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Buffalo Fuzz turn life's ugly routines into heavy blues

Jared Zachary and Jake Allan of Buffalo Fuzz

Jared Zachary and Jake Allan of Buffalo Fuzz

Dark, heavy, and groovy.

That's how singer/guitarist Jared Zachary and drummer Jake Allan describe their Minneapolis-based band Buffalo Fuzz. The duo, who met at an open mic in Uptown in 2015, released their self-titled album last year and are amped up to celebrate the vinyl release and tour kick-off at the Turf Club tonight.

We spoke to Zachary, a merchandiser by day who hails from South Dakota, and Allan, a barber from Michigan, about the band’s influences and aspirations.

City Pages: What sorts of experiences informed Buffalo Fuzz’s first album?

Jared Zachary: I think a lot of the words for the album come from observation of humanity around us and witnessing some of the ugliness of the routines that we go through in our lives. I really don’t like fake, poppy songs about rainbows and flowers. That’s crap to me. I wanted to write something that is about the not-great times because I believe that that’s the reality of things, so when people do feel really down and they feel they’re in the blues moment, they know that’s how they can connect and feel legitimate still and feel powerful among others that are feeling that way and then they can bring themselves to a better place.

CP: When you’re in dark place, what kind of music do you like to listen to – either to sink into the mood or to get out of it?

Jake Allan: The go-to would be Otis Redding.

JZ: Yeah, I like to listen to old soul stuff: Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye. Proto-metal would be like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple. Humble Pie. I like to sink into it a bit. I like to feel it and it kind of snaps me back out of it.

CP: Given that you’ve been in larger bands before, like Black Church Service, what are the advantages and disadvantages of being in a duo?

JZ: The nature of Buffalo Fuzz revolves around the fact that we’re a duo. All the songwriting, all the riff writing, is written to have a parallel bass line. All of the music of Buffalo Fuzz has to be written in a certain way within those restrictions and the restrictions then create the art of the music. The good thing is it helps us because we create a really powerful sound. The set-up took me two years to master and figure out how we could create a full sound -- not necessarily a loud sound -- with two people. The benefit of having just the two people is it kind of creates the sound for you in some ways. Everything’s based on the riffs. The other side of that is the groove -- it’s super-powerful -- which Jake provides. The downside of having only two people is that you can’t create certain cool bass lines and things like that. You can’t create other sounds with keyboards and multiple guitarists.

JA: It’s a modern update of music. For instance, if you listen to a Lead Belly song, you’d be playing the simplest riff you can imagine. When Jared or I are playing our guitars, coming up with riffs on our acoustic guitars, you picture in your head, “How cool would that be to have a modern, big, huge version of this?” And then we do it.

JZ: It’s not watered down. It’s simple and beautiful and down to the nuts and bolts.

JA: No frills.

CP: What makes the music scene in Minneapolis special?

JA: The reason why I chose Minneapolis was because it’s closer [to Michigan] than Chicago and more affordable than New York. Then, of course, my dad would say, “Why don’t you go to Minneapolis? You ever heard of Prince?” And I’m like, “Oh, yeah, that guy.”

JZ: I remember when I was growing up, we’d go on trips to Minneapolis every summer. I remember how exciting it was to get on 35W and you’re going towards downtown and the skyline reveals itself. I always felt a lot of energy here. I remember it seeming like such a big city and now I feel like it’s such a tight-knit community at the same time.

JA: I don’t think that there are many other music scenes that support so successfully so many different genres. Minneapolis has a killer hip-hop scene, great rock ‘n’ roll bands, excellent folk music, electronic. In other scenes—Texas, for instance—maybe one or the other will wash out the rest, but here it’s like you run into these people and each person’s sound or style leads into the next. It keeps things rollin’.

JZ: The music scene here is all about the people and the people are, for the most part, really supportive of each other. That’s really important and that’s something that as a band we’ve tried to perpetuate and grow within our community. Each band is trying to make it individually, but if we can grow the scene, we can all enjoy creating music and sharing with each other, and I think that’s more important because everybody can have their 15 minutes of fame, but what are you going to do with your life? You can create friendships that are life long, you can help bands get to a place of success, and you can create a community of fans that can share all of you.

CP: What are your plans or hopes for Buffalo Fuzz looking forward a year or two?

JZ: We are really excited about our vinyl release. Putting our album down on vinyl was a really special thing for us to do. At times, it wasn’t easy but it’s very rewarding. It was specially mastered for vinyl. It sounds the best on vinyl compared to MP3. In promotion of our vinyl, we’re really excited to go on tour. We’re trying to play three shows at South by Southwest in Austin in March. We’re touring through Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis, and Tulsa on our way there. We’re really looking forward to that. We’ve put a lot of energy toward making that tour very successful. After that, we have a couple shows here. We’re playing a show at the 331’s 10th Anniversary party. We really love that place. We have another show booked in April. After that, we don’t have any specific plans but we just want to keep the energy going and keep the community building and keep making art.

JA: Yeah. Years down the road, the only goal that I would have—other than making cool songs—would be to just play the best rock ‘n’ roll show you can every time you have the opportunity.

JZ: It’s not about the plaque or the trophy. It’s about the experience each day. We don’t like to get too ahead of ourselves. We don’t look forward too far, but if we can just keep our energy the same and keep bringing great shows, then we’ll be happy.

CP: I imagine you both, ideally, would like to be making music full-time?

JZ: Ideally. It’s definitely become more and more difficult with the saturation of the market. Unfortunately, the reality is, it’s very hard to make a living in music.

JA: [Laughs.]

JZ: We talk about that all the time. It gets frustrating if you think about it too much.

JA: But then you play a great rock ‘n’ roll show and it gives you hope.

JZ: It gives you hope. Yes, as a musician, the cliché is that you’re a poor, burnout, starving musician, but if you can look at the small scale of it, we’re independent so we don’t have any funding besides what we do for our day jobs. We funded ourselves, this vinyl and the CDs, and we’ve funded our t-shirts and our buttons and such. When we play a show, we want to give a great experience. If we do a great job, which the fans deserve, they may want to hold onto our music, and listen to it, and they might want to buy a vinyl, they might want to buy CDs. We’re never going to be rich on that, but we hope to supplement and be able to put more money back into the Buffalo Fuzz band so we can record our next album.

Buffalo Fuzz
With: The Lone Crows, The Push
Where: Turf Club
When: 7:30 p.m., Thurs., March 2
Tickets: 21+, $8 - $10; more info here