the barriers that come with the territory. You just roll with punches and hope that over time it will change.
Tony: You mentioned Garbage in the mid 90’s. There was a high percentage of female rock artists then, as there are today, but only a handful got any airplay. For instance, you had Garbage, Alanis Morrissette, No Doubt… just a handful… and that’s what it’s still like today, especially in America where it’s very male orientated.
Danyell: The ratio seems to be for every ten or twenty male rock artists, there is maybe one female, which is kinda crazy! On tour, specifically because there are so many males around, I used to have the opinion that I was one of the guys, but as I’ve grown and matured, I’ve realised that I don’t need to be one of the guys to be cool. I’m a chick, and I’m cool too. I hope that over time it doesn’t matter who you are, whether you are straight, LGBT+, the colour of your skin, it shouldn’t matter.
You have a powerful, energetic stage presence Danyell. What are you like minutes before going on stage, and just after coming off?
Danyell: Before, I’m definitely in my zone… maybe have my earphones in, listening to some music. I’m introverted, so I definitely get an anxious feeling before a show. I get butterflies, but you also live for that feeling. Maybe we’ll have a drink before going on, but mostly just listening to some music to get pumped up. For about twenty minutes after the show, I’m shaking and sweating, just coming down from the ultimate high of being on stage. You have an out of body experience, so I feel that you’re trying to get your soul to come back into your body for twenty minutes after the show. You couldn’t have a conversation with me straight after a show, I would make no sense because I’m on another planet!
Tony: She puts it all out there. Even if it’s a short twenty minute set, it still takes it out of her in the best way.
Tony, you mentioned that there was more of an electronic influence with ‘Malfunction’. It seems to be more of a British electronic influence though; Joy Division, New Order, Depeche Mode, to name a few..
Tony: There is definitely a British influence there for both of us. For me personally, I came of age during the late ‘80’s early 90’s in terms of musical awakening as a teenager, and it was a mix of American alternative rock like Nirvana, and this British, melodic, new wave synth pop. Depeche Mode is one of my favourite bands of all time. With the first Dead Posey EP, electronics and synths were not part of the sonic vocabulary.
Danyell: We were sticking to more rock ‘n’ roll elements, without adding anything extra.
Tony: Right, but on this one, we were saying with the darker tones. This could set us apart a little bit more, so let’s bring some of that in. The two of us have forever been listening to a bunch of Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails..
Danyell: …Radiohead, Garbage…The Kills is a big one, we love them.
Tony: One of the things that we like about Depeche Mode is the two vocals; Dave Gahan is the main vocalist, and then you have Martin Gore with his falsetto. Obviously, I don’t have the falsetto, but we were kind of playing with that idea, whereas on the first record I sang, but it was more like layered background gang stuff. This time we tried one-to-one parts, and this comes from a Depeche Mode influence. Major arrangements, and the production values is another big thing for us also. Neither of us have seen them live! I’m hoping it’s not too late now!
That’s the thing, in the past we’ve all said that we’ll catch a band on their next tour, and now we’re faced with the prospect of, “When is the next tour?”!
Tony: When is the next anything! (laughs) With everything that’s happening with the pandemic at the moment, it’s really forcing people to live in the now. America is such a “planned” society; you get on your track, going towards success, going towards your plans… and now, all of that is completely out the window. I think that’s why America is especially off. It’s a horrible thing that’s happening, but hopefully people can reconnect with values, and live a little more in the moment.
One can only hope, that’s for sure. Back to ‘Malfunction’… the production is immense. You guys did a great job in your home studio. Can you imagine how tough it would have been had you not had a home studio?
Danyell: We feel very fortunate that just by default, that we have done everything by ourselves up to this point. We’ve not had any setbacks, so even right now, we are gearing up to go back into the studio soon and start on our first full length album. We’re able to do that without having to worry about going anywhere. Even if we need any help with engineering, we can just email that over. Actually, the situation right now is convenient to us, because we can do everything.
Tony: We do pretty much everything ourselves, but as the band grows, then our time, particularly when we are touring, we were getting to the stage where we were needing to bring in engineering help, programming help, mixing, as the band moved forward.
You mentioned touring. You were, of course, supposed to be on stage at Download Festival earlier this month. Had you mapped out which bands you were going to try and catch?
