“I like the dichotomy of beauty and pain. I’ve had a few people tell me they have come to our shows based on our name alone. And I feel good about that. I feel like it describes our music really well.”
Dallas, Texas gothic rockers Rosegarden Funeral party are nothing if not driven. The ambitious trio has self-financed a relentless string of national tours and often self-releases videos and singles (with help from others—see below) in addition to playing support for a variety of local and national acts. The band recently scored high-profile opening slots for Pink Turns Blue at Austin’s San La Muerte Fest as well as for David J of Bauhaus at Levitation Fest in the same city a couple of months later. The band’s musical approach might immediately remind some of classic postpunk acts like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Rubella Ballet, or Skeletal Family, but there is a deep appreciation of shoegaze and psychedelic rock among the band’s members, too. Recently, the band started its own monthly deathrock events in North Texas (the events happen under the name “Obituary”), held at their own commune-like abode that they refer to as the Rosegarden Funeral Home. Rosegarden Funeral Party recently announced a new LP, MARTYR, and the lead-off single of the same name for that LP is below.
RFP singer Leah Lane’s vocals and shimmering guitar work guide the band’s songs through shadowy landscapes of loss, tragedy, regret—a central preoccupation of the band’s thematic approach seems to concern the struggle to find hope, or at least beauty—or perhaps only escape—from an environment of overwhelming despair. There is a touch of the sparkly-eyed, dreamy Los Angeles punk-influenced power-pop of yesteryear in some of the band’s works (think UXA-meets-a-darker-Missing Persons in this regard); sometimes it feels more apt to call Rosegarden Funeral Party a goth-pop act. Bassist Wil anchors the band’s sound with a solid, driving backbone on the low end while drummer Dylan propels the group forward as a single sonic unit; the two work together to create sinewy, colubrine rhythms that are seductively danceable. Whereas many bands in the current post-punk scene have progressed into (or devolved into, depending on your perspective) synth-based duos or backing track-based solo acts, Rosegarden Funeral Party reassert the relevance of the primal, warm-blooded band: Although synths are indeed involved, drummer Dylan plays an acoustic kit, and Wil and Leah play bass and six-string rhythm guitar, respectively. As well, RFP are part of a clutch of newer postpunk acts coming out of Texas that are starting to gain some national notoriety: Along with fellow Texans in Twin Tribes, SRSQ, Tearful Moon, Mass Exhibit, Blood Bells, Garden of Mary, Three Rose Charm, and more, Rosegarden Funeral Party represent a new ascendancy of darkwave-influenced postpunk in the Lone Star State. Below, I asked singer and band frontperson Leah Lane about Rosegarden Funeral Party’s history and upcoming projects.
Leah Lane of Rosegarden Funeral Party was interviewed by Oliver for post-punk.com in September 2019.
First thing’s first: When did Rosegarden Funeral Party start, who’s in the band now, and what do they play? And out of which town are you located?
Leah: Rosegarden Funeral Party officially took action at the very beginning of 2018, on January 11th at the N9NES in Deep Ellum, TX. Jeffrey Brown of King Camel and you, Oliver, gave us our true start. We had been playing around DFW under a different name and with a different guitarist before that, but the entire band feels we didn’t really begin until we became a four-piece. Before that, we struggled to find harmony within the group. Once we shed our guitarist the dynamic lined up perfectly. As we stand now we are Wil Farrier on bass guitar, Dylan Stamas on drums and drum machine, and, myself, Leah Lane, on guitar and vocals. We currently live in Dallas, TX; however, we’re moving to Los Angeles, CA, in 2020.
In 2018 you all came out with “The Chopping Block” EP. Was this release cassette only? Has anything else come out?
Leah: The only physical format “The Chopping Block” EP was released on was cassette, yes. We released it through a local, Dallas-based, label called Moon Sounds Records. We couldn’t have been luckier than to be picked up by them for this debut EP. We felt a cassette release was fitting for us, as we are very influenced by the 1980’s. We plan to someday release it on vinyl. Since our EP release in March, 2018 we’ve released a single titled “Another Dead Soul” and we also recently released the single track “Martyr,” with video. Another Dead Soul is an exploration into the desire to be light when darkness consumes you. (It can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and anywhere else music streams. The video, by Erin DeVany of AllHallowsProductions, is also available for viewing on YouTube.)
