Avi Buffalo wouldn’t be allowed to play the Echo if the venue hadn’t bent the rules and made the band’s May residency an all-ages affair. So the little ones are invading, but by the sound of their music, it’s safe to say the kids are alright and may be onto some great new wave of folky blues goodness. This interview by Daiana Feuer.
Since you’re graduating high school this year, what are your plans for next year?
Avi Buffalo (guitar/vocals): The plans are to maybe sign up for some city college classes, maybe doing whatever for now. If something comes up—things are not—I have no idea what’s going on next year! Our drummer still has another year left in high school so we have to figure that out if we want to tour. Other than that, we’re all on board. We’ll see what happens, I guess.
I’m sorry, I can’t believe you’re in high school.
I think it’s just that I had some really fortunate experiences. I’ve learned from a couple amazing people. And I got some opportunities most young people don’t. This old bluesman guy took me under his wing and showed me the ways, and I played in a club with him and some other old guys starting in 8th grade. And he would just bust my ass all the time but in a way that touched on things that music teachers don’t teach you. It was a really intense experience but it’s been such a massive influence and really helped me a lot.
What are some of the most salient lessons you learned about how to approach music?
There was a lot involved with conveying emotion in music that he was able to touch on, how to find balances, what musical maturity is, what musicianship is. I guess that’s my background so it’s limiting in some ways, but he was very encouraging for me to strive for creativity—but at the same time was this really intense tough-love crazy guy. The first night I went to the club with him I got owned really hard and I had no idea what I was doing. But that was how the guy Joel—Joel Weinberg was his name—kind of brought me up to show me how much more there is to it than just getting up there and playing what you know. Being up there, even though it sucked a bunch, you just learn a whole lot real quick. The people there were always really supportive and kind to me, just playing blues. All the nuances that are in that genre really set the stage for a lot of other things, and those basics that are in there can help you out way more than people could ever imagine.
How’d you find each other?
He was a family friend. My older sister and his son used to carpool together. He saw me playing guitar in a music shop when I was thirteen and was like, [gruff voice], ‘Hey, come down to my jam, come to my jam.’ I’ve known him for a long time, but later in my life, he just decided to show me a lot of stuff. It’s trippy. But I just love to play music a bunch.
How’s your new album coming along and does it have a name yet?
I like it. It’s different from the stuff I was doing before because Aaron Embry helped out and has been another guiding force for me. He showed me the ways of Pro Tools that I didn’t know before. I used to record on a computer microphone and do really lo-fi stuff. Switching over was a really interesting and weird transition. I’m getting situated in it now and trying to get that going but it’s a different way to approach things. I think it’s going to be called Settled Tigertail and should be done sometime in the next few months.
Are you and your bandmate Rebecca Coleman still dating? [Avi first started writing songs about her when she wasn’t into him, then he asked her to join the band because she was a good singer, then she fell for him back in 9th grade.]
Well, not at the moment. I guess—it’s not—we’re not dating. But, don’t worry, everything’s OK. We all love each other. Everything’s fine. It’s a good thing and stuff.
So this is one of the first if not the first times the Echo has had an all-ages residency. What bands are you excited to bring out with you?
One of my favorites is my friend Nial Morgan. He’s 16, lives in Long Beach and he’s just going really hard at doing noise and ambient music. He’s a really inspiring and incredible musician. It’s pretty much his first show. Bobb Bruno is someone I’ve really admired a lot. He does beautiful things. That’s exciting. There’s a group called Starburst Crystal Ensemble with this guy Bill Cutts. He booked this thing in Long Beach when our band first started called Outsider Folk, and when I started the project it was a solo thing but he heard my music on Myspace and was like, ‘Hey, do you want to play?’ So I put the band together. I consider him to be pretty much responsible for the existence of the group. He has this really interesting—I don’t want to give a genre to it, but he comes from a Long Beach experimental punk background, doing this folkish stuff. It’s totally its own deal. That kind of stuff is good.
Do Long Beach bands feel like a separate entity from the rest of L.A.?
There’s not a huge difference but I feel connected to Long Beach bands. There’s a little more isolation from L.A. stuff. There’s some ‘thing’ going on in Long Beach. There’s an interesting culture. It’s an incredibly diverse place and people are in tune with doing their own thing. Mostly the stereotype of Los Angeles would lead me to say there’s a separation.
Do people actually go to the beach in Long Beach?
No. It’s a pretty gross beach. It’s not a healthy beach. It’s pretty dirty. From what I know—I’m not sure how accurate this is—there’s a lot of trash that builds up and most people go to Huntington Beach.
Is there somewhere you dream of performing?
I think actually no place actually. Maybe by ourselves. It doesn’t even matter and I don’t want it to ever matter where we are. Playing in different places is all about adapting. I would never want us to pick a spot. Is that weird?
If each of your band mates were a kitchen utensil or appliance, which particular one would they be?
I think that Arin Fazio, the bass player, would be a spork character. Sheridan Riley would be a spork, too. I think I would be a weird spoon a lot of the time. And Rebecca Coleman would be a fork. She would be a real fork. We’re all spoon and forky and hang out together in the silverware drawer.
AVI BUFFALO WITH GREATER CALIFORNIA, FAMILY BLANKETS AND THE WILD BUNCH ON TUE., MAY 26, AT THE ECHO, 1822 SUNSET BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8:30PM / FREE FOR 21 / $7 FOR UNDER 21 / ALL AGES. ATTHEECHO.COM. VISIT AVI BUFFALO AT MYSPACE.COM/AVIBUFFALO.