Buffalo Killers’ Midwestern Roots | Q&A

by Steven Ashford

There's a mentality required to fully assimilate into the mold of a true Midwesterner. It's an appreciation of life's simpler things. It's about taking a moment to watch the world before your eyes, rather than letting it pass you by. You know the attitude — it's been reiterated again and again through good ol' American music.

Hailing from Cincinnati, the burley, bearded boys of American rock trio Buffalo Killers understand all of this. Every note they produce channels their forefathers, such as Buffalo Springfield, The Band and James Gang. Buffalo Killers have also challenged themselves to dig deeper and beyond what was laid out for them.

With their garage rock origins as the former Thee Shams and expansions into '60s psychadelia, it's easy to see why Buffalo Killers attracted Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys to produce one of their records, and have toured the country with the Black Crows. After recently releasing their third album, in August, appropriately titled 3, the band is back on the road and making their way to Omaha alongside Northwest Mississippi All-Stars on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at Slowdown. More info here.

Hear Nebraska spoke with bassist Zachary Gabbard spoke with Hear Nebraska via email about it is working with a sibling (vocalist Andrew Gabbard), recording in a 19th century farmhouse, and what it means to have Midwest values.

Hear Nebraska: Please describe the transition from Thee Shams to the formation of Buffalo Killers. Do you find a dirct correlation from a loose garage-rock sound to polished, country alt-rock?
Zach Gabbard: If you listen to the last Thee Shams (Sign the Line) record and the first Buffalo Killers record, you can hear the natural progression. Things just fell apart with Thee Shams, but we kept the core group and came back leaner and meaner. The sound change you hear from album to album is that of living life and the natural evolution that comes with age — you know, there is a moment in your life where you wake up and suddenly the world is a lot more beautiful and tragic.

HN: How do you feel about working in a band with your brother? Does it make the whole process of touring and writing easier or harder with a sibling in the band? Why or why not?
ZG: I feel very lucky to be in a band with Andrew.  We work well together and the time we spend together is cherished. Life is so short, so to be able to work and create with family is very meaningful and fulfilling.

HN: It seems like your first two albums, Buffalo Killers and Let It Ride, were produced nearly back-to-back, with a tour with the Black Crows in between. was released three years after Let It Ride. What happened in between?
ZG: My wife and I had two kids and moved out to a farm in the country, and Andrew got married. We were busy living life and as things settled down. We were able to put those experiences into our music and then made 3.

HN: I heard that 3 was recorded in a 19th century Farmhouse in Dayton, Ohio. Describe how the record was created differently than the first two albums.
ZG: The music for was created and written at my 160-year-old farm house outside of Dayton, but we recorded it in Cincinnati with our good friend Mike Montgomery at his studio, Candyland. With 3, we had more time to create songs, record and then cherry-pick the ones we liked the best.

HN: Was the writing process more drawn out? Did members take a different approach in their part in the writing process?
ZG: 3 was the first time (with Thee Shams or Buffalo Killers) where the demos weren't the album.  We went into the demo sessions and laid everything down that we had been working on. We then took a few months to sit with them, burn them down to the ground and rebuild.  Finally, we recorded the album. It was a cathartic experience to purge and reconstruct.

HN: What is it about the Midwest that is unique and important to your values as well as those of Buffalo Killers?
ZG: For sure, we certainly have Midwestern work ethic.  You know — If you want it done, do it. No one is going to give you anything and no one gives a shit about you because you aren't from a coast. Perhaps reality-based is a Midwestern trait, too. We understand that if we want to share what we do, then we are going to have to make it happen and work hard to do it.

HN: What are the plans for Buffalo Killers after this fall tour wraps up?
ZG: Enjoy the holidays with the family, go back into the studio and then back out on the road. Rinse, repeat.

Steven Ashford is Hear Nebraska editorial intern. He likes American music … baby. You can reach him at stevena@hearnebraska.org.