Thomas Flowers - Oleander
On the phone with David Lee Wilson - 2003
 
Oleander, now there is a band that worked its ass off for years to get their head of steam up only to have the fuel supply cut off as they were about to hit full boil. You simply could not escape the band during the promotion of their first album. From Harley-fest and swap meet to arena tours with Creed this band was everywhere and then, nothing. What happened?
 
Probably the largest component of Oleander's fall from industry status as major label hopefuls to roster filler for the Indie upstart Sanctuary records is the fact that they managed to be such a quiet success on their first album. So much more than was practical was expected for their second record and expectations just were not met. In short, it just didn't happen for Oleander in the big leagues but all the work is not going to waste. Oleander are back for a third, possibly their best, record and not about to let up on their belief that they need to take the music direct to the people.
 
Touring and talking about their "Joyride" career and disc fill each day for the members of Oleander and I managed to weasel a good hour out of vocalist Tom Flowers who put me up on the Oleander game plan as he sees it form this point on.

DAVID LEE: Oleander, I didn't think that I would hear from you guys again. I mean, you got this monstrous major label push and then, piff!, you were gone. What the hell happened?
THOMAS FLOWERS: Well that is what happens when you don't sell albums! (laughs)
 
K2K: Come on, I know you sold some! (laughs)
TF: Naw, man, you know we did but the funniest thing in the whole world to me is that you can sell 500,000 copies of your first album and everyone loves you. You can sell 280,000 copies of your second album and everybody thinks you suck and they are ready to blow you off. We are going to sell two million albums this time and tell everybody to go and screw themselves! (laughs) Don't print that!
 
K2K: Oh yeah, tell the journalist what you don't want him to print first, that always works.
TF: Right on!
 
K2K: Are you out playing this record right now?
TF: Not yet. I have got three days before I have to go to Europe and set up press there for the release date in Europe and I am absolutely enjoying the home time.
 
K2K: Has it been a while since you have been home?
TF: Yeah, touring keeps you away from home as much as possible.
 
K2K: You just finished the Nickelback tour, which was probably a nice gig for you to get?
TF: Oh absolutely. Nickelback happens to be managed by the same management company as us and they are good guys, good friends of ours actually. Selling six million albums doesn't exactly hurt and a lot of people showed up at those shows and we kicked ass.
 
K2K: I know that you had some adventures on the road, bus breaking down and all. . .
TF: Yeah, we had to catch rides to the airport and then fly to Detroit.
 
K2K: Did you have to end up using Nickelback's equipment that evening?
TF: No, fortunately for us all of our stuff was on the Nickelback equipment truck so that all made it and it was actually the best Detroit reception that we ever had and Detroit is a tough town.
 
K2K: I know! (laughs) You had better deliver here or somebody is quite likely going to try and take their ticket money out of your ass! Gotta love Detroit! (laughs)
TF: Yeah, we played our ass off and it worked, thankfully. (laughs)
 
K2K: You are kind of in a different situation now with Sanctuary. In the last deal you had you got tons of payola, or "Marketing purchases" helping to push the record but with this organization you are going to have a much harder time of it with radio. And then Sanctuary is known as a graveyard for classic rock acts, any fears there?
TF: Yeah, but you know what, they are very smart. They are trying to cut their teeth on current bands that could break them in. I would absolutely love to be the Creed of Sanctuary Records. Wind Up Records was a very independent label until Creed came around and knocked them up and Sanctuary has a lot of really good acts but we are the most current type of band that they have. I would absolutely love to have some success with them.
 
K2K: The ability to tour with a label mate is gone there because I can't see you touring with most of their roster?
TF: Yeah, well I am personally hoping for the tour with Dolly Parton! (laughs)
 
K2K: Yeah, now that would be a gig!
TF: Yeah, I have got to see those things up close!
 
K2K: Hey, I have and she is hot as hell and I don't care who knows that I just said that! She is a genuinely beautiful lady. I can't think of another chick her age that has held up as well! (laughs)
TF: She is beautiful, Dude! She really is. I hope I look that good! She is supposed to be really cool too.
 
K2K: She is strict about her crew not smoking and drinking, tight ship there but I am guessing that you have picked up a few bad habits in your time on the Rock and Roll circuit?
TF: We really, really pride ourselves on our professionalism and not canceling shows and I would say the most unhealthy aspect of our band is that we eat a lot of junk food.
 
K2K: Is there a particular town where you just go crazy on whatever local food there is?
TF: Yeah, Dallas. Dallas feeds us well. We hit 'em all there.
 
K2K: Does the band's popularity coincide with where the food is good?
TF: Man, you never know where your love is going to be and that is the best part but Dallas has done really, really well for us. Florida has done well for us and New York has done well for us so we have got these pockets around the country that have been very supportive.
 
K2K: Did you already know that you were out of your old record contract when you sat down to write this disc?
TF: Oh yeah, we knew.
 
K2K: Did that allow you to approach the material on this disc any differently?
TF: Only in the sense that we knew that Hell or high water we were going to record the type of album that we wanted to record which was a ferocious and in your face Rock record with melody.
 
