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Review + Q&A: King Buffalo- Regenerator (2022, Stickman Records)

The third and final chapter of the album threesome that King Buffalo recorded during the pandemic lockdown in 2021 is called Regenerator and once again it shows a different side to the band. Where The Burden Of Restlessness was an aggressive, heavy and metallic record, and Acheron was the psychedelic jam album, Regenerator does exactly what it says on the tin: it lifts up the spirits and revitalizes the band and its listeners with its open and spacey sounds.

Before I could listen to the full album I had the chance to see King Buffalo play at the Valkhof Festival in Nijmegen (Holland) and two things stood out; how frontman Sean McVay used a loop pedal to create massive guitar walls all by himself, and how motorik and hypnotic the new material sounded in a live setting. Songs like Regenerator, Mercury, and Hours all have a certain forward drive that has a definite kraut rock feel, especially when King Buffalo bring on the spacey synthesizers.

There are some softer, more melodic moments as well, and album closer Firmament showcases McVay’s most intimate vocals to date. This too fits the band like a glove, and once again you feel as a listener that this is a band at the very top of their game. It is so incredible to think that these three albums sound so differently and varied, and yet they were recorded in such a short time of each other. Regenerator is a perfect closer a well, a positive outlook on the band and its future, and a testament to what this band is capable off under duress. What will the future bring? I decided to ask Sean McVay himself.

How are you guys doing? And where are you at the moment? You are playing so many shows these days!

We just returned home after an incredible European tour. I’m currently sitting on my couch drinking a big bottle of water while typing out this interview. 

Can you tell me your most memorable moment of the tour so far? 

Probably playing PALP Festival in the Swiss Alps. It’s not everyday you get to play literally on the top of a mountain.

Listening to Regenerator, and also (finally) seeing you live (in Nijmegen!) I got the feeling that some of the dread of The Burden Of Restlessness and Acheron has been lifted, is that correct? What changed?

At the time of writing Regenerator I don’t think much had really changed in all honesty. Things were still pretty much locked down, and the world continues to be a bit of a horrific mess in a lot of different ways even still, but I knew I wanted the 3rd record to wrap up with a more optimistic tone and kind of stand as an inverse to Burden. With how dark and grim that record was, I felt like it was necessary to counterbalance it with something brighter, if only for my own sanity while writing them honestly. I feel like it was maybe me trying to find something to look forward to and strive for while reckoning with a swath of negative things.

You guys are playing live a lot at the moment, how do you keep up? And how do you keep it fresh each time you are playing?

We make little tweaks to the setlist just about every show to help keep things interesting on our end. Also a lot of our songs have spots that lend themselves to little bits of improvisation so I always try to add some sort of different twist to at least one song every night. The kind of thing that might not be super noticeable, but maybe a fan who’s seen us a bunch would notice and find it interesting or refreshing. Shows are the best thing about being a band in my opinion. That block of time onstage riding a sort of energy wave with the crowd is a feeling like no other. So really it doesn’t feel like its that hard to stay engaged and excited. 

Listening to your set and to the new album I felt a certain stronger emphasis on repetition and groove I guess?It’s almost kraut rock at some point! Also some more uplifting stuff going on? What is your take on the most important changes for Regenerator?

I really made an effort to highlight melodies on this record. Whether that was in the vocals, guitar hooks or even with some of Dan’s bass work (see Mercury for an example of the bass really carrying the melody of the entire song). I wanted to go for a little bit more of a stripped down, sort of “band in a room” sound than previous records (especially Burden). Everything is a little bit warmer, a little bit dirtier, and a little bit drier than a lot of our previous work. I cringe at using the word “organic” to describe it, but I honestly can’t think of a better word for what I was aiming for with the production style haha. It was a challenge, and a bit scary for me personally. I’ve always been super fond of lots of reverbs and delays on either my guitars or vocals. Making a conscious effort to strip away some of that was a bit terrifying. The opening verse of Firmament is probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever recorded.

With Regenerator you made right on your promise to release three albums in a row, congratulations! Although the plan to release them all in one year did not work, was that all pressing plant delays, or was there more to it?

