The psych-rock power trio unleashes an eight-minute opus blending elements of drone, stoner rock, and “War Pigs" from their forthcoming Dead Star EP.
Time is relative, man. It’s cyclical or it’s linear? It’s absolute or it’s abstract? It’s definitely a tricky matter, but psych-rockin’ power trio King Buffalo doesn’t care. Their releases ignore the industry’s prescribed timetable. They create, they share. Since forming in 2013 in the land of ice and snow (aka Rochester, New York), guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds, and drummer Scott Donaldson have already released three EPs, and two full-length LPs.
This time … we’re sharing a track from the band’s next album, Dead Star, due on March 20. “Eta Carinae” is a psycho-blues acid trip with sonic chemistry that exists in 2020 and 1971 simultaneously. But before taking the track’s twisted trip, how about some background?
The bulk of King Buffalo’s bountiful heavy-blues cosmic journeys began with their first full-length album, Orion, in 2016. That title track exuded the band’s m.o.: darker Pink Floyd “Echoes” vibes with eventual punishment that echoes the tectonic-plate-shifting power of fellow muscle-trio Sleep. KB may never go full doom, often subbing in hazier psychedelic strokes for monotone riffs, but they can still rumble with the heaviest. Orion’s “Goliath Pt. 1” and “Goliath Pt. 2” strongly showcase Jekyll-and-Hyde stoner tendencies that teeter between Live at Pompei and Master of Reality.
The tasty leftovers of the 47-minute Orion provided the feast of the EP Repeater, released in early 2018. The three-song collection would be a perfect soundtrack to a time-lapsed, mountain-climbing video. The expansive 13-minute opener starts calmly, like any ascent, but as it continues, things begin to speed up, intensify, and grow darker before a crescendo-ing crash of celebration on the summit.
Later in 2018, the trio released their sophomore album Longing to Be the Mountain. The pace on LTBTM is much like the smooth cadence and perpetual hypnotic groove of hip-hop star NAS—it’s deliberate, powerful, and always bobbing forward. Space is much more prevalent than on Orion. If that debut album felt like a collection of short stories, LTBTM came through as a cohesive narrative that flowed like a novel.
And Dead Star—which is more white dwarf than black hole—is their fourth and most ambitious EP, with over 30 minutes of rock gestated and nurtured from the LTBTM sessions. Self-recorded in late 2019 and early 2020, it is packed with some of band’s boldest risks.
“In the early stages of Dead Star, we made the decision to make a strong commitment to experimentation,” explains guitarist/vocalist McVay, “from exploring different tunings and textures, to tweaking the songwriting processes. We’re extremely proud of these recordings, and feel it’s some of our most ambitious work.”
The results reveal McVay’s most-urgent and aggressive vocals, scene-changing time signatures, and the perfect instrumental oddball, “Ecliptic.” (Think of a Stranger Things soundtrack devised by John Carpenter.) New intricacies like these, added to their staunch balance of steamrolling flow and boundless atmosphere, forge a fresh chapter in these space cadets’ saga.
“Eta Carinae” is the glue of side B of Dead Star. It’s sandwiched between the ’80s synth-centered “Ecliptic” and the closing title track whose acoustic intro washes into a cascading, crashing conclusion. The busy and groovy middle of the journey of “Eta Carinae” travels through two different droning passages, following a droning (of course!), syncopated short-delay-guitar-opening over the busy rhythm section. The song eventually transforms into a head-bobbing interplay of guitar and drums that conjures Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” This section builds until McVay unleashes a short solo that fades into a droning outro powered by chugging palm-muting.
King Buffalo already has a spring tour on the books for the U.S. in March and April. You can find out about the rest of their plans and releases by visiting their website.
At it for a decade, this young blues-slinger’s self-titled new album marks a musical coming-of-age for the bandleader. Listen to the exclusive premiere of her new single, “Ghost.”
