t’s easy to think that Buffalo Killers stopped being a local band after Chris Robinson tapped them to open for the Black Crowes tour five years ago. The Gabbard brothers — guitarist/vocalist Zach and bassist/vocalist Andrew — and their drummer, Joey Sebaali, had recently retooled Thee Shams into Buffalo Killers, and their eponymous 2006 debut album was causing a big stir in Psych Rock circles, leading to the invitation from Robinson, which ultimately led to more and equally enticing opportunities.
Through it all, Buffalo Killers have maintained a consistent profile at home, even though the trio is absent for long stretches of fairly high-profile touring. Sitting in his Madison Township farmhouse with his two kids playing nearby, Zach Gabbard insists that the Killers will always consider themselves a Cincinnati band.
“I still adore Cincinnati, it’s still home base even though we don’t live there anymore,” Gabbard says. “Other things came up and it’s just different now. We tour pretty regularly but we still hit Cincinnati every few months and it’s always a great time. Ohio is great; Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Cleveland, Athens and Akron. There are so many great places and it’s like going home every time.”
By way of proof, Buffalo Killers just knocked out a rousing set at this year’s Northside Festival and are now gearing up for their local release show this Saturday at MOTR Pub to celebrate their third album, appropriately titled 3. For those expecting another disc’s worth of psychedelic smoke and thunder from the Killers, 3 offers more than a few surprises (including cameo appearances by Brian Olive and the Breeders’ Kelley Deal). This time out, the trio exudes a sweeter Pop vibe, as though they’re channeling their inner Joe Walsh.
“Me and Andy write the songs and it’s just like we’re always on the same page to make all the pieces fit together,” Gabbard says. “I think it came out great. I’m very proud of it.”
For 3, the Killers switched up their usual process of writing songs then taking them into the studio to bang them out. This time, the band worked on actual demos at Mike Montgomery’s Candyland studio before starting the real recording process.
There were a few demoed tracks that hearkened back to the Killers’ eponymous debut and their 2008 sophomore album Let It Ride, but ultimately the more melodic, Pop-edged songs garnered the most attention.
“In our progressing along, we’re still in the same vein with some things,” Gabbard says. “We just really wanted to make a record that we felt real good about and to maybe give a little element of surprise. We just wanted to make a record that was a little bit different.”
Inspirationally, the songs on 3 come from a more peaceful inner place for the Gabbards. Let It Ride was written largely on the Black Crowes tour and, as a result, the songs are centered around a theme of loneliness and longing for home. 3 clearly reflects the band’s current settled environment and state of mind.
“I’ve got a wife and two kids now, and I feel in a good place, and Andy’s gotten married and I think we’re in a good spot — maybe we’re too happy,” Gabbard says, laughing. “Everything’s great, and everyone’s in a good place.”
Buffalo Killers’ contentment definitely comes through on 3, an album that exudes summer warmth and a sunshine bright charm, while still maintaining the band’s signature sonic presence if at a slightly less dense level. 3 could easily push Buffalo Killers to the next tier of Rock stardom, but that kind of fame and adulation holds little appeal for the trio. Although they have plenty of ambition, Buffalo Killers have almost nothing in common with bands whose only goal is to make the big time at any cost.
“Everyone does their thing and everyone has their voice and it all works out just the way we want,” Gabbard says. “It’s a very easy relationship we have. Me and Andy write the songs separately and come together and it always works, even with themes in the songs. I feel super lucky to be playing music with my brother and Joey, I love them both so much. It tickles me to death every night that we play. It’s just so exciting to be where you’ve always wanted to be.”
This is an incredibly fruitful period for Buffalo Killers. They’re about to head out on a fairly lengthy summer tour and the Gabbards are already in the process of demoing new songs for the next album before the official release of 3. And although there’s a slight sonic shift with the new album, Gabbard assures that it’s not on par with the change that led from Thee Shams to Buffalo Killers.
“This is here to stay, the songs are coming,” Gabbard says. “Maybe at one time we held things back because we didn’t think it was right for what we were doing, but what we’re doing is us, and what comes out of us is the project. We’re not as fearful as we were before.”
BUFFALO KILLERS celebrate the release of 3 with a show at MOTR Pub Saturday.Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.