Sunday, January 12, 2014

INTERVIEW: A Conversation with Zach Gabbard (Buffalo Killers)

You initially released “Ohio Grass” as an ep for Record Store Day this year – what went into the decision to re-release it with additional tracks through traditional distribution channels?

It did well and we wanted to share it so when we decided to repress the vinyl, we through some songs from Record Store Day that we did live from a record store called Omega in Dayton, OH and then we had a brand new track. 

You’re from the Cincinnati area, did living in Ohio influence your writing?

Well, we always work hard at what we do, and I live out in the sticks so I’m not really caught up in anything _ I don’t really have any day-to-day head-trip bullshit anymore.  So, we just write songs and I have two kids and I think where I am from keeps me going.  It’s cheap to live here, and we can maintain life and go on the road.  It helps us to keep records coming. 

Ohio seems to be a place for that.  I know that you worked with John Curley from the Afghan Whigs and Bob Pollard’s out of Dayton, and the standard of living there allows him to keep putting stuff out at the frequency that he does.

Man, Guided By Voices…I bought “Bee Thousand” on my 18th birthday and it was the first weekend I had gone out on the road with the band I was in at the time.  I had no idea they were from Dayton, I had just heard it at a bar while we were out.  And seeing the Afghan Whigs on MTV as a kid?   I just thought that shit was for fucking rock stars from Hollywood or something (laughs) – that was super inspirational.  Guided By Voices and bands like that, they were doing this in their BASEMENT!

I know…being in your late-30s and a school teacher?  That was kind of the prototypical rock dream come true!

Yeah, man.  They just kept doing it and they didn’t fucking care about anything. They lived in Dayton, they got drunk, and they made records.  You know?  (laughs) They were fucking awesome!  You’d go to Dayton and go out to the bars and see Bob there, and it was like fucking Paul McCartney walking around.

The cheap and easy reference point for your music would be the Black Crowes, and you definitely share some of the same aesthetic, but I hear some heavier psych elements in your music that seem to point to acts like Blue Cheer and Vanilla Fudge and even more contemporary acts like the Heartless Bastards and Sheepdogs.  Who do you consider some of the artists that inspire you?

Me and Andy have been playing music forever with Joey, and the music that we write is just the result of everything that has been put into us over the years.  We grew up listening to Neil Young and the Grateful Dead and country music and bluegrass.  I like to think that we are just an honest band, you know?  We are what we are.  You can’t cover it up.  I just love playing music with my brother and Joey.  We have another guy in the band now too – we’ve been a four-piece since March. And we all really connect well – it took a special person to join us since we’ve been a three-piece for so long.  Byt to share those moments on stage with the people that you love and to travel everywhere, I could never imagine that we’d be doing this…it’s awesome.  It tickles me to death.

What’s your songwriting process like?  Does it start with a riff or a lyric?  Do you bring something in and then the whole band fleshes it out?

It actually comes really easy.  Me and Andy write songs apart and then bring them together.  The majority of what we show each other that first time, that’s what it is.  With some minor changes…it is a completely open atmosphere where the other guys can feel free to add stuff. The way I usually write songs is in my head – I take that little piece, the starting, and then flesh it out when I get a guitar in my hands. The majority of the time I just start with something that sticks in my head.  I have a great songwriting partner in my brother.  He brings songs in and they are just beautiful. We work well together…it’s easy.  It’s not labored over at all.  It’s harder just getting everyone in the same room [laughs].  Everybody’s connected, everybody wants to be there and we’re all in the same headspace.

Are there challenges to being in a band with your brother?  Does it get like the Davies brothers (of the Kinks) or Gallagher brothers (of Oasis), or do you guys find a way to make it work?

It’s great for me!  We both want to be there.  It’s easy and we do care about each other.  And we LIKE each other [laughs]

That makes a world of difference, I’m sure [laughs]

Totally [laughs].  I mean, shit man, I’m lucky I get to travel with my brother.  Some people don’t spend any time with their family.  We don’t have any real problems.  I’ve got the ultimate bandmates.  The not getting along in a band, that definitely shows in your output and I think you can tell from our music that we like each other.  We’re not Davies [laughs].

Do you feel like your writing has matured or that you have grown as a songwriter since having a family?

Having a family just made me grow as a person, and as a songwriter, that all plays into it.  The more I write, the more secure I am in my writing and it’s just a matter of letting it come out.  As far as being a parent, that shapes everything about you.  It brought a lot out of me, material-wise.  I have two kids, and we live out in the country, there are chickens in the yard, I have a wife and she cares about the band…I’m where I want to be!

That’s awesome, man.  So what’s on tap next for you guys?

We just started a new album and we signed with Sun Pedal Recordings, which is a part of the Warner Music Group.  We did that awhile back and we just worked on the record this past week.  It’s being produced by Jim Wirt (renowned Cleveland engineer and producer). It’s in the can…being mixed right now.  It’ll be out in the beginning of 2014. 

There’s a plan to tour the record obviously?

Oh yeah.  When it comes out, we will definitely do a US tour. Can’t wait to get back on the road!

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