Buffalo Summer- Spring 2020

The new album

Southern influenced rock is a sub-genre currently enjoying a significantly heightened popularity. Bands such as The Cadillac Three and Blackberry Smoke are really leading the charge and successfully turning rock fans’ heads. However there is a band closer to home here in the UK that is giving these American heavyweights a massive run for their money. Hailing from South Wales, Buffalo Summer will be releasing their third and monumental album Desolation Blue on the 27th of March. The band have shared 2 releases already which have hugely raised our expectations of what this new album will deliver: Everybody’s Out For Number One and Hit The Ground Running are high energy tracks that continue the honesty and authenticity Buffalo Summer committed to with their 2013 self-titled debut and 2016’s follow up album Second Son. We catch up with vocalist Andrew Hunt and bass player Darren King half way through their Spring UK tour and it’s a very warm welcome we receive. The guys are brimming with optimism, positivity and pride in the knowledge that after years in the making, in only a few days Desolation Blue will drop. We grab a seat and talk about how it all came together…

I would like to come straight on to the new music. Your third album, Desolation Blue, is out on 27th March. With just a few days to go, what thoughts are going through your mind at album release time?

Darren - There is still a lot of administration and housekeeping that’s happening behind-the-scenes, for example we did a new music video about a week ago at the beginning of the tour. We are kind of keeping on top of that. 

Andrew - Yes we have a new music video coming out next week and the album the week after but it’s also a relief that the album is coming out. We made the album 3 years ago and there’s been various problems with the record label getting the mixes right and the artwork etc, but we are there now and we are really excited.

In advance of the albums launch we’ve been teased with two tracks. Lead single, Everybody’s Out For Number One, challenges the listener to consider the type of person they want to be. We’ve also had your second single Hit The Ground Running, a fantastic stomping track along with quite a clear message of you can be a face in the crowd or you can grasp of the life for what it has to offer. Buffalo Summer have clearly chosen the latter! Together these tracks bring a very uplifting and empowering experience. How representative are these tracks of the rest of the album and overall what was your vision for Desolation Blue?

Andrew – That’s a really good question. You’re interpretation is pretty much bang on. A lot of the new album does have darker elements than the previous 2 albums. There’s a lot more light and shade than previous records and lyrically it’s a lot more of a personal and honest album. Whereas some songs are close to the surface, the album is a lot more close to the bone in some songs. Hit The Ground Running is probably slightly an anomaly to maybe some of the lyrics on the album because it does have a more positive outlook, having that focus and vision to go out and achieve the things you want to achieve in life. As you say, Everybody’s Out For Number One is that thing for people to question how we are as people in the world and how the world is changing at the moment because it is becoming in my opinion, because we are all engrossed in technology, a very narcissistic world. We are all guilty of it.

Desolation Blue is also a very inclusive affair with contributions from some great guest artists and I’d like to talk a little bit more about these. Firstly REM’s Peter Buck guests on 2 tracks, playing 12 string guitar on ‘The Bitter End’ and mandolin on ‘Last To Know’. How did this collaboration come about?          

Andrew – We were in the studio with our producer, a guy called Barrett Martin who was in a band called The Screaming Trees, who over the years has appeared on some REM albums. He’s done stuff with Queens Of The Stone Age and Stone Temple Pilots – all bands I grew up listening to. When we recorded Last To Know, I could hear a mandolin on the track, and my description was could we get a mandolin like REM, like REM used it? Barrett said ‘well as it happens, I’m friends with Peter Buck from REM’. So we were in Wales with no phone signal, took a drive on to a hilltop, got a signal and Barrett called Peter Buck. It was very surreal. He explained the situation, sent him the song and Peter said ‘Yeah, no problem’. When Barrett got back to Seattle, he met up with Peter and he recorded the mandolin on Last To Know. Barrett played him the rest of the album and Peter said he’d like to play 12 string guitar on The Bitter End as well and that’s how we had Peter Buck!

It’s perhaps no surprise that you would choose and welcome working with Kelby Ray from The Cadillac Three - who plays lap steel guitar on Hit The Ground Running – as there a kinship amongst your music and Southern-tinged rock is quite rightly enjoying a heightened popularity. The Cadillac Three are perhaps one of the bands leading the charge. What did you learn from your experience of working with Kelby? 

Darren - It was done remotely effectively. It’s one of the benefits of the technological age in which we live in. The song Hit The Ground Running was cut and printed and done, and it was fairly late on in the stage, it was probably about 6 to 8 months ago, and we were getting mixes done again and doing some critical listening. With Hit The Ground Running we felt like maybe there were certain aspects of the track that were a little bit empty, like maybe we should have put something in there. There was a suggestion that maybe we should put some lap steel on it but we only know one lap steel guy and that’s Kelby! So we just texted him and asked if he could play some stuff on one of the new tunes on the record and he texted back and said ‘Yeah, absolutely’! So we pinged him the separates, he tracked his lap steel parts at home and just pinged them back. But the coolest thing about it was he didn’t necessarily write set parts for the sections. He just sent us an array of riffs and we just dragged them in and put them where we wanted them. Like I said, it was done by remote and I don’t mean for it to sound cold, but he just said ‘there’s loads of stuff, take it all and use as much as you want’. It’s awesome! We just took the bits that we loved, dragged them in and there you go!