Well the initial plan was actually to RECORD 3 albums in 2021 and ideally have them all released that year. Things snowballed a little bit with the announcement and it became RELEASE 3 albums haha. Lesson learned to be a little more careful with language haha. With that said, I can’t put all of the delays on the pressing plant. They were certainly backed up and completely swamped with demand. That on top of global supply chain issues really slowed things down. But we also had some studio/equipment issues that slowed down production at a couple points. There were of course a couple COVID scares in there that prevented us from meeting up occasionally. And we had a couple of issues receiving final artwork for a couple of the records past their deadline. So basically there was a lot of small inconvenient delays that added up on top of the already existing pressing plant delays. It was an absolutely chaotic and hectic year trying to get everything done, but we are super happy that we were able to stay busy and focused, and are incredibly proud of the result. We can’t thank everyone enough who participated and helped in some way, and especially appreciate the patience and support from our fans when it became obvious that we weren’t going to have everything released in 2021.

How do you look back on the albums as a trilogy, they have the same protagonist and overarching themes right? Do you feel it turned out exactly the way you envisioned it or did the plans also shift a bit when time passed over it?

There definitely is a single protagonist, with an overarching storyline encompassing all 3 records. Each record focusing on a different part of the story. In a very general way, yes I think it turned out how I envisioned it, but in smaller more specific ways not at all. No matter how well planned something is during pre-production, the final product always comes out different than expected. That’s simply part of the process. I think its important to be open to the possibility of things changing. Falling too much in love with the demos creates a sort of tension and stress during the actual production that just slows things down. It’s important to have a grand vision that your excited about, but you have to be open to changes when it comes time to actually make it. So there a lot of little things on the records that are completely different than what was initially conceived, but that’s simply part of the process.

So what now? With such an ambitious project now finished I can imagine your just want to tour a lot, which you are doing at the moment, but do you already have album plans for after that? Any dreams you want to make true in the studio environment?

The focus for now is definitely touring and playing live, especially with all the time we had to take off from touring. There aren’t any solid albums planned at the moment. There’s definitely some stuff that was left on the cutting room floor that we’re still excited about. Who knows if they’ll ever get dug back up. We’re always a little bit antsy. So I’ll say that we don’t have anything planned release wise for now, but that can always change in an instant haha.

What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do after reading this interview?

Drink a glass of water. Hydration is important. 

Review + Q&A: The Swell Fellas- Novaturia EP (2022, self-released)

With a band name like The Swell Fellas you’d expect a barber choir, or an acoustic bluegrass group from a Coen Brothers movie. What you might not expect is the psychedelic riff monster these guys really are. No, bands like this are often called after something involving buffaloes, witches, or crows. As their hazy fuzz waves conjure up images of the old America, wind swept plains, stern mountains, and galloping horses…

On this 33 minute EP/mini album The Swell Fellas have clearly set their gears to “epic”, as they pull off big riff after big riff without breaking a sweat. However somewhere in the back of my mind I can hear that they have been under the spel of All Them Witches, as well as King Buffalo, as they subtly mix their epic riffery with more subdued vocals. Like their bigger brethren they do rock hard, but they never take it over the edge and become larger than life. They keep it real and believable, which is a rare thing in rock ‘n roll, and especially in epic riff land.

I do hope they get picked up then, because we can all use some intelligent psych rocking in our lives. And whether they are called The Swell Fellas or King Mountain Witch Crow Buffalo, it really don’t matter to me. As long as the rock rocks, and the roll rolls as much as it does on Novaturia.

Swell Fellas

I was lucky enough to catch these guys in between touring and writing their new album so that they could answer all these questions that popped up in my brain when listening to Novaturia. Drummer Chris Poole was kind enough to answer.

Hey guys! How has Swell Fellas been doing the past period of pandemic weirdness?

We’ve been really good, as good as we can be. Stayed busy writing and doing a lot of skating while the world was locked down. We all live together so it makes it pretty easy to just hang and create on a whim. Seems like things are looking up for the most part as far as covid goes, so we’re excited to put some more miles behind us on the road and crank out more music.

Can you introduce the Weirdo Shrine readers to the band?

For sure, we’re a trio from Ocean City, Maryland interested in creating something unique together that we all enjoy and feel connected too. The band consists of Conner Poole (Guitar/Vox), Mark Rohrer (Bass/Vox), and Chris Poole (Drums/Vox).

How did you meet? And how did you determine your initial sound?

