While away from Los Angeles, I had the privilege of virtually corresponding with the frontman of Buddy, for whom the band is named. He took time out of his schedule to talk to me about Buddy's upcoming sophomoric album, Last Call For The Quiet Life, the significance of Portland, OR, and his penchant for pop stars.
Hi Buddy! Wanted to thank you for sitting down to some of my questions.
Buddy is referred to as being from Los Angeles, but you started making music under your name in Portland, OR. Did you grow up there?
Yep! I was born and raised in Portland. I moved to LA about 12 years ago. I was writing songs in Portland, but I wasn’t actively playing music until I moved to LA.
How do you feel Portland affected your music?
Growing up, Portland had such a small town, laid-back feel to it. The arts scene wasn’t nearly as vibrant as it is now. I think the quietness oozed into my blood a bit and I wrote a lot of mellow songs. I actually never felt like the weather affected me, except for the fact that you’re forced to spend a lot more time indoors.
Which bands or artists made you decide to become a musician?
When I was very young, my siblings turned me on to stuff like The Replacements, early R.E.M., Elvis Costello. Those bands really affected me and inspired me to learn guitar and start writing songs.
Can you remember the moment that you decided that this, making music and touring, was going to be your life?
I was about thirteen when I knew, but I spent a good amount of time wrestling with the practicality of it. But whenever I tried to focus on some other career-oriented job I was miserable, and that’s when I really knew that I just didn’t have any other options if I wanted to have a career that actually made me happy.
Have you been involved in any other projects, or has Buddy always been your primary musical focus?
Buddy is the primary focus, but I co-write with friends and other musicians, have co-produced a couple of projects, and recently I’ve done some scoring. I just finished scoring a documentary with Will Golden called “Mentor” that should be released sometime this year.
How did you and the rest of the band meet?
My first show was at a place called the Hotel Café in Los Angeles. I was playing a solo show and Percy (our guitar player) happened to be working the door and Will (our bass player, producer, and co-writer) was working the sound. We all just hit it off and became friends. They introduced me to the other guys and a year later, we were a band!
Portland and Los Angeles have very distinct music scenes. Do you feel both cities have influenced Buddy’s music equally?
I didn’t really start playing music regularly until I moved to Los Angeles, so I was never heavily involved in Portland’s music scene. Oddly enough, the music scene wasn’t really that cool when I was growing up. I feel like it took off pretty much the day I left!
What was different about your writing processes for Buddy’s first and second albums? You’ve said that Last Call For the Quiet Life was more of a spontaneous, let-it-happen, let-it-unfold kind of work — was Alterations and Repairs at all like this?
Alterations and Repairs was done in a more traditional sense. I had written all these acoustic, more singer/songwriter songs and then we went into the studio and recorded them. Last Call For the Quiet Life was very different in that Will and I wrote the songs together, largely in the studio. We wanted to avoid making the same record twice and to get out of our comfort zone a bit. We experimented writing with different instruments and the whole project just felt much more organic, with unknown results. It was an entirely new experience and really fun.
What was it like putting aside Buddy’s original second album?
It was hard. I felt awful about shelving something that so many people had dedicated so much work and time to. It was a hard decision I agonized over for quite some time, but eventually came to the conclusion that it wasn’t beneficial for us to put out something we didn’t feel was the best we could do. I think we all feel like it was the right decision now and would like to think we avoided our “sophomore slump” record. Ha.
Do you feel like Last Call For The Quiet Life aligned with your aspirations for Buddy’s sophomoric album more successfully?
Yes, I do. We wanted our second record to feel different, but still an accurate reflection of us. We wanted it to have more of a band feel and less of a singer/songwriter one.
What was it like writing “Anchor” for Last Call, as it was written first as a poem? Do you read a lot of poetry, or was this form more out of the blue for you?
I loved writing “Anchor,” as it was a new and interesting way for us to go about writing. We usually come up with the melody first and then I go home and write the lyrics. But in this case, we built the music around the words. We liked working that way and will probably take that approach more often in the future. There’s a few indie poets I enjoy reading, but I wouldn’t say I’m an avid poetry reader. I do really enjoy the form though and it’s just been in the last couple of years that I have tried my hand at writing it.
Do you have a most cherished song off of Last Call?
I don’t really have a favorite song as I like different ones for different reasons. But with a gun to my head, I’d probably say “Anchor” just because I enjoyed that process of writing in reverse so much.
If I were to open your record player, flip through your iTunes, or scan your CD player, what would I find there today?
Today you would find a lot of embarrassing pop songs I would prefer you didn’t see, but let’s just say they rhyme with “Celine Dion” and “Backstreet Boys.” Crap, I didn’t disguise those very well. But, on a more typical day, there’s some great bands in LA I’ve found myself listening to a lot lately: Viva Violet, Whispertown, Knifeyhead, All Spots to Black, Jake Bellows – to name a few.
Last Call comes out on August 19. What are your plans after the album debuts?
We have already started writing the next record as we’d like to avoid another massive break between releases. And we will be doing a lot of touring both here and overseas in the fall! And I plan to drink a lot of Slurpee’s this summer.