sub-morphine alt-country songwriter


Chris Brecht and Dead Flowers

Dead Flower Motel: Chris Brecht — vocals, guitar / Scott Davis — guitar / Falcon Valdez — drums, percussion / John Michael Dayspring – bass / Matt Mollica – b3 organ, wurlitzer, tape echo / Andrew Hernandez – Engineer (Premium Recording, Soma)… Current Line up: Chris Brecht – vocals, guitar / Scott Davis – guitar / Cody Foote – Bass / Matt Mollica – organ, Wurlitzer / Billy Doughty – Drums

In Carnation~

Chris Brecht and dead flowers are making music like a manic, joyride from Austin to L.A. that bleeds through the day into moonlight. Behind the unconventional songwriting talents of Chris Brecht, this band has a mysterious approach to music. The brand new and currently unreleased record, Dead Flower Motel will likely classify dead flowers in the company of My Morning Jacket, Wilco on a reverb pill, or even some reminiscence of the Doors-style L.A. country.  Combining jagged guitars from Scott Davis (Hayes Carll, Trishas), revolutionary pedal steel from Ricky Ray Jackson (The Happen Ins, Phosphorescent), Space Echo keys and B3 Organ from Matt Mollica (Deadman), and chic L.A. style rhythm section of Falcon Valdez and John Michael Dayspring (the Happen Ins), Chris Brecht and Dead Flowers are incarnation. Dead Flower Motel is a record created by independent musicians. “We wanted to create something new,” says Chris Brecht. “Something that has never been heard before.” Songs like Hollywood, Witch’s Curse, Streetlights in design are poetry with a sonic landscape. Wish You features a classic riff with reversed guitars and mosaic delay pedals. Not Where You Are is an attack on artistic cultural complacency. Devil is a brash burn out. Dead Flower Motel is more like Radiohead’s the Bends than it is like Ryan Adams and the Cardinals.  The record was recorded in Austin, Texas in late 2009 on 2” tape at Premium Recording Studio and engineered by Andrew Hernandez (Soma Studios, Chicago, IL).

Autobiography – the Lost Genre

obsession – is wandering alternative country..

alter native

I am always coping with my own obsession with alternative-country music, a genre lost in popular music, largely unpopular, and forever unexplored. Nobody really seems to know or care where it’s going. Only a few bands have seemed to bring it to the popular level and I always felt like it was like the unexplored territory in a Cormac McCarthy novel or the unraveling sickness of driving down some two-lane highway outside of Terlingua. That’s kinda how I feel about this record, Dead Flower Motel.

Sessions began back in September, and because the songs were so new to me, I entered the studio with no rehearsed ideas about how the songs should sound or the musical direction we should take them. This batch of songs really only existed on the acoustic guitar and some on piano. I wrote most of them in the middle of the night so the songs had a tendency to be quiet and unrehearsed. But with Falcon and Scott in the studio with me, the songs quickly revealed a craving for thick electric guitars drenched in reverb. I began to have visions of a record doused with B3 organ and static Wurlitzer keys, sucking delay pedals, electric banjos, and a phosphorescent pedal steel. The sounds we created were as impulsive as the way we worked. The first three days of recording were so intense that my head was in a fog. Working that way, the music happened real fast. If I, or anyone, had an idea, we went with it.  No questioning. No looking back. We cut the track to tape and that was it. That’s the beauty. This is how records are supposed to be made. We cut song after song after song. If a take sounded good we kept it. It was a very existential way of recording and that’s how the songs came out.  And that’s what these songs are like, a massive attack of ideas on an impoverished genre of music.

