Cardiff indie types Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard have finally found their way to that much-anticipated debut album. While the world around them continues to implode, and that nervous anticipation takes hold, they’re a band ready to take that next step forwards.
Words: Jamie Muir. Photos: Lily Brown.
The world is a bit fucked, and Tom Rees knows it. The Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard frontman is hunkered down in his Cardiff studio, his bandmates nipping out to get portions of chips in on a chilly January night – and no, this isn’t the start of a Netflix horror movie, we can promise.
“You know, there are many, many integrated problems in our society,” Tom notes. “The world’s on fire. China is probably going to take over the entire world. We’re not going to Mars – it’s not going to fucking happen because society is going to eat itself whole, and all we can do is sit and complain about it all… but on the other hand….” His eyebrows rise. “I can watch TikToks on my phone, you know what I mean? We can find the good in life and have fun through it all. It is possible.”
Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard are unlike any band you’ll come across in 2022, even if you think their form of skyrocketed, glam-stomping, arm-waving and bone-shaking rock’n’roll could come straight out of a diehard record collection from the 70s. Debut ‘Backhand Deals’ is imbued with the sort of irreverent freedom from when rock’n’roll was at its most outlandish and refused to be confined to a couple of lines under a ‘genre description’. The band know about having a good time and how vital embracing that truly is.
“We’re in this weird phase at the moment where it’s excitement paired with massive amounts of fear. You spend your whole time – absolute years of your life – trying to get to this point, and then when it actually comes, you feel like saying – actually, can we not? And just do it like next year, maybe? Because I’m actually scared that people are just not going to buy it?!”
It’s more excitement, though, that feeds into the moment where Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard unveil their statement to the world. They’re becoming a word-of-mouth live favourite through feverish performances, an uncompromising sound that engulfs you from the first note, and, in Tom, a lead singer complete with the kicks and presence that makes it feel as though he’s preaching his sermon to the masses.
“Tell you what, though,” he interjects. “It is quite hard when after a month of feeling like a god on the road, you come back, and you’re straight back to being that person in line at Greggs waiting to get a fucking corned beef fucking slice.”
It’s clear why their upcoming headline tour to celebrate the release of ‘Backhand Deals’ is one he’s looking forward to. “I can’t wait to once again feel like a god-like being with people eating out of my hand.”
There are other up-sides when releasing a debut album, too, of course. “To be able to make that statement and say: we’re a real band, take us seriously – that’s a big deal for us,” explains Tom. “For example, my neighbours who are like, not old but they’re getting on… if I say to them that we’re releasing an album next month, they’ll be like, oh so you’re not just like a layabout scummy piece of shit?! You actually do something?! That’s a good feeling.”
With the neighbours on board, ‘Backhand Deals’ flips the script on where their most full-blooded work to date found them. ‘The Non-Stop EP’ was a snapshot of a band revelling in almost unstoppable energy. From the crowd watching to the late-night plays in bedrooms and taxis home, it’s a sensation that can’t be explained. Rather than trying to break it down or define it, Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard simply revel in the confetti it shoots all across the room.
“I want people to have the same experience that I had,” elaborates Tom, pointing to a life drawn to music and all its possibilities. “Like when I was watching someone like The Hives and having this religious experience. I just want people to have that same thing; that religious experience with rock’n’roll and not with organised religion. Just get into rock’n’roll. You know, it’s a good one to get into.”
He takes a moment. “Like, there are many gods! Lots of them. Ermm, the music is great! More wine than your traditional church if you’re into that! The dress code is great, way better robes, and there are no restrictions here! Like, you don’t have to just play the organ, which for some reason is like the only accepted instrument in Christianity. Imagine that in 200 BC? THIS WILL CONTROL THE MASSES!”
“I don’t know if it’s a Welsh thing, but I just love taking the piss out of everything”Tom Rees
‘Backhand Deals’ doesn’t pick up where Christianity left off, but its growth from ‘The Non-Stop EP’ is clear as day. Wanting to approach their full-length debut in the leanest and sharpest way possible, it’s a moreish selection box of soaring harmonies, classic songwriting and swagger. The sort of album that practically beams with big-time ambition.
