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Interview: Tom Leighton – The Bad Flowers

The Bad FlowersThe Bad Flowers are a Midlands based hard rock band with Tom Leighton (guitar / vocals), Dale Tonks (bass), and Karl Selickis (drums). Tom took some time out to answer questions about the forthcoming debut album “Starting Gun”, which will be released on 16th February 2018. We got off to a couple of false starts due to a leaking can of pop, and someone knocking at the door… all of which lead to a few giggles.


Hi Tom. What would you like people to say about the new The Bad Flowers album?

“I would just like them to enjoy it and that it has some good songs on it. We worked hard on it, and so we want people to enjoy it, that is the main thing”.

And buy it, obviously?

“Yeah, yeah”

Do you have a favourite track on the album?

“Let’s misbehave’, I think. It is a bit different, and got a bit of everything in. It is great for vocals and guitar, and so for me it’s my favourite”.

The Bad FlowersIt is a pretty perfect song. I think it is the best track on the album, makes me cry and sing along. What was the inspiration behind it?

“I have tried to describe all of the tracks on the album as diary entries, and so I write about what is going on in life and stuff, so for me, at that moment in time, life wasn’t the best then, and it just came out. We were in the studio, and a lot of it pretty improvised, to he honest. The chorus was always there, but the other parts were driven from improvisation. I think if I had not been in that mindset at that particular time, it would have been a very different song”.

How much input do Karl and Dale?

“Musically, we all hash it out in the rehearsal room together. One of us will have a riff or some sort of idea, and we will put it together from there. The arrangement tends to be myself, and then Dale will pipe up with stuff. Lyrically, it is all me. This is the way it works, so we hash out the tune and the lyrics fall out as we play the song. I don’t sit and write stuff down it is all done in there, from whatever is in my head”.

So you don’t carry a notebook around with you, or anything like that?

“I’ve got one, but it is pretty empty (laughs). I keep it all in my head. It works for me, maybe not for other people, but for me it works”.

What is your favourite The Bad Flowers track to play live?

“That’s a tough one, I like them all. I am always going to love playing “City Lights” because of the extra bits we add in, and it always gets a good response. We have played “Let’s Misbehave” a couple of times recently, and it has turned out quite well and so that is turning into a favourite of mine also”.  

They are both crowd pleasers, definitely. “Let’s Misbehave” has that emotional pull, whereas “City Lights” is anthemic… the crowd can sing along.

“We have noticed people singing along to “City Lights”, which has been a good but strange experience”.

Is that how you measure The Bad Flowers’ success?  

“I don’t think we really look at it as success, we look at it as moving forward, getting more shows and work, and if people are enjoying the music, then we will just keep carrying on. It’s just been a battle to get to a stage where we want to be, but you always are looking and wanting to be at that next step all of the time. I actually sat down and looked at what we had done this year, and it hit me the other day… flipping hell, we’ve done a lot this year, but then, when I am in the moment and I am working away on my laptop or guitar, you just don’t realise it. All we have our eyes on is what’s next, what’s next, not looking back”.

I was recently reminded that The Bad Flowers did a gig at Mama Roux’s, Birmingham, in January 2017, which I couldn’t believe was already a year ago. You were trying out stuff then that maybe didn’t work as well as you would have liked, but the rest of the set was fantastic!

“That show, to be honest, didn’t set us up very well. We weren’t confident, and we were trying new stuff that probably wasn’t ready. I am just being honest here, but it knocked us a bit, and I am kinda glad it did, as it gave us a kick up the arse to get back in the lock up and rehearsal room and just crack on. I think having a bad gig at the start of the year helped us crack on with thinking that it wasn’t right and we needed to fix it”.

It seems to have paid off, because of the success you have had since.  When I first saw The Bad Flowers, a few years ago, you said to me that your ambition, at that time, for the Bad Flowers was to be played on Planet Rock… and now you have, at Winters End and Planet Rock’s Christmas Party at The Jazz Café in London. Does it seem real?

“Hearing the song on Planet Rock for the first time, whilst I was sitting at my desk at work, was weird. I was literally shaking with excitement, but it was a bit odd… and then all the stuff that Planet Rock have done for us, along with everyone else that has helped us out along the way, has just been pretty incredible, really. We are really grateful for the stuff that everyone has done, and if people like that are willing to help us out and take notice, then we will carry on”.  

What are the next steps for The Bad Flowers?

