Buffalo Killers: Let It Ride

By: Martin Halo

Buffalo Killers by John Curley
American rock 'n' roll has retreated to the depths of the underground. For the bands that continue the time-honored tradition of smooth talking swagger and stiff lipped cool, they exist only in the eyes of the people who have discovered their clandestine reverberations.

Cincinnati, Ohio's native Buffalo Killers struts with the moan of a blues-laden trio who mix vintage tone with growling guitars to formulate passionate testimonials of lost love, desperate aggression and reckless endangerment. It is the underbelly of American rock 'n' roll, and with the release of their sophomore album, Let It Ride (released July 8 on Alive Records), the Buffalo Killers have been hatched upon the age in a time of desperate need.

Sleek in a tattered way and possessing a ferocious assault, the Brothers Gabbard (Zachary - bass and vocals, Andrew - guitar and vocals, joined by Joseph Sebaali - drums) have channeled a wrinkled, raspy-toned muse who was too purposely intoxicated to catch the train of trend. This is a story about defiance and destiny, the snarling moan of a scene crawling beneath the bustling avenues.

Alive

I'm a traveling man just a pushing ahead
We're a traveling band looking for a bed
We're not trying to bite you, we're just starving to death

Joseph Sebaali - Buffalo Killers by John Peets
"We recorded five songs and I sent the pressing out in a blank jacket with nothing more than the band's name and my home phone number on it," says Zach in reference to the band's debut LP. "A phone call came from Burbank, California two days later. It was Alive Records founder Patrick Boissel. We really didn't expect to be making a record at the time. When Alive Records called me back, it came as a shock. We were just looking to catch our bearings and the next thing you know I am telling someone, 'Yes, we do have the rest of the material prepared. Go ahead and send us a check and we will finish the album. It was a scramble to book additional studio time and do whatever the fuck we needed to do to finish that first record."

For Andrew and Zach Gabbard their musical explorations started not with the Buffalo Killers but with another Ohio-based trio, Thee Shams. Consisting of Zach, Andrew, Sebaali, Max Bender and Keith Fox, the band earned the attention of Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys as a local garage band contemporary. When Thee Shams disbanded, according to both parties, Auerbach was never told.

"Dan didn't know we formed a new group until he heard the first Buffalo Killers record and realized it was us. He called me wanting to know why I hadn't got in contact to tell him about it," Zach explains. "It was just a thing where we started over and didn't want to approach audiences as a band rising out of the ashes of another."

"Things started to happen for us when we went to L.A. in support of the first album," Zach continues. "A drummer friend of mine came that night and told me that Chris Robinson [The Black Crowes] had told him about the show. I was kind of taken aback. All I could think was, 'Chris Robinson heard our record!' We were just going out to California to play some shows in support of the first record and we were fully under the impression no one was going to show up. We thought we were going to make some rounds, play to a few people and then upon returning we might have a cool thing going on."

"It was a big fucking deal to me when The Black Crowes asked us to go on the road with them. I grew up listening to them. For us, it was like touring with The Beatles," Zach offers.

The Grooming

Buffalo Killers
"My brother and I grew up in a musical household because my dad played guitar. We grew up listening to Neil Young, The Grateful Dead, CSNY and New Riders of the Purple Sage from as long back as I can remember. They, along with my father, taught us how to play music. As a kid you think, 'What does your father know?' but looking back, if I wanted to hear something new all I had to do was go downstairs and rummage through his record collection. It was all right there. If we wanted to play an instrument, the amps were already in the house. We were groomed to do this," Zach says.

"There were a lot of good groups stemming from Cincinnati. The Greenhorns were natives as well as The Afghan Wigs. I was really into The Afghan Wigs when I was younger. As a matter of fact, we actually recorded the first record with [Afghan bassist] John Curley, who has a studio here. There are lots of places to play. It's a good home base."

"When we would go out on tour, we would come home and it felt like every town in Ohio embraced us. There was no pressure, like playing in New York, for us," Zach explains. "For us, it is about the music we play not how we look. Playing here in Cincinnati, there was no pressure. We could go fuck off and completely bomb here. It really didn't matter. We could always just start over. The spotlight wasn't as bright as it might have been in New York. [Though] we were playing to our friends and family, the people we grew up with [and] sometimes that might hold more pressure than playing to a bunch of strangers."

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