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Dave Buker and the Historians

Sad-sap songwriters are a dime a dozen in indie rock. From Elliott Smith to Fleet Foxes and onto the sulking folkie du jour Hozier, the further the evolution, or de-evolution, the more it seems the genre gets watered down. Nothing against the idea of a man, his guitar, and a song—it’s the bedrock, the essence—but [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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Sad-sap songwriters are a dime a dozen in indie rock. From Elliott Smith to Fleet Foxes and onto the sulking folkie du jour Hozier, the further the evolution, or de-evolution, the more it seems the genre gets watered down. Nothing against the idea of a man, his guitar, and a song—it’s the bedrock, the essence—but lately things have become stale, completely one-dimensional. That’s something Dave Buker understands all too well. Along with his Historians, he’s determined to bring a multifaceted dynamism to a tired trend. Not everyone’s bruised by relationships and wanting the music to reflect their blues.

“I think my music is becoming more accessible now because you don’t only need a broken heart to appreciate it,” Buker said. “It goes a lot deeper than that.”

Full disclosure, on the surface, or at least initially, it’d be fair game to label Buker as just another post-collegiate Sufjan Stevens-type. After all, the “heart” is a major theme on the band’s trademark song “Molecules.” But it’s his ultra-sweet melodies that set it apart, projecting more as impressionist painting with bright dabs of pastel rather than a rainy day confessional. We are not wallowing in Buker’s misery as much as we are celebrating spring after the thawing of winter. Further listens to last year’s What Can Bring You Back To Me? reveal a wide range of the maladies and small triumphs achieved, as Buker puts it, “while living through your ’20s.” It’s a great encapsulation of the awkward delight felt in the space between the dormitory and domestication. It’s about being  responsible for one’s honesty.

“I’m trying harder to be more relatable—being honest about things that people can easily grab onto.”

“I found that when you’ve been a songwriter for a while, you start to find that voice. It’s a comfort level, and at first I didn’t have that,” Buker said, admitting some growing pains. “So the first record I ever did was a concept album [2010’s New World, Old Flame]. I felt more comfortable telling a story because you can lie, make things up, and it’s easier to not be as vulnerable. But it’s also a lot less interesting. That’s not the case anymore.”

Buker has always played in bands, but in the background, rarely the main songwriter. He studied classical guitar in college and at one time was culling ideas from late-baroque, while getting a degree in musical education. But the only distinct technical trait that he incorporates into his current songs is the acutely technical finger picking style of his playing. The Historians arrangements, be it with synths, piano, horns, marimbas, or the voice of Leanna Stansell, are instead the key ingredients Buker took from schooling. As a master of many instruments, what could easily be left threadbare blossoms with color and shape.

The songs of What Can Bring You Back To Me? are “classic” in light of Buker’s list of influences—notably troubadour folkies of the ’70s like Paul Simon and Jackson Browne. It’s a spirit Buker wants to keep alive as he sees it “dying with the radio.” A more contemporary reference might be the subtleties of Belle and Sebastian or the faded melancholy of M. Ward, one of Buker’s professed favorites.

Though content to whittle with his songs alone, it’s the rest of the Historians, including Tim Jennings on bass, Joe Spurlock on drums, and Paul Valdiviez on keyboards, that give the music a presence beyond the average soft rock band. Currently they’re in the studio, almost done with what is now an unnamed fall release.

“I think our first two records were honest, but in a more direct and impersonal way,” Buker said. “Now I’m trying harder to be more relatable—being honest about things that people can easily grab onto. There are themes that people will identify with because it’s about growing.”

So far Buker touts the upcoming record as the best representation of his songwriting, but knowing the wanderlust that lines his lyrics, there’s another new awakening right around the corner.

For music and more information on Dave Buker and the Historians visit davebuker.com.

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Local rocker Angela Perley shines on solo debut

Mike Thomas

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Folk, alt-country, or indie rock—however you choose to categorize her sound, Angela Perley remains a pillar of the Columbus music community—and highly in-demand as a national touring act, to boot.

(614) caught up with Perley to discuss her new album, life on the road, and what it takes to make it as a musician in the Capital City.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

(614): YOUR NEW RELEASE, 4:30, IS YOUR FIRST AS A SOLO ACT. WHAT LED TO THIS CHANGE?

