:: Marquee Magazine presents ::
:: Buffalo Killers ::
:: w/ The Dumm Friend’s League ::
:: b. side lounge :: August 5 ::
By Brian F. Johnson
It was the picture of the gold-top Les Paul bass that first made me take notice of the Buffalo Killers. I figured that anyone who wielded such a fire-breathing monster — especially a towering, ominous looking freak — was worth a listen. It was the opening notes of the song “San Martine Des Morelle” off the band’s self-titled 2006 release that let me know I was on to something.
Now, two years later with a brand new release, Let It Ride, under their belt and the kind of growth and maturity that comes from lessons learned during a slew of gigs opening for The Black Crowes, Ohio’s Buffalo Killers have emerged as one of today’s most crucial and skilled power trios — greasier than a Pep Boys parking lot and hotter than a HEMI.
Buffalo Killers actually grew out of the death of the band Thee Shams. Zach Gabbard, who now holds down bass and vocal roles, started Thee Shams in 1999 and the band went on to release two albums. Thee Shams had issues keeping members, and eventually Gabbard asked his younger brother Andy to join the ill-fated group. The younger Gabbard then invited his friend Joseph Sebaali to join on organ. After trying in vain to keep that project going, those three members — the Gabbard brothers and Sebaali — changed their instruments and Buffalo Killers were born. “We took a big break and Joey started playing drums and Zach started playing bass and it just kind of evolved into this three-piece where it works. And that’s what we do now,” said Andy Gabbard in a recent interview with The Marquee, days before Let It Ride dropped, thus launching their latest tour.
Back then, though, Buffalo Killers were playing around Ohio and self-recording, and Zach sent a few copies of a five-song demo to a couple labels; just a blank CD with his name and phone number written on them.
Only a few days later, Zach got a call from Alive Records saying they were interested. “We were looking to start over and not have to worry about if people were going to come to our shows and not have to worry about selling records. But everything came really quick and Alive said, ‘We’ll put out your record in three months,” Zach Gabbard told The Marquee in a separate conversation, while tending to his new four-month-old, baby daughter.
The boys quickly scrambled to write a few more tracks and record their debut, an album that has a truly distinct and unique sound, but one that also gives nods to everyone from Black Sabbath to The Beatles. Within a few months, The Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson got hold of the release and invited Buffalo Killers out on the road with them. “I had just gotten off the phone with our booking agent, setting up a fall tour, and he started calling me back frantically. I was over it for the day and I couldn’t figure out why the fuck he was calling me so much,” said Zach. “Finally, I called him back and he said that The Crowes had called and invited us on the whole fall tour. I was like, ‘Well, cancel all that other shit.
“We did a couple shows with them before we set out on the full tour and we traveled light at the time, because we were just playing in small bars. So we did a couple trial shows and came home and fucking got bigger amps and beefed everything up” said Zach.
For their new album, Let It Ride, Buffalo Killers teamed up with fellow Ohio musician and producer Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. While their self-titled release is raw, rocking and powerful, Let It Ride comes across as a slightly (slightly, mind you) more subdued Buffalo Killers, much more refined and dialed in, but no less powerful.
“We didn’t give any direction to Dan. I’m not the engineer. I’m just there to play the music — you know, you do your job and I’ll do mine,” Zach Gabbard said. “We didn’t say turn this up and turn this down. We didn’t dwell on it because I thought we should be in the moment and, for both albums, they represent those parts of our lives.”
The band also released a limited pressing of a live album with Let It Ride, to showcase their live set. “It’s a bootleg recording that sounds like shit, but the point was to show that nobody made us sound like this. It was supposed to show that if you put a boombox in the room, it’s listenable, regardless,” said Zach. “It’s an answer to all of those bands that emerge that everyone says you have to go see, and their album is decent, and you go see them and they’re terrible, because they’re only pretty and didn’t write their shit.”
Recommended if you like:
• The Beatles
• Black Sabbath
• The Black Crowes