Every so often, the stars align and along comes a band poised to make a big impact. Enter The Gutter Daisies. A fearsome 3-piece from Los Angeles, California. The band is spearheaded by award-winning songwriter Doug Rockwell, who has penned songs for major label pop and rock acts as well as hit TV shows. TThe band was originally formed as an escape from pop politics, and a longing to reunite with the angst and real emotion of music that now seems like it was banished from the craft. Teamed with bassist and touring veteran Miles Franco, and drummer and former band mate from various other projects, Mike Diggs, it’s obvious that this isn’t the trio’s first rodeo. ogether, they are providing a fitting soundtrack for these challenging times.
Their influences cascade from bands like The Hives and The Vines, to 90’s rock acts such as Nirvana, Green Day, Refused and Weezer. Like these captivating bands of the past, The Gutter Daisies aren’t afraid to explore uncharted musical territory as they continue to blossom. It’s their undeniable energy, never-say-die attitude, and razor sharp lyrics that are just a few of the elements that continue to captivate music fans and industry insiders. They use energetic live performances to tell all, showing the crowd within moments that they’re a monster on a mission!
The beginning of 2020 has been turbulent for everyone, but The Gutter Daisies have taken the challenges in stride. They’ve spent first few months heating up the airwaves with spirited singles “Celebrity Suicide” and “American Pie.” With all touring in America on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the band remains committed to finding new ways to shake things up for their dedicated fanbase. While still focusing on new music, they have shifted their focus from touring to providing even more of their engaging content on digital platforms such as TikTok, IGTV, and beyond.
Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with frontman Doug Rockwell to discuss his life in music, the formation of the band. and their ongoing evolution as a captivating musical force.
The is no doubt that music is your true love, so let’s start at the beginning. How did music first come into your life and begin to take hold?
Man, how much time do you have? Ha! For me, I was basically born into it. I come from a family of musicians and singers, so from the day I could inhale the oxygen made on this earth, I was surrounded by music. When I was 3 or 4 years old, I used to sit on my dad’s lap and play the drums with him. I remember dancing around the living room to The Beatles, Elvis, The Beach Boys, all that stuff. When I was 8 years old I picked up the guitar and from that point forward I knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life. And here I am.
What went into finding your creative voice early on?
I feel like I’m still finding it. As emotional beings, we’re always evolving and shedding layers and such. My musical voice was different when I was 16 than it was at 26, and I feel like it’s still changing. It all depends on the chapter, the moment, everything.
Who are some of the people who have had the biggest impact on you as an artist?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say Green Day was my favorite band growing up. Also bands like Phish, Nirvana, Incubus, Pulley, The Offspring…it’s kind of all over the place. Sometimes all I want to do is listen to soundscape piano arrangements in a bathtub. My best friend, Bill Grainer, has also played a big part in my writing. We write a lot of pop stuff together, and he took me under his wing about 10 years ago and really taught me so much, especially when it comes to writing for other artists.
How did The Gutter Daisies form?
It was formed out of complete selfishness, and I mean that in the best way possible. We were all pretty fed up with certain aspects of each of our lives, musical and non-musical related, and we wanted to blow off some steam and not give a shit what anyone thought of it. Our original intent was to play a bunch of songs that were written for our ears only. We didn’t care if anyone heard it. We didn’t care if anyone liked it. We didn’t care if anyone hated it. We only cared that it meant something to us. The more we started writing the more we started thinking “Hey.. wait.. maybe we have something here.” We recorded an EP, and that EP led to some shows, and those shows led to use basically being in a real band that does things.
Dedicating yourself fully to your art is a big step and one only a handful of people are brave enough to take. When did you know you had to take the plunge?
That’s the only way to do it! We’re fortunate enough that we’re all full-time musicians outside of the band as well, so I think that takes some of the pressure off, which honestly makes this band that much more enjoyable to be in. When good things happen it feels like a gift rather than a relief.
What went into finding that sound and direction as a band?
We’ve been exploring and chiseling at it for a while now. We wanted to stay true to our roots but also try not to be too much of a carbon-copy. We’re still figuring it out, but we definitely feel like we’re in a good place. Being a 3 piece has been a game-changer for me personally. I’ve only been in bands that had at least 4 members, so when we decided to keep it a 3 piece, it surprisingly opened more creative avenues as opposed to closing them. Each one of us is held responsible for our instrument in a way where no one can hide, so we have to show up creatively. It’s pushed us to create a big sound out of a smaller number of people. It’s been really fun.
What do you remember about your first time on stage together?
It’s funny, I’ve played in bands my entire life. Mike and I were actually in a band together back in New Jersey, so we were really familiar with each other’s playing style. But after The Gutter Daisies formed out in LA, it had been about 3 years since I had been on stage. I felt like I was playing my first show ever. I was terrified. Really insecure. Which for me, on stage, is weird. The stage was always where I felt like home, where all of my anxieties would disappear, and I could be a completely different person not confined by my own internal walls. Needless to say, we got on stage and it ended up feeling like home again. The only thing that took some getting used to was not having another guitar player to back me up. But the show went well. People were surprised it was our first time playing live together, so I guess that means we did something right.