AP: Since 2009 until last year, I had the Howlin’ Moons. It’s always been myself, Chris Connor on lead guitar, and then we had bassist Billy Zehnal in the band up until last year. We’ve had a rotating extended family of drummers. Billy’s not in the band anymore, and we were also on Vital Companies, which is a studio/label in Columbus that did our previous albums.

https://open.spotify.com/album/04pKByd2ygDHXdvl1TcdWP?si=6njCmRpfR5GRWe5kLNghVw

So this one—it’s a solo one, it’s my first independent release. There’s no label involved, I own the masters to the songs. It’s hard to keep a band together, so Chris, who’s been in the band since the beginning, and I, we’re kind of the only members, and we have an extended family of really great and talented people who have other projects they’re in. It just works a lot better with what I want to do.

YOU USED KICKSTARTER TO HELP FUND THE ALBUM. WHAT WAS THE CROWDFUNDING EXPERIENCE LIKE?

Before, with Vital, they had a studio and video production, and they took care of all of our recording in-house. We didn’t realize how expensive everything was. We had paid for studio time [for 4:30] through show money, but to look at all of the other expenses of making a record happen and trying to get it out there, it’s pretty intense! There have been a lot of independent artists that we know that will do Kickstarters, and I’ve never done anything like it before, so I was really nervous doing it. But it was a success, and I actually just finished sending out all of the preorder vinyl that people ordered.

YOUR SOUND IS OFTEN DESCRIBED AS ANYTHING FROM AMERICANA, TO ALT-COUNTRY, TO PSYCHEDELIC ROCK. WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING WITHIN THOSE TRADITIONS IN 2019?

You kind of have to make your own path, because although there is a resurgence of rock ‘n’ roll, everything’s been done before. It has those roots, but we’re not breaking the mold or anything. You just have to be true to yourself and to the music, and just go from there. Everyone’s voice is important as an artist, so that’s important to remember.

YOU’RE ON THE ROAD TOURING QUITE A BIT. DO YOU STILL KEEP TRACK OF WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE COLUMBUS MUSIC SCENE?

Columbus is definitely growing, and moving toward doing things independently. I’ve seen a lot of bands touring, which is good. It’s an affordable place to tour out of, and there’s a community here for sure. Whenever I have a chance, we go out to the shows. We love The Cordial Sins, and we’re having them as our special guests for our album release. The High Definitions, Souther—there are just so many good bands.

When I go to other cities and I realize that there’s not really much of a scene going on, it is kind of cool to see that in Columbus, people are very aware and supportive of musicians. Even the businesses around here, everyone’s trying to work with musicians in some way. There are so many gigs, be it at breweries, at restaurants, or little festivals that pop up. There’s work for musicians here. And some other cities, there’s really not.

IN THE PAST, YOU’VE PLAYED SOMETHING LIKE 150 SHOWS A YEAR. ARE YOU KEEPING UP THE SAME PACE THESE DAYS?

I’m glad that we played that many shows at that time. We were playing anywhere and everywhere, and a lot of that was pressure financially. If that’s the way you’re making a living, you’ve got to take every gig. We’ve spread out the shows since, especially since we have been doing it for this long. We’re kind of gearing more towards quality shows. I will say, playing that many shows—I needed that. We needed the experience, and just the repetition. Every venue is different, every environment, every crowd. You cut your teeth and it makes you stronger.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO LOCAL ARTISTS HOPING TO MAKE A CAREER IN MUSIC?

It’s tough, because for each person it’s so different. Getting out there and working hard, playing as many shows as possible—that's all really great experience. But also focus on the music itself. If you’re going to make a music video or a recording, take your time—don’t half-ass it. Wait until you know what you’re doing. Although, you kind of have to learn from your mistakes, too.

Catch Angela Perley with special guests The Cordial Sins on September 6 at Skully’s Music-Diner for the release show of her new album, titled 4:30.

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Dig. Shuffle. Click.

Dig: Brujas del Sol, II You could certainly make the case that this column makes overuse of the term “psychedelia,” if only because many of the bands that fortify the Columbus underground dabble with elements that, as much as “punk,” deem them psychedelic. But few of those same bands wear it as their tried and [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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Dig: Brujas del Sol, II

You could certainly make the case that this column makes overuse of the term “psychedelia,” if only because many of the bands that fortify the Columbus underground dabble with elements that, as much as “punk,” deem them psychedelic. But few of those same bands wear it as their tried and true emblem (EYE is the only other I can imagine)—trying to conjure transcendence in wide swaths of cinematic atmosphere, endlessly entangled guitars, liberal use of reverb and flange, and a sonic propensity to paint deserts, oceans, space, with infinite horizons. Contrary to the ethos that music must be instantly inspired, or captured as lightning in a bottle, the psychedelic warriors of Brujas del Sol have been surgical in the creation of their sophomore album, the five years in the making II. The record is an object of monolithic heft, each song a journey unto itself, even when the quartet has chosen to reel in some of their unyielding tendencies to focus on actual pop songs, wherein “Fringe of Senility” could pass as Boy-era U2 and “White Lights” might confuse a Muse fan or two.

