Bootleg Theater Presents
Korey Dane, Avi Buffalo
2220 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90057
This event is 21 and over
Sometimes it can take years to find your calling. Not for Julie Byrne; whose power of lyrical expression and musical nous seems inborn. Often what comes naturally cannot be driven by speed and time. Julie’s second album, Not Even Happiness, has evolved at its own pace. It spans recollections of bustling roadside diners, the stars over the high desert, the aching weariness of change, the wildflowers of the California coast, and the irresolvable mysteries of love. Her new album vividly archives what would have otherwise been lost to the road, and in doing so, Byrne exhibits her extraordinarily innate musicality. Some of the songs on Not Even Happiness took years of fine tuning to reach their fruition. If you asked her why the follow up to 2014’s Rooms With Walls and Windows has taken so long, you’d be greeted with a bewildered expression melted into a smile - as though the strangest question had just been asked. “Writing comes from a natural process of change and growth. It took me up to this point to have the capacity to express my experience of the time in my life that these songs came from.”
Julie Byrne has counted Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans and Northampton, Massachusetts as her transient homes in recent years. For now, she’s settled in New York City, moonlighting as a seasonal urban park ranger in Central Park. Whether witnessing the Pacific Northwest for the first time (‘Melting Grid’), the morning sky in the mountains of Boulder (‘Natural Blue’), or a journey fragrant with rose water; reading Frank O’Hara aloud from the passengers seat during a drive through the Utah desert into the rainforest of Washington State (‘The Sea As It Glides’), Not Even Happiness is Julie’s beguilingly ode to the fringes of life.
“The title of the album comes from a letter I wrote to a friend after a trip to Riis Park’s ‘The People’s Beach’,,,it was the first warm afternoon of the year. I walked alongside the Atlantic as the Earth came alive for the sun. There was a palpable sense of emergence to everything. I felt it in myself too, and remember thinking I would trade that feeling for nothing…not even happiness.”
Julie taught herself guitar, picking it up when her father became ill and could no longer play. She readily admits she can’t read music and doesn’t even listen to it all that much - her own vinyl was the first in her possession. Back to her childhood home in western New York state to record the album with producer Eric Littmann (Phantom Posse), friend Jake Falby contributed strings at a cabin in Holderness, New Hampshire. “Without possessing the right words, I’d describe to Eric and Jake the feeling I wanted a song to evoke, or I would take a shot at singing what was in my head. Though over all, their contributions to the record are entirely their own vision and their own power. I trusted each of them and we chose each other; our songs came from that place.”
Not Even Happiness offers a bigger picture to its predecessor through a wider exploration of instruments and atmospherics, revealing an artist who has grown in confidence over time. This form of self-evolution permeates through the track titles, as the album opens with, ‘Follow My Voice’ and ends with, ‘I Live Now as a Singer’.” “Those two songs are the nearest to my heart, without hesitation. This is an album with a far stronger sense of self, and fidelity to self than the last,” she says.
Her last album was released in January 2014, on Chicago based DIY label Orindal after first existing as two separate cassette releases. Rooms With Walls and Windows went on to become a true modern-day word of mouth success story (it would have to be for an artist who shuns all forms of social media). By the end of the year, it was voted number 7 in Mojo Magazine’s Best Albums, with the Huffington Post calling it, “2014’s Great American Album.” A collection of hushed intimate front porch psych-folk songs, recalling the greats, but strongly emanating the essence of timeliness. Her journey to follow was captured in two summers through Europe, playing the Green Man Festival and End of the Road, as well as lesser trodden tour paths around Italy.
In the live arena she enchants, leaving rooms and festival crowds mesmerized by her voice and warm presence, where many find a real connection with Byrne’s intimate songs. This feeling is often shared: “The most magical thing about performing these songs is that afterwards, so many of the conversations I have escape all small talk,” tells Julie. “Shows don’t always have this spirit, but when they do, every person has contributed, even unknowingly, to creating a space of responsiveness to each other through vulnerability, through our unified experience and honesty about our sorrow and our emergence.”
Julie Byrne is taking Not Even Happiness on the road throughout 2017.
Prufrock had the Emperor of Ice Cream in a headlock when the roar of a '37 Triumph Speed Twin made them both forget what they were fighting about. In walked an Anglo-Cherokee-Japanese skateboarder. "I'm Korey Dane, and you're both acting like children."
He had ridden from Joshua Tree where his father was rebuilding a 1953 Chevy Hardtop. "I've put my board away, gentlemen, and I've picked up a guitar. I figure the board will never really let me say what I want to say, and frankly, nothing makes me cry like the 3 minor chord." The table was cleared for a round of Old Pulteneys as Korey Dane began his tale of woe and redemption.
"I'm twenty-five years old. My mother handed me East of Eden when I was twelve and I've never been the same since. Neither has she. Mom and Dad headed in opposite directions; academe called her name and Dad, well Dad drove into the desert until he ran out of gas. And there he hung his hat. I tumbled for a while…and grumbled. But four wheels brought me where I needed to go. I probably did a little too much of this and way too much of that, but that's ok. I'm better for it. Lera says I've still got a long way to go. Hell, she's from Ukraine, for Christ's sake. She should know.
"Luckily, I heard and saw some things; Tom Waits, Bruce Davidson, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Aaron Embry, The Beatles and the Stones, Blake Mills, Mark Gonzales, Karen Dalton, and the 'Mats. Hitching across the country is like a 72-day answer to the question, 'What's the worst thing that could happen?' Well, I've gathered a lot of answers to that question. But the best thing that could happen was going around the country until I found myself back home. Listen to me. I'm Dorothy fucking Gale!
