The origins of any band can be interesting enough, though most bands get started the same way-people with like minded ideas-playing music as friends. Houston’s Buxton has been a band for fifteen years, and between their early years and today, their evolution has been natural enough to where it feels like the band could continue to grow no matter what situation presented itself. After three years they’re re-emerging with a new album Stay Out Late, dropping tomorrow via New West Records.
The entire band was all on hand to discuss with us how they’ve evolved over the past three years, how their new album Stay Out Late went from idea to reality, and what they have planned for their upcoming tour. “It’s the fifteen year anniversary,” remarks singer Sergio Trevino when we discuss the band’s beginning and the sound of the latest record versus their earlier works, and how the band has evolved.
“From Nothing Here Seems Strange, I think it’s fair to say our sound has come a long way. It’s a very natural progression, there’s elements on previous records that exist now,” says bassist Chris Wise.
“We also knew less then about what we were doing than we do now,” says guitarist Jason Willis.
“And sometimes that’s a good thing. You just don’t know and you’re growing up, you realize that maybe you were copying something else. You become very aware of everything, and you have to get to a point where you’re less inhibited,” says Trevino.
Most of the members of Buxton have multiple side projects, many of which have had success in their own right. After such a long time together, and now having other outlets for their creativity to bloom, it was interesting to hear if they ever thought about packing things up and ending everything. “There was a time, two years ago after a really bad show in Austin where we thought, ‘what are we doing here?’ I hadn’t been writing any music, I was in a big writer’s block, and there wasn’t any moving forward for us as a band. I was trying to write, but all I kept coming up with were songs I just didn’t feel good about. I didn’t feel inspired and I thought, ‘I don’t wanna’ pursue this if it doesn’t make sense as Buxton,” Trevino says.
“In the early stages of this record, well even after we had worked on it a while writing, we thought ‘well if we can just get through one more record, then that’ll be it,”remarks drummer Justin Terrell.
“We played two or three shows last year, which was the least active we’ve been as a band ever. I don’t even know what that was, we literally didn’t do anything which was strange for us,” says Wise.
“It seemed like we were writing, and trying to find an angle for the record, and it just seemed monotonous to keep playing old songs live. If we had maybe moved forward with the new songs quicker, we would’ve been like, ‘cool, let’s book some shows cause’ we have new material to play, but that didn’t happen,” says multi-instrumentalist Austin Sepulvado.
As far as a sound goes, the music on Stay Out Late is definitely Buxton, but the instrumentation and arrangements are vastly different from their typical two or three guitar sound from the past. The band employed producer Thom Monahan again, and went to Sonic Ranch to start work on the record that shows growth and better compositions than their previous albums. “There was the idea that Sergio had these demos, and there were components about the songs that we liked, but also figuring out how to make them Buxton songs and make it a full band record. So it became, finding what you like about a song, then replicating it with the full band sound. Thom has this thing where you play him a song and he says, ‘well, that needs to be faster,’ and he has no problem telling you what you need to hear when you’re making a record,” says Wise.
“There was a lot of trial and error going into the record. I was continually trying to establish my place in the band as a guitar player. Every time we would try the dual guitar stuff, it felt crowded. We went from ninety percent guitar to ninety percent synthesizers, but once we pursued that sound, which I had already become accustomed to in other bands, I made it a point to incorporate that into these songs. We made big leaps on this record and Thom made a lot of that happen. He got Sergio to a place vocally that he’d never been to before, he placed the playback on speakers to get Sergio to sing rather than whisper, and we recorded the vocals in our practice space” according to Sepulvado.
“After the demo sessions, I felt like it would be best in Monahan’s hands. Half A Native, well both of them that one and this one weren’t really realized yet when we went into the studio. It was like, ‘here’s a bunch of songs, make it cool or make it make sense to other people.’ We got stuff done at Sonic Ranch and it’s an inspiring place to be. It’s very beautiful and lofty, and if you had a bunch of money, it’d be great to stay there and write songs. But when you’re on the dime, it’s a different story. Stay Out Late comes from a song we recorded for the record, but we weren’t able to work it in, it was more of a hail Mary kind of idea.
“I like the idea of albums that are stylized, I like linear steps sometimes. I think we’re moving diagonally. The approach to drums is more mechanical and we were experimenting with more percussive elements on this record,” Trevino says.
As far as the band’s live performances today with these new songs, and where they were two years ago with a primarily Half A Native driven set, it’s obvious that they’re enjoying playing today more as a band than really ever before. “I don’t know if it’s the fact that we came at this record differently, or that we had a hard time finding the place for these songs, but live some of it is a little challenging to get it to sound right. We can work on a song for however long in that room, but when we get out live it might need more tweaking,” according to Willis.
“If it seems like we’re having more fun it’s because we are. “Blood Runs Blue,” is super fun, the instrumental break makes it more interesting to perform. It’s about having a lively set, so primarily the new album, like seventy percent for the new live shows. It’s more about wanting to have a good show for us than just playing the new record” says Wise.
“The performance has to be there. For a song like “This Place Reminds Me Of You,” I have to really sell it. Even with catchy songs that can be the case. We just want the crowds to enjoy themselves, so we have a set where it’s made up of songs that work in a live setting that are lively for us and whoever sees us perform,” according to Trevino.
You can stream Stay Out Late on all streaming platforms when it drops tomorrow, October 19. You can also purchase it from all digital storefronts as well as Bandcamp, or you can buy it on CD or vinyl directly from New West Records. You can catch Buxton tonight at Hotel Vegas in Austin, tomorrow at The Heights Theater in Houston, and Saturday in Dallas at The Double Wide. Buxton is set to embark on the first leg of several tours starting November 30 in Athens at The Caledonia Lounge and ending December 9 at the High Watt in Nashville. A complete list of their tour dates can be accessed here.