King Buffalo Debuts New Psychedelic Rock Album “Regenerator”
It’s a cloudy and chilly November night in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. A tall man stands alone in the parking lot of the Moroccan Lounge, a venue surrounded by industrial businesses and a gorgeous skyline.
An excited stranger calls out from the distance, “Sean? Sean, from King Buffalo?” The man greets his fan with authentic gratitude and takes a picture with him. This is Sean McVay, lead guitarist and vocalist of the psychedelic rock band King Buffalo.
You may recognize this group from touring with bands like Clutch, Elder, The Sword, and STÖNER. They’re also fresh off a European Tour that was quite successful.
King Buffalo is a three piece modern rock band, who is self described as “heavy psych.” With influences from genres like Stoner Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Classic Rock, and perhaps a little 90’s rock, they bring together a cohesive sound that allows the listener to go on a beautiful audible experience.
The sound dynamics range from mid-paced heavy guitar riffs with loud groove-oriented drums, to mellow, clean guitars with angelic vocals. Each one of their albums have a specific feel and tone, yet they all sound distinctly like King Buffalo.
Inspired by some of the greatest acts in rock n roll like Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath, King Buffalo uses a ton of tasteful reverb and delays, with the occasional ripping guitar solo, throughout all their albums.
While McVay does a majority of the production as the lead guitarist, vocalist, and engineer, they wouldn’t be King Buffalo without the super tight rhythm section.
The bassist, Dan Reynolds, holds down solid bass lines with stellar melodic fills, and drummer, Scott Donaldson, continuously keeps an accurate groovy beat.
Millennial caught up with McVay right before his Los Angeles performance at the Moroccan Lounge. As big fans, we had a lot to ask him!
Tell us the origin story of King Buffalo.
Sean: Dan and I were in a different bands back home. We’re all out of Rochester, NY, and Scott was in a separate band as well. Both (bands) were kind of similar genres, similar scenes. Their band (Velvet Elvis) broke up for various reasons, and our band was floundering.
Scott asked if Dan and I could help fill in just to do a couple tour dates because they had just made a record, pressed it themselves and then broke up right before it was release. So we said “yeah,” and then we just started jamming, and instead of really learning the songs, we started writing and coming up with our own stuff!
And then finally, we said “well, why don’t we just be a band?” And then we argued on a name for a while, and ultimately settled on KING BUFFALO.
How did you come up with the name ‘King Buffalo’?
Sean: It’s the most boring story. We just honestly wrote 40 names on a list, and then we took turns crossing them off, until we got to a top two or three. And then, we just hashed it out from there. King Buffalo was the one we hated the least.
Does the name have anything to do with living close to Buffalo, NY?
Sean: Not really. We didn’t really think of it like that. It was actually funny…. Early on in our career we would get people from wherever and they would say “you’re not even from Buffalo!” And I was like “Yeah we didn’t really think that through!” We just thought the imagery was kind of cool.
Are you guys currently on a label, or are you doing everything independent?
Sean: Pretty much independent. We work with Stickman Records out of Germany for European stuff, but everything in the states is D-I-Y.
What trends in modern rock have you adopted into your sound, as far as gear or style goes?
Sean: I’m using all digital delays and reverbs. At this point, I don’t know how modern that would be considered. Outside of that, not really.
I’ve toyed with the idea of switching to Amp Simulators because that’s what all the big boys use. But I’m also afraid to do that (laughs). I keep it pretty straight forward. Not a ton of modern fancy pants. When we record, everything is digital on ProTools, but thats’s about it.
Congratulations on the new record “Regenerator”! What makes this album stand out from the rest?
Sean: I think its definitely a little faster and obviously a little brighter and optimistic than the traditional King Buffalo fare. I tried to explore a little bit more with my singing on this record… but what really jumps out is that the songs are a little faster, brighter, and happier.
Your drummer has amazing rhythm. How has he helped the band evolve?
