Ohio's Buffalo Killers Reach a New Level of Heavy

For those keeping track of kickass contemporary power trios, you've just lost one of the biggest and best. Cincinnati's Buffalo Killers has added a member, so writers will have to stop their comparisons to Blue Cheer and Mountain.

"Yeah, we added Sven Kahns. He plays second guitar and lap steel," says Head Buffalo singer/guitarist Zachary Gabbard. The other longtime Killers include his singer/bassist brother Andrew Gabbard and drummer Joseph Sebaali.

"It frees all of us up," continues Gabbard. "When we were a three piece, there was no room to step back for a minute," he continues. "I feel more relaxed, and it's given everyone else a bit more breathing room."

And indeed, on their upcoming release Heavy Reverie (Sun Pedal Recordings), the Buffalo Killers continue their crunchy, classic-rock inspired music that includes bits of psychedelia anchored by Zach's distinctive and nasally vocals.

Produced by Jim Wirt, the band approached Heavy Reverie a little bit different than their previous five records, which include Buffalo Killers, the Dan Auerbach-produced Let it Ride, 3, Dig. Sow. Love. Grow., and Record Store Day exclusive Ohio Grass. The band has been around since 2006, after the three original Killers dissolved their previous group, garage-rockers Thee Shams.

"We've recorded the previous records pretty much on our own with no one really questioning what we did," Gabbard notes. And while that may seem a slight to Auerbach, the Black Keys frontman himself noted his minimal hand in Let It Ride. "For this one, it was good to have [Wirt] in the room to push us. We got really good takes, but kept things simple."

He also says it took all of "five days" to record Heavy Reverie's ten tracks, as they went in "super rehearsed" on the new material. In fact, the Killers already have another entire record in the can.

"Me and Andy write apart, then bring everything together, and this one was super quick," Gabbard says. And after the recording, he was thrilled to find out that the tracking console they used was the same one Michael Jackson did demos for Thriller on in his home.

"That was exciting, because I've always been in to Thriller since I was a kid. My favorite song of his is 'Carousel.' That was a demo that didn't make it onto Thriller, but we jam on it and it's one of the band's late night sing-alongs. And it was done on that board!"

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A more physical connection the Buffalo Killers have is with the Black Crowes, who took the Killers out on tour as an opening act in 2007, and the groups have remained close ever since. And since the Crowes' bass player is Sven Pipien, they both have members with that Danish/Norwegian name.

"It was funny. When the Crowes came to Cincinnati last, we met them, and we introduced Sven to Sven," Gabbard says. "Everyone cracked up on the bus."

Speaking of cracking, Gabbard says on the Houston date -- a spinoff from the band's SXSW appearance in Austin -- he's looking forward to cracking open a can of Lone Star Beer.

"I imagine you can get it anywhere now. But I first heard about the beer when it was mentioned in a song by the New Riders of the Purple Sage," Gabbard says, referring to "Instant Armadillo Blues."

Indeed, the Gabbards soaked up a lot of their obvious classic-rock influence from their parents' extensive record collection and smattering of instruments around the house growing up.

"They were always supportive, and we were always free to play music. It wasn't looked down upon by them," he reflects. "Mom and dad didn't give a shit if we went to college or not."

The Buffalo Killers play Thursday, March 13 at the Continental Club, 3700 Main.


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