Once upon a time, Dain Griffin played in bands. He also went on tour with these bands. Sometimes, these bands played for ten people in a basement. Other times they played for 200+ people in a venue. After years of this, Dain quit playing in bands to focus on himself and his family. But at the end of the day, Dain Griffin is a songwriter. And when life happens, a songwriter has to write songs.
So after years off the road and away from the stage, Dain Griffin - formerly of the Phoenix-based emo bands Merit and Out of Reverie - is back with Dead Flowers, his first full-length as a solo artist. Of course, the return to the mic didn't happen overnight. It takes a lot to bring someone out of emo "retirement." For Dain, it took a loss and a restructuring of his day-to-day life.
“I started writing this record right around the time I got sober, and it was very cathartic for me,” he says. "I had to find other ways to deal with my mental health other than self-medicating.” The song that best exemplifies this is the first track on Dead Flowers, “The Truth About the Thirties” (named after a previous Merit track called “The Truth About the Twenties”).
“Those early [Merit] songs were about navigating adulthood and dealing with the things life threw our way. ‘The Truth About the Thirties’ is about realizing how I navigated my twenties in a very self-destructive way - and how that lifestyle no longer resonates with me.”
What Dain is talking about - and ultimately what Dead Flowers is about - is growing up. Not the "now I'm older and care about different things" type of growing up, but the "I have to consciously start making different decisions for my well-being and the people I love" type.
One of the events that brought Dain to this decision was the loss of his grandfather, who helped parent him. “As I [processed] the grief of losing someone so integral in my life, I found that reflecting on how he helped raise me like I was his own, and writing about him, really helped me cope with the fact that he was gone,” the artist says. This loss is reflected upon explicitly in the title track, "Dead Flowers (Flores Marchitas)." "Five years doesn't seem that long," the song laments in equal amounts of appreciation and disbelief.
Fans of early Dashboard Confessional, Hot Rod Circuit, and The Early November will find this tension familiar, yet fresh. The concept behind "emo" music is the idea of ultimate vulnerability. Thus, no two people can perform it the same. But Dead Flowers is more than just a vulnerable record: the songs may be too honest to be radio rock, but they are also too "big" sounding for a sleight-of-hand indie record. Through every band, tour, and record he's been a part of, this is what Dain Griffin was always trying to achieve musically. For all of his trying, he finally succeeded: he just had to let himself grow up first.
Dead Flowers by Dain Griffin is out on February 3rd, 2023 via Hidden Home Records.