Buffalo Killers have classic sound, modern attitude

By Sean Moeller | Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ohio is for lovers, so we’ve heard. The state locked between Pennsylvania and Indiana is very proud of this. Its collectible T-shirt and bumper sticker industry is evidence. 

This motto was created decades and decades ago, to last for all time, but in recent years, there’s an argument to be made that Ohio is also for the kind of smoky classic rock and blues that tumbles out of the air like rain and tastes like hot asphalt.

Zach and Andrew Gabbard of Cincinnati-based group Buffalo Killers have helped to promulgate this new image for the mishapen state that looks like a puddle of melted ice cream.

The Buffalo Killers, which grew out of the two brothers’ former band — Fat Possum Records’ Thee Shams — is tricked out with a whole lot of the gooey, quicksand-y guitars that were in office back in the ’60s and ’70s before drifting off into the sunset of popularity. Maybe Ohio never let those manuevers go completely away and this isn’t a resurgence at all. We’re always so quick to think things are resurging. Nope ... they’ve never gone.

“Classic rock’s a pretty loose term,” Zach Gabbard said. “It’s just as modern as anything else. We’re writing these songs today, in 2006, but I’d much rather people said we sound like that than The White Stripes or something.

“Our dad taught my brother and I to play guitar at a really young age. We learned playing the same songs everyone else starts off with — (Deep Purple’s) “Smoke on the Water” — and things like that. We started out with our dad, playing Neil Young songs. He was pushing Big Cheer on us when we were really young.”

Ohio’s produced The Greenhornes (two members of which play in Jack White’s touted new outfit The Raconteurs) and The Black Keys. The Buffalo Killers’ label — Alive Records — is a treasure trove of bands that respect the crushing guitar licks of the past that still find ways to belong these days, bands such as Two Gallants, Soledad Brothers and Trainwreck Riders.

“The Black Keys are good friends of ours actually,” said Gabbard, who also mentioned that Key drummer Patrick Carney is planning to help record a new Buffalo Killers EP in the spring. “I feel pretty proud of Ohio. I’m pretty proud to be a part of it. People have to say you sound like something. I’ve seen the Black Keys play in places with nobody there and now, they sell out in clubs all across the country. They’ve worked hard to get to where they are.”

Gabbard, a vinyl record collector with a soggy, earthy, volumous howling voice, said that the band makes a living playing music and drinking enough beer for a football team on the weekends and occasionally om multiple week tours out west. The self-titled debut album came about quicker than expected. The band — which also includes drummer Joey Sebaali — recorded five demos, thinking they’d shop it around, but essentially put it out themselves. Alive thought otherwise.

“I sent those songs to four or five labels. All I put on the discs was the band name and our phone numbers,” he said. “They got back to me in less than a week and they liked the recordings so much that they wanted to release them as they were. So we went back to the same studio and recorded five more songs.”

What resulted was another argument in favor of a new state moniker to Ohio is for Killers, Keys and Hornes.


Sean Moeller can be contacted at (563) 383-2288 or smoeller@qctimes.com.



What: Buffalo Killers with Ambient Green

When: 10 p.m. today

Where: Rock Island Brewing Co., 1815 2nd Ave., Rock Island

How much: $3

Information: (309) 793-1999

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