Those highlights, led by guitarist Adrian Zambrano’s faithful charge, actually make the headier, indulgent tracks more enjoyable. It’s a balance that Zambrano and bassist Derrick White—the group’s founders—discovered in their recruitment of drummer Josh Oswald and multi-instrumentalist Phillip Reed. Along with the studio wizardry of Relay’s Jon Fintel, the Sun Witches get both brutally and beautifully epic on the lead “Teenage Hitchhiker” and especially in “Sisterlace,” which switches quite magnificently between Pink Floydian dream-sequences and pure desert rock scrums. Zambrano makes use of most every edge and corner the battery provides, sometimes even bouncing his melodies around as if it were a smooth jazz station in some alternate universe. For those who like their post-rock instrumental albums, embellished with Sabbathy tones and the occasional spectral vocals, II is a engrossing trip few Columbus bands would have the patience to make.

Brujas del Sol will celebrate the release of II with a show 11.9 at Rumba Cafe. Visit brujasdelsol.bandcamp.com for music and more info.

Shuffle: Matt Umland, Blind Portrait

It might be cheating to include Matt Umland’s latest trio of songs in this column, as Umland, a member of our Class of 2017, has since moved to Baltimore to further his career as a one-man soul machine, and Blind Portrait, his finest work to date, was recorded in his new Charm City studio. For one last hurray though, we will claim him as our own, as the uniquely crafted synth workouts and layered harmonies of the once Tin Armor co-frontman, was the product of a void Umland found in Columbus music—namely, honest-to-goodness, R&B pop. Fitting then Glenn Davis, the genius mind of Way Yes, was responsible for mixing the release, and lending all production talents to the standout, “Small Senses.”

For those familiar with the sonic flora and fauna that encapsulates the wildly colorful Way Yes, “Small Senses” is a pop revelation, accented with breezy arpeggios, Muzak-inspired presets, and the Umland’s angelic voice (imagine a space between the twee of Ben Gibbard and the ’70s earnestness of Kenny Loggins). Umland’s appreciation of those yacht rock heroes and the glitchy lushness of intelligent dance music combine for an effect that shuns irony, or even hipness, but does so unashamedly. Instead, he’s making tunes that  “explore the grandeur of love in its simplest forms,” whether that’s caffeinated bedroom jams like “Hold Me,” or the lilting near-Josh Groban balladry of “Time Beyond Me.” For Columbus it’s farewell for now, but for the rest of the world it will be hard not to smile.

Visit mattumland.bandcamp.com to hear the Blind Portrait EP and for more information.

Click: Brat Curse , “Coloured by Paranoia”

I made sure to run it past the CEO of Brat Curse, Brian Baker, before referring to his band as the real-life version of a Hanna Barbera outfit animated for a Scooby Doo episode. Brat Curse’s latest video for “Coloured By Paranoia,” the first single from their long-gestating second album (released early next year on Anyway Records), is entirely inspired by the goofy, non-sequitur, hijinks of the Monkees or Banana Splits. A green-screen smorgasboard, of your above-average,  hard-working, blue-collar (Baker pleasantly reeks of Dayton, Ohio) American band, touring in the van, synchronizing jazz-hands, boofing for the camera, the clip revamps the ideals of ’80s public-access vids. The song itself is definitely an evolution from Brat Curse’s 2015 self-titled debut. The recent addition of Joe Camerlengo, who himself has been called a human Pikachu, rubs some of his own Van Dale musk over the proceedings, and some of the fuzz is removed to make way for a punchier, catchier, romp.

Visit bratcurse.bandcamp.com to hear the new single and a for a link to the outrageous video.

 
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Craft Beer’s New Groove

Why would anyone in their right mind open another neighborhood bar or record joint in a city already brimming with both? Ask Troy Stacy, the owner of Craft & Vinyl, an endeavor that is deliberately neither, nor does it pretend to be. Yet it combines the essential elements of each into an entirely new experience [...]
J.R. McMillan

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Why would anyone in their right mind open another neighborhood bar or record joint in a city already brimming with both?