Sean: We’ve been playing together so long… I used to tell him all the time that I know more about his drumming style more than he does! Since I also do all the recording, I’ve listened to him drum more than any other human on the planet.
It’s pretty funny. I feel like I know what he’s going to do with certain riffs. As soon as we started jamming (for Regenerator), and we wrote “Mercury”, I said “that’s awesome!” Because it was a groove we never played with before. And I said “let’s zero in on that!” So it was really cool.
Was there a particular sound you were going for on your new album Regenerator?
Sean: Yeah, we all grew up listening to classic rock. And for this record, I wanted more of a rock sound. (Our record) “Burden of Restlessness” was really hyper-focused, and everything was really upfront and more modern sounding.
(For this record) I wanted something where you could step back and see it all in front of you, as opposed to everything heading directly in your ears. I definitely was going for a little more of that with this record. I thought when we were grouping all of these batches of songs in these last three records, that was the goal to highlight (this production style).
How did you write and record the last three records, “Burden of Restlessness,” “Acheron,” and “Regenerator?”
Sean: (These last three records) all stemmed from the same group of jam sessions. But the actual production took place later. We wrote the bones for all of the songs over three weeks or so.
When Covid hit and everything shut down we didn’t really know what we were going to do to stay busy, and the numbers were still low enough in Rochester at the time and we had a big enough space so we set up some plastic sheets in the room, and we just got in there and jammed!
After a few weeks, I was sitting on 20 hours worth of material. A lot of it is really bad because it’s just free form jam sessions. But I realized “Okay, I have to listen through and take notes and listen through these 20 hours!” I messaged the guys and said “Ok no more jamming! We have too much!”
I sorted through that 20 hours to get to about 4 hours (of good material). I said “There’s some cool stuff here!” I started chopping it down and grouping stuff. Once we had the bones of the three records, we started working on lyrics, concept and production. We did Burden first, then Acheron, and then Regenerator.
As a modern day DIY band, what is your most lucrative revenue stream?
Sean: T-shirts and soft goods. For years I always used to joke that when people would ask me “what do you do for a living?” I would say “I’m a traveling t-shirts salesman, and we basically use music to market the shirts.”
It’s kind of sad, but it’s a realistic state of affairs. If any young bands are (reading) this, get your merch game up! The venue might pay you $50 for the night, and that won’t even cover the gas. But if you sell two shirts at $25 a piece, you’ve doubled your money, and that’s the only way to do it.
How does it feel to be touring with bands like Clutch?
Sean: (Clutch’s album) Elephant Rider was the soundtrack of my high school experience. I love that record. I spent tons of time listening to that record. When we got the tour, I got really misty eyed. I texted all my high school buddies telling them “Dude! I’m going to be opening up for Clutch!” It was really surreal.
What kind of music have you been listening to lately?
Sean: Ah, I recently heard of this band L’EClaire. A really awesome psych band. Slift. Rotor was a band that we did two festivals with in Germany this summer. So I went back and was checking out their stuff, and they’re super awesome!
What does 2023 have in store for King Buffalo?
Sean: There’s going to be more touring! We’re finalizing stuff now. I don’t know if anything is approved to be announced at the moment. It’s probably going to be another busy year of touring. No solids plans for a next record, but that could always change as we get the time and excitement to do that.
The Beauty of Doing it Yourself
One of the greatest things about listening to a successful “Do-It-Yourself” band is that their signature sound is not being influenced by a record label, or a publishing company. Bands like King Buffalo are passionate about what they do, and it shows up in their music.
We live in a time where a band can easily own their own studio gear and can continuously release records. But the truth is that no modern music gear can replace talent.
King Buffalo has a bit of an old school approach: write great songs! It’s easy to tell that they thoroughly enjoy touring, especially to an audience that is just as excited about their music. 2023 is going to be a big year for the band with lots of tour dates set to be announced soon!
King Buffalo’s new album “Regenerator” is available on all streaming services. You can check out more about the band at KingBuffalo.com