A bandleader since the age of 9, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Hannah Wicklund is no newcomer to the music industry. Today, as frontwoman of her blues/alt-rock trio Hannah Wicklund & the Steppin Stones, the 20-year-old’s stage presence and guitar playing is pure voltage. But with the release of her new self-titled album, she feels as though she’s reached a benchmark. “I’ve been putting out music with the band since I was 12. I feel like for the first time, I was able to draw from my life completely,” she says. “I feel like my life finally caught up.”
That personal touch is certainly felt on “Ghost,” a Premier Guitar exclusive song premiere and the second single off the album, which drops in late January. Wicklund’s scarlet-toned vocals drip over a steady blues-rock groove punctuated by gnawing electric guitar—which echoes the songwriter’s bitter resentment towards the titular “ghost” that haunts her. “A house made with love, but I burned it down,” she sings with cool contempt. Halfway through, the song’s edge transforms with ominous vocal harmonies, and Wicklund exercises that contempt with a short yet incisive solo that expresses it in a way the lyrics can’t.
As a listener, Wicklund’s head is buried in the classics. Rockers from the ’60s and ’70s such as Jeff Beck, Tom Petty, and Fleetwood Mac speak proudly through her musical penmanship over the course of her new album. Its wide range of sounds span aggressive, overdriven power chords to introspective acoustic fingerpicking. Capturing raw authenticity in the studio was a guiding force for the recording process, which Wicklund says wrapped in just a week. Look for our full feature interview with Hannah Wicklund & the Steppin Stones in the near future. In the meantime, you can visit their homepage to learn more about the powerhouse singer/songwriter and her trio, along with current tour dates.
Check out Hannah Wicklund and her band the Steppin Stones in action on “Bomb Through the Breeze,” another track from her upcoming release.
The L.A. rockers have a new guitarist, a new album, and this new song that comes with a dancing clown video.
Guitarist Cory Hanson performed with Mikal Cronin, together PANGEA, and Meatbodies before forming Wand with art school classmates Lee Landey and Evan Burrows in 2013. The Los Angeles-based group is already releasing its fourth LP, Plum, coming out on September 22. Here you can watch an exclusive premiere of the video for the new track “Bee Karma.” If you have an aversion to clowns, don’t fret: There’s plenty of hooky guitar here to keep you preoccupied from the visuals.
Before going into the studio to record Plum, Wand road-tested all the songs while touring in Europe. Hanson says “Bee Karma” was the trickiest of them all.
“It was biggest pain in the ass to play live,” he remembers. “The guitar parts were impossible to nail, and the tempo drop from the introductory riff to the verse was either too rushed, or too slow, and someone in the band was always dragging. I’m sure it sounded horrible. I remember before our soundcheck at La Maroquinerie, Paris, we took our time and made a final ending with the interlocking guitar riffs, and had Lee do that Holger Czukay-inspired bass line to thicken up the leads. We worked out all the kinks and then it finally sounded right.”
Wand founder Corey Hanson plays a Fender Jazzmaster. Hanson and drummer Evan Burrows were part of Ty Segall’s touring band in 2016 for the Emotional Mugger tour. Photo by Clemens Mitscher
The guitar parts were co-written by Hanson and guitarist Robbie Cody, who joined the band in late 2016. “Robbie and I spent a lot of time working on different guitar techniques for this song. The verses are subtle and have more to do with responding to each other’s parts. Robbie was writing these beautiful melodic lines, and I would then write a counter-melody to play behind his parts. I didn’t want to divert attention from his playing, so I’d have to pick right under my fretted fingers just to stay under him. Very delicate. For the climax, we wrote lead lines that start in unison, then tumble over and under each other.”
But what about the clown in the video?
“The video starts with my brother Casey as the clown that I drive around,” Hanson says. “It’s an age-old story. In the end, the good clown wins and gets to be free. He dances.”
Whether in the circus or a song, all’s well that ends well.