Jay Buchanan - Rival Sons - Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Jim Rowland   
Thursday, 01 September 2011 05:00

Rightly or wrongly they've been heralded as America's best new band. That Los Angeles retro rockers Rival Sons can provoke such a reaction so early in their career is I guess testament to the quality of the band's diverse musical repertoire.  Even back at URHQ the four piece manage to spark up heated debates about whether they really are the best things since sliced bread or just some cynical attempt to plug a hole in the retro rock market.  To try and get some perspective amongst all the hype I caught up with the band's charismatic frontman Jay Buchanan recently to try and pull apart his story and really unearth what makes his band tick.




What follows is a warts 'n' all discussion about what the guys in Rival Sons see as their musical calling in life, what other stuff influences them, and the secrets behind the timeless sounds on their Earache full length debut album 'Pressure And Time'.




rivalsons-pressuretime-176pxYou've been described as 'retro' and 'old school' - how do you describe Rival Sons' music?


Jay: Just call us Rock'n'Roll. We're not re-inventing or inventing the wheel. Retro or vintage or 70's or throwback or re-run - that's all for other people to say. For us, we make the kind of music that we like to make. For me, when I think about Rock'n'Roll, it's this kind of music. I never had any interest in playing 'rock' music. 'Rock' is what you get when they take the blues out of it. For me, what feeds me is the blues and soul music. All I can tell you is this is what we do, and it's up to other people to label us.


For the sake of this question, we'll call it 'classic rock'. Why do you think there is such a resurgence in the classic rock sound? There are a lot of young bands playing it and there are a lot of young fans listening to it. Why do you think that is?


Jay: I think there's a resurgence because there's so much superficiality. It's been happening to rock music and I think that people are trying to go back to the roots. Like if you have a really long math equation, and you realise 'ok, I made a mistake'. Well you're not going to wipe the entire board back. To do it correctly, you have to trace your steps back to where you made a mistake. Or with mechanics, they're not going to scrap the car, they're going to isolate the problem. I think the Rock'n'Roll that was being made in the sixties and seventies in the classic era - well the first half of the seventies, it got very overblown and self-gratifying later on in the seventies, but it was very honest. That's the way Rock'n'Roll started out, honest. I think people want to get back to that and then build another platform on top of that, so hopefully we'll get something new out of this resurgence. Not just people paying homage to the classic rock sound, but maybe we'll get a new kind of Rock'n'Roll out of it, who knows?


The new album 'Pressure and Time' is a great album. It's got a very 'authentic' sound to it. How did you get that sound, as it really does sound of that era?


Jay: We used all really old mikes, really old compressors, everything. Our producer, Dave Cobb, it's a big hats off to him, because we've worked with him for all three records that we've done, and from the offset he knows exactly what we're doing. He understands that we record to take, and he's very much of the mind of first or second take, let's get it right now and just not fuck around and let anything be too precious, so it's really Dave Cobb the producer.




On a different note, you're about to start a tour with Judas Priest. Is that something you're looking forward to - are you fans of Judas Priest?


Jay: Kind of. I never had Priest posters on my wall or anything like that, I was more into blues growing up, but I know the hits definitely. Not growing up with metal and then discovering them when I first hit my twenties, it's a whole different thing because all my friends would listen to it, and I would think 'Oh man, what's all that really angry music? What is that?'  And then really sitting down and listening to it, it's a whole different thing, it's a whole genre, so I'm really excited about it, getting to sit side stage and watch first hand exactly what they're doing. Any time we get an opportunity opening for AC/DC or Alice Cooper or any of these bands that have been doing it for a really long time... you watch them and it doesn't have to be your favourite kind of music, you sit there and you get an education. You realise that even though these guys are really advanced in years, for an hour and a half every night they get to be twenty one years old, every night. It's the fucking fountain of youth man! And I see these guys and they're laying it down. Nobody's phoning it in, they're working really hard and it's extremely inspiring.


Obviously Judas Priest are one of the classic heavy metal bands, you can't get much more metal than Priest. Your stuff obviously isn't heavy metal, but you've played with metal bands. Do you go down well with a metal audience, or are you slightly not sure how you will go down with a metal audience?


Jay: It's interesting. We've played a lot of these festivals and it's been a metal audience. I think that Earache has done a really deft job at introducing us to a metal audience and they're not trying to make out we're hardcore metal. This is what we do, this is Rock'n'Roll and even hooking up with Earache in the first place, their justification for wanting to go into business with us was that we were the type of rock that directly pre-dated metal. As far as the metal audiences have taken us, it seems to have gone quite well, and I'm excited to see what happens. By the law of averages, some people won't like it and some people will.


rivalsonsep176pxI want to ask you about your influences. The two albums I'm familiar with are the mini-album before this one, I found that very Zeppelin, whereas this new one - we just heard you play 'Young Love' out there in the soundcheck - it's a bit psych or garage kind of thing, and it's almost like it's gone a little bit before the stuff on the previous album. What were the influences behind the new stuff?


Jay: Well that song in particular, 'Young Love', when we wrote it, you know one of the most overlooked rock vocalists, completely overlooked and it blows my mind, is Eric Burdon.  I never hear people talking about the Animals, and Eric Burdon specifically. That guy fucking wailed! And when Scott came to me with that guitar riff, I thought that really sounds like that. Just when The Yardbirds were hopping and The Animals were coming up and everything, it sounds like that snapshot, so I wrote the rest of the song, and the melody and the story to go along with that. It was really homage to The Animals. People were always talking to us about Zeppelin or Blue Cheer or Free, and I just thought "You know what, I think I'll just take The Animals this time".  There are lots of bands man, you know I listen to a lot of Buddy Holly and of course we don't sound like Buddy Holly and the Crickets, but it's that energy, that honesty that you're listening to.


I saw some Small Faces in there


Jay: Yeah, absolutely Small Faces! I really only got introduced to Steve Marriott's voice a few years back, and I look at him and I think 'Oh that's where Robert Plant got that sort of thing.' and of course Robert Plant took it somewhere else after that. But other vocal influences, Son House, early blues, all the way up to just pre-dating Rock'n'Roll. White Rock'n'Roll. Pre-dating Elvis, you listen to people like Johnny Ray and people don't realise that that's where Elvis got his tricks, was from Johnny Ray. When it comes to influences, there's way too many.


You've got High Voltage coming up. Are you looking forward to that one?


Jay: Absolutely. Classic Rock has been very kind to us and England has just been very supportive of what we're doing so of course we're looking forward to playing for the audience out here. It's gonna be good because it's going to be a huge audience filled with Rock and Roll fans, as opposed to some of these European festivals where on the bill might be Sum 41 or My Chemical Romance or whatever, this different kind of music. It's really neat to know we're going to be playing for this Rock'n'Roll audience.




Jay thanks so much for taking the time to speak with Uber Rock.


Jay: Thank you guys for listening to our music, see you all very soon somewhere on the road.