Andrew – We’ve toured with them 3 times in the UK and around Europe so we both have a good rapport and have developed a friendship with them. Like you say, they are one of the leaders and they’re also one of the few bands that is genuinely authentic. They are the real deal.

Darren – We actually played the first gigs they ever played in the UK and we were opening for them on those first few shows. At the time we had been playing shows in London and we were the first British band they ever played with in Britain. We’ve been mates with him for a good few years now. They are just awesome guys.

This is the second album you’ve made with Barrett Martin (he produced your second album Second Son in 2014). What is it about Barrett that creates such fantastic results?

Andrew – I think he’s a fantastic musician in his own right. The man, even though he is a drummer, he plays a lot of other instruments and after he left The Screaming Trees he spent the best part of 20 years travelling through Africa, South America and learning things like ancient drum practices. It’s just his outlook on life as well, he brings a certain vibe or an atmosphere of creativity to the studio, and also rather than where some producers may come in and say ‘Do this, do that’, he is more fun and will let us tap into the vibe, like ‘Try this, try that’. 

Darren – Barrett’s that anomaly where… I think everyone’s met cool old rock ‘n’ roll dudes where they can tell you all the rock ‘n’ roll stories like ‘Oh, I was in a limo with Chris Cornell’. He has all of that but he can also tell you about the time he spent 20 months living in a treehouse in Uruguay learning from ancient tribes! He’s got this unbelievable world music and this weird ethic. It’s strange, he is a rock ‘n’ roll drummer who loves Led Zeppelin and John Bonham as much as everybody else but he’s also got this weird sort of Mother Earth thing, like really crazy. He’s just an awesome person to be around. He’s a really funny dude and his positivity is massive. He’s about as an accomplished musician as I’ve ever met in my life. Forget drums, he plays pretty much everything to be honest.

Andrew – He plays double bass, guitar. He ended up paying Hammond organ on the record and added a few textures to the album.

Darren – He’s just a really awesome personality that we as a band clicked with instantly and again he’s a mate of ours who we just like to have around when we are writing. 

Andrew – And when I was a kid I used to have posters of his band on my wall!

Does he know that? Is it something you told him?

Andrew – Well he stayed at my house! (Laughs!) The posters are still there. Apart from The Screaming Trees he was in a band called Mad Season with Layne Staley from Alice In Chains. I grew up on all that stuff. They were my favourite bands. We ended up touring with Barrett when he was in band called Walking Papers with Duff McKagan from Guns n Roses. We played in Cologne in Germany one day and we got off stage and he said ‘Do you want to make a record?’. So that’s how we made Second Son. The second time when he came, it was straight from supporting Aerosmith to a little cottage with us in West Wales to do the pre-production on the album and we made the album.       

You were clearly a long time fan before you even met Barrett. At a long time fan, to find yourself working with this person and him staying at your house, how did that feel?

Andrew – Surreal, actually! But after a while it just becomes normality although I do of course have a huge admiration for his work. It was the same when we first started touring with Duff. We were aware that he was a superstar, but after a few days it was a more casual ‘Hi, Duff!’. He took us out one day in Paris and he bought us all sandwiches.

Darren – We took him out! (Laughs!)

Andrew – But after a while you just realise these people are human as well.

You are now just over halfway through your UK tour. What have the audience reactions been to the new material?

Darren – Everybody seems to be responding really well to the new songs. It’s more than half the set where we play new songs. We play 3/4 of the album every single night and we are really, really blessed to have amazing fans who come to see us everywhere and anywhere. So it’s nice to see a lot of people who we already know, You know, fans who are friends of ours. So essentially this time it is entirely for them. They already know the first two records and they’ve seen as multiple times. So we’re going to come out and play 3/4 of the songs that they haven’t heard yet and in two weeks time all will be revealed

Andrew – So it’s like a nice little excuse for people to hear the new material.

Darren – Obviously those people every night who have never seen us or heard of us ever before so it doesn’t really matter either way. I don’t know any of our songs! So whether we play old ones or new ones it doesn’t really matter.

Following the albums launch, what other the plans do you have for 2020?

Darren – It all comes off the back of the record. There will be more shows and there will be more tours towards the end of the year. Like I said, administratively there is ‘paperwork’ but you can bet your bottom dollar there’s gonna be more gigs.  I dare say there will be another music video thereafter for one of the other songs. 

Andrew – We may play a couple of festivals.

Darren – So there’s absolutely going to be more touring and more shows!

As our conversation draws to a close, it’s great to see the huge amount of anticipation building up amongst Buffalo Summer’s fan base for the new album. Hit The Ground Running and Everybody’s Out For Number One really do suggest that Desolation Blue is something quite special.

For more information visit www.buffalosummer.net. In the meantime, check out their video to Hit The Ground Running below.