The Cavern Exeter 16th July 2013.
Buffalo Summer are definitely a band in the ascendance. The Welsh Blues/Groove rockers eponymous debut has earned them rave reviews, and they have been touring Europe relentlessly since October on the back of it. I caught up with brothers, Andrew and Gareth Hunt (vocals and drums, respectively), Jonny Williams (guitar) and Darren King (bass) in Exeter, as their current tour with Heaven’s Basement comes to a climax.
Hi, guys. You’ve just sound checked at Exeter’s Cavern3, and I’ve dragged you out into an alleyway for a chat. This’ll be the third time I’ve seen you this year (after successful sets at HRH AOR festival, and Road Trip, Ibiza). It’s been a busy old year for you. How does it feel?
DK – “Yeah, It’s been an amazing year… And we’re only half way through!”
AH – “We’ve toured with Walking Papers… twice, Skid Row, then this tour, and next is “Ugly Kid Joe in Switzerland, and there’s been festival slots in between.”
RN – “So it’s a full-time job now?”
AH – “It is now, yes. It’s very glamorous, as you can see.” casting his eye around the Shaded alleyway and the concrete staircase, on which we’re sat. At least it’s clean and out of the beating rays of the afternoon sun!
JW – “Ah, yes…sat around drinking coffee… Not even Starbucks, mind. Just… coffee.”
DK – “It’s brown and watery! And it’s better than the muck in Ibiza. Incidentally, the coffee in mainland Spain was delectable…” We continue to discuss continental coffee for a minute…
Back on topic, I ask the guys about the story of the album. Imagine a groovy remix of Toby Jepson (I said I wouldn’t use that reference… I lied!), singing Free and Zeppelin mash ups. I know. You’ve just had a trouser accident, haven’t you?
AH – “It was self-funded, eventually being picked up by Cargo Records, who released it ‘properly’ with a physical disc, as well as iTunes and Amazon download options.”
JW – “It’s not a bad album considering it was recorded in 4 days!”
RN – “Was that to capture raw energy?”
AH – “No. That’s all the money we had!”
A frank and honest answer, but that’s what you get with Buffalo Summer. Honest, genuine… salt of the Earth.
JW – “It was meant to be 5 days, but we had a power cut!”
AH – “We’d like to spend a bit longer on the next album.”
DK – “Yeah. Maybe stretch it out 6 days!
We then briefly discuss how some of the greatest albums were recorded in next to no time.
AH – “I think we definitely captured the energy on this one, but we think the next one will be even stronger.”
RN – “Is that what you’re thinking about now?”
JW – “We think about it every fuckin’ day!”
Jonny’s a man of few words, and as dry as cream cracker on toast! Andrew elaborates…
AH – “We’ve got about 20 new songs to choose from already. We’ve been touring this album since October now.”
RN – “Have you aired any of the new stuff?”
AH – “On our headline tour of Spain we had to! The album covered the first 40 minutes or so of the gig, so we had no choice in order to fill the other hour!”
DK – “A lot of the songs that will go towards the new album feel like ‘old’ songs now! So we shouldn’t have the ‘difficult second album’ syndrome.”
We chat about touring. I can tell these guys are riding the rock roller coaster, and loving every minute of it. I ask about the current tour with Heaven’s Basement and Skarlett Riot.
As one, all four agree, “Yeah, it’s been amazing.”
DK – “I think tonight is the smallest venue on the tour, “Snuggest” Jonny interjects.
DK – “Yeah, ‘snuggest’.
RN – “And it’s sold out on pre-sale?”
DK – “Yeah. I believe so. This’ll be the 6th or 7th sell out.”
AH – “The others have been pretty close, mind. There’s been a lot of hot, sweaty gigs.”
DK – “Touring in the middle of a heatwave.” He thinks for a second. “Here’s a question. How long does it have to be hot for a heatwave to become Summer?”
JW – “You watch… It’ll snow next week!”
Yet again, we digress… So, I ask, “Apart from the heat, how’s the mood been on the tour?”
DK – “All the bands have been getting on really well.”
RN – “Are you all riding together?”
AH – “No. We can only dream of tour buses!”
Then, as straight-faced as a funeral director, Jonny chips in with, “Actually, we’re going to skip tour buses, and go straight to helicopters!”
Meanwhile back in the real world,
AH – “We’ve noticed a different audience to what we’re used to. Touring with established ‘classic’ rock acts brings a slightly more mature audience. The crowds on this tour seem to have been a lot younger.”
DK – “I’ve been blown away by the reaction we’ve been getting, not just at the gigs, but particularly through social media. That’s almost become a full-time job in itself!”
JW – “People tweeting ‘I’m watching you now!”
DK – “Yeah, I tweeted a picture at Download of the crowd from the back of the drum riser. I got 40 tweets back of people taking pictures of me taking a picture!”
That brings to mind a pet peeve of mine. The sea of rectangular glows at any gig these days, kids distancing themselves from the event right before their eyes! So, I ask “Do you think that spending the gig on your smartphone is okay?”
JW – “I don’t think Led Zeppelin would have got away with half of the stuff they did if camera phones were around then.”
The Led Zeppelin comment guides me to ask about the band’s history and influences, for any newcomers to the Buffalo party.
AH – “We officially started in 2010, from a gigging point of view. Jonny and me love the blues, and had been jamming for a while, and found ourselves writing tunes.
RN – “The ‘Robert Plant look’ isn’t an accident, then?”
AH – “I might have borrowed a move or two from him.” He smirks.
“Free, Deep Purple, Black Crowes… They were my influences…”
We are cut short by a request. “Can one of you shift your van?” Johnny makes his apologies, and leaves to move the van! Even Rock ‘n’ Roll has to give in to yellow lines, it seems! Darren picks up the thread…
“There’s a lot of stuff that passed me by before the band. I found Zeppelin, and pretty much stayed there! Now, Deep Purple and Free are huge for me. I owe a lot to Andy Fraser.”
For the first time, Gareth chips in…
“I’m pretty much the same. Bonham was amazing. I do like a bit of 70’s prog though.”
DK – “We, the rhythm section, do get turned on by strange proggy stuff. It may not be that noticeable, but it’s there.”
To wrap up, I ask the guys about their plans for the future.
AH – “We’ve got a European tour with Ugly Kid Joe straight after this tour…”
DK – “Then we’ve planned some pre-production time… Thinking about the next album. There’s a lot to sort out, but I guarantee you a new Buffalo Summer album before 2040!”
Well there’s something to look forward to!
In the meantime, check out their self-titled debut. Or even better, go catch them on tour. I’m off inside to do just that.
Interview and Photography by Rob Nankivell