K2K: Had you not been able to do that before?
TF: You know, Universal gave us the clout to do what we wanted to do and bless their hearts, they let us kind of try out the different styles that we wanted to try out but we realized with "Unwind" that we are a Rock band. We write a lot of songs that cover a lot of ground as far as musical styles go, there are softer songs and heavier songs but the ones that we tend to get off on the most are the Rock songs and with this album we just wanted to rip heads off.
 
K2K: It was kinda nifty how you pre-titled the tracks, "Damage #1," "Damage #2," etc.
TF: Yeah, that is kind of funny because the album cover is actually a photograph of the guys car who shot our photos. He got in a car accident and his Mustang got a little dinged up and when I saw the photograph I said, "That is going to be the album cover!"
 
K2K: Was this after you had the title, "Joyride?"
TF: No, we really didn't know what we were going to call it but we thought that "Joyride" really typified the experience. You have ups and downs with everything and the ride that we have had has certainly been a roller coaster.
 
K2K: Was their older material mined for this record that maybe you wanted to use before but couldn't for some reason?
TF: Yeah but only one song that is old, "Runaway Train." I wrote that a couple of years ago. When we parted ways with Universal we started writing music and everything from "Joyride" was written post Universal.
 
K2K: Is there stuff on this record that wouldn't have fit on those first two records?
TF: Uh, naw. Oleander music is Oleander music. It might have made a difference as to how we would have sequenced it on other albums but the music that we are writing today is just a better version of the stuff that we have been doing for years.
 
K2K: Do you ever expect to get those first two records back from Universal?
TF: Nope, they own them and they paid good money for them! (laughs) I am more interested in the future to tell you the truth. I think that we wrote our best album to date right now and I think that we have an even better one brewing. The thing that I am most proud of with this band is that we have never been better in every aspect of the game. We are mature, we are professional and we have learned how to write really good songs. We are better friends than ever and live, we just kick ass.
 
K2K: Has it become comfortable to be in Oleander?
TF: Sure, absolutely. You really learn as you go and we had a lot of really good bands grooming us. There is nothing like experience to make you a better performer, artist, businessman , person, family man, friend, all of those things.
 
K2K: Can you pick a particular lesson that you think was the most important that you learned along the way?
TF: To have fun. It sounds very "Spinal Tap" but we have learned to have fun with it now. If we are having fun it is going to translate, bottom line.
 
K2K: Was there a point where you were getting too serious?
TF: Yeah. You just worry too much and the industry is a business and we are artists and unfortunately we have to pay attention to the business side of it to the point where we are paying mortgages and we are eating but it does tend to take away from the fun and that is really what we are here to do. Now it is like, we just get up every morning and look forward to throwing down and getting off.
 
K2K: What happens if you find yourself unable to pay that mortgage?
TF: We start selling drugs! (laughs) You know man, we are going to be doing this for a while because we have talent. I am not patting ourselves on the back but we didn't get where we are today because we were lucky. We got here because we were lucky and we have skills and our skills are improving. Our motivation to continue to make a statement is improving as well and more than anything in this business we want some respect.
 
K2K: And you haven't gotten that yet?
TF: No, we have gotten it but I just want more. I want to throw the party. I want Oleander to be a household name. I want kids to say that we were their favorite all time Rock band.
 
K2K: And how do you get to that from here?
TF: Just relentless touring and relentless writing of hit after hit after hit. You know, the funny thing about hits is you don't know what they are. You don't know which ones are going to be "hits." You just write the best music that you can.
 
K2K: Will you be headlining your own dates on this coming tour or will you jump on some kind of package deal?
TF: We will headline for a while, about a month, and after that we will either pick up a big tour or keep grinding at it. Obviously I would love to go out with Creed because they play for twenty thousand people a night but if we have got to play for fifteen people a night that is fine too. On the other had we played a couple of shows with Buckcherry and we are not particularly into buying 8 balls of cocaine and doing women in their rear ends. We're the "I walk alone" band and have a little bit more respect for our fans and ourselves than to assault them that way and that was kind of tough to do but we played the angle.
 
K2K: Hey it worked for them! (laughs)
TF: It worked for them for a little while anyway, until they got dropped.
 
K2K: How does a tour accountant justify that I wonder? "OK, we have this receipt for twelve grams in Cleveland and then there was the anal lube in Columbus, is that tax deductible?" (laughs)
TF: Yeah! Good for them.
 
K2K: Well, you are still going so that must mean something?
TF: Yeah, you know this album was very cathartic and easy. I think that I have been sitting on a lot of stuff that I wanted to say and a lot of music was just aching to get out of me.
 
K2K: How much more do you think that you have in you?
TF: Oh man, I have got about three more albums worth. Dude, I want to do this until I am an old man or somebody says, "Hey, you suck!" I want to do this as long as I can and I am good at it. It is one of the only things in this whole world that I am good at.
 
Written by David Lee Wilson

All rights reserved © KAOS2000™. No portion contained herein, either text or graphics, may be reproduced anywhere or reposted on any other website for any purpose without the expressed permission of the publisher. All violations shall be punished as the law allows.

Home | Interviews | Music | Film / TV | Arts / Books
| Tech | News | New Stuff | Soapbox | Foto Bizarro | Cool Sites | Backpages | Editorial | Letters | Chat | Contact Us