Happy Birthday, Buffalo Killers

This year is a milestone one for one of the Cincinnati area’s best Rock bands, Buffalo Killers, as the group celebrates a very successful 10 years of rocking. This Friday, area fans can help commemorate the group’s decade of Rock & Roll service when it p

click to enlarge Buffalo Killers celebrate their 10th anniversary this weekend.
Buffalo Killers celebrate their 10th anniversary this weekend.

This year is a milestone one for one of the Cincinnati area’s best Rock bands, Buffalo Killers, as the group celebrates a very successful 10 years of rocking. Bassist/singer Zachary Gabbard and his brother, singer/guitarist Andy Gabbard, emerged in the late ’90s with the Garage Rock band The Shams (later changed to Thee Shams) and put out their debut on Shake It Records. The band then caught the attention of Mississippi’s Fat Possum Records, which had been known for releasing music by veteran Blues artists before moving on to more contemporary acts (a year before Thee Shams’ Fat Possum debut, Please Yourself, the label issued the sophomore full-length from then-up-and-comers The Black Keys).

By the mid-’00s, Thee Shams had split, and the brothers (along with drummer Joseph Sebaali, who’d played keys for Thee Shams) formed Buffalo Killers, moving away from the more Garage-y sound of their previous band and concocting a swampy, heavy and trippy Rock style that instantly drew comparisons to Classic Rock acts like The Rolling Stones, Blue Cheer and Cream. Immediately after forming, the band sent a demo to Alive Naturalsound Records (which, coincidentally, introduced the world to The Black Keys by releasing the duo’s 2002 debut album). According to the Gabbards, the label’s owner called the group on June 6, 2006, just as the trio was leaving to play its first show, to suggest working together. Alive released the band’s self-titled debut later that year, almost immediately bringing critical acclaim and national attention to Buffalo Killers, who’ve been nominated for and/or won several Cincinnati Entertainment Awards since their inception. Bringing The Black Keys connection full circle, Keys singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach produced the second Buffalo Killers album, 2008’s Let It Ride, and the group was invited to tour with fans like The Black Crowes (Chris Robinson was a very early supporter and is quoted as calling the group “one of the best fucking Rock & Roll bands in the world”), North Mississippi Allstars and (guess who?) The Black Keys.

Buffalo Killers’ songwriting talents have gotten increasingly stronger over the years, with more recent albums showcasing a masterful sense of melody and arrangement, leading Rolling Stone to describe its sound as “muscular Power Pop with hints of Psychedelia and Stoner Rock.” While retaining its scruffy, dirty-water swagger, the band’s sound is now practically Beatles-esque. In 2014, the group (which had grown to a quartet with the addition of lap-steel player and guitarist Sven Kahns) released the stellar album Heavy Reverie and an EP for Sun Pedal Recordings, which would theoretically help the band reach a wider audience thanks to the label’s distribution through Warner Brothers Records. But Buffalo Killers are now back on Alive’s roster, citing the support and freedom the label offers its artists as primary reasons for their return. In recent years, the Gabbard brothers have kept busy outside of BK. Zachary produced the 2014 album by upstate New York Blues/Soul/Rock band Handsome Jack, while Andy has been releasing solo work, including the fantastic Fluff, which came out on Alive early last year. He’s currently working on a new full-length and recently began posting new music at andygabbard.bandcamp.com.

As the band continues work on its next album, Alive has released a limited-edition version of Buffalo Killers’ debut for the label on “flaming pink” vinyl (the re-issue also comes with a pack of Buffalo Killers-branded rolling papers), which is available to order at bompstore.com.

This Friday, area fans can help celebrate the group’s decade of Rock & Roll service when Buffalo Killers play a free show at The Comet (4579 Hamilton Ave., Northside, cometbar.com). The band plans on playing a special set that will include songs from the first LP that haven’t been played live in years, and the foursome will also debut new material at the show. Craig Fox (former frontman for The Greenhornes, who were peers of Thee Shams) opens the night at 10 p.m.

Visit buffalokillers.com for the latest BK updates.

In tribute to the Greater Cincinnati greats, here's a collection of music videos released over the years:

CONTACT MIKE BREEN: [email protected].

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