Obviously, you have great chemistry as a band. What do you bring out in each another creatively?
I feel like there’s no competition between any of us. We all respect each other so fucking much as musicians. Mike is the best drummer I’ve ever played with. Miles is the best bass player I’ve ever played with. The two of them keep me on my toes. I know I have to keep up and bring my A-game. Mike and I definitely take turns pushing each of us outside of our comfort zones. We like to make things musically super uncomfortable and weird, and then Miles tends to snap us out of It when we go a little too far off the deep end so we can reel it back in. It’s a really good dynamic.
You recently released a video for “Celebrity Suicide.” What inspired the song?
I wrote it after noticing how much the media exploits the misfortunes of other people, specifically ones that are in the spotlight. There’s always a constant magnifying glass watching every mishap, it’s no wonder there are casualties. Especially with social media. People do whatever they can for a “like” these days, that they’ll react to certain events just because they think it will give them attention. We’re all attention-seeking obsessive maniacs.
The video, like the song, has a great energy to it. What were the biggest challenges of that shoot?
It was probably the coldest day in Los Angeles, so lying on the concrete for a half-hour in short sleeves was definitely a little uncomfortable. But I’d say the biggest challenge was probably one of my own — having all of those people, even though they were our friends, watching me so close up. I’ve always had anxiety, so this was a big trigger. It’s different from being on stage hiding behind a wall of sound. This was more personal. And it made me empathize more with people that deal with paparazzi and the media. It’s really, really uncomfortable.
What can you tell us about the songwriting process for your music? What’s changed and remained the same through the years?
It’s pretty simple. I’ll usually bring an almost-completed song, lyrics and all, to the band. If they like it, we comb through it and weave out the knots. Mike and Miles will write their parts, and we’ll lock in a structure. Sometimes it all falls into place during a 2-hour practice, sometimes it takes 2 weeks.
I think a lot of people might take for granted what you do to keep things moving forward. Can you talk a little bit about what goes into keeping a band like The Gutter Daisies on the rails and moving in the right direction?
It’s really been about finding the right team members and staying relevant. If you don’t put yourself out there, no one’s gonna know who you are. We’re still trying to break through that wall, but until then, I think we’ve built a pretty good working mechanism. I know that sounds a little vague, but there really aren’t any rules or guidelines. It’s just doing whatever it takes to make ourselves accessible to the outside world. We try to find our fans so they don’t have to try and find us.
What do you consider the biggest challenges you’ve faced and overcome as a young band?
We’re still trying to get the word out there. There are so many great artists doing great things. And bad ones doing bad things. Whatever we are, it’s up to the listener to determine, but it’s so easy to get lost in the mix. Standing out isn’t as simple as standing up.
How do you feel you have grown as artists over the past few years?
Since we started, our songs have taken on much more serious topics. We’re always trying to grow sonically as a band too. Our new material definitely takes more chances than our first EP, especially lyrically.
2020 is shaping up to be a very big year. Where do you see yourself headed musically in the future — both short and long term?
It’s so hard to say. We honestly don’t even think about it. I think that’s why we love this band so much. We try not to put any pressure on who we are, and I feel like that’s what keeps our music genuine. That’s such an important thing. People can tell when you aren’t. So hopefully that will lead us in the right direction. For all I know, we might end up playing a show on top of a giant floating spaghetti monster made out of Chef Boyardee raviolis that floats us around downtown Manhattan. Which I’d personally be pretty pumped about, especially on an empty stomach.
As an artist, so many things can be said about the current state of music. You are on the front lines. What excites about the current climate?
It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, the fact that it’s so easy to put music out these days. On one hand, it makes the space very crowded, but on the other hand, you really don’t need a big label anymore. You just need motivation. I also think artists are taking more risks as well which I love. Its kind of like the 90’s are reemerging. I remember there were so many different genres and topics being discussed and things were just so weird and awesome. There was a time within the past decade that everything felt so vanilla. I’m glad more flavors are being noticed.
What’s the best way for fans to help support your band in this day and age?
Spread the word and come hang out with us at our shows! We love meeting new people and making new friends. And we’re so very grateful any time someone hits us up and says “Hey! I heard about you from my friend [insert friend’s name here].” Just knowing someone likes us enough to share our music with someone else makes this crazy ride all worth it.
You have certainly faced your own challenges and learned some things from your time with this project. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?
We left everything and everyone we love when we moved out to LA. We’ve had some of the darkest moments we’ve ever experienced individually. But when it comes down to it, the scariest thing to do was make the decision to take that leap. Everything after that is just another day, and you take each day as it comes. And that’s actually what our name represents — the ability for something beautiful to grow in some of the darkest, most unexpected places.