Well, Conner and I (Chris) are brothers so that sums that connection up haha. Mark and I met when we were 11 or 12 on a school bus during a field trip. We shared some headphones and next thing you know we were recording shitty demos in a bedroom on Audacity together. He was and is primarily a guitar player, so getting Mark to play bass naturally turned into basically having a sub-octave riff outlet. Finding our initial sound was tough at first, it took about two years before we really fell into a groove of writing songs that seemed universally agreed upon between the three of us. A lot of which made up our first record “The Big Grand Entrance”. The process of writing that record really opened a lot of doors for us as a collective consciousness, we’re big fans of conceptual records. Albums with a good flow. So feeling out how to intertwine songs and parts seamlessly was integral to our initial sound, and ultimately threw us into a world of writing longer explorative songs in our recent releases. Also, great pedal boards are essential. 

Can you tell me your relationship with All Them Witches? (one of my favorite bands actually…)

One of our favorites too! They rip… hard. We got the opportunity to meet up and record with Ben while he was in the process of mixing our first record. We were on a diy tour that landed in Nashville for a few days in October of 2019 to cut “The Great Play of Extension”. He took us in, we tracked the EP, drank beers, cooked out, and chilled with his cats. It was sick. Later on met the rest of the guys. Really cool humans, a serious inspiration.


In what way did your geographical situation effect your music?

Growing up by the ocean is a beautiful thing. Life feels a bit slower there, it gives you more time to think and opens you to ponder the world a bit. There’s a feeling of being close to that force that’s overwhelming. Definitely have written lyrics about it… and I suppose that headspace could be a bit of where we pull some psychedelic aspects from? I’m not sure, I’ve never really thought about it until now.

What is your general aim when writing a song?

Make it our best and capture a feeling.

Who influenced you most musically and otherwise?

Family, friends, sick riffs

When you play music in the band van, what do you play? And what is an absolute no-go?

Some DO’s to name a few: Knocked Loose, ASG, MF DOOM/CZARFACE, Alice in Chains, The Psychotic Monks, OM, The Black Angels, Fuzz, Meatbodies, Oh SeesPortayal of Guilt, Gangstarr, Queens of the Stone Age, Kikagaku Moyo, King Gizz, The Melvins, Meshuggah, Raekwon, TOOL, Betty Davis, Chamber, Harms Way, Wheeler Walker Jr.

DON’T: Bud light. Dirt roads.

What are your immediate and more distant future plans?

Right now we’re focusing on writing the next record and booking more shows! Releasing our new EP, Novaturia this Friday and just going to keep at it. It’s hard to plan a distant future, so we’ll take the opportunities as they come and see where it leads. We’re excited for it, that’s for sure.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after this interview?

Call your mother.

Swell Fellas

Review + Q&A: King Buffalo- The Burden Of Restlessness (2021, Stickman Records)

A musician always strives to transcend base notions like genre, style, or even being a band. Becoming your own entity is the highest goal. King Buffalo are well on their way of achieving this goal. With The Burden Of Restlessness they have captured a period in time and a process of inner turmoil in such a way that it completely transcends being a stoner band, playing heavy songs, or being “metal” or whatever.

Sure, these songs are heavy, heavier than King Buffalo have sounded so far, and sure their music still finds itself somewhere between psychedelic rock and progressive metal, but other than that they have firmly founded themselves as their own beast.

Striking for this release especially are the lyrics. For someone who has dealt with depression and inner darkness like me they really hit hard, being more explicit than ever with phrases like “every night I dream a million different ways for me to die” (Hebetation), or the way they describe the walls closing in in Silverfish (I think I’m unraveling…). It’s this amazing vulnerability that the band shows that immensely increases their urgency and importance. The music supports the lyrics and the message, and feels like a vessel in which the lyrics are never an afterthought or just backdrop.

It’s quite unbelievable that The Burden Of Restlessness is only just the first record of three (!) that King Buffalo has planned this year. It would have done fine as a full standalone album, but clearly the band is not yet done talking. As a matter of fact: I wasn’t done talking to them either, because I spoke with singer/guitairst Sean McVay about the past year, about the new album, and what is still to come…

First of all I’d like to ask you how you all are right now, how have the past few months been for the band? 
We’re all doing well. We’ve managed to stay healthy and extremely busy, which has been great. 