Whatever  You Take, Don’t Take it So Hard

I wrote nearly all of Dead Flower Motel in the month before the sessions. I had initially twenty or so songs that I had wanted to bring into the studio, but that all changed when I actually decided to make the record, and I ended up leaving many the songs behind and writing new songs months prior. Most of that happened in the middle of the night, a time when it is very easy for me to work and think clearly. Hearing the wind and hum of the highway outside my window is very peaceful.  There seems to be a lot of romantic influence on the songs but really, there was a lot of confusion. I base all of my writing off of the way I live. When I write songs, I don’t make up a bunch of silly things, pack them into a rhyme scheme and think of myself as a songwriting hero.  Instead, I like to work all night in the quiet of my apartment, sitting on the floor playing melodies on the acoustic guitar or humming piano. I’ve always been an avid late night poet anyway, but making this record just gave me the excuse to produce something in finale. So with the fever and frustrations I felt as a writer living in Ausitn at that time, I wrote song after song. This record came very easily to me. It was very liberating. And then I learned that I exist better that way. I almost feel as if I became a better person.

The Great Ride was a folk country record, and a lot of reviewers called it a Dylan-esque kinda thing. I got that. I understood it. It’s not really what I intended. I wanted to make a record that sounded like an acoustic social club that toured by freight train in 1922, probably because when I came to Austin I had this train traveler mind. All my daydreams were about people moving about this country wondering who they are. Nobody really knows what they’re doing. I always feel this way maybe because of some of the things that happened to me when I moved to this town and I felt forced to deconstruct myself and rebuild myself.

But this record, Dead Flower Motel, is so far opposite from that first record that some of my band members have made jokes about what might come next. Dead Flower Motel is madness at times. At times, it whispers. I think of my music like a Cormac McCarthy novel. There’s lots of road and desolation, blood and migration. My last record was more like a Beat poem with a lot of steam.  Recording is like a train ride. The movement of the music speeds up so fast that you can’t stop the momentum. There is a lot of heavy weight behind you. That’s what happened on songs like Devil and Not Where You Are. The hardest thing about making this record was slowing things down when we started moving too fast.  I guess I wanted to keep things real spontaneous, desolate, and upbeat somehow we made a record that very nearly avoided sounding like the Doors with David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) on guitar.  I don’t know. I realize that I can describe this music in so many ways that is what makes me think we did a good thing. We created something that is new to me, so I have no frame of reference for this music.  The songs are not traditional.  I’m just a writer seeking out a sound that has not yet been produced. Reverb was about the most important thing to me entering the sessions. And the words, the private part of the record, were more like forbidden memories, delicate Sunday afternoons, frustrations, or midnight trance. If you’re like me, at all you remember putting on Dark Side of the Moon for the first time and gazing into space while listening to lyrics of ticking time, or the Bends and questioning how and why you are no longer normal. Dead Flower Motel is a visible memory for me.

I grew up confused by the world. I still am a lot of the time. I am always questioning. But thinking about my early years, I have great remorse because I still can’t quite grasp why I was there in my childhood, if that makes any sense to you. I felt so out of time, so born of the wrong era.  Only recently have I begun to grasp and hold onto some sense of place in my life, where I feel I can cope with always being torn in opposite directions.  As a child, to those around me, I must have must seemed like I was wandering around in a cloud. I have a very vivid memory and very detailed vision.  My memories are almost always deeply emotional and less profound, more alive than they are a vision into the past.  This is probably why I attached to music early on. Of course I stayed up all night as a child listening to cassette tapes of hits from the late 50s and early 60s. I discovered Dylan, Rolling Stones and Beach Boys records in my parents LP collection. I made cassette tapes of songs I recorded off the radio. Sleep was very hard for me. I didn’t want it.  Night was a time when my mind would drift so effortlessly through my imagination. This I loved more than sleep. I felt possessed by my imagination and would almost crave music and daydream as the night drifted well past 3 or 4am. So what if I was only 8 or 9 years old.

