Flying Buffaloes cuts its chop in Nashville
Flying Buffalos, an alt-country rock group hailing from Nashville, Tenn., will be among the featured performers at Saturday’s 12th annual Jazz + Blues Fest at the Jefferson Theater.
The genre-defying act is just as out of place on a country label as its members were out of place in Nashville after they first moved there from the Midwest. Nonetheless, the band’s groove-infected licks and personal lyrics have found their ways into hearts and dance halls across the the United States.
The band is made up of Johan Stone on lead guitar, vocals, harmonica; Barry Stone on lead vocals and bass; Tommy Leland on lead guitar; and Danny Pratt on drums. The band’s EP, “Taking Off,” has earned it attention as notable up-and-comers worth paying attention to. Find it via your favorite streaming service; Flying Buffaloes also can be found on Instagram and Facebook.
How did the band get involved with the Jazz + Blues Festival?
Pratt: We toured through Texas with Wade Bowen recently and in the process made a few friends down there. We heard they were looking for some musicians to play down in Beaumont so we reached out.
How did Flying Buffaloes got started?
Pratt: We are all from the Midwest except for Johan, who is from Germany. Johan and I were playing in another band together, which is how we met. Barry and I were roommates from the beginning of my time in Nashville. Barry and Johan really hit it off, and through Johan we met Tommy. It was really organic and we all knew each other through music circles in Nashville.
I understand there was some trouble with Johan and immigration.
Stone: Although Johan is from Germany — he was an exchange student in Chicago — so he is familiar with the United States. He came to visit Nashville and fell in love and decided to pursue music. He came on a tourist visa, which is only three months at a time. We started playing together as a band but, after three months, he had to go home. Three months after that he was able to come back for another three months, which is how the tourist visa works. He did that for a while, tried to get an artist visa where he could get here more permanently. He went back and forth about three times and we would try to keep the band going best we could. That third time when he came back, he met a lady and they are married now. So she was able to sponsor him, luckily, and keep him in the country.
Those first couple years it was tough on him, going back to Germany, where he had no goals and, for three months, only thinking about coming back here to play music. It was tough on everybody.
In a oversaturated music scene like Nashville, how do you stand out?
Stone: Well, it’s the best, really. Being surrounded by musicians is amazing, there is always something happening every night of the week. You go out and just start talking with people, and everyone in the scene kinda knows each other, so it is really easy to meet people.
Leland: We made a lot of really close friends who are great artists. We do things differently than they do, we keep ourselves busier in other ways. We stay busy in the honky tonks when we are not on the road or in the studio.
Stone: There is Lower Broadway, which is where all the neon signs are, and bands playing around the clock on every floor. But it is covering shifts and you are playing covers. It’s the frontman’s show and he hires a rotating cast of musicians to play with him. Johan and I were playing there when we first arrived in town. We realized it would be a dead end if you weren’t smart. What we did was started billing ourselves as a band, as opposed to just solo acts. We make our living and cut our chops there playing covers every night of the week; sometime we sneak in some originals and sell some merch. That is how we came up into the scene. We also met a ton of people from across the U.S. until we had enough connections to put together some tours.
What can people expect from a live show?
Stone: High-energy songs, great vocal harmonies, catchy hooks, screaming guitar solos. There is a lot to look at; we are very animated.
How do you fit into the modern paradigm of country music?
Leland: We feel we are much more similar to the outlaw country of the ’70s and country rock. There were singing about their lives and hardships, which is why that music resonates with people so well.
Pratt: That is why everyone loves Johnny Cash, he was the first punk rocker.
Stone: We all definitely come from a rock background so that also sets us apart in a noticeable way.
Tell us about your upcoming album, “Loaded ’n’ Rollin’’’?
Leland: We think it will be more similar to alt-country than hardcore country music. Sorta like Sturgill Simpson stuff, Chris Stapleton. We were trying to go for that live-in-studio sound. Raw but polished. We also put together our vocals in line with the Beatles later work, so there is a lot in there to listen for. We think people will love it.