Young Hereos Craft Delicate Rock and Roll
By David Chiu
Long Beach, California’s Avi Buffalo doesn’t sound like your typical indie rock band. From listening to their upcoming self-titled Sub Pop debut (out April 27) the quartet’s sound seems almost rooted in late’60s/early ‘70s psychedelic rock. But there is no denying that the band’s music is somewhat distinct from what their peers are churning out these days– highlighted by Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg’s intimate yet distinctive singing and guitar.
And while rock music these days tends to go for something either jarring, fast or bombastic, the music of Avi Buffalo is marked by gorgeous melodies, subtle atmospherics and introspective lyrics. The musical moods on the debut album vary—from the poppy “What’s In It For” and the rocking “Five Little Sluts,” to the lovely balladry of “Jessica” and the country stylings of “One Last.”
The band members—Zahner-Isenberg, keyboardist Rebecca Coleman, bassist Arin Fazio and drummer Sheridan Riley—have known each other since high school. They recently opened for Long Wave and are still on tour as a support act for Japandroids. After some dates in Europe later in the spring, Avi Buffalo will make an appearance at All Tomorrow’s Parties in Monticello, NY.
MME spoke with Avi Buffalo singer Zahner-Isenberg who, in few words, gave us the skinny on the band and the music.
How long has the band been together? How old you are?
A couple of years. We’re all between 18 and 21. (Editorial note: WOW.)
How did you get into music growing up?
I always listened to music, but one day I picked up a guitar and started messing around.
Who were some of your influences or the acts you grew up listening to?
Early on Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Paul Simon, Jimmy Page, Nels Cline, anything, etc.
Do you remember when you started playing guitar and writing songs?
Yes, I was in 9th grade.
What were the types of songs you were writing or playing back then?
Simple acoustic ones. Just songs really.
Your vocals are very unique. Was it a vocal style that was natural to you or did you developed it over time?
No, i just freeball it. I still don’t know how to sing.
How did you and the other Avi Buffalo members go from being classmates to starting a band? What was it that you had in common that made it a perfect fit?
They were all just players who had sat in with me before, so we knew each other musically.
When Avi Buffalo was starting out, what would you say was your first big break?
Playing in Los Angeles opened up shows for us.
How did you attract the attention of Sub Pop?
A dude recommended us to their A&R guy, so he checked it out for a while ‘til we had pro tracks. Then he called us up.
There are a lot solid tracks on the debut album. Is there that all the songs share in common?
Not really. I hope that they make sense together, but all the songs have been around for like three years.
What is the origin of “What’s In It For?”
I wrote it when i was listening to Beachwood Sparks, inspired by Farmer Dave Scher. (Editorial note: a long-lost and great band.)
“Jessica” is a lovely song on the record. Is it about someone in particular?
I have to ask you how came up with the song “Summer Cum.” One often doesn’t come across a title like that.
I just used the first line of the song as the title. It’s easy.
How would you describe your sound?
I wouldn’t know really. I just try to make it pretty.
What has been the highlight so far for the band–whether it’s a gig, being on the road or making the album?
All the good fulfilling times.
How does it feel like to get this first album under your belt? And what are you future aspirations with the band?
It’s good–I’m glad its done, but there’s a lot to be done in the future. I don’t think we’ve said nearly enough with this one.
At your Bowery Ballroom show I think it was Sheridan who asked the audience where to get an egg cream in the city? Were you guys able to find one?
We didn’t go out and find one that night, but we got kebabs.
Avi Buffalo: What’s In It For