You mentioned I gave you all your start, but I could swear you’ve been booked elsewhere, probably by King Camel? Where was your first show and what were the circumstances?
Leah: We owe the world to Jeffrey Brown of King Camel. He gave me, especially, my start back when I was fifteen and playing in a psychedelic band. He saw my band play at a local dive-bar-haunt and drug us to the top of the local scene by placing us on one of his Local Education Fest bills in Dallas. That really changed everything for me. When that band broke up, I started what later became Rosegarden Funeral Party under a different name: SWAY. That was back when we were a five-piece. We frequented King Camel bills from our inception and we still do and always will. Jeff is an absolute pleasure to work with and carries true love and respect for the musicians he works with… a rare find these days. Our first ever show playing what would later become the tracklist for the Chopping Block was at a show Jeffrey Brown threw at the same bar he had found me at nearly four years prior. We were young, confused as to what we sounded like, and we had a very shaky lineup, but Jeff believed in the vision before anyone else.
Where did you all learn to play your instruments? Have you been playing them very long?
Leah: We’ve all been playing since we were children, or at least pre-teens.. I started playing in touring bands when I was thirteen years old. It’s something that we’ve always done; I don’t think we know how to do anything else but make and share music. Guitar was my first instrument, but I spent a long time playing just keys. Rosegarden Funeral Party is my first time taking the role of a lead guitarist. This is also the first band that Wil has ever taken on bass in. Before that, he was always a lead guitarist. We liked the concept of having a simple guitarist and a complex bassist rather than the more common inverse situation. More focus on the rhythm and less on intricate guitar work. The fact that all of us are in new territory breeds innovation and creativity as we are all constantly learning new things about our instruments. I think Dylan was born behind the drums.
How did the members of Rosegarden Funeral Party meet each other to become a band?
Leah: Well, it’s definitely been a long time coming getting this lineup together, but Wil and I have been together since the very beginning. Ha—I guess that’s true in a lot of ways. Wil, my bassist, is my sibling and we grew up sharing music with one another and influencing one another’s playing and interests. When I decided to create this band, he was the first one I asked to be a part of it. We knew that we wanted to do something that harkened back to traditional goth and post-punk, but we also were driven towards innovation with influences ranging from psychedelic garage rock to shoegaze. It’s no secret that we’ve played with several different drummers trying to find the right fit. We were extremely lucky to find Dylan. I was working at the Sam Ash Music Store in Dallas when Dylan, in solid black and Docs, walked in looking for a fuzz pedal. I showed him a couple of options, including the Electro-Harmonix “Satisfaction,” which he ended up taking home. When I asked how long he’d been playing guitar, he said that he was actually planning to use this with his synths and explained to me that he was a drummer and really enjoyed incorporating drum machines and synthesizers into his drumming. I felt like I had found a unicorn. We had just let our drummer go not two days before and I told Dylan about Rosegarden and asked him to listen to it and see if he would be interested in joining us. We got a drink that night, talked music and the band, and that was it. Rosegarden Funeral Party was finally whole.
What were the bands you’d been in before?
Leah: I used to co-front a psychedelic band called Moon Waves on guitar, vocals, and organ. I did that for about four years alongside Gus Baldwin and John Kuzmick, now of Acid Carousel. Wil also used to co-front a psychedelic band called Black Vega on guitar and vocals alongside Ian Brothers and Ian Salazar now of Majik Taylor. Our drummer Dylan has played with several bands over the years up in Rhode Island, where he is from. He played with Nic’s Mechanics for two years, an alternative band out of Providence. We all have played with different groups and, in all honesty, it makes us appreciate the dynamic that Rosegarden has more than anything. We care about and respect one another and that breeds a truly emotionally creative environment. We are more family than bandmates. We are each other’s best friends and that hasn’t been the case in our other projects. I think one of the more rare aspects of the dynamic within our group is we like to be around each other, just as much as we like playing music together.
As far the name of the band, I’m assuming it’s a mashup of the John Cale song “Rosegarden Funeral of Sores” and The Cure track “Funeral Party”—but is there more to the story? Who thought of the name and what prompted you to go with it?
