Can it really be three years since Avi Buffalo’s eponymous album dropped into our laps & won over our hearts with its blissful collection of stirringly beautiful songs? Seems so, which bids the question wherefore to a follow-up? Nat Lyon’s been wondering the same thing, but unlike us he didn’t just think it, he also went off chasing an answer, and we think, like us, you’ll like what he found out.
In 2010, Avi Buffalo released his first, self-titled, album on Sub Pop. The album received critical praise for many reasons, but here are two good ones: first, and most importantly, the 11 songs were brilliantly written and performed. This was a groundbreaking first album, but that’s something Sub Pop is known for. Second, at the time of the release, Avi Zahner-Isenberg was 19 years old, but the music was crafted with a skill and maturity beyond his years. He wasn’t an immature kid, he was uber-mature. This was not kid-rock music. It was brilliant. The band toured non-stop in the US and Europe, which was a bit of a problem for Avi’s longtime collaborator and drummer, Sheridan Riley, who was still in high school at the time.
A lot of people are still listening to the first Avi Buffalo album. It has a timeless quality and still sounds fresh. But there has been some murmuring. It has been three years now since that eponymous album, is there a new album or has Avi Buffalo packed it in?
IT HAS BEEN THREE YEARS- WHAT IS THE FUCKING DEAL?
And the crushing part for any artist comes at that point when teenage girls start putting videos of their solo acoustic, Sheryl Crow-like, versions of Avi Buffalo songs on YouTube. That is a breaking point.
Luckily, thanks to social media and the God-King Interweb, Avi Buffalo and Sheridan Riley are pretty easy to find. Avi is extremely active on facebook, Instagram, Morfo, and Vine, and he is always interested in talking about music, food, and sex. If you want to know when the next Avi Buffalo album is dropping, you just need to put your ear to the ground.
Here is the bottom line, from my series of late night / early morning text messages with Mr Buffalo:
1. A new Avi Buffalo album is imminent. Imminent, as in SOON.
2. It will be a Sub Pop release.
3. The new album does not have a title yet- and that is perhaps the least important news.
4. A tour of the US and Europe is in the works.
5. Avi wants to be the first band to tour the Mars Colony via Virgin Air.
6. Avi has learned a lot in the last three years.
7. Avi and Sheridan have been very, very active on the music front.
8. We just haven’t been looking. Or listening, because there is a lot of stuff out there.
Avi Buffalo is the artist name for Avi Zahner-Isenberg and he IS the band. He writes the music, sings the songs, and shreds his Fender Jazzmaster like a motherfucker (or more politely, at the master level). Sheridan Riley started jamming with Avi when they were in middle school and has been a steady presence in a band that has had more than a few different members come and go over the last few years. She has also branched out and grown as a musician in her own right.
What most people do not realize is that the first Avi Buffalo album took three years to write and record. Avi has always been very process oriented and has never been in a hurry to put out new material just for the sake of keeping his visibility up. Maybe that is why the first album was so fucking awesome. The NEW, untitled, soon-to-be-released album is getting the same careful treatment as the first and perhaps even a little more. Over the last three years Avi Buffalo has also further developed his technical skills and his musicianship taking a greater role in engineering and mixing the new material, even branching out to produce works by other artists, such as Arjuna Genome.
Odd trips and short west coast tours were made this summer to record and try out the new Avi Buffalo material. Bits and pieces would pop up on SoundCloud or Facebook, only to quickly disappear. Oddly sampled sounds in his Morfo videos made me wonder if I was hearing samples of new songs, and my queries received very cryptic replies. Over the summer Avi Buffalo spent a couple of weeks at John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone studio to record material for the new album. During one session, Vanderslice was working in the room next door recording his own full-length interpretation of a Bowie classic, “John Vanderslice Plays Diamond Dogs.” Realizing he had an ace guitarist working in the studio he asked Avi if he’d be interested in playing on the title track:
“Avi was recording in the next room and was game to improvise over some of the Diamond Dogs tracking. He was fast and fearless. We ended up keeping the first take. I’m not sure how he got it so fast- you could almost hear him thinking as he was playing. It was fascinating.”
In the world of Avi Bufffalo, every experience feeds back into the creation of the next Avi Buffalo album. This factor contributes to a long incubation period of writing, recording, and reflection. Things like relationships, driving people places, the pains of growing up, as well as endless jamming in support of other bands, and an increasing role as a producer, all cycle back into Avi Buffalo’s sonic experiments. For the new album he has taken a very thoughtful, and very evolutionary approach to writing and recording.
Sheridan Riley has been a consistent member of Avi Buffalo since Avi conceived the project and went in search of musicians for a live band. It seemed a natural fit since they had been jamming buddies since they were basically children, bonding over Led Zeppelin, Dick Dale, and Hendrix. On the first Avi Buffalo album the intuitive interplay between the nuanced guitar melodies are always met in kind by Sheridan’s precise drumming. The quiet parts are quiet, but far from simple and Sheridan knows how (and when) to go big when Avi shreds.
During the downtime between recording and touring with Avi Buffalo, Sheridan Riley has been a pick-up drummer of choice for a number of California bands, in the process immersing herself in music that spans several genres. In parallel she has started a solo project called “Peg” and self-recorded a 10-inch that will be released before the end of 2013 entitled Living with Abbreviation (Eschatone) with collaborator Dylan Wood. Trading in her drums for a Telecaster (which she says has been liberating), Sheridan Riley writes, sings, and plays with a band drawn from her growing community of musician friends for live shows, playing the club circuit in southern California. She has posted music on Bandcamp and SoundCloud, and turned in one very tidy Daytrotter session.
The music of Peg is not a carbon copy of Avi Buffalo to be sure, though some of the same influences are present. Peg has a bite, and Riley’s lyrics, while delivered in a poppy and optimistic manner (most of the time), are crowned by a halo of self doubt that is reflected in the music. The Peg project has been transformative, and in the process, despite the self-doubt, Sheridan has matured as a musician over the last 3-years. The Peg material is strong and fearless.
The social media breadcrumbs that Avi Buffalo and Sheridan Riley have been leaving along the digital trail have been hard to find, but extremely tasty, and if what I’ve heard so far is any indication the next Avi Buffalo album will be a killer, and will have been worth the wait.
Here is the map – enjoy the hunt.