INTERVIEW

For the tornado of feedback that they are on stage, they’re a quiet bunch.

Photography by Holly Lucas

Photography by Holly Lucas

FOR THE TORNADO OF FEEDBACK THAT THEY ARE ON STAGE, THEY’RE A QUIET MUNCH

Sub Pop’s assault on the summer has taken many musical varieties this year, but none have been sweeter than the sounds of Avi Buffalo’s debut LP – an album littered with lush harmonies, sweeping arrangements and seamless pop gems, all stemming from the mind of an eighteen-year-old named Avi, from Long Beach, California. We tried to catch up with him, Arin Fazio (bass) and Sheridan Riley (drums) a while back, only to be stopped by a hospitalising bout of food poisoning. Finally we find the trio having played at Green Man festival; one of their first UK shows as a three-piece, following the departure of keyboardist Rebecca Coleman.

Live, Avi Buffalo is a much more charged-up, brutal affair than on record, their leader hunched over his guitar, his hands a pink blur as he frantically mangles and assaults the fret board on the edge of molestation. He’s a fan of making noise (which he describes as “really tasteless, brutal speaker gargling”) to such a degree that he is no longer permitted by police to practice in his garage back home. I ask is this an intended direction for the new record, to which Avi replies, “Maybe. I’d definitely like more guitar on the next record.”

The change in tone from sweeter folk to abrasive screeching is perhaps a result of necessity as much as it is an intended musical direction. Losing their keyboard player and backing singer, who was largely responsible for the sweet on-record harmonising, seems to have affected the band’s sonic approach to things. They all nod in quiet agreement when asked if they’ll remain a three-piece. It seems it may be a little too soon to discuss the matter in depth. Avi has a stark intensity to him though, his eyes persistently transfixed into your retinas, almost reversing the role of who is questioning who.

Avi Buffalo have been the ‘band to interview’ for a while though. It’s been as busy year already, and surely signing with Sub Pop was a big deal?

They all bounce their heads in solid, unified agreement. “Oh yeah, it was huge, a really big deal…They’ve been so great and supportive.”

And the extensive touring, how has that been?

They all solemnly nod and murmur “yeah” but their eyes say more than their mouths do. While they are clearly relishing their musical endeavours they look frazzled. “But we have a month off coming up soon, which we’re looking forward to. We want to practice on our instruments.”

That doesn’t sound like time off to me. That sounds like writing news songs together in practice.

“No,” deadpans Avi “on our own. I think we all want to get a little better on our instruments, I’m going to take some guitar lessons…and hopefully learn some piano.”

It’s hard not to chuckle at this. Avi, who is now nineteen, is by far the most gifted guitar player I see all weekend at Green Man. Likewise, when I bring up the age factor of the band, he instantly and earnestly states, “I mean, I’m nearly twenty now, I’m trying to get away from the whole high school thing.”

That’s where the band met, in high school, and they’ve gone straight from graduating to being in a full-time touring band. They all “definitely” plan to go to college though, and can see the pros and cons of choosing the band over the life of an average teen.

“I’m not sure if there are aspects of growing up that we’re missing out on or not,” ponders Avi. “It’s hard to tell when it’s happening at the time. If we are missing out on some aspects then we’re learning from other aspects [by being in a band].”

Recently they’ve played with a huge array of people, supporting Modest Mouse, Wolf Parade, Blitzen Trapper and being asked by Jim James to support My Morning Jacket at the Greek theatre in L.A, a venue they watched the very same band in as punters only a year earlier.

“Touring with people who are musical influences has been amazing,” enthuses Avi. “We’ve learnt so much from them about being in a band… on a personal level even more than on a musical level.”

Avi Buffalo’s musical aspirations coupled with their enthusiasm and grounded personalities all point to a prosperous and auspicious rise in the music world, while their leader has serious potential to become one of the guitar virtuoso’s of our generation, following in the footsteps of one of his heroes Nels Cline.

I ask what is it about the Wilco guitarist that Avi admires? He fumbles around, words half falling out of his mouth, half constructed sentences meandering, until he finally smirks, “he’s just Nels Cline.” And for now Avi Buffalo seem quite content at being just that – no pretence, no bullshit, no disillusionment, just Avi Buffalo.

By Daniel Dylan Wray

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Originally published in issue 21 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. September 2010

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