I still remember so many things vividly, outfits, road trips, books, fabrics, carpet color, vacuum brands, as clearly as I remember my own confusions. Music was easy for me to listen to.  I didn’t even think to begin playing until I turned 16 and was given a guitar. Seemed like such a late start to me.  And then, the first thing I did was go and write some song called “When Shannon” about the Blind Melon singer Shannon Hoon and how he smashed up his hotel room just before going on Letterman when hearing about Kurt Cobain’s suicide. My close friends made me believe in myself and that I could actually write songs instead of just listening to music. We formed a band right out of high school called Cotton Cycle, a Radiohead kinda thing. At this point in my life, music no longer made me feel like I was standing and watching from behind a pane of glass, looking at something I could never touch. That’s how it went. I wasn’t confused anymore, if at least for a short time.

git about the Day

Still, I don’t get at the day the way most people do. Sure, I wander around in my quiet trance looking first for coffee and then the guitar. That’s how it goes. My mornings are always blue. Not sad, but the light in my mind is blue.  Even if I use to get down about things, now I can’t see that as a way of getting anywhere. Since then, I keep on. If I have to work a little to pay rent, I do. If I have to take a walk, I do. I live in this east Austin neighborhood that was built in about the 1930s. The houses are small two bedroom places. The trees are big and break during heavy rainstorms. That’s where I am.  And when I look for something to do with my time, I usually grab a guitar and write a song. Lately, I’ve been going swimming with my pup, Wolfgang, at the lake. I have hundreds of pieces of paper each with a different song on it. Some are terrible. Some I’ll never know. I’m sure there are some great songs too. I’ll probably sing those someday. And many songs I’ve written either late at night while drinking wine or early in the morning, will probably never be heard by anyone.

Photo Sam Bonds Garage, Eugene Oregon

The Great Ride – in retrospect

My last record did me well. It was fine with me. I was happy the way I made it and people who knew about it, seemed to like it.  It’s about the only reason I got to travel around and sing my songs in places like Oregon. I toured last year literally by train. I took the Amtrak to each city in the Northwest and then buses to the venues. It was not the smartest thing I ever did. Amtrak trains leave so early in the morning and most of my shows kept me out until about 3AM.  I don’t recommend touring that way.

No Vacancy

I moved to Austin sometime in 2006. I went through a break up with my longtime girlfriend and didn’t really know what to do. I had a lousy job, no money and no friends. So I was forced to rent a room at the St. Elmo Motel, this cheap 26 dollar a night place on the south side of Austin that was notorious for drug-addicts, vagrants, and drunks. It has since been torn town. But it was December and about as cold as it gets Austin. During my first week living there the pipes burst and flooded everything I had stuffed into cardboard boxes. From there I moved out into an apartment on the eastside with this old man I met at the motel. Things weren’t so good then. I was pretty knocked out, staying away from my apartment as much as possible, going to clubs like the Hole in the Wall to listen to music. I was booking a lot of acoustic gigs and passing around demos. Later on, I met Brad Rice, who was playing in Son Volt at the time, had played with Ryan Adams, and one of my all-time favorite guitar players.  We met and became friends and I asked him to help me record some songs. So we went in and recorded Night Highway 99 and an early version of Devil, then called I played cards with the devil. Before too long, I was asked a man named Walter Morgan to do a live set on KUT 90.5FM. Suddenly my acoustic shows were now band shows, and I had something going on. I put out the Great Ride and that was it. I was still pretty confused. I didn’t get all the changes going on with music and changes in the industry. I didn’t want a Myspace page. I still don’t. I don’t like self-promotion. Funny thing was that my friends who were good at this were really successful.

I’m not in this to keep from doing other things. I’m in this because music is the first thing that ever made sense to me. Not going to church or school. Those are the things that are very confusing. They stop you from acting on your impulses. This record is my first record that I feel expresses and captures my innate impulses. This record expresses that need for freedom of mind. Dead Flower Motel, as an idea, is about life and death and the time we have on this earth being as temporary as renting. The record is about forgiving yourself for not being impulsive in the years of your life when you didn’t know how.  But that’s over with now, for me anyway.

One Response

  1. Hi Chris – I am on the Board at Green Corn Project and would like to ask if you would want to once again participate in our annual fund raiser at Boggy Creen Farm. This year the event will be held Sunday Oct 27. Please let me know if you are interested. 512-797-6097.


    July 19, 2013 at 1:21 pm

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