Ask Troy Stacy, the owner of Craft & Vinyl, an endeavor that is deliberately neither, nor does it pretend to be. Yet it combines the essential elements of each into an entirely new experience fine-tuned for local beer aficionados and audiophiles alike.

It’s not a bar that sells LPs, nor a record store that serves beer. It’s a kindred cultural convergence that combines a craft beer counter, new and used vinyl, and a recording studio conveniently under one roof.

“There wasn’t a place that brought all three of these ideas together,” explained Stacy, whose inspiration was well informed by a career in marketing and the music industry. “We live in a digital universe, but there is still a craving for something tactile.”

Vinyl is visceral. Even as records have emerged as the fastest growing segment of music sales, capturing the charm of a record store without the musty smell and dingy décor that are almost synonymous was no easy feat. But tip too far in the opposite direction and you end up with the vintage vibe of a deservedly defunct Sam Goody.

Stacy had the right idea. He just needed to find the right place and the right space.

“I had four or five target areas, but Grandview was always my first choice,” he recalled. “But I almost leased the space that became Brewdog in the Short North. They got it right out from under me.”

Music folklore is full of happy accidents, and losing that spot for something better could be among them. The former consignment shop that was once home to an old hardware store offered weathered floors, high ceilings, and instant credibility.

“We built it to look and feel more like an art gallery. People who collect vinyl also collect it for the cover art,” Stacy said. “It’s not just a music medium.”

The “Mosaic Wall” stretches 30 feet and five records high with classic and contemporary albums, many 180-gram pressings or “heavy vinyl,” preferred by collectors for durability and fidelity. Here you’ll find seminal releases from The Stones to The Stooges and everything in-between.

Used inventory fills the “Vinyl Salon” in oversized wooden bins complemented by a lounge with a couple of leather sofas at the end and a long, bar-height table in the middle with enough stools and space to make the experience equal parts shopping and social. Flipping through stacks searching for those hidden gems is a two-handed job. That’s why you’ll find cleverly placed cup holders spaced every few feet to park your pint.

“The idea came from a very practical place. I was stocking the bins, holding a beer, and had nowhere to put it,” he confessed. “They’re actually just RV cup holders, but everyone gets a kick out of them.” (Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention would surely approve.)

Despite their resurgence in popularity, selecting the right records to sell has become evermore crucial in the age of eBay and Amazon. Stacy was smart and thankful to enlist veteran vinyl proprietor Mike “Pepe” Depew as a mentor, whose experience at Ace in the Hole Music Exchange and the Record Connection dates back decades.

“I started buying records from Pep when I was 15,” Stacy revealed. “Anytime you start a business there are bumps in the road and painful learning. He took me under his wing and helped me avoid a lot of those mistakes.”

Extending the gallery metaphor are concert posters and handbills designed by prolific local artist Mike Martin, whose limited edition screen printing and illustration style echo an earlier era, and the depth and breadth of Craft & Vinyl’s selection. From folk to funk and soul to swing, add the black and yellow punches of color to the warm wooden accents, and Jack White would feel right at home. Even the pinball machines are on-brand for a place that seems like one giant analog anachronism defiant of all things digital—with one deft exception.

“Lots of musicians go to record stores and hang out. That’s often where collaborations first come together,” he explained. “I wanted to create a place where that inspiration isn’t lost by having a recording studio just steps away. There’s nothing like it in Columbus.”

In addition to hourly studio rental—including a collection of guitars, basses, vocal microphones, and a drum kit—Stacy offers monthly packages for musicians interested in more frequent access, one of several subscription options that distinguish Craft & Vinyl as a place where music is played and made.

“One of the ideas we’re working on is a ‘Flight School’ where once a month you’ll come in to try four to six beers from a specific brewer paired with a classic album listening experience and a new album listening experience,” he noted.

Though the smallest section of the store in square footage, that craft beer counter right as you walk through the door is definitely the social glue that binds the whole operation together, and the most unique draw for foot traffic and local buzz. The novel mix of stacks of wax and craft on draft was enough to intrigue distributors before they even opened.

“The relationship with Great Lakes Brewing was really interesting because they reached out to us,” Stacy recalled. “They approached us and said they wanted to serve their Turntable Pils here. That eventually turned into a conversation about doing a collaborative vinyl album together.”

Also available as event space, new ideas continue to surface now that more folks can take it in and suggest additional opportunities and potential. The concept was always considered an evolving prototype for future locations.

“People tend to tell you what they want,” Stacy explained. “I’m here to listen.•

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