“As a first record, I always wanted to make like a ‘Please Please Me’. Something where every track was just a banger, it is just in and out, and before you even know it, it’s done! It’s the way we approach playing support slots; we always want to do 20 minutes. We want to grossly underplay to the point it makes the promoter sick, and they think about not wanting to pay us because we played so little time. It’s that feeling of, well – we need to go and see them again! It’s the same thing with the record. It was so important to make it as concise as possible, so people just want to listen over and over. I mean, in albums two and three, we’ll start to embellish our darker sides, but for now, nice and lean is the way to go.”
Delivering on every drop of hype and anticipation that has come their way, ‘Backhand Deals’ started life as an album title before a single note or song was written for it. In turn, it was about piecing the puzzle together in a way that embraced what so many love about them but also bringing their styles and influences bang up to date in their own voice.
“It’s really hard to perceive something while you’re creating it,” admits Tom, looking back on a process that involved a batch of songs simply being moved to one side to allow for a fresh go at it all. “We’re really obviously influenced by 70s music and all that stuff, but we want to try and make it as clean and pop as possible within our means. Don’t get me wrong, it was never going to sound like a Little Mix record or whatever, but we wanted to try and drag it, and I guess ourselves, into this century.
“Nobody teaches you how to make an album, y’know? It’s not really mentioned at school, haha!”
One look at the stepping ‘Break Right In’ and ‘New Age Millennial Magic’, the lush cinematic shines of ‘A Passionate Life’ and ‘Yourself’, and the storming ‘You’ and ‘Feel The Change’, makes it clear that no such education was needed. Naturally full of life and vigour, it comes with a defining tone that pumps through everything Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard do. Tom smiles at the thought of that beating heart, happy to step back and witness the good times – as well as point out the bad in their own way.
“I think in every musician, there is this need to be profound. That this perception you may have as a person and as a band has to come across in the music. I think, though, more than anything, we’ve just gotta give in to the idea that the humour matters more. I don’t know if it’s a Welsh thing or whatever, but I just love taking the piss out of everything. What we’re trying to do as a band is say, ‘okay, here’s my opinion’ – but then I’ll take the piss out of it and be like, ‘what the fuck do I know, right?!’
“Having an opinion and caveating that with humour is really important”Tom Rees
“I think having an opinion and caveating that with humour is really important. It doesn’t matter what your ideological standings may be, you can always take the piss out of something and just have a laugh and have some fun – and you can do that together with others. I think anybody’s ability to take the piss out of themselves is a marker for how good a person they really are.”
Tom feels passionately about such positions. His noted awareness of and stands taken to support culture in Cardiff amongst many other calls to action are vital – and it’s not about pushing these to one side. If anything, it’s about elevating them. For Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, Tom finds goals close to home. “Obviously, when you start out, you’re like, ‘I’m gonna fucking headline Madison Square Garden baby, and I’m going to be drowning in money!'” he cracks. “Now, I’m at a perspective where we have a really great group of fans that really melt my heart.
“I just want to be able to put out good music that satisfies me creatively but also means something to people. If it’s a million people? Super cool. If it’s one person? Also, super cool. I’ve had conversations with people who are into our band that have literally changed my life, just from understanding how much they love the music. I didn’t realise that was within me to do and that there was such love out there. I’m happy if we can keep doing that, and when you break it down, I get to make music with my best friends in a fucking studio that we have the fucking grace of owning and being able to use so much. That’s pretty good to me.
“I’m very proud of this record. Being in a band, and I know it may seem silly, but it’s important to feel like you’re in a band. This moment means a lot, but we want to keep moving forward and progress. That will be the decider in whether we fucking soar like an eagle or crash and burn. Crash and fucking burn”.
Tom smiles once more. “I mean, statistically, it’s more likely we’ll crash and burn, right? Bet hey, if we do, we’ll crash and burn big. It’s a big national scandal or nothing!”
Taken from the March 2022 edition of Dork, out now. Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard’s album ‘Backhand Deals’ is out 25th February.