Buffalo Summer sound like you hope and dream…big, bluesy, southern-tinged rock with riffs and melodies that refuse to leave your body or brain.
Hailing from South Wales, guitarist Jonny Williams, vocalist Andrew Hunt, drummer Gareth Hunt and bassist Darren King walk with giants in both action and attitude, evoking the days when classic rock such as Led Zeppelin, Free and Whitesnake strode stages like lions, yet with infusions of contemporary legends such as The Black Crowes, Alice In Chains and even a little dash of Jack White.
“A lot of what the blues is all about comes from hard lives and working class perspectives,” says Andrew, “and maybe it’s easier to feel if you connect to it on one of those levels.”
Wales is a mythical, creative and beautiful country which also takes great pride in its working class/mining roots. Buffalo Summer’s path was forged in such surroundings, the Hunt brothers growing up in a small village outside Neath, South Wales (‘a town more famous for its rugby than anything’).
“In Wales, music seems to be in your blood,” Andrew explains, “as soon as you go to school, as soon as you go to nursery, the first thing you’re doing is singing hymns. But aside from that, my very first musical memory, and one I still have an actual photograph of, is me playing a toy guitar with a red headband like Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits! My father played a lot of Dire Straits and he liked a lot of the Welsh bands too, like Budgie and Man, while my mother had a bit of vinyl collection with a few bits of disco and a lot of Motown. So there was always a tune in the house.”
Andrew, Gareth and their friend Darren had the time and space to freely explore music. “As kids we’d spend a lot of time together, it was a very tight-knit community”, says Andrew, “we were always out, kicking a football around, listening to Nirvana and the Manic Street Preachers. I also liked a lot of the Seattle bands personally, so it was inevitable really that as we got a little older, we’d put a band together”. As the boys started playing in the mid-90s, Welsh rock was enjoying an international popularity surge, something not lost on any of Buffalo Summer.
“There was this thing in the mid to late 90s called Cool Cymru, you had the Manic Street Preachers, Stereophonics, Catatonia, Super Furry Animals, and there seemed to be a few bands coming out of small villages in Wales where there was high unemployment and no money. We had our own personal battles too, so another vital record for us, being from South Wales, was Word Gets Around by Stereophonics. There was a band out there singing about where we were from, with the same background as us, and making a success out of their lives. It was very inspirational, and we continued being immersed in music for everything really, solace, escape and also pure simple enjoyment.”
Enter Jonny Williams, a Swansea boy, who came to the area for school. “Jonny came to Neath to go to music college around 2001/02,” says Andrew. “I was studying a different course there, but we were both in bands and we became friends on the local circuit. We were both in other bands for several years, just local stuff, having fun, having a good time. One night we started talking about The Black Crowes, and that was it, we were friends forever. It was around 2006 when Jonny and I would get a guitar out and jam a riff. I was a guitarist in my other band, not a singer, but one time in his bedroom, we recorded a few things on his 8-track and I found myself singing.”
The chemistry was allowed further time and space to breathe over the next couple of years. “Jonny’s house was up on a hill out of the town overlooking Swansea, so we’d sit out in the garden all summer, looking out over Swansea and the ocean, just jamming,” beams Andrew.
“It was really both relaxing and inspirational, and those were very creative times. The band came together around those 8-track songs, and January 2010 would be the first time we all jammed together.” The first (self-titled) album came out in 2013, self-released, and the band got offered a distribution deal with Cargo Records which gave it a good boost. Buffalo Summer embarked on an all-out offensive to get people paying attention. “We started picking up gigs beyond the local scene and I contacted about 500 people,” says Andrew, “booking agents, management, anyone I could find who I thought could help. I bombarded people! It was a law of averages, and we ended up with a booking agent, TKO, in NY. The first tour we got was with Walking Papers, in Europe, we toured with them twice more and we’ve been touring ever since (Buffalo Summer have toured with the likes of Ugly Kid Joe, Buckcherry and Skid Row).” It was a specific show in Hamburg (at The Logo on April 29th 2013) with Walking Papers that proved pivotal in Buffalo Summer’s career.
“At the back of the room, I saw Barrett Martin (Walking Papers, Screaming Trees, Mad Season) nodding along to some of the new songs we were playing,” remembers Andrew. “Afterwards, he mentioned how he really enjoyed the songs, and on the final show of the tour at The Garage in London, he came up to us and said he’d really like to make a record with us. I was a huge Screaming Trees and Mad Season fan anyway, and everyone agreed.” That same night also yielded the union with UDR Records. As Andrew says, quite an evening in the band’s career. “We met Jay Lansford at the gig, got chatting to him, got on well and when I sent the songs out to labels in the following months, UDR were the most enthusiastic and supportive of what we wanted to do.” With UDR onboard as Spring of 2014 arrived, Buffalo Summer booked studio time in May at Mwnci (Monkey) Studios in Dyfed, Wales, and Barrett made his way to meet them. “He’s is a bit of a fan of Celtic mythology and history in general, so we arranged to meet at Stonehenge!” laughs Andrew, “he had his suitcase and some other equipment, we went around Stonehenge, stopped for a pub lunch and drove back to Swansea." Given Barrett’s established love of history, and Buffalo Summer’s appreciation of creative space, they could not have picked a better environment.
“In the 17-1800’s it was a country mansion which burned down,” explains Andrew, “all that was left were the servants’ quarters, and it became a hippy commune in the ‘60s. It is literally in the middle of the woods, no phone signal, so it’s pretty isolated.” Despite having pre-booked their time, within 24 hours of setting up to record the band took off for a quick gig with Black Sabbath and Soundgarden at Hyde Park, before heading back to the studio for 10 days of work with Martin, who was ordained a Zen monk in 2000 and who in 2009 earned a Masters degree in anthropology, linguistics and ethnomusicology from the University of New Mexico.
“We tracked everything live to get the vibe,” says Andrew, “Jonny overdubbed a few solos and I overdubbed some vocals, but other than that, the songs have a great ‘live’ energy which we thought was important to capture.” Second Sun is an album that could only have come from these surroundings…surroundings which run in Buffalo Summer’s veins.
“There is something enchanting and inspirational growing up around these mountains, these rivers and these wild woods,” states Andrew. “Led Zeppelin came to Wales to be inspired by the magic they had read in Tolkien's books, while we were lucky enough to be born into it. And if you’re artistically inclined in any way, there's no escaping the impressions those landscapes leave upon you.” In 1967, Welsh poet Brian Harris wrote “In Passing”, and the verse below is one which not only carries resonance for Andrew but seems particularly fitting for Buffalo Summer, their creativity, and the adventures they are so obviously destined to embark upon.
To be born in Wales, Not with a silver spoon in your mouth, But, with music in your blood And with poetry in your soul, Is a privilege indeed. With the next chapter in Buffalo Summer’s epic journey about to commence in 2017, make sure you’re not left reading the tales of their ‘soul from the coal’ adventures when you can be part of the sensational story being written.
Bass - Darren King Vocals - Andrew Hunt Guitar - Jonny Williams Drums - Gareth Hunt