AU's Student-Run Internet-Only Radio


AU's Student-Run Internet-Only Radio


AU's Student-Run Internet-Only Radio


Interview: Flowers for the Dead – The Foot of the Ascent 

Ben Austin

Flowers for the Dead are hitting their stride. 

Nearly three years since their initial inception, accompanied by the relentless schedule of touring, recording and gigging that’s inevitably followed, Flowers for the Dead has blossomed into one of the most mesmerizing and captivating acts to emerge from Washington, D.C.’s humble yet nostalgic DIY music scene in recent memory. The trio’s trademark nineties-infused guitars, paired with their incessantly thundering yet composed rhythm section consistently bewitch audiences whenever they grace the stage. 

Their rapid rise hasn’t gone unnoticed; the indie rock trio has shared the stage with some of today’s indie rock heroes over the past year, including the likes of Hello Mary, Feeble Little Horse and most notably, Snail Mail at DC9 in February. At the heart of it all, Flowers for the Dead is comprised of Jessie Szegö (lead vocals, guitar), Ella Buskirk (vocals, bass) and Ricky Martinez (drums). 

WVAU had the chance to catch up with the trio back at the WVAU studio before their set at Capital Boogie, where the band opened for Boston’s Horse Jumper of Love. Over a spread of tortilla chips, Red Bulls and Life Savers gummies, the group discussed their upcoming album, sources of inspiration and the significance of playing in a band. 

Ben Austin

WVAU: So first off, we’ve peeped you guys are fresh off recording your new album. Would you consider this a milestone for Flowers For The Dead? How are you guys feeling as a unit?

JS: I feel better than ever about us as a unit. I feel like this recent album is probably the best representation of us so far.

RM: I think it definitely does feel like a milestone. We’ve been working on it so hard for so long, things have changed, we’ve made new things, all that. And to now finally have it in recording, fully solidified, it definitely feels good. And then, it feels good that we had this big project and we all really worked together; we channeled our brain energy together in the studio, and it was like a different process rather than just practicing at home or something. It was totally different. It was like some spiritual shit. 

JS: Yeah, it was interesting to see how we all worked together in the studio.

RM: We bonded extra hard. 

EB: It was very unifying, like, we were all working as one little collective mind.

JS: One big brain.

RM: Something like that.

WVAU: Did this recording experience differentiate from your previous recording endeavors? 

JS: Oh yes, very much so. 

WVAU: How so?

JS: Well, first of all, this is the first album that these two guys will be on. I’ve had past members, like other members, play music with me on the other albums, so that was definitely a big difference. I feel like we all worked together way better than past lineups, I feel like we gelled really well. And also, the producer that we worked with was like, super hands-on, and he was really interested in the project. He felt like a member of the band, almost. I’ve never experienced that with any other producers. They’ve kind of just been the guy that hits record and just says like “Do what you want.” But, this guy was like, very much hands-on, and he had so many ideas, and he really felt like a temporary part of the band.

WVAU: So, tell us about your band’s name. The people are wondering, what does it mean?

JS: *laughs* Well, Flowers for the Dead. It sounds really deep, but it’s actually not. It’s just a phrase that popped into my head one day when I was making a piece of art. I was doing a little doodle, a little drawing, and I wrote “Flowers for the dead” on it, and I was like, “That sounds like a cool band name.”

EB: You were a kid right?

JS: No. Well, I was like sixteen, so, I guess. 

EB: That’s a kid.

JS: Yeah, that’s a kid.

WVAU: How would you personally describe your music?

RM: Whenever someone asks, I just say grunge. It’s the easiest thing, ‘cause it’s like- I don’t know. 

JS: And then they’re like, “Ohhhhh Nirvana…” We’re growing away from that, though. 

EB: Yeah, we don’t sound like that anymore. 

RM: Once we release the album, yeah. But from what we have right now…

JS: We have elements of grunge, but I’d say we’re like a mix of indie rock, and also… regular rock… and-

RM: People always say shoegaze. Everyone says shoegaze.

JS: Yeah, I guess we’re a little shoegaze.

EB: There’s some nineties influence. 

JS: A lot of nineties influence.

WVAU: When you first started out, what kind of artists and subgenres did you find yourself pulling inspiration from most?

JS: When we first started, I was definitely trying to sound like Slint. And of course, like Hole and all of those nineties grunge giants, but I was definitely trying to rip off Slint when we first started.

WVAU: Have your sources of inspiration shifted over time, or do you still find yourself primarily drawn to the same artists and genres that initially inspired you?

JS: I definitely still feel drawn to the artists I was drawn to initially, but I think we’re finally starting to grow away from that sound a little bit, especially with the new stuff that we’re writing and the new album that’s going to come out. You can definitely still hear those influences, but it’s a little bit more ourselves. I feel like it’s like our influences but also mixed with our styles as individual musicians. For the most part, the inspirations have stayed the same. I’m also always listening to new music, so I’m always drawing inspiration from newer bands and from bands that I’ve discovered. I guess it depends on who I’m listening to at the time. 

WVAU: What kinds of bands are currently inspiring you guys? Each of you individually?

JS: For me, I’d say PJ Harvey. Especially for the new stuff. Her guitar playing has been very inspiring for me. 

EB: I’ve been listening to a lot of Sun Kil Moon. I like the way that he will build a groove and have it change slightly throughout the song, so I’ve been trying to steal from him. 

RM: For me, definitely old hip-hop, The Doors, Hum, Feeble Little Horse and The Breeders. I think drumming-wise, probably a mash-up of that.

WVAU: So take us through a typical Flowers for the Dead songwriting process. How does it start?

