Musician to Musician: Buxton
My, how time flies! Looking through my articles and posts for Space City Rock, I realized that it’s been a long time since I’ve done a Musician to Musician interview. It’s not that I’ve interviewed everyone I’ve wanted to. It’s just that life took over, and I have only made time for live reviews and photography lately. My career as a music teacher also tends to take over most of my waking hours from August to May. What, you may ask, was my first thought on seeing that it’s been nearly a year since my last MtM? Of course, it was, “I want to interview Buxton, the band who gave me my favorite Houston based album of 2012, Nothing Here Seems Strange.” A couple of emails with their lead guitarist, Jason Willis, and here you have it!
SCR: How did Buxton meet and start playing music together?
Jason Willis: The band formed in November of 2003. It was more or less an after-school hobby for Chris [Wise, bassist], Sergio [Trevino, singer/guitarist], and I. The music wasn’t good. It was actually pretty horrible. But for some reason, we all decided to keep doing it. Justin [Terrell, drummer] joined after we decided that drums might be a good idea. Then Austin [Sepulvado, guitarist/singer] joined a few years after that.
When I saw Buxton play, I was especially struck by and interested in hearing about that Gibson of yours. How did you manage to get that guitar? Are you the first owner, or is it vintage?
I got the Gibson ES-339 via a trade through Craigslist. I had a 1964 Gibson ES-120T that I loved, but wasn’t using. The 339 made more sense for what we were doing at the time. Ever since then, it’s been my main guitar. It’s not vintage, because they didn’t start making this model until 2009, but it is based off the ES-335. Just a smaller body style.
Tell me about your other instruments and what amps you use. Have you been using the same equipment long? Do you have a fantasy guitar or amp? Was there a particular reason you picked what you did?
My main amp is a Vox AC30. It’s my favorite amp to use live and in the studio, but I often like to change things up when recording just because I have the flexibility of doing so. We have a Fender Bassman Ten from the ’70s that I also really enjoy.
As for fantasy gear, that’s kind of hard to say. It’s never quite an intentional thing, but Buxton’s sound, as well as our approach to it, changes often. So it’s always a rotating or expanding selection that we use. It really all depends on that type of material we’re working on. There’s plenty of gear that I would love to own, but if I can’t find a use for it, it’s pointless.
Where do your song ideas come from? Does Sergio write the songs and bring them to everyone, or do you “jam” as a group?
Usually Sergio will start with the basic foundation of a song, and we all toss ideas around until we find something that fits. Sometimes it ends up sounding nothing like the song that was originally brought in, and sometimes we leave it alone and let the song be the song. It all depends on what we feel the song calls for and what we hear in it. Occasionally we will just jam out on something, and it will slowly develop into some usable material with structure. But most of the time there will already be an idea that has matured with enough substance.
One of my favorite moments on your album is the middle break in the song, “Broke from Bread.” Do you remember how that part came about? Was it hard to count out, or is it really easy, and there’s a secret counting I can’t figure out? I almost get it, and then I say “never mind!” I think maybe it’s 11/4 — 3+4+4 — in there?
I forget how exactly it came about. I feel like it was an idea that Justin and I had while working on the song one evening. The counting out wasn’t that difficult. The difficult part was that we knew what we wanted Justin to play, but getting it to fit right in that sequence took some time. But basically we just cut off the the last section of the phrase and start it over prematurely. That’s really the best way I can explain it.
What influence did your producer, John Griffin, have on your recording? I love the way your album sounds, and the extra touches on it, like backwards guitars here and there.
We had worked with John before and really enjoyed it. He’s a good friend of ours now, and when it comes to working with people in Houston, he’s one of the best. Typically, Buxton as a collective will all work as equal parts producer. We all pitch in on the creative side of the recording process, and when we had an idea, John would usually be the one who would help us get the idea to tape.
Have you been writing a lot of new material for another release? Are you recording yet?
We got some stuff lined up. It’s hard to say what will become of it. But, yes, we’re always working on new material.
Do you have a favorite place in Houston to play?
Not particularly. I generally enjoy all of ’em.
It was a while back — February, 2012, to be precise — but the album release you did at Fitzgerald’s was a big influence on my band, Alkari. We were in the middle of planning our CD release party when I went to your release show, and it raised the bar for us. I told myself, “We have to pack this place like Buxton did!” Do you have any remembrances of that night?
I remember showing up to sound check, and the channel that I use the most on my amp had stopped working. So I had to use my pedals to compensate for it going out, which made me a little uncomfortable. But it worked out.
On tour, do you have a favorite town to play in? Have you noticed crowds growing in any specific towns?
I enjoy Athens, GA. We’ve made a lot of friends out there, and it’s just a great scene overall. As for the crowds, it’s hard to say. It’s still all pretty hit-or-miss, like any other town.
What is your favorite part of being on stage?
I like the feeling and pressure of trying to fit in as much entertainment as possible within a time constraint. Also, it’s fun for us. We enjoy sharing the stage together, and it’s really great to look over and see one of the other guys going crazy or doing something out of the ordinary spontaneously.
Yeah, that’s a feeling that’s hard to get anywhere else. Do you have any favorite Houston bands and national bands?
There are so many great Houston bands. I really enjoy Featherface, Tontons, Wild [Moccasins], Young Mammals, and B.E. Godfrey, to name a few. As for national acts: Radiohead, Wilco, Kurt Vile, Spoon, The National, etc.
Any great albums you’re listening to, new this year or, if not, of any era?
I like the new Kurt Vile a lot. Other than that, I’ve been listening to a lot of Wes Montgomery, Fleetwood Mac, and The National.
What are you most excited about playing Free Press Summer Fest?
I’m excited to see Iggy Pop and The Stooges, as well as Social Distortion.
Thanks again to Jason Willis for the chat, and keep an eye out for my next interview with Knights of the Fire Kingdom! END
(Photos: Jason Willis; Jason Willis; Sergio Trevino; Sergio Trevino & Austin Sepulvado. All photos by Jason Smith.)