Buffalo Summer are touring the UK throughout March in support of upcoming album Desolation Blue. Rushonrock Editor Simon Rushworth caught up with frontman Andrew Hunt.
Rushonrock: Is it true you recorded Desolation Blue in five days and was that a self-imposed deadline?
Andrew Hunt: We recorded it live in five days and the only things we overdubbed were the vocals and the guitar solos. We were so well rehearsed going into the studio that we really didn’t need more time. I didn’t actually intend to record the vocals live too but I was looking out at Jonny [Williams, guitar] and Darren [King, bass] and there was a definite ‘in the moment’ vibe. It just felt like we had to capture that live energy while we could. I’d not tracked vocals like that before but I did each song two or three times and that was it. I like the way that it sounds and on reflection it’s probably the album I’m happiest about. We didn’t set ourselves a deadline but there’s nothing wrong with being focused. You can overdo it if you stay in the studio for too long. Most of the songs were finished when we went in and there was no messing around. We’ve spent so many years touring together and we’re so well rehearsed as a unit. We didn’t need too much studio time. Sometimes the best songs are the ones where you go in and do them in one or two takes. I do think we captured the essence of Buffalo Summer at its best on Desolation Blue.
Rushonrock: So a five-day blast was never a gamble?
AH: We don’t really have a weak link in this band. Every one of the guys is a really proficient musician and we’ve been together for a long time. It’s a well-oiled machine. We’ve played a few of the new songs live now and the reaction has been good so far. This tour has given us the opportunity to play eight or none new songs and we wanted to do that. We’re proud of what we’ve been able to do on Desolation Blue.
Rushonrock: You collaborated with The Cadillac Three’s Kelby Ray on Hit The Ground Running – how did that come about?
AH: We recorded the song and had the album mixed but at that point we realised there was still something missing. We thought about going back into the studio and adding a bit of slide and then we thought ‘why don’t we just contact Kelby?’. We’ve toured with TC3 maybe three times and always kept in touch with the guys. We sent Kelby the track, he said he liked it and within 48 hours the slide was added! He’s the man of the moment when it comes to slide. He’s brought an instrument associated with country music into the mainstream and influenced a lot of newer bands as a result. He’s just created that unique sound and it really makes Hit The Ground Running.
Rushonrock: Do you feel as if Buffalo Summer really is hitting the ground running again after a quiet couple of years?
AH: When we wrote that song we were already very much in the groove. It was one of several songs we wrote on the road in Germany. I think that was written during the soundcheck in Frankfurt. We got to the venue early and just got to work there and then. It was tweaked and the lyrics finalised in pre-production.
Rushonrock: What’s the story behind the heavy blues sound underpinning Dark Valentine?
AH: It was written in a rehearsal room environment and was done off the cuff. That’s how most of the songs on Desolation Blue came about. We’d always wanted to write a really bluesy track and it came from a jam that just struck a chord. I suppose the reference point was Since I’ve Been Loving You by Led Zeppelin – one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite bands. It did end up being more of a traditional blues song but at the same time it’s got real soul.
Rushonrock: Barrett Martin is back on production duties but Desolation Blue benefits from an even more expansive sound – did you spur each other on to push the boundaries?
AH: There’s definitely more depth to the new record. The first album was a straight up classic rock record but we did experiment a bit more on the second. On the new album we brought more of our personal influences to the table. There is a core of bands and genres that we all like but I grew up listening to a lot of grunge bands. I’d say there’s a certain swagger underpinning the new album and there are quite a few influences from the 90s but it’s more of a 70s-inspired record. But then the outro on the last track is closer to Radiohead which is a bit of a strange one! We don’t like the idea of regurgitating the same album over and over again – we’re always trying to grow as a band.
Rushonrock: Right now do you feel as if the future is bright for Buffalo Summer?
AH: I’m really excited to get the album out. But in terms of the long-term future of rock music in general it’s becoming more and more difficult for bands. Brexit has landed another blow as we’ll need separate visas to visit every European country. Stuff like that just makes things so much harder. It’s going to make touring abroad even tougher than it already is. I’m excited that we have a new album to tour but now it’s going to be a real challenge to get out there and play to our fans in Europe. From our point of view the market has become so much more saturated. There are loads of bands doing the blues rock thing in 2020 but 10 years ago they were few and far between. The Answer were doing it four or five years before us but these days there are a bunch of bands doing the thing that we do.
Rushonrock: So how challenging have the last few years been?
AH: To be brutally honest it’s been really frustrating. We made Desolation Blue three years ago and we were ready to release it straight away. We had some mixes done but there was one person at our former label who we were at loggerheads with. There was something of a power struggle and that’s why the delay happened.
Rushonrock: Was there ever a point where it looked like Buffalo Summer would never release a third record?
AH: We had offers from other record labels but we’d signed a deal and we had to abide by that. In fact they [UDR] were adamant that they wanted to keep us. We tried to find a way forward. We remixed a few songs but they still weren’t what was required. We had a photo shoot but we were told that it wasn’t the right type of photo shoot! It was one person causing us all of these issues. We stuck with what we believed in but it took a while to get out of that contract.
Rushonrock: Have you questioned your commitment to the music business?
AH: Altogether it’s been 20 years since I started in a band and first tried to do something with music. Sometimes you do question your future. You have to make so many sacrifices and most of the time you’re doing this for next to nothing. It takes its toll on family and relationships. You have to give up good jobs and you can’t afford certain houses – all of that impacts upon what you love to do. You give so much to your music and there’s not that much coming back the other way. A lot of bands don’t really want to admit it and because of social media there’s almost a pressure to pretend that everything is always amazing. Sometimes I wish bands would just give an honest representation of just how hard it is to make a living out of playing music.
Rushonrock: Having said all of that is music still as important to you now as it was when you started playing?
AH: Absolutely. I will always make music regardless of whether people like listening to it. It’s ingrained in my very being. If I make it into old age then I still want to be picking up a guitar every day. I love the creative experience. You can’t beat it. Once you’ve got that inside you it’s impossible to stop creating.
Main Image By Steph Byford
*Catch Buffalo Summer at London’s Black Heart tonight. The band tours until March 15.
*Desolation Blue is released on March 27.