First, they helped kick off this year’s Dayton Music Festival 10th year anniversary with a special show featuring a church choir in the Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Dayton back in April. They followed that with a coast to coast summer tour, which was in support of the release of Heavy Reverie, which was released in May. During their time on the road, the made their annual stop in Austin, Texas and performed at South by Southwest “This past year was probably the wildest one,” bassist and vocalist Zachary Gabbard says during our phone conversation. “A lot more people, taking every band from everywhere, bunch of people think that they are rock stars, and throw them into one city. It was nuts.”
Whatever they will admit or not-Zachary, along with his brother and guitarist/vocalist Andy, and drummer Joseph Sealy-they are fast approaching their own unique rock star status through their growing library of hook heavy, homegrown rock. The music encompasses the rawness of blues and psychedelic basics. Buffalo Killers play loud and unrestrained, free with a beauty and ease. The trio recently added lap steel/guitarist Sven Kahn’s into the band this year. The guys of the band knew Kahn’s for some time, with him filling in from time to time during shows, and playing in some during the recordings of their album, 3.
Music was always around when Zachary and Andy Gabbard were growing up in their home. Along with hearing the classic records spin from Neil Young, Grateful Dead, and CSNY-their father would play some strung the guitar with friends, and co-workers after work. When Zachary decided that he wanted to pick up playing on his own, he was given a bass because his father said that “guitar players are a dime a dozen.” Andy started to play guitar at a young age as well, playing with a small Fender with a small neck. Along with being taught by their father, Andy particularly would play along AC/DC records.
The Gabbard brothers formed their garage rock band Thee Shams in 1999, along with Sebaali, Max Bender, and Keith Fox. Thee Shams released four albums on four record labels, and toured extensively. The toll of the touring and recording took a toll on the band, and the band broke up in 2005. “It became where we were obviously the three guys (Zachary, Andy, and Sebaali) that were committed to this project,” Gabbard explained. “Us three were ready to go-that’s all we wanted to do. So when it started to slow down, we just say let’s start over.”
The newly formed trio of Buffalo Killers quickly picked up where their previous band left off. They started to gain followers everywhere they went, and even caught the eye of the folks over at Alive Records. The record label received the five-song demo that Zachary sent out to several other labels. It took less than a week for Alive to call the band to sign them. The first album under the label helped Buffalo Killers obtain the opportunity to go play a string of shows with The Black Crowes in 2007. When they returned from touring with The Black Crowes, the band went to work on their second album, Let It Ride, with Black Keys guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach serving as producer. With their time being under the Alive Records name, Buffalo Killers would go on to release three more albums: 3 (2011), Dig. Sow. Love. Grow. (2012), and the 2013 Record Store Day only release of Ohio Grass.
This past year, Buffalo Killers made the move over to Sun Pedal Records, and subdivision of Warner Bros. The goal to move on from Alive wasn’t part of the plan because the band were happy being with them. The people from Sun Pedal started showing up at the shows more. Conversations began to become more and more frequent, to which the decision was made to make the move. “Alive was super good to us,” Gabbard says. “It just worked out. They were into doing the record, and making it come out fast. With them having distribution through Warner Bros., we all knew that the records could get out there more. Alive were supportive, and helped us get the deal done with Sun Pedal. It was good for everyone.”
While working on the direction and vision of producer Jim Wirt (Fiona Apple, Incubus),Heavy Reverie and their second release this year Fireball of Sulk have given Buffalo Killers a more cleaner sound while maintain their hard rocking ways and reducing the overdubs being used. While both Gabbard brothers would rely on each other with the vocals, and self-produce most of the albums, working with Wirt also helped the band get out of their comfort zone. “We were open to anything,” Gabbard says. “Jim captured it well.” The making of Fireball of Sulk was documented with a camera crew and photographers to release in relation with the record. The filming included learning the songs to recording them, which allows their fans and others to take a peek into the process of making the album.
When it’s all said and done, 2014 will be remembered to being some kind of year for Buffalo Killers. Under the Sun Pedal name, they have been getting more exposure, including being in a segment on Last Call with Carson Daly this summer when they on the West Coast. “Ah man, that was a big deal for us,” Gabbard gleefully mentions. “My kids think it’s the biggest thing in the world.”
The band also have a new place to practice, Zachary’s home in the country outside of Dayton and Cincinnati. “We can get as loud as we want out there,” Gabbard says.
Something that bearded fellas of Buffalo Killers have no problem doing.