I have listened to The Burden Of Restlessness non-stop since I got the stream. The first thing that struck me was that the music sounds a lot heavier and more aggressive, more towards progmetal than psychedelic blues. Would you agree and do you have an explanation for it? 
I think the past few years have been difficult for everyone (to say the least). I know for me, personally I was dealing with a lot of things and was in a dark place, and the pandemic really just magnified that. I found that in the course of writing and jamming, we were naturally delving into some more focused and heavy sounding territory. For me it was simply what felt right in that moment. I liked the idea of trying to create music that had some of the same feelings of tension and discomfort that I felt was universal at that time, so we really embraced it. 


I was also wondering about the lyrics: did you write before or after the music? How did the songwriting process take place any way, what was the setting? 

All the instrumental arrangements came before the lyrics, but there was usually a line or a phrase of lyrics in the background while sorting all that out. About 95% of all the music came from jamming. We’d simply hit record and play until things either fizzled out or fell apart. I’d take the recordings home and start cutting things and moving sections around. I would send stuff to the band for feedback, and would start putting together the lyrical themes and concepts for the record. Once we had those set, I’d record some improvised vocal mumblings over the instrumental, refining the melodies, and would send those, along with some lyrics and general themes to Scott who would then write a bunch of brainstormed lyrics and send them back to me. I’d then take what he wrote and rework it. We’d go back and forth like that until it was all written.

The lyrics made me worry a little bit to be honest. Having suffered from depression myself I can see a lot of that back in a lot of these songs. Can I say you have never been this explicit before? I saw a glimpse of it in the Repeater EP, but Longing To Be The Mountain was a bit more hopeful(or hidden) wasn’t it? What can/do you want to tell me about them? 
Well like I mentioned above, I was in a really dark place at the time. A few years ago I had some really intense family things come to light that I really struggled to deal with. Externally, the state of affairs in the US was getting increasingly horrifying, bizarre and dystopian… and on top of all that, a worldwide pandemic hit. The cacophony of everything felt so palpable and inescapable. Trying to write about anything else just felt disingenuous, and trying to nibble around the edges and speak ambiguously felt dishonest. I tend to be a pretty private person when it comes to this sort of thing, so making this open and candid of a record was extremely scary for me. In the end though I am incredibly proud of this record, and hopefully it speaks to at least one other person who maybe was struggling with similar things. 


Despite, or maybe due to this Covid period you have taken up the plan of recording three albums this year! Can you tell me a little bit about how this plan came to being? Is there an individual concept for each of these three albums? Is it all worked out yet? 

We certainly didn’t set out with this whole crazy idea in mind. We started jamming, and before we knew it we had about 4-5 hours of new material that we were excited about. We started whittling things down, and eventually settled on the idea of 3 different and distinct records, with the same protagonist throughout each one. Each record has a very different feel and sound to them, and there is a story arc through all of them, but they really don’t need to be listened to in sequence to be able to follow along in my opinion. Record number 2 is in the later post production phase now, and pre production on record 3 will start here quite soon. Unfortunately I can’t say much more than that at the moment. We will be making announcements as we can. We did just receive word recently that our pressing plant is experiencing delays due to aftereffects of the pandemic, and high order volumes, so we’re crossing our fingers that things get back on track and our whole plan doesn’t get too messed up. 


What was the main driving factor behind making this album? And in what way did it differ from your previous work? 

For me the main driving force behind this record was trying to capture the uneasiness of everything I was feeling at the time. I wanted to try and make our most intimate, honest and aggressive record yet, and I wanted it to sound thicker, and more present than any of our previous works. 

Did you guys listen to specific music over the last year? And do you keep up with new music at all? 
We do keep up with new music, but I can’t speak to what the other guys have been listening to. As for myself, I really haven’t been listening to all that much music lately. I tend to try and limit my listening during writing periods because I feel like I end up accidentally regurgitating too many things if I’m not careful. However, one band that I stumbled across recently that absolutely blew my mind was Guerrilla Toss. They are insane. 


What are your plans for after this year? And what is your ultimate dream as a band? 

Hopefully things keep trending positively and we can get back to touring. We’re scheduled to hit the road again in September and we are super stoked for it. Honestly I don’t know if the “ultimate dream” is much different than what we’ve usually done. I just want to keep making records that push and excite us as musicians, and I want to be able to tour and perform live. Hopefully its something we’ll get to do for a long time.

Well, I really hope I will see you on the road soon. I will definitely show up somewhere in Europe when you get there in the future. Thanks a lot for your time, I wish you all the best
Thank you! We’re definitely itching to get back over to Europe as soon as we can. In the meantime stay safe and heathy, and hopefully we’ll see you soon!