Leah: You’re absolutely right… Of course, you would guess it. I was driving myself crazy trying to find an original name for the band because we had to change the name (SWAY) upon the knowledge that there are about 1,000 artists under that title (exaggerations, but you get the point). I didn’t want to ever have to worry about changing the name again. I wanted to settle into something and name it and be attached to it and commit to it. We made list after list in my apartment night after night and checked name after name on Discogs… Nothing fit. We almost named the band 62 Reissue because all our guitars at the time were 62 reissues! Woke up the next day and instantly took that one back, ha! One morning, as I was getting ready and listening to music, Bauhaus’ cover of “Rosegarden Funeral Of Sores” played on shuffle and was followed by “Funeral Party” by The Cure. I liked the images both titles conjured up. I liked the dichotomy of beauty and pain. We worried at first that it was too long and possibly forgettable, but pretty quickly people started telling us how much they liked the name. I’ve had a few people tell me they have come to our shows based on the name alone. I feel good about that. I feel like it describes our music really well. It’s become something more than just a band name to us. It’s become a family that includes a lot more people than just us. I think that’s the best thing about it.
Where did you all film the video for “Seeing You Here and Now”? (That’s not White Rock Lake in East Dallas, is it? Hah.) How did that video shoot come together?
Leah: Right again, Oliver! It is White Rock Lake!
One day, while scrolling through Instagram as my gas pumped, I came across this clip from an old Hollywood Noir film (I wish I knew more about movies, but I don’t..) and instantly fell in love with the emotions it brought forth. The clip was of a woman dressed in a dark, glistening gown, stumbling in tears across a moonlit beach. I sent it to Erin (DeVany of All Hallows Productions) and asked her if she wanted to help me do a video inspired by the clip for “Seeing You Here and Now.” I was lucky that she was as excited about it as I was. We met up and shot the video at the lake. I remember really struggling to make a flower crown… —that’s what that little clip of me laughing at the end is.
Erin gave that video its magic. She completely fulfilled every wish I had for it. She’s a true pleasure to work with and she’s family. She’s Rosegarden Funeral Party.
I think the first time I saw you all, you sound-checked before the show with Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Spellbound” (or at least a portion of it), which was exciting. So I’m guessing Siouxsie and the Banshees are a big influence on your sound. What bands, in fact, would you say are influences, and are there any bands that you all are fans of that would surprise other folks?
Leah: Siouxsie and Banshees are definitely a huge influence. As are most bands of that movement and time. Obviously, we love Bauhaus and the Cure… We’re also big fans of Pink Turns Blue, Flowers for Agatha, Human Tetris, 45 Grave, Skeletal Family, Soft Kill, Boy Harsher, the Birthday Party… We also really take influence from bands such as Interpol, Editors, and White Lies… There’s so much more that influences us… I could go on forever, but that’s at least what we’ve been interested in the last few months.
Are you recording any new material right now? If so, what can you tell us about it and on what label etc will it come out?
Leah: We’re looking to release “Martyr,” our next LP, soon …. but the rest will remain in mystery for now….
What is the songwriting process like for Rosegarden Funeral Party? Are you all equal partners or is it pretty divided up between who comes up with the riffs or melodies, and who writes the lyrics, etc.? How does it typically work, and what is an example of this?
Leah: I write the songs… meaning I write my guitar parts and the vocal melodies at home and then I bring them to the band and they all write parts around it. My bandmates are incredible and I truly am the luckiest girl in the world to have each of them. Wil (Bass) has an incredible talent for transitions and structure. He also always catches on very quickly and creating parts comes naturally to him. He effortlessly and effectively creates counter melodies to my guitar part that adds to the sonic space while still holding down rhythm. Dylan (Drums) is everything I could have asked for in a drummer. He’s dynamic and reserved. He plays for the song, rather than for himself. He is so committed to achieving exactly what part will benefit the music best. All of my bandmates are exceptional, and again, I am so insanely lucky to have them. I’m so honored they believe in my vision and message that comes along with Rosegarden Funeral Party.
If there’s anything I didn’t ask about, but that you’d like to mention, here is the place to do it. Thank you!
Leah: We’ve got “Martyr” coming out… Thank you so much for having me Oliver. You’re wonderful! Be kind to each other; we love you.
Rosegarden Funeral Party have a webpage here.
They have a Bandcamp page here.
They also have a Facebook page here.
Rosegarden Funeral Home, which hosts the Obituary deathrock events, has a Facebook page here.