Houston Calling

Free Press Summer Fest preview: Buxton

August 2nd, 2009 · 2 Comments

Buxton has become one of Houston’s finest bands, with must-see shows that continue to attract new fans. The band’s mix of stripped-down country/folk with a definite indie aesthetic is addictive. When I first caught the band live, I immediately compared them to Wilco. Last year, the band–vocalist/guitarist Sergio Trevino, guitarist Jason Willis, bassist Chris Wise, and drummer Justin Terrell–released one of the year’s best albums, A Family Light, and with its new 7-inch vinyl single (“Feather”/”Flint”), the band makes it difficult to pigeonhole it into a single genre.

In advance of this weekend’s Free Press Summer Fest (August 8-9, at Eleanor Tinsley Park, in downtown Houston), Buxton‘s Justin Willis and Chris Wise answered a few questions for Houston Calling.

Houston Calling: You recently released your 7-inch record–are you pleased with the feedback you’ve received so far? I wasn’t at the release show but hear it was past capacity–good to hear about a local show…

Chris Wise: Yeah, we could tell when we first started playing “Feathers” that people were responding to it. Luckily, we were able to really sort of capture how it felt live onto tape. There have been numerous occasions in which we’ll have this song and it feels right, but then we record it and wonder where all the magic went.

In regards to the record release, we really had a great time. We were able to get a solid lineup with our good friends Wild Moccasins and Ghost Mountain and that just made a world of difference. I can’t think of any way it could’ve gone better and we’re pretty grateful for that.

Jason Willis: We’re very happy with the response from releasing the 7-inch. Honestly, we didn’t think it would get much attention with it only being two songs, but luckily sweethearts like yourself are nice enough to want to write something about it. As for the release show…No comment. You should have been there…Kidding…It went great. The only thing was that it was super hot in the venue (Mango’s). But I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

HC: How did the idea for a vinyl single come about?

CW: We wrote “Feathers” and “Flint” at the same time. There were also some new songs coming up that seemed to be more in the direction we wanted to go in. So at the time it seemed logical to release a 7″ single, since it was only two songs we could record at Sugar Hill and take our time on it. It was really great to work with [producer/Southern Backtone] John Griffin, and because of this experience we are undoubtedly going to do our next full length with him at Sugar Hill. I also had help from Aaron Saenz from Team Science, I had no idea how many factors would go into releasing this record and he was with me every step of the way. Without his help I’d imagine it would’ve come out two years from now.

JW: “Feathers” and “Flint” are both newer songs that we felt didn’t exactly fit well with the direction we were planning to go in with the next full-length. We had always wanted to put something out on vinyl and the idea of having a CD with two songs on it just seems ridiculous. So we asked ourselves, “Why Not?” and couldn’t think of a good answer. Thus the 7-inch was born.  HC: I have seen you guys play a few times now–when I first saw you, I think I compared the band to Wilco. What do you consider to be some of your primary musical influences and how do they (or do they) play into your songwriting?

CW: Personally, Wilco is my primary influence. I remember driving around having a hard time getting into Summerteeth and then one day it just hit me really hard. When I think about why I love music, I think of that moment when you hear all these disjointed songs that have numbers attached to them and then all of a sudden you get the work as a whole. I think Wilco and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy are amazing at pulling that off, and I can’t help but be influenced by that.

JW: Influences vary with each member of the band. We all listen to some of the same bands and some different bands, which I think has helped for each of us to get our own style down when it comes to songwriting. However, Wilco has had quite an influence on the band as a whole. Bands or musicians that I think personally influence me would have to be Pele (not the soccer player), Nels Cline, Jeff Tweedy, The Band, and Billy Mays.

HC: A Family Light garnered the band a lot of praise, especially for a band that seemed–to me, at least–to come out of nowhere. How did you feel about the reaction to the album? Obviously, you guys had a record before that–what do you think made the difference between the first and second albums?

CW: Me and Sergio were talking about that the other day, because you’re right we had an entire full-length and an EP before that, a good two to three years before A Family Light. We played all over the place, many times a week, sometimes twice the same night, yet people didn’t know who we were, and consistently had some dismal turnouts. Honestly though, I get that. We were not writing good enough music at the time, and we were doing it as an acoustic three-piece. We had some great shows with some pretty big names, but that doesn’t matter if you’re not writing good enough music. So then we release A Family Light, Justin gets on board as our drummer and all of a sudden people seem to start caring. And more importantly, the local press started noticing. The reaction was very exciting, because we had been going at it for a while by then, and so it felt like some hard work was paying off.