JS: It usually starts with either a guitar riff or a chord progression that I come up with. And then, I’ll usually just hum a melody on top of it until I find something that I like. And then, that usually gets fleshed out into a whole song. If I like it enough, if I think it’s worthy enough for [Ella and Ricky] to hear it, then I bring it to them, they do their thing and the song completely changes, most of the time. 

WVAU: Is there a lot that just gets lost, never to be heard again?

JS: A lot of the time, yeah. I feel like I have to write a hundred songs and I’ll only get like twenty good ones out of the process. I only let them hear the good ones. 

WVAU: Do you guys have a favorite song to play live?

EB: “In Shadow.” We close every set with it and it just feels so good to play. I feel like people really respond to the energy, and it just feels like a victory march. Like, “I’m really loud, YAY!”

RM: I think I’d say the same thing. It’s like rejuvenating. Like at the very end, I’m like, “Damn, that was good.”

WVAU: Will that be on the new album?

JS: Yeah, that’s an unreleased song. That’s going to be on the new album. 

WVAU: In recent months, you guys have played several local shows, you’ve toured and you’ve played various high-profile and high-capacity shows, including the Snail Mail show last month at DC9. Amidst all the chaos that comes with playing so frequently, is there any particular show or set of shows that sticks out to you as especially significant?

JS: Honestly, this show [Capital Boogie]. Also, we’re playing with Feeble Little Horse tomorrow which is a crazy moment, because literally a couple of months ago in another interview, they were like, “If you could play with one band, who would you play with?” and I was like, “Hmm… Feeble Little Horse!” and we got that show offer so that was pretty crazy. It feels cool to finally be aligned with the bands that I’ve been listening to, or that we’ve been listening to for such a long time and finally play with them and be associated with them, it’s really cool. I’ve been listening to Horse Jumper of Love since I was like fourteen. Same with Snail Mail, that was pretty crazy too. 

WVAU: You’ve played up and down the East Coast, what are your favorite cities to play in?

EB: New York is really fun. Philly is really fun because I feel like whenever you play in Philly, it’s just like, you never know what you’re gonna get. Like, what kind of basement you’re gonna be crammed into, you have to push the bass amp down the stairs. I make [Ricky] do it. I don’t do it myself. 

RM: Yeah, I usually do it, I’m the muscle in the band. But yeah, I think Philly. Usually, it’s kind of interesting. I think even having to bring the gear in, it’s funny to see what I’m faced with; How tall the stairs are, how small they’re going to be and I have to meet a stranger and be friends with them so they can help me bring stuff down, or else it’s going to collapse on me. 

JS: I feel like New York is always fun like the crowds are always really good. I feel like people in New York just kind of show up to shows, not really expecting anything. Like they’re just looking for something to do on a Wednesday night and they just stumble into your show. They always bring such good energy, so, New York is really fun. 

WVAU: Are there lots of creative spaces in New York?

JS: Oh yeah, that’s another thing about New York. There are so many options. In D.C., there are like three good venues, but in New York, there’s like ten, fifteen. There are so many good smaller spaces for small bands to play in. 

WVAU: Are there any particular shows or events you’ve got coming up that you’re especially looking forward to?

EB: We just announced our single debut show that’s coming up in June, it’s gonna be really cool, so you should all come to that if you’re reading this interview. 

WVAU: Alright, now here’s the proverbial question: If you had the chance to open for any band or musical act (alive or dead), who would you each choose and where would you be playing? This is the updated version. 

EB: Hmm… I feel like we can’t choose someone. I don’t want to jinx it. 

JS: Well, we kind of jinxed the Feeble Little Horse show, so maybe we should.

RM: We should say a crazy one so we for sure get it.

JS: I think Sonic Youth is going to get back together. 

RM: I think Sonic Youth is going to get back together, and we’re going to play it by the end of the year. That’s what we’re going to do. 

JS: We’re going to be at Madison Square Garden

WVAU: Looking forward to it. Do you have a link to those tickets anywhere?

RM: Nah, not yet. But soon though, we’ll plug it in. 

EB: Yeah, soon just wait. It’s really exclusive.

WVAU: Finally, why are you guys doing this? Why are you in a band?

RM: I have no plan B. I have nothing else going for me. 

JS: Because it’s fun?

RM: That’s kind of why. Also, I always knew this was what I was going to do, so I just didn’t aspire to do anything else. So now it’s like I have really no other option. I fully boxed myself in. 

JS: And also you really enjoy it?

EB: And also you love it?

RM: No, that’s what I was saying! I knew this was what I was going to do my whole life.

EB: “They trapped me in a cage. They said, ‘You can’t do anything other than play drums.’”

RM: I need help. This is my chance to escape, I need help, bruh. They trapped me. No, I always knew I was going to play drums in a band, that’s what I was going to do with my life because that’s all I could see myself doing. That’s the only thing that makes me happy, I feel. 

EB: I just love it. I love connecting with people. I love being part of something bigger than myself. I love when you get that feeling when you’re playing something and it’s like, “Woah…” It’s bigger than the sum of its parts, you know?

JS: Yeah, same here. I think it’s just so fun. Not to be corny, but like, it’s my passion. I feel like I don’t want to do anything else with my life except this. Even if I’m like broke and still struggling until I’m like 40 years old, as long as I’m with my friends and I’m making music, that’s all I care about. 

RM: Just like the adventure too. Now that we’re going on little tours and stuff, it really solidifies it and I’m like, “I definitely want to keep doing this.” It’s so fun to travel and meet a bunch of bands that are doing the same thing on the way, it’s really cool.  

You can catch Flowers for the Dead at their single-release show at Songbyrd on June 6th. Tickets are available here

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