Avi Buffalo: What’s In It for Avi?

Avi Buffalo proves that rock n' roll and youth go together better than glowsticks and shitty electronic music. Photo: Jeff Antebi

Rock n’ roll and youth go together better than poofy pants, glow sticks and shitty electronic music. When you’re young, your liver can deal with the large amounts of alcohol you push through it, and you’re still pretty attractive even if you’re ugly, especially when you can play an instrument. The kids in Avi Buffalo certainly still have their youth, with most of them around 20 years old.  And already having toured with Japandroids, Rogue Wave and Modest Mouse this year, it seems they have the rock n’ roll part down as well.

I actually got the chance to meet vocalist Avi Zahner-Isenberg earlier this year when they played the Twilight Concert Series on my birthday. I got to brandish an artist’s pass and watch the show from stage right. I arrived in time to watch Avi Buffalo finishing their set as I drank my inconspicuous beverage from a slightly more inconspicuous Dixie cup. As their set ended I moved toward a bottle of Maker’s Mark, which I unfortunately was unable to partake of, as it was a personal gift from Modest Mouse to Avi Buffalo. On my way toward the bottle I struck up a conversation with Avi, and we discussed our problems. Even a kid playing in front of thousands of people has to deal with the same bullshit as me, well almost.

SLUG: Most indie bands have to put out a few releases before being signed to a bigger label like Sub Pop. Do you think that the larger budget helped create more artistic freedom for you or did the pressure take from it?
Avi Zahner-Isenberg: I think it created more freedom, of course there’s pressure with our music being put out on a larger scale.

: What is it like inside a tour van full of 19-year-old kids?
Avi: Well, it’s interesting. It can be pretty hard. There are definitely times when I feel pretty inexperienced, even though we’ve played quite a few shows. Touring is quite a commitment, we’ve been on it for six months. Now we’re on a bit of a break, then we hit the road again in October.
: It seems like your band is pretty tight-knit. Can you tell me a little bit about each of your band mates?
Avi: Sheridan Riley is a really thoughtful person and drummer. We’ve grown up playing with each other since middle school. Arin Fazio grew up in Orange County and played in bands out there before we met him. When our first bassist Andrew Celik (The Wildbunch) left to start his band and work, we called Arin up because we knew him from shows we’d played in Long Beach.

SLUG: You had a band member leave ... Was the touring schedule pretty rough?
Avi: Sure, but she’s working on her own music, so that’ll be exciting.
SLUG: Touring with Modest Mouse would be a dream come true for most aspiring indie bands. What did you feel you took/learned from it?
Avi: A lot about just working together and being on the road. They’re a really great group of people and they put on great shows, so it was inspiring to see them giving their all and being such friends with everyone around.

SLUG: Your touring schedule has been pretty hectic. Have you had anytime to start working on new songs?
Avi: I have been here and there, on GarageBand and stuff. I still have to take some real time off of touring to record new stuff, so that’s coming up.

SLUG: Your lyrics are nearly always abstract and quite often perverse. Do they actually mean something to you or are they just catchy nonsense?
Avi: They mean a lot to me, otherwise I wouldn’t sing them. I keep stuff cloudy because it’s personal.

SLUG: The songs as a whole tend to go in unexpected directions. Through the guitar work and the lyrics. Do you have a clearly thought out plan when you sit down to write the songs, or is it a pretty fluid process?
Avi: It’s a pretty random process. I just try to find chords or parts that sound good and sound good together.

SLUG: One of the most talked about portions of your recordings and one of the more exciting things about your live performances is the guitar work. Do you have a background in music theory?
Avi: I don’t have much theory on my belt, but some guitar lessons, a lot of ear work and mentorships from older musicians.

SLUG: Your last show in Salt Lake City went pretty well, are you excited to be coming back?
Avi: Yeah, I’m stoked! It’s a really great city, some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, so I imagine it’s gonna be a fun time.

Avi Buffalo is going to be at Kilby Court on October 26, come check it out and get a better view and a more intimate show than you got during the Twilight Concert Series.

Avi Buffalo proves that rock n' roll and youth go together better than glowsticks and shitty electronic music. Photo:  Jeff Antebi