Sunday, February 1, 2009

Interview: The Buzzkills

Interviewed by Nathan Igdaloff

The evening began slowly, I’ll admit, but there was a subdued buzz in the air. An undersized crowd at the Bluebird for a Thursday night, especially with The Buzzkills performing soon. The band has become a household name in the Bloomington music scene as of late. I attributed the lull to a blizzard that had recently dumped massive amounts of snow which still coated the town.

Then suddenly, as The Buzzkills began to play, the crowd not only grew, they became involved in the music, as if compelled by the powerful spirit of rock n’ roll. Not only were the tunes great, but the band was into it, and they brought the whole place along for the ride. What ensued were four dudes who are not only good at what they do, but love what they do, and it showed…and it was contagious to everyone in the room that night. I was fortunate enough to spend a few minutes with The Buzzkills after the show, chatting about song development, The Beatles, and the Bloomington music scene.

TAO: How does it feel to be playing a legendary venue like The Bluebird?

Kyle Gilpin (vox/guitar): We love The Bluebird. The Bluebird is our home base, it’s our favorite place. It’s awesome. Lots of history.

Matt Schory (percussion): I’ve played a lot of places, by far, the coolest venue in the Midwest. The Vogue’s pretty cool in Indy, but this place is really fuckin’ cool. It’s just got the history, it’s just kind of one of those places. If you’re anybody, you play the Bluebird. You can’t be a real band and skip the Bluebird.

TAO: How does it feel playing this gig weekly, headlining regularly. Is that a big stepping stone in your career?

KG: We used to open, and that’s all we ever did. So, oh yeah.

TAO: I’ve seen you guys perform several times over the past few years. Covers like “Don’t Let Me Down” were really just spot-on, also covering some Daft Punk which was unexpected, but also very well done. How do you guys cope with getting your original sound out there, like you are tonight, in a college town like Bloomington where the live music scene is very cover-band oriented?

KG: Well, tonight went great.

John Weston (vox/guitar): My entire history of playing in bands, I’ve been doing it for years…just for fun or whatever. And I’ve never done the cover thing before. I was always one of those people, ya know “eh, cover bands…” But then like, we started doing it not just because it gets fans and gets people to recognize you and all that shit, but you learn a lot about yourself, and people you’re playing with, and what everybody in the band likes to play, and what they’re good at and what we’re good at. And it’s a fuckin’ blast to play great songs! But, nothing beats having a good reaction to your own music. Nothing. Ever.

TAO: I was at your Dark Side of the Moon tribute show back a few months ago, how was preparing for such a seemingly difficult task? Was it as easy as you guys made it sound?

MS: You know we did a Beatles tribute set like a month and a half, two months before that show, and after learning like 26, 27 Beatles songs Dark Side seemed easy.

TAO: But you guys had every element! You had the horns, the backing vocals…

JW: You know what, honestly, for The Beatles, it was all of us having to nail these fucking parts. And you know Dark Side of the Moon is a studio album, and I understand that. But it’s also very like, if you have very good musicians you can do Dark Side of the Moon, you know? But with the Beatles you have to nail the sound, you have to try and make it sound as good as they sound on the record, and we have to sing all these harmonies, play all these perfect little guitar riffs, and all that shit. Just the four of us. And Dark Side of the Moon, you know, we nailed all of our parts, but also there was the keyboardist, he was fuckin’ awesome. He was able to take a lot of that burden.

MS: Yeah, we owe a lot to that backing band.

TAO: How was the all original set tonight? Was that a first?

JW: I think it was a first.

TAO: Yeah, I thought people were reacting really positively.

MS: It’s just hard man, we play the Bluebird usually we’re on nights where people walk in here, we’re filling a whole night and people are expecting covers. It’s the Midwest, and if you want to play any kind of big room, starting out, you gotta play some covers.

JW: And it’s not even that, it’s like…fortunately tonight we were able to get the permission of the owners to let people in for free if they brought our flyers, and Autovaughn’s playing, they’re gonna bring people in. So we had the leeway to do all original stuff. But normally like, if we were to do all original shit, no one’s gonna stay and we don’t get asked back because it’s all about bar sales and cover.

TAO: So did you have to say beforehand that you were only playing originals?

JW: They asked us to do it tonight. They know what we want, you know, it’s a two way thing. We gotta understand where they’re coming from; again, they gotta understand where we’re coming from.

