Houston Calling

SXSW preview: Buxton

March 9th, 2011 · No Comments

Buxton is one of Houston’s most respected bands, and one that in 2011 will undoubtedly see its fan base expanding far outside Texas. It’s music is both down-home and modern–I’ve likened the band to Wilco in the past–and the group’s recent signing to New West Records can only help to spread the word about the band’s music.

Buxton once again heads to Austin this month for shows at South By Southwest.

I recently asked Buxton’s Chris Wise, Sergio Trevino, and Jason Willis some questions about the band’s new album, its plans for 2o11, and South By Southwest.

Houston Calling: There seems to be a movement of sorts of bands with solid folk instrumentation, like The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, listenlisten, and a band you turned me on to, Chatham County Line. Would you categorize Buxton’s music along those same lines, or how would you best describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?

Chris: The fact that Mumford and Sons has sold over one million records is kind of insane to me. It makes me excited that maybe our record is coming out at the right time, and to a more receptive audience.

On the upcoming album we’ve sort of strayed from the simpler acoustic sound that seems to be the focus of Mumford and Sons and Avett Brothers. We still have those elements in our songs, there’s always something interesting in throwing banjo into a more heavy-driven rock song, or at least that’s something we find interesting when we write.

We often get pegged with the Wilco tag, and I’m extremely open to that because sounding like Wilco doesn’t mean really one specific thing. If someone says something sounds like Avett Brothers then I have a feeling I would know exactly what to expect. But if you tell me it sounds like Wilco then it could be a song like “California Stars” or “At Least That’s What You Said” which are on opposite spectrums of mood and instrumentation. I would rather someone just listen, hope they like it, and define it for themselves. The records that have had the biggest impact on me are the ones that I can’t define or pigeonhole into a single aesthetic.

HC: What do you consider to be your primary musical influences and how do you think they influence your music?

Chris: Primary musical influences would probably be along the lines of Elliott Smith, Wilco, Joanna Newsom, Radiohead, The Byrds, and more recently Spoon and Michael Hurley.

Their influence, you know, will always have a sort of subconscious effect on the songs we write. But it really comes down to how inspired we are to try to make records on par with artists we greatly admire. I would hope to one day make a sonically comparable record to Spoon or Elliott Smith, their albums sound perfect in tone and have a clear vision. Or to make a cohesive piece of art like Joanna Newsom’s Ys. And we’re not there, but it’s something we always aim for, we might not ever make it but we like having those goals.

HC: You answered some questions for Houston Calling‘s Free Press Summer Fest preview and mentioned that you were currently recording at Sugar Hill with hopes to release an album last year. That obviously didn’t happen, and the band has since signed with New West Records. Do you have a firm date on when the new album will be released?

Sergio: The record will come out this September, no firm date yet. We finished initial tracking back in November, and we did some mixing to put it in a presentable form to the label. Fortunately they liked it, and now we’re sending it to Jim Scott (who mixes records for Wilco, Lucinda Williams, Jayhawks, Foo Fighters) for further mixing, which we are all really, really excited about. He mixed Summerteeth and that is one of my absolute favorite records.

HC: How did the label deal come about? New West has a few local bands on its roster now (Wild Moccasins, Robert Ellis)…

Chris: We got really lucky. I started working at Cactus and met George Fontaine (the owner of New West Records) because he’s a partner in Cactus. He asked what the band was up to and I told him we have some demos, which in all honesty we didn’t have. So we recorded about 20 some odd demo’s at Joe’s (from News on the March) home studio in a couple of weeks. I sent them to George and then it all just sort of magically fell into place. 

HC: What can you tell me about the new record? Are you pleased with how the songs are turning out?

Jason: The new record is called Nothing Here Seems Strange. It’s definitely more of a rock record than A Family Light. A lot of that has to do with Austin Sepulvado joining the band. He’s brought so much to the table, and we all feel we can finally do everything that we put into the recordings and pull them off live. We’ve been sitting on these songs for a while, and I feel really fortunate that we had enough material to pick and choose the songs for what we thought made most sense for an album. It’s 10 songs, and Sergio had taken a less personal approach to writing the songs. There was a stronger focus on making an enjoyable record while at the same time not making it light or disposable.

HC: Are you guys going to plan a big tour out-of-state after it’s released?

Sergio: This is something we’ve all heavily discussed. Being on New West is a really great opportunity, and not something we want to take advantage of. Touring has to be an essential part of what we do, and it’s something we’re all ready to do. We haven’t released a full-length in nearly three years, so we’re really eager to get back out.

HC: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s South By Southwest?

Jason: It’s our first year to be accepted into the festival for an official showcase, so we’re all looking forward to the minor perks and everything that comes with it. We definitely look forward to our shows, we’re not doing too much, which was more of a concerted effort because our record isn’t out. Going to some official showcases that we haven’t be able to go to in the last three years we’ve been around SXSW is definitely something we’re excited about.

HC: Any bands in particular you want to see while you’re in Austin?

Chris: Me and Sergio really want to go see Josh Ritter, we’re all excited about seeing Man Man, Middle Brother, and Bright Eyes. There’s also a collective bummer about playing the same time as The Strokes. Emmylou Harris at Antone’s, TV on the Radio at The Mohawk, Those Darlins and Trampled By Turtles at Swan Dive.

HC: What’s your most memorable SXSW experience so far?

Chris: I went to the New West day party last year, and well there were free drinks, so I got pretty hammered and walked all around Austin looking for my car. All I really remember is waking up to a cop giving me a parking ticket while I was somewhat conscious in the back seat. #winning

HC: Do you have anything you’re listening to these days that you’d recommend?

Sergio: Michael Hurley
Chris: Slices
Jason: Buke and Gaas

Thanks to Buxton for taking the time out to answer these questions.

Buxton plays its official SXSW 2011 showcase in Austin at 18th Floor at Hilton Garden Inn at 9pm on Thursday, 3.17.11.

Watch the band live:

Visit Buxton online.

Tags: Interviews · Music · Show listings · SXSW

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