Avi Buffalo Stampedes Into Omaha
By Kyle Eustice
Photo credit: Renata Raksha
Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg’s young age gives his music a sense of innocence impossible to deny. The Long Beach native released his debut album as Avi Buffalo at just 19-years-old. What started as an unrequited romance between Zahner-Isenberg and vocalist Rebecca Coleman evolved into a four-piece version of Avi Buffalo. Although the relationship didn’t work out, the band is thriving. With a voice reminiscent of a Harvest Moon-era Neil Young, Zahner-Isenberg sings about the ups and downs of being a young, hormonal man with incredible insight. Avi Buffalo’s second album for Sub-Pop, At Best Cuckold, was released September 9 and offers more ‘60’s psychedelic-inspired indie rock. Now at 23-years-old, he’s getting a jump-start on what looks like a promising career (although he can’t figure out how he got here). According to a press release, At Best Cuckold was recorded at Tiny Telephone, the analog-friendly San Francisco studio run by John Vanderslice (whose Bowie tribute Avi contributed to), engineered by Jay Pellicci (The Dodos, Deerhoof, Sleater-Kinney) and Nicolas Vernhes at Rare Book Room studio in Brooklyn. Zahner-Isenberg took some time to talk songwriting, hitting high notes and the LBC.
Shout Omaha (Kyle Eustice): Your self-titled debut came out in 2010 and got a lot of positive attention. How did you attract so much press early on?
Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg: I don’t really know!
How has growing up in Long Beach influenced your style?
It’s a unique place to grow up and it’s nicely isolated from any type of large music scene, so everybody who makes music out there I’ve noticed is sort of on their own kick in a nice way, and also influenced by a lot of music from all over the world.
I love the video for “What’s In It For?” Tell me how you wrote that song. What do you like about songwriting?
I wrote it one day in my old bass player’s place, Arin Fazio’s house. We had been I think checking out some music before and I started demoing a progression for kicks. It turned into the song after we played it with the drummer we played with at the time, named Evan Trine, in his house, then recorded it at Aaron Embry’s house in LA and added overdubs. I like songwriting because you can say whatever you feel, in any order you like, and simultaneously play with trying to make something sound pleasant to the ears.
Your voice is super interesting. It can reach these insanely high notes. When did you realize you could sing?
I sang from being a little kid. I also have a high voice, or have found one of my voices in a high range. A lot of family members sing whether formally or informally, so singing along to music was always encouraged and always should be.
Did you ever doubt you could do music professionally? How did you handle those doubts?
I didn’t really doubt it to be honest because I imagine myself doing whatever I can to do it, and I like doing a lot of different things. Professional musicians can wear a lot of hats: teaching, playing gigs, recording, writing, and the more you do, the better and more you are and learn.
This is a random question, but I’m writing a book about the death of “sex, drugs and rock-n-roll.” I want to know if artists use their platform to send kids a positive message about what being a musician really entails, especially since so many kids die of overdoses every year. What do you think about drugs and alcohol use among young kids? Adults?
I think some musicians who have their priorities straight definitely do. I’ve heard a lot of positive lyrics and messages in for example Person Pitch, a very good album by Panda Bear. Other musicians lately, in fact very many of them, promote or romanticize drug use in music, often times attributing it to success or being attractive/attracting people. I think people do drugs for many different reasons, some good and some bad. I definitely don’t support regular use of any drug be it alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroine, cigarettes, Reptile, Amyl Nitrate, Ketamine, Spice, MDMA, PCP, San Pedro cactus, LSD, amphetamines, DMT, crack cocaine, Nyquil, Ayahuasca, Peyote, Salvia, dried banana peels, absinthe, etc.
I read you normally take a long time to write an album. Any particular reason why?
I do in fact, I think that so far it has been because I wanted to make sure what I compiled on an album was good, and sometimes that it spanned over a long stretch of periods or chapters of my personal life. I like to write and create things very fast, and at the same time take breaks, breaths, and find inspiration in a wide range of things. Sometimes it takes you years to learn how to express a musical sound or feeling. All this being said, this last record left me a TON of extra songs that in my opinion are very much worthy of being on another album, and I am always writing. I hope to put out something else following At Best Cuckold sooner than later.
What do you hope to see Avi Buffalo accomplish next?
I really hope that, like I said before, I crank out another record because I always have a lot to express. I want us to become a very awesome live band. Sheridan, Doug and Anthony are basically my favorite people to play with, and we want to learn to kick butt live. I hope to expand the sounds of the project greatly in recording and live experiences, and get closer to expressing what I really want to between music, lyrics and playing out as a musical force.
Avi Buffalo, October 29, at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave., 9 p.m. Tickets are $10/ADV and $12/DOS. Visit www.reverblounge.com for more information.