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We just do our thing: an interview with Zach Gabbard of Buffalo Killers

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Buffalo Killers is a rock and roll band from Cincinnati whose sound could best be described as modern classic rock. By phone, Zach Gabbard (guitar, vocals) discussed the band's new album, the importance of genuinely liking your bandmates, and winning the acclaim of Chris Robinson.

Tell me about the new album.

We recorded with Jim Wirt in Cleveland. We did it in about five days. Andy and I wrote the songs, rehearsed them, and tore it up. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is getting into the studio and away from everything else. Once that happens, everything's gold.

Compare the new album to previous albums.

It's definitely a growing period every time. We've done making demos and taking a year to make a record. We've gone in not even knowing anything and made a record...just learning the songs in the studio. With this, we rehearsed and planned the sequence Andy cut all the solos on this album live. Everything's live. All we did was go back in and do the vocals. We've added another guitar player. He's been with us for a year. He plays guitar and lap steel. The sound was getting bigger. We weren't worrying about being a three-piece band in the studio. It's time to grow and let things breathe.

Which approach do you find you like better?

I love making music. I'm very fortuante that I've been able to do those things and have somoene behind me to let me do those things. Going into the studio not knowing what we're doing and coming out the other side with a record is great. I love making music. I love being in the barn with the dudes and hashing things out. We don't talk about anything much and we don't plan anything. We don't go over arrangements. We just pick up our instruments and say, "Here's how it goes. Just jump in." It's nice to play with people that care enough to be behind you.

I think it comes through in the music...that vibe of all of you coming together.

We really love each other. We like being around each other. We have fun with each other. It's not torture to be around each other. I'm glad that that comes off: just being genuine. We're not trying to fit into anything. We just do our thing, and people have found us. We've spent our entire career flying under the radar, and that's fine with me.

You mentioned you don't really want to fit in to anything, but who do you guys often get compared to? I know what I would answer, but I want to know what people tell you.

I've heard so many different things. One that I think is funny - not in a jokey way, it just surprised me. On the last record, we got more than one comparison to Guns n Roses. I'd never heard that one before. We hear Neil Young, Big Star. It's such a wide range that people tell us we sound like.

My comparison would be James Gang.

That's one that's more up the alley. I've heard that before. Everybody wants to compare you to something. Being compared to James Gang...that's a pretty big compliment.

What does it mean to you that Chris Robinson called you one of the best rock n roll bands on the planet?

(laughs) Honestly, it's completely unreal that Chris Robinson gives a f**k about us. I grew up listening to The Black Crowes. My dad was into music. He taught us to play. Anything rock n roll, dad would buy us. We'd buy rap or hip-hop with our own money. I think he saw The Black Crowes on that ZZ Top tour that they got kicked off of. I remember hearing it for the first time probably when I was in the sixth grade, and I was into them.

We did that tour with them. They've always been in contact. They invite us to shows and treat us good. He said that at the show. We walked in ripped, and Chris Robinson's dedicating a song to us. It's unreal. I love The Black Crowes. When they first took us on the road, we probably only had 10 songs. We were riding Let it Ride. Their sound crew did our sound. They showed us how to bring things up a notch, and helped us. Rich and Chris are great, man! They turned a lot of people on to us.

What is the best advice you can give to other bands about touring?

The best advice is just to take it seriously. Take some steps everyday toward what you want to do. You can't half-ass it. Have fun. It's rock n roll. It's not that serious. When we go out, we have a blast the entire time. It's about being with the guys in your band. They should be your family. If not, you're just faking it.

One of my pet peeves when I go to see bands is when bands look bored onstage.

It's because they hate each other. Someone in the band hates another person. I see it all the time. We go into places to play with bands. We'll get tight with whoever it is. Every band has someone that...you can see it when they're playing. You just can't be like that. It's not real. The ever-flowing member changes...someone is the problem. I like the guys I'm in the band with, and I can't imagine it being any other way. Why would you be in a band with someone you don't want to be in a band with?

Plus there's the whole thing that this is your chance to show the audience who you are and what you do. If you're not interested in it, why should I be?

Right. With us, it's war when we go into a club. We're just there to kill it. No matter what else is going on, we know that when we get up there, it will be nails and everybody will be on the ball.

What would you be doing if you weren't making music?

I'd be taking care of the farm I live on. We bought a farm. I have two kids. Every year, when it's time to plant the garden, I plant the garden then I go on tour. If I were here...I have plenty of land to do whatever I want. That's what I'd be doing: growing vegetables.

Buffalo Killers has the following shows (all with Howlin' Rain) in southern California this week.

20 May at The Casbah in San Diego

21 May at The Constellation Room in Santa Ana

23 May at The Echo in Los Angeles

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