“Get the album out in February and try and make a success of that.  After that, we go on tour with Stone Broken and Jared James Nichols, and then start looking forward to festival season. We have Steelhouse Festival already, but we are working on a couple of others, so fingers crossed”.

The Bad FlowersHow much are you looking forward to the Stone Broken/Jared tour?

“I cannot wait. I am missing being out on the road and playing. To get on the road for 2 weeks straight will be great”.

What’s it like being on the road with The Bad Flowers?

“Nightmare!  (lots of laughing) No, its brilliant. I could not wish for 2 better people, Karl and Dale are like my brothers. We are like a family unit and everyone is really involved in The Bad Flowers, and so whenever we are out on the road it is great. It is like the easiest thing. There are never any issues or anything. Even when the van broke down in Newark is like, “Oh well, lets get it fixed”, and we work with each other to get everything done”.  

I can tell that you are tight, and I imagine that has intensified over this year?

“Definitely. We are all working so closely with each other to get everything right. We did an interview the other day, and I said “Sometimes I think Dale and Karl hate me as I am always saying, “Do this”, but they were not at all. Dale did say that he does hate me though” (laughs).

You wouldn’t expect anything less though, would you?

“No, not really!  Then he did say that he sees me as the band manager. I suppose Dale sees that we are going in the right direction and all working together to get it done”.

If they didn’t think that The Bad Flowers was going in the right direction, they would push back?

“This has been the number one rule since we started. Honesty. We have always said from the very first practice, if someone isn’t liking what we are doing, isn’t thinking we should travel in a particular direction, that part of the songs should be different or the lyrics should be different, then say. We always do that in every practice and with every song that we have done. If one of us is not feeling it, we will change it, or shelve it, or work on something else, and this is the same for the direction of the band. It will always be our number one value; to be honest with each other, and I think that shows, because we never argue. We always just get on and work together”.

How difficult is it for you to be satisfied with the album, and getting to the point where you feel that it as good as you can deliver… or even perfect?

“It’s not perfect, but in my head, it never will be. There will always be something I hear and (sharp intake of breath) say crap, but that is a good thing for us, as it spurs us on to do the next thing even better. If you listen to the album compared to the EP, which came out last year, there are is a huge change in the song writing and the quality of the recording, mainly because we have spent more time on it. If we didn’t know what we were doing, and didn’t know the direction of the band, then it would not sound like that. It is as close to perfect as we can get it, but in my eyes, we can always make a better album next time. As much as I think this is album is the best thing we have done… the best thing we have ever done… I think next time we will spend even more time on it, because it is just so much of a learning curve every time”.

I suppose there are new influences, and new things to try out?

“Exactly. We are all playing all the time, so the playing gets better. We play with other bands, and so we learn from them, especially bands on the next rung of the ladder from us. You learn how to do things from them, which all helps”.

Are there any particular influences for The Bad Flowers?

“Whenever we put a song together, there is nothing that sticks out as we want to sound like this. We just play, and if we like it, we keep it, and if we don’t, we scrap it. We’re all steeped in classic rock and classic blues. Karl is a bit more modern, and Dale likes a ridiculous amount of weird music, so it all gels together well. We don’t go out to sound like anyone or anything… it is hard to explain… we literally just make the music we make”.

You just sound like The Bad Flowers?

“Yeah, we just sound like ourselves. There will always be people who say it sounds like this or that, but it is not intentional. It’s never been intentional, we just get in the studio, start playing. “Let’s Misbehave”, and the acoustic track on the album might be something that people would not have heard from us before, but it is because we have thought, “oh that sounds good, let’s work on that idea”, and it has turned out as it has”.

How would you describe The Bad Flowers to someone who has yet to hear you?

“I struggle with this as we often are asked, “What type of music is it?”, and I say is rock, but then we get, what kind of rock?  Blues, classic, and hard rock… it’s a complete mixture of the three, but with our own modern twist on it. It is not all 70’s stuff, we try and make it as modern as we can as well. So, it is high octane, high tempo, but a touch of the softer side also. It shows our versatility, I think. We want to try a few more things, especially now we will get to do some headline shows and play for longer. We will change it up a bit, keep people on their toes.”

Cheers Tom, and best of luck with the album and the tour.

The Bad Flowers’ debut album, “Starting Gun” is released on Friday 16th February.

They tour the UK with Stone Broken and Jared James Nichols from Thursday 22nd February. More information available here.

Interview: Samantha Lamb

Band images: Mark Varney

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