While the rest of the country braces for the next ice age, San Diegans take lackadaisical bike rides to neighborhood brew pubs to catch a buzz with a few friends under the burning winter sun.
Our perpetual oblivion to the darker forces of nature no doubt informs San Diego’s obsession with devil-may-care stoner garage rock, and it is here that Buddy Banter is fitting nicely into their fold.
Their first LP, Paradise Thrillz, dropped last October, proving a strong follow-up to their more lo-fi punk-and-blues-inspired 2012 EP, Bummer Summer.
But, where many musicians find the apathetic fuzz refrains of SoCal garage to be an end in and of themselves, Buddy Banter takes the sound as a stepping stone into a number of different ponds. Opening anthem, “High with Me,” for example, could be a B-side from a Weezer that you actually believe smokes weed. The album continues with a handful of blasé punk and surf tunes before arriving at the swirling synths of “I Miss You” and the stuttering samples of closing track, “Dreams.”
Started as a solo project of drummer/vocalist Steven Perez Oira (My American Heart), the trio now includes guitarist Dylan O’Bosky and bassist Kevin Glenn (Pilots).
Chad Deal: Paradise Thrillz covers everything from nerdy garage pop to dreamy/gaze-y to a glitchy electronic track. Do you go into songwriting and recording with a sound or genre in mind?
Steven Oira: I don’t usually go into songwriting with a certain sound or genre in mind. It never was my intention to sound a certain way. The last thing I wanted was to be pigeon-holed into a certain genre or sound.
CD: What is your typical songwriting process?
SO: It always starts off with me sitting either in my bedroom or [guitarist] Dylan’s backyard with an acoustic guitar. Then I usually meditate or self-medicate and reflect on what has happened to me and my friends recently or previously. Melodies usually stumble into my head as I doodle on the guitar and the ones that mean something to me usually stay in my mind. I never write anything down and I don’t usually finish a piece until I get into a studio. Everything I usually “write” is just an idea waiting to be given life.
CD: You are the only musician on the recording of Paradise Thrillz?
SO: Yes. Tommy Garcia [Mrs. Magician, Drug Wars] helped with tones and engineering the project in his studio, Thrill Me. He also played a little guitar solo on an unreleased track from the record. Oh, and “Dreams” was recorded with Clint Delgado [My American Heart]. We worked on that song together, taking sampled tracks of Alicia Keys and chopping it all up into an original composition.
CD: What are some of the themes you explore lyrically?
SO: I don’t really think about themes when I write; I just try to be as honest as I can be, lyrically.
CD: Is Buddy Banter best experienced live or on record?
SO: Personally, I enjoy playing live. But it can be different for everyone. I’ve been told that Paradise Thrillz is great driving music — ha-ha. It’s really up to you as a person. We are totally different as a live band compared to the recording. There is a lot more anguish and energy, which feels good for me to release.
CD: Any story behind the name?
SO: A couple of years ago I started Buddy Banter as a solo project. I would go over to Dylan’s house and show him my songs and we would talk shit and drink beer with each other and the whole shoebox collective group would be entertained. I was playing a guitar for a punk/hardcore band at the time called New From the Front. I was pretty much the buddy that would come over and banter all night long.
CD: Tell me about Just South of North.
SO: There’s not much to say. One of my best friends is a filmmaker. He made this rad short film that is coming out shortly and he chose our song [“High with Me”] to be a part of the film. His name is Michael Arter, and we share our art and ideas with each other. He lives in Ohio.
CD: Anything that hasn’t been covered here?
SO: Buddy Banter is hoping to do a West Coast tour next year, record a full-length album, and, with the help of Michael Arter, make some new music videos. We are poor but we love what we do, and we will keep on doing it until we die. A word to the people: it doesn’t matter if you’re the best or the worst. Just as long as you love doing what you do, that’s all that matters. Start a band.