Tony: We hadn’t got to that stage yet! We were still in the throes of the early stage of the virus, finishing the EP, as well as Danyell recovering from her surgery. We had it on our agenda to book our flights, but then when SXSW festival, which we were also supposed to play, got cancelled, we thought, “Is this even going to happen?”. Then we saw all the numbers go up all over the world, especially in the UK, so we put a hold on letting ourselves get excited about it. Then, a few weeks later, it was officially cancelled.
Danyell: We had Download booked for so long. We played The Great Escape Festival in Brighton last May, and one of the Download promoters was there and caught our set. They were happy to see us play, and wanted us for Download. A month or two after that, we got the official offer.
Tony: So we’ve had it on the books for a while. When we toured the UK with Theory back in November, a lot of people were really excited about us playing Download. Hopefully next year, I don’t know?
You touched on the dates with Theory late last year. When you played Glasgow, did you manage to take some time out to go see the Salvador Dali original at the gallery across from the venue?
Tony: We had no idea! Oh my God!
Danyell: That makes me so sad! We would have loved to see that. We will have to go the next time that we play Scotland.
Tony: To be honest, we didn’t have much time once we got to the venue. If I remember, we even left for the next gig that night after our set. We only had one day off on that tour, and it was Nottingham. That was fun. What’s the name of the gallery?
It’s the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, and the Dali painting is ‘Christ of Saint John of the Cross’. It’s an incredible place.
Danyell: We will make that happen!
You should also try Edinburgh, you would love it. The old town area especially plays on the Gothic themes. Loads of connections to the body snatchers Burke & Hare, that kind of thing!
Tony: You’ve sold us!
Danyell: A few years back we visited London on a personal trip, went to the Tower of London, and cathedrals, seeing buildings with gargoyles outside, and really impactful architecture. Well, we don’t have anything like that over here! Looking around, I felt like we were in a dream.
There you go, we’ve now got your next visit to these shores all planned out! Now, you briefly mentioned earlier that you played The Great Escape festival in Brighton, and were, of course, also due to play Download. That’s two entirely different fan bases. It’s a great testament to Dead Posey that you can slot in at a more mainstream festival like The Great Escape, just as well as you can at a more traditional rock & metal festival…
Danyell: Thank you. I think that we’ve been fortunate to toe the line between two different worlds of music. We’ve played Aftershock and Louder Than Life festivals over here, and they were hard rock, whereas The Great Escape was more indie. It’s cool that we can play both.
Tony: Guitars are definitely a big part of our sound, and with Danyell’s powerful vocals, that puts us in one camp. Maybe with the songwriting and the aesthetics, that keeps us in another. We’re fine with it. We try not to aim for either one, we’re here for everybody! SXSW is similar to The Great Escape, the same kind of vibe. We were supposed to play four shows at SXSW in March, but sadly, that also got cancelled. We’ll play any place, any time… when we can, I should add!
Danyell: It’s also like that with radio. Do we fall into active rock? Alternative rock? A lot of radio won’t know what to do with us.
At times like that, it’s best to remember what Lemmy said; “We are Motörhead, and we play rock & roll”!
Danyell: That’s what we wish; to just play rock & roll and let it all come together.
Tony: They’re making a Lemmy biopic aren’t they? I wouldn’t know who could play Lemmy! My Lemmy experience was that I was by myself in a rehearsal room many years ago, pre-Dead Posey, and I was setting up the gear for rehearsal. I heard this fast, loud rock & roll coming from next door, with this amazing gruff, bluesy voice, and I was like, “Is that Lemmy?”. Later on, I was outside, and then Lemmy came out and got into a car. He gave me a nod as he drove away, and I was like, “Fuck yeah!”.
Danyell: Adam Driver could probably play him, he’s tall enough. Imagine him with long dark hair.
Whoa! I’ve just imagined him with long hair, the handlebar moustache, and sunglasses… it works!
Danyell: I think that we just did the casting director’s job for them!
We need to get that trending! #AdamDriverForLemmy
Tony: Adam Driver IS Lemmy – prove us wrong!
There you have it folks, Adam Driver for Lemmy. A genius pitching idea from Danyell Souza of Dead Poseys, just remember where you heard it first.
Connect with Dead Poseys online, and purchase ‘Malfunction’ here.
Interview – Dave