"Home is where I decided to take a position. Orville Gibson and Ernie Ball were my earliest accomplices. The three of us were sequestered for a couple of years until we all agreed I needed to step outside. I played for a few friends and nobody hit me. I felt this might work out.
"I rolled some Legend of 91 and got to work. A hundred songs…three of them decent. Then I slept for three days. Woke up and wrote a hundred more. This time, two of them were worthwhile. This wasn't going well. After a while I met some folks. They were nice. They were encouraging. And they said, 'Surely you can do better than this.' They introduced me to a man—a cruel man—who made me do things no man should have to do. Scansion, modulation, chromaticism…he was mean and relentless.
"But here I sit. Open to whatever comes. You're both older gentlemen, now. Go home to your wives, your families. I feel ready."
The three of them went their respective ways. Prufrock and the Emperor are now long gone.
Korey Dane is standing right outside your door.
Embarking upon a sophomore effort can be a daunting task for any young upstart, and there’s no denying Avi Buffalo’s own bar was set quite high with 2010’s celebrated eponymous debut. Fear not, dear fans/family/friends/friends of friends/newcomers, there’s nothing in this tale about The Second Album—a.k.a. At Best Cuckold, due September 8th in Europe and September 9th in North America on Sub Pop—that even remotely resembles a slump; in fact, it would be entirely appropriate to say that this Long Beach, California, enterprise is getting better with age.
Ah, yes, age—much was made of it when Avi Buffalo’s first album hit the ground running, and for good reason: While their Millikan High School classmates were preoccupied with quaint and youthful pursuits, the musicians behind Avi Buffalo were busy making an off-kilter pop gem that eventually bowled over NME, The AV Club, Pitchfork, the BBC, and numerous other outlets on both sides of the Atlantic whose tastes are respected by the general public. Like a lot of kids their age, the Buffaloes celebrated the end of high school in Europe, but instead of visiting the Louvre and Buckingham Palace, their overseas journeys took them to the festival stages of Reading, Leeds, Glastonbury, the Pavement-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties in Minehead, and beyond.
So is Avi Buffalo a he or a them? The answer is a definitive yes, as leader Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg has lent his musical nickname—bestowed in childhood by a pal who’d picked up on his friend’s inclination toward spicy chicken wings—to this full-fledged outfit that works something like a solo project in the studio and then builds into a band onstage. Not that he goes it alone when recording—to the contrary, many able-bodied compatriots, including longtime collaborator Sheridan Riley, have assisted with committing his songs to tape—but everything begins and ends with Avi, and after ending a year on the road in support of the first record, he decided to take his time beginning work on the second.
The creation of At Best Cuckold turned out to be a three-year journey; a stretch of time that resembles its predecessor. While transitioning from teenager to twentysomething and traversing the interpersonal wilds which accompany that age, Avi kept playing music (even picking up a new instrument every now and again), collaborated with and produced several friends (including Kevin Litrow’s N.O.W. project and Douglas James Sweeney’s Arjuna Genome), and even started DJing. He also wrote new songs, and by the time 2013 rolled around, it was time to begin capturing his latest sparks—with that, the band headed into the studio on New Year’s Day.
Two weeks later, the basic tracks for At Best Cuckold were recorded, having been captured at Tiny Telephone, the analog-friendly San Francisco studio run by John Vanderslice of John Vanderslice fame. The engineering was actually handled by Jay Pellicci (The Dodos, Deerhoof, Sleater-Kinney), though during his stay, Avi had a chance to play with the head honcho when he was asked to contribute to JV’s tribute to Bowie’s Diamond Dogs. Needless to say, Avi has nice things to say about the place.
The “clean and tight” recordings from Tiny Telephone served as perfect skeletons for Avi to flesh out with his analog and digital overdubs, which were completed over the next year or so at various locations around Southern California. (“I’ve always had a lot of fun with overdubs,” says Avi. “Maybe my favorite instrument is overdubs.”) The result—which was completed and mixed with Nicolas Vernhes at his Rare Book Room studio in Brooklyn—is a quirky yet comforting set of songs driven by refined pop songcraft and sneaky moments of grandeur that stick in the brain. Classic-sounding melodies are delivered with a modern sensibility, creating an album that’s equal parts timely and timeless. Well-placed piano, sax, clarinet, French horn, and cornet further enhance the proceedings with a glorious orch-pop sheen.
“So What” gets things started with its understated charm and sing-songy goodness, however, it isn’t until the rollicking “Memories of You” that Avi lets his trademark falsetto fly. There are great pop moments all over At Best Cuckold, but Avi also excels at moodiness, exemplified in subdued beauties like “Two Cherished Understandings” and “Oxygen Tank.”
“I really like some of the ballad aspects of this record—it’s kind of my tribute to the ballad,” says Avi. “I predicted in an interview during the time of my first record what I was going to use in my next record, and I said a lot of major seventh chords, which, to me, sounded like laying down. And that ended up in the record, too.”
Lyrically, there are a lot of unsettled emotions on the album; a product of Avi observing the world around him and writing “about life, dealing with relationships and yourself, and trying to keep your head up and keep learning amidst whatever it is you’re going through.” Disappointment (“Thought we understood each other well / I was wrong as usual”) and anxiety (“Someone told me if I messed around / then my head would fill up with guilty clouds”) abound, though there’s also a feeling that everything is eventually going to turn out okay, even when everything seems to be falling apart during closer “Won’t Be Around No More.” If anything, Avi’s passionate delivery is the ultimate source of optimism.
At the ripe old age of 23, Avi Buffalo is ready to take on the world (again), armed with all of the experience he’s compiled over the past few years. And he’s made sure the second time around will be just as memorable as the first.