JW: The response was very unexpected and a little overwhelming sometimes. We were very proud of the album so it was exciting to see people enjoy it more than we could have ever hoped for. The songs from A Family Light had been around for nearly two years, so to us it just felt like putting them down on a tangible form to distribute to whoever wanted it. Comparing Red Follows Red to A Family Light is almost embarrassing. We had grown a lot between the two and I think it shows with the lyrics and songwriting. Red Follows Red sucked. Straight up.

HC: What’s your favorite thing about being a musician in Houston?

CW: Right now I love the community, feeling the support of other bands and wanting to support them back. It in no way feels competitive, which I find odd because I’m a fairly competitive person. I can’t tell you how excited I would be if Wild Moccasins, or B L A C K I E got signed to an awesome label. I hope Young Mammals win album of the year, Carrots is amazing. And that sense of camaraderie makes me very excited for the Houston music scene. It just all feels like a case of being in the right place at the right time.

JW: I used to not have a lot of faith in the Houston music scene. The idea of Houston having a decent local scene, if not just a scene in general, seemed a little like a pipe dream. I’m not sure what happened, but it feels like the scene has become more cohesive and worthwhile in the last couple of years. It could just be me. If you had asked me the same question three years ago I wouldn’t be very enthusiastic about it but now I honestly feel at home as a musician in Houston.

HC: How do you guys approach the songwriting process? Is it collaborative?

JW: Yes and No. Usually Sergio will write the foundation of the song and we will all work together to decide what direction to take it in. We all write our own parts but we often play off of each other so as time progresses and the song becomes polished it can be a totally different song. “Feathers” and “Flint” were written a little differently though. They were almost accidental. We were just jamming out one day and we picked apart our jam and started songs from it.

HC: What are the band’s plan to get your music heard outside of Houston?

CW: Right now we’re working on our next full-length, and I think that’s when we’re really going to start pushing for something bigger. We want to tour, but we also want to have a reason to do so. We’ve toured before, but it was mostly just to go. With the next full-length, I think we will have more of a sense of purpose to go out. It just almost seems pointless to go on a big tour and then not go again, because with so much music out there, people are bound to forget that you came through last year.

HC: What are you most looking forward to at the Free Press Summer Fest?

CW: I’m definitely looking forward to the crowd, I look forward to playing before Ume. I cannot wait to see Explosions in the Sky.

JW: Honestly, I think the crowd will be the biggest we’ve ever played in front of. As well as most of the other local bands playing. Most of which are our good friends. I’m really looking forward to seeing what will happen to the Houston music scene if this becomes an annual event.

HC: What are some of the things you’re listening to these days? Anything to recommend?

CW: I just started listening to The Flaming Lips–big fail on my part. Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Beware. The Avett Brothers, I and Love and You.

JW: Wilco, Wilco (the album) / Leadbelly, Greatest Hits / Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Beware / Ennio Morricone, The Essential

HC: What are some of your favorite local bands/musicians?

CW: sIngs / Ghost Mountain / B L A C K I E / Giant Princess / Wild Moccasins / Young Mammals / O Pioneers!!! / Gormeh Sabzi / Muhammid Ali / Robert Ellis / listenlisten / Sew What

JW: Robert Ellis / B L A C K I E / sIngs / Wild Moccasins / listenlisten / Young Mammals / Giant Princess

Thanks to Chris and Jason from Buxton for taking the time out to answer these questions.

Visit the band online at www.myspace.com/buxtonband. Catch Buxton live at Free Press Summer Fest on Sunday, August 9th at 3:55pm on the second stage.

Tags: Interviews · Music · Show listings

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 BenTen // Aug 3, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Hey thanks for the good interview Houston Calling.

    But I like both Red Follows Red and A Family Light. I think the stripped down sound with no drummer, lets the bass come through. It sounded different than most things. Granted it might be hard to rock out live, but it allowed for more space. Also I liked the lyrics.

    And I like the song ‘Flame’ too, I think I heard Chris say at a show he didn’t like that one. To each their own – just don’t be so hard on past work- when you get some distance you from it, it may change. Really it’s hard to judge your own work, you get too close to it.

    Best of luck. I hope to get to the Festival.

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