Interviewing Bucko is like herding meth lab cats. During the Cincinnati band’s guest spot on Eddy Mullet’s Kindred Sanction show on radio station Class X, drummer Brian Kitzmiller dropped a “bullshit” bomb almost immediately, bassist Josh Pilot peppered the interview with stingers from the sound effect app on his phone and vocalist/guitarist Brandon Losacker went in and out of an Italian/Hispanic accent, sometimes interviewing himself.
For this feature, we met at the Gaslight Cafe in Pleasant Ridge on a packed Thursday night, so imagine the aforementioned interview, but with the threat of FCC sanctions removed and glazed liberally with a couple of gallons of alcohol.
On this go-round, Kitzmiller got up to use the restroom and sat back down with strangers in the booth directly behind us, Pilot randomly broke into his spot-on Borat impression and complained he was too young to get our Pop culture references (which is true; I have concert T-shirts older than him) and Losacker did his karaoke version of Chad Kroeger and spoke in what sounded like a lost Babylonian dialect. It was way more fun than work is supposed to be.
The reason for this controlled psychotic break from reality is the emergence of Bucko on Cincinnati’s music scene and the release of the band’s eponymous debut, a nine-song full-length that finds Losacker forsaking his longtime sideman role and reluctantly moving to the front of the stage. It’s also forced him to draw on different, more personal influences.
“I listen to so many different things, and then (try) to play into what these guys do,” Losacker says of finding a sound. “My roots are still in Hard Rock, like Slayer, but I’ll listen to Duran Duran too. It’s a very scattered time in my life and I’m all over the fucking place. Duran Duran. Fugazi. It’s very schizophrenic.”
Local players are always getting together in new forms, but Bucko’s lineup has an alchemical feel. Losacker and Kitzmiller played together in Jody Stapleton’s Generals and The Black Owls, which also featured Bucko guitarist/vocalist Ed Shuttleworth. Former KillTones guitarist Josh Pilot, who led his own band when he was a teenager, joined up, but only on the stipulation that he could switch to bass.
“It took me a year and a half to get decent at it,” Pilot says.
“He plugged in and we played a song,” Kitzmiller says. “It was like, ‘Whoa, I think this is it.’ ”
The magic that occurred when Losacker and Kitzmiller began jamming together in the wake of The Black Owls’ dissolution a little over two years ago is woven into Bucko’s debut album.
The process of simply figuring out what they were aiming for took a bit of time, detective work and a succession of area guests, including Mad Anthony’s Ringo Jones, The Sundresses’ Brad Schnittger, former Black Owl Mike Brewer and The Ass Ponys’ Randy Cheek, among others. The KillTones’ Clinton Vearil (who’s now with mr. phylzzz) also gave Losacker some much appreciated support.
“I reached out to Clinton because I needed some kind of validation,” Losacker says. “I was like, ‘Check this out, what do you think?’ Clinton was like, ‘It’s great!’ That made me a little more confident because I was never the frontguy and I still didn’t want to be the frontguy, at all. I remember Ringo would sing, and I’d go, ‘How about like this?’ He’d go, ‘You can sing. Why don’t you just sing?’ I just wanted to play guitar.”
After lots of jamming on Losacker’s demoed songs, Kitzmiller decided to contact Pilot about jumping into the process. Pilot had heard the demo of the track “Flowers” through Vearil and thought it was incredible. With his bass demands met, the three began shaping Losacker’s riffs and ideas into songs.
“I was going through the shit I was going through, holed up in the attic doing this (holds up shot glass) — probably not good — and writing songs,” he says. “I’d bring them to these guys. Before, I’d record something and think it was great at the time, then the next day be like, ‘This is shit.’ But this stuff, two days later, I’d be like, ‘This is pretty good.’ We did this two or three times, and it worked, and I was like, ‘We’ve got to get Ed. He’s the only guy that can make this work.’ Ed and I have crazy chemistry.”
Former Black Owls guitarist/vocalist Shuttleworth may well be Bucko’s secret weapon. A Glam-era influenced six stringer with a strong Punk ethic and an infinite power train warranty, Shuttleworth nailed the whole package together.
“Ed is one of those guys who knows exactly what to do and when to do it and then can do it,” Pilot says. “The stuff he added to the recordings is just amazing, especially all his backup vocals.”
“He’s got the sweetest high voice I’ve ever heard,” Kitzmiller says. “He sounds like a ghost, really. You know, I’d played in a lot of bands, and they told me to play behind the beat. Ed was like, ‘Play on top of the beat.’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘Like the fucking Clash, man!’ And it worked.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise after checking out Bucko is when you realize that Losacker has never fronted a band. Given his emotional delivery and vocal resemblance to the likes of Eddie Vedder, Waylon Jennings and Matt Berninger, he would seem a natural choice, but his confidence issues had to be addressed first.
“I had all these songs but I’d never played them with anyone,” Losacker says. “I’d bring in one, and they’d be like, ‘That’s cool,’ and I’d go, ‘No, we can’t do that. It’s my song.’ ”
“Brandon was a big fan of it being a group thing,” Kitzmiller says.
With everyone’s input, Bucko has become a very strong group thing, a dynamic that may be helped by the fact that each member has remained in other groups. Losacker drums with The Tongue and Lips and plays guitar with Royal Holland, Kitzmiller drums with The Ready Stance, Pilot plays guitar with The Skulx and Shuttleworth plays guitar in Pretty Mugs, his project with Black Owls frontman David Butler, and also has recorded a solo album under the banner Red Skylark.
“We’re hoping to incorporate some of that into what we’re doing, especially with the new stuff,” Losacker says. “I also do a puppet show.”
Another round, barkeep. This is all starting to make sense.
BUCKO plays a benefit show for flooded community music therapy studio Melodic Connections at Southgate House Revival Thursday. Tickets/more info: southgatehouse.com.