MS: It goes back to the Bluebird being the best venue. The owner here, man, he’s been very good to us. He knows how to build a band. He’s put a lot of faith in us, and it has really helped push us along. We owe a lot, a lot to the guys here.

JW: We play a lot of places, where – not to name names, I’m not going to – but we played for a lot of club owners, and they just want a fuckin’ quick buck. They want us to bring a bunch of people, sell a bunch of tickets, and buy a bunch of drinks. And that’s all they want!

MS: You know, it’s a business, it’s a bar. But the owner has enough foresight to know how to deal with that. A lot of bar owners don’t get that, if you put some backing behind a band, they’re better off long-term because they’re in a band that can pull their bar. And they’ve put a lot of faith in us to try and put us in the right spots to grow.

TAO: On a side note, that seems to be the problem with the big record companies these days. No one is willing to put in the time to harvest a band; they’re after the overnight success hits.

MS: Well right, it takes time to build a band. And the bar owners who have been very good to us are the ones that understand that. We played Joe’s on Weed St. up in Chicago, same deal man. They’ve been nothing but supportive of us, they really believe in us and want to grow us.

JW: With a bar like Bluebird, we know that they work for us here. It makes it that much easier to work hard, we’ll do whatever they want us to do. If they say like “we need you guys to play on a Friday night for nobody, just so at least somebody comes in” we would. Going back to what it’s like to play here, it’s just the coolest people, the coolest people work here.

TAO: You’ve got a great presence playing live, any thoughts on releasing a live album? I’d buy it.

KG: Yeah we have talked about that. We’ve had this experience in the past where on the record you can’t really capture what happens live. I know I’ve wanted to, I have to talk to the guys about it.

JW: We do have live tracks that are out. We recorded the Beatles show, we recorded the Dark Side show, we recorded our record release. But we have a couple live tracks on our free demo.

MS: When we did our album, we hadn’t demo’d a lot of those songs live. The next time we record, we’re playing all those songs live. Because everything we’ve ever written grows so much the more we play it live.

KG: Yeah, that’s what we’re doing now. Tonight we played four songs that aren’t on our album.

JW: And that’s the thing though, not until we’ve played them, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty times do you even know if it’s worthwhile to record. Some of them that we’ve written, we feel good about them now, but when it comes time to record, they’re might be better songs that we have. We didn’t have time to develop them.

TAO: Regarding songwriting, I know both of you (Weston and Gilpin) take the lead on that. How does that process work…is it different on every song? How much does the rest of the band get involved?

KG: Well somebody has an idea, or a whole song, or anywhere in between, and the whole band arranges it, you know, makes it their own.

MS: Everybody’s got their strengths. Some people write really good hooks. You know, I’m the drummer, I’m more of an arrangement guy. I think it’s the drummer’s job to pick up on the flow of the song, it’s my job. Everybody’s kinda got their own thing that they’re good at, and it comes together and it works.

TAO: You guys have a strong classic rock foundation to your sound, do you have any intentions on taking that anywhere else, or is it sort of a natural process in terms of style development?

KG: We step out of those a little bit, you know just to keep things a little fresher. But I think that’s kind of like our –

MS: …bread and butter.

KG: Yeah.

MS: Every band is a product of their influences. And our influences as a whole, everybody can agree that that’s what they grew up on, that that was their influence. Like, I’m a big metal-head you know? I like everything, I like techno, I like electronica and shit. Everybody kind of has their thing, but classic rock is a fundamental that we all kinda came from.

TAO: So what are your guys’ plans moving forward?

MS: Recording a new album. We’re going to try and do a new EP hopefully this Spring, get it out by this Summer. There are plans to focus on five or six really solid songs – as opposed to doing a whole other album – just get an EP out there. It doesn’t cost much to do, doesn’t take too much time. We’re just trying to keep kickin’ out more music, ya know?

JW: I think also…trying to warm-up the idea that everywhere we go, you know we talked about covers versus originals, everywhere we go we have to play a cover. No one’s going to come out to a band they’ve never heard of if they don’t have a reason. So, if everywhere we go we could do this kind of thing (playing all originals), if we could get to this point everywhere we go, that would be fantastic, you know? If we could get people to come out, hear our original music, know who we are and know that we’re a good band, like us, like our originals…that’s my big thing.

KG: We do have a lot of work to do to get to that point.

MS: They were enjoying it tonight, man!


You can purchase The Buzzkills' new album Which Way is Down on iTunes, their site, or see them live!


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