The Gutter Daisies on how Chester Bennington inspired “Celebrity Suicide”
While you might not recognize the Gutter Daisies just yet, you’re bound to have heard (or at least heard of) frontman Doug Rockwell’s past work with 5 Seconds Of Summer (Good Girls EP) and Sleeping With Sirens (Madness). The vocalist also has credits working on the music for Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn (which starred The Umbrella Academy’s Aidan Gallagher), Marvel Rising and Disney+ original High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.
With only a four-song EP, Social Insecurity, and a Beastie Boys cover, “Sabotage,” released in 2017 and 2018, respectively, the Gutter Daisies have big plans to dominate 2020. The Los Angeles-based trio are starting with their first single of the year, “Celebrity Suicide,” which is premiering exclusively with AltPress.
The band—Rockwell, bassist Miles Franco and drummer Mike Diggs—aren’t as mainstream-sounding as some of the frontman’s credits imply. In fact, they’ve actually rallied against it. Forming as a way to dive past the politics of the music scene and getting into the nitty-gritty of the craft itself, the Gutter Daisies cite the Hives, Green Day, Weezer, Refused and Nirvana among their influences.
With their eyes on the future, Rockwell opened up on how the selfish responses he witnessed following Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington’s passing and the media’s general reaction inspired “Celebrity Suicide.”
How would you describe your band to a server at a diner at 3 a.m.?
OK, so imagine I walked into this diner at 2:55 a.m. like I just did, but instead of entering like a lonely, sad pile of meat with eyes, I arrive with 12 friends. I say, “Hey...Flo? It's Flo, right? Hey, Flo, me and my 12 friends each want filet mignon cooked rare, like, still moo-ing rare, 15 cups of ice—half crushed and half cubed—and some marzipan stuffed inside of the closest thing you have to a turducken.” You'd be extremely annoyed, confused and strangely aroused at the same time. But then I would hand you our rock-grunge-punk-inspired album, and for a brief moment in time, you would forget all about our preposterous order. The air would sit still and silent, and you'd gently reply, “My husband Sal really likes Rod Stewart. Is this anything like Rod Stewart?” We would then respond with "No."
What was the writing process like for “Celebrity Suicide”? What inspired it sonically? Who were some of the musical influences, if any?
I wrote this song right after the unfortunate passing of Chester Bennington. So many people started posting about his death on social media, but it was done in a way where I started noticing it wasn't about his death at all. It was more about the person posting it. In one too many instances, it was as if they were using his death as a way to earn "likes" on their social media accounts. It was really frustrating to see. I understand that it's a platform to speak your mind and get support from people during tough times—I really do. I just feel there are more appropriate ways to honor someone's life that doesn't require the spotlight to be on you, posting a perfectly touched-up selfie that took you 15 tries to get the lighting just right, posing like you're doing a photo shoot for a magazine cover with the tagline reading, “Omg Chester I can't believe it. So. Bummed. Right. Now.” You know, things that are completely irrelevant to a human being taking their own life. A lot of media outlets try to capitalize on stuff like this too, wanting to use tragedy for publicity and ratings. I get it. It's a business. But it's unfortunate. It's almost as if screaming doesn't get you heard—it's when you go permanently silent that everyone wants to put you in the spotlight. The song represents all of this in a sarcastic way. Musically, there are some influences from Green Day, Nirvana, even Spacehog. I feel like the ’90s saw a lot of untimely deaths. We wanted the music and lyrics to complement each other—tragic yet truthful while still giving you permission to bop your head up and down.
Tell us more about the inspiration behind the track’s lyrics. Why was it important to you to address the public exploiting mental illness and depression in this way?
As far as bringing it to light in this way, I think it's because music was meant to be honest. Sometimes it offends people, and that’s OK. It's just music. It's one person's thoughts, feelings or opinions that, in great moments, are shared by others. But I think I can speak for everyone in this band when I say we've all dealt with anxiety and depression for the majority of our lives. It's a subject we can relate to on many levels. It's something we feel is a serious topic that's way too common. The lyric is meant to be a reflection and a slap on the wrist of what drives us to the dark places and the truth about how our surroundings can ultimately be more toxic than the thoughts in our head. And I'd say a lot of times, it's the outside that brings so much pain to the inside.
Do you think the music community is doing enough for mental health awareness, or can more always be done?
I think the music community is one of the places that understand it more than most. So many of us, including myself, turn to music as an escape. When I was about 8 years old, I was diagnosed with OCD, anxiety and a mild form of Tourette's syndrome. On top of that, my parents were going through a divorce. Throughout my life, the combination caused endless amounts of internal obstacles. Music was always my place to escape to a world where I was free from all of that. The older I got, and the more involved I got in the music community, the more I realized how many people were just like me, more or less, to where I felt like I was understood. I think there is always more any community can do to help with awareness, but the support and understanding alone made me feel closer to "normal." In fact, I think in our community it's more normal to not be normal. That's what makes it so special.
How has your sound progressed with this track compared to your past releases? What’s different?
When “Celebrity Suicide” was recorded along with a few others, we finally felt like we found [out] who we were as a band. Our first EP, Social Insecurity, was like our set of training wheels. We were a new band at the time, still feeling things out, seeing what we could get away with that still felt like we were being honest with who we were as writers and performers. With this new batch of songs, I think we've finally started figuring it out. That alone is really exciting and inspiring to us. We began taking more chances lyrically and musically and tried not to pump the brakes. If it made us feel vulnerable and uncomfortable, we knew we got it right.
What are your plans for the rest of 2020?
Content, content, content, shows, shows, shows! We've got a lot of new songs that we've been waiting patiently to release into the eardrums of the youths on planet Earth (and Omicron Persei 8 hopefully by the year 3021—it all depends on Spotify and Apple Music's intergalactic guidelines). We plan on getting back on the road as well to promote and make new friends and sleep on new floors. I prefer carpet over hardwood, but I can't speak for everyone.
The Gutter Daisies will be celebrating the release of “Celebrity Suicide” this Friday, Jan. 17 at the Sassafras Saloon in Los Angeles. Check out the new single below.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, there is help to be found. Please consider these online resources and talk to your regular doctor about your symptoms:
- The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. You can also reach out to Crisis Text Line by texting GO to 741741.
- MentalHealth.gov – Get Immediate Help
- ImAlive – Online Crisis Network
- International Association For Suicide Prevention – Resources
- The Anxiety And Depression Association Of America
- The National Alliance On Mental Illness
- American Psychiatric Association – Finding Help
- National Institute Of Mental Health
- American Psychological Association – Psychologist locator