King Buffalo is a sonic trip that promises to use its multi-dimensional appeal to permeate the other senses that most bands leave alone. You can taste it; you can see it. The sound of this Rochester trio is thoughtful and thundering with creative interludes that leave other groups in its genre sounding one-sided, like a Pontiac GTO with one gear.
Emerging in 2013 from a handful of local loud-and-low outfits, like Velvet Elvis, Apostles of the Hidden Son, and Abandoned Buildings Club, the members of King Buffalo — Scott Donaldson, drums; Dan Reynolds, bass; and Sean McVay, guitar and vocals — have taken elements of their previous outfits and focused on its groove and melody. The crush is still there, and so is the journey it sends listeners on. It's bold and inescapable.
King Buffalo has three CDs out, and the latest, "Orion," is an impressive piece of work that's just as good spacing out in headphones as it is spacing out in front of the stage.
City talked with King Buffalo in its rehearsal space to discuss, among other things, not listening to stoner rock, and going with the groove. An edited transcript of that conversation follows.
City: So what was the mission with starting up King Buffalo?
Scott Donaldson: Abandoned Buildings Club had two drummers, and a lot of heaviness and noise. And Velvet Elvis was a female-fronted psyche rock band. I think we were all looking for the next thing. As a three-piece, that took a bit of a process in order to fill the rest of the sound out. It became more dynamic; there were a lot more hills and valleys as opposed to when we were motoring along the entire time.
What sets you apart from others in the genre?
Dan Reynolds: We've been writing what you could call "pretty songs" — songs with actually beautiful melodies to them as opposed to riff-rock with somebody yelling under it.
Sean McVay: I think we're a lot more subtle than most of the bands in our genre. We still have those moments when we just want to smash you in the head with a sledgehammer, but a lot of it is wanting to make a cool, textured and groove thing to get people's heads to nod.
The songs aren't overly complex but sound well thought out. What is the writing process?
Donaldson: A lot of songs just come from jams. We'll just start jamming on something and it's like, "Whoa, that's cool." That's basically how we wrote "Orion."
The stoner rock scene seems to be coming back strong. Why do you suppose?
Donaldson: I don't think it truly went away. As the bands develop, they discover this is what they really like, then they're seeing other bands really make it and tour significantly. And there are more record labels in the genre.
McVay: I think it's evolved. It's not so much straightforward stoner rock anymore. Bands like Elder, they're under the stoner rock category, but they're a total prog-rock band. All Them Witches are almost like sex music, hippie music, and bands like Jucifer are more into the heavier, metal roots of it.
What do you listen to?
Reynolds: I don't listen to stoner rock at all. I like more of a groove feeling we put into our music as opposed to a straight ahead pounding.
What has kept King Buffalo together?
Donaldson: The reason we're a band is we wanna make cool music; we wanna be serious. We're done with being hammered until 2 in the morning, and not making anything cool. We've all been in beer bands where you're not really a band. We wanna tour; we wanna make awesome music. That's why we're together.
What direction do you see yourselves moving in the immediate future?
McVay: I wanna get groovier, man. I wanna make stuff for people to stop and just space out to. And just play what feels good.