Rochesterians tend to think of King Buffalo as a local band, however they are garnering attention on national and international levels. Their debut album, Orion, showed up on the Album of the Year lists for several rock critics. Earlier this month, Stickman Records released a European version of the album.
The psychedelic rock band with a heavy blues bent delivers heady grooves laden with symbolic imagery. It’s the kind of music that is best heard live – but if not live, then on a turntable in a room with curtains drawn and incense burning. The sound is reminiscent of iconic classic rock bands like The Doors, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath, but also has a modern edge that leads one to wonder if this is what Jim Morrison would be creating if he were alive today.
King Buffalo is comprised of Rochester natives Sean McVay (Guitar & Lead Vocals), Dan Reynolds (Bass & Lights), Scott Donaldson (Drums & Vocals). NYS Music caught up with the band at their recording studio inside the historic Main Street Armory, to discuss the history of the band, their creative process, and future plans.
Paula Cummings: How did King Buffalo come into being?
Sean McVay: Dan and I played in a band together for a few years before King Buffalo, called Abandoned Buildings Club. Scott played in a band called Velvet Elvis. We were all in the same sort of psychedelic heavy blues rock circle and played a bunch of shows together. We were all part of the same scene. When our bands dissipated and fell apart, we started jamming, and we clicked really fast.
Scott Donaldson: I approached those guys because Velvet Elvis broke up before Abandoned Buildings Club. I was booking all these dates and then Velvet Elvis broke up. So I was wondering if you guys were interested in learning some of the songs and filling in. Our fourth original member, Randall, was also the singer of Velvet Elvis. We started jamming and maybe the first or second practice we wrote a song.
Dan Reynolds: Yeah, I don’t think we played any Velvet Elvis songs until a couple weeks in.
SD: It was cool we were able to pound that (new) stuff out that quickly. So we started touring and pissing people off because half of them thought we were Velvet Elvis. We were like, “No, we go by King Buffalo now.”
SM: We’d show up and there’d be a marquee that would say Velvet Elvis and we’d play two Velvet Elvis songs and the rest was King Buffalo stuff.
DR: And we played one Abandoned Buildings Club song.
SM: Yeah. We knew pretty early on that we had something cool going. That’s why we kept writing. And then we recorded them. We wanted to have something recorded so we could say, I know you came to see Velvet Elvis, but here. We just ended giving out 300 CD’s on that tour.
PC: But they were people who were already into that kind of scene.
SD: Yeah. The first tour we did as King Buffalo was with All Them Witches. They were relatively unknown then. Now they’re doing quite well. We were in an RV with those guys, having fun playing to some people some nights and just to each other some nights. It was a great experience.
PC: You guys also did a split with Le Betre.
SD: One dude from STB Records posted a picture of our demo, like “I’m jamming this, packing orders.” And I just emailed him, like “I heard you like our demo, we should do something together.” He said “I’d love to, it sounds amazing, but I’ve got so many projects this year, I can’t do it.” A week later, “You guys are doing a split with this band from Sweden called Le Betre.” STB’s got their own following. It’s a very collector’s-based, die-hard version with splatter vinyl. I mean, none of us had had anything that looked so pretty, so we were all about it.