Uncle Hunter and the Buffalo is the Jazz June’s Andrew Low (Uncle Hunter) and Tim Holland (the Buffalo) in a folkier, dirtier light. Though the two have played together for nearly 20 years, the upcoming EP under this new moniker is a departure from what they created with the tunes that projected them to emo fame. Instead of scheduled studio time, the songs were recorded in Andrew’s living room in Walthamstow and in Tim’s apartment in Brooklyn.
It’s been two years almost to the day since we spoke about “After the Earthquake.” Outside of music, what’s been going on in your life?
Well, the biggest thing is that my daughter Annie was born 16 months ago and is now my best buddy and taking up most of my thoughts and efforts. I also started a new job with the microphone company Shure, so time has been evenly split between work and home. I don’t actually need to sleep anymore because I have gotten used to the crazy sleepless schedule so I found time to write a few new songs in the twilight hours.
I’ve read the bio, but what do you think sets Uncle Hunter and the Buffalo apart from The Jazz June? Other than the fact it was recorded in your guys’ apartments instead of a studio.
The apartment studio recordings were more of a necessity than a choice. We would love to record at a studio but we are starting this thing on our own so we are the ones footing the bill. But that is the huge difference between this project and the Jazz June–everything is brand new and like starting from scratch, whereas the Jazz June has been around for over 20 years. Also, the process of writing a song with just one other person vs. four other people means that we have a lot more discussions about what we should and shouldn’t do between each other, rather than each person writing their individual parts. There are only two of us so we are able to use quieter acoustic instruments and key boards to a more noticeable effect without trying to blend them in with amplified guitars and a loud drum kit.
The songs I’ve heard have heard are far less polished, and a bit folkier—is that something you two were shooting for?
Bryan from the Jazz June has labeled it ‘freak folk,’ which I like. I mean, we didn’t sit down and say, “let’s write an unpolished folk album,” but the music we like, listen to and talk about is more along those lines (Neutral Milk Hotel, Bob Dylan etc.) And again, I don’t think we would ever describe ourselves as a folk band, but when I approach playing acoustic guitar I always seem to treat it as both an instrument that creates rhythm and percussion, so my strumming style is usually less rock and roll/4 on the floor/down stroked and more like a train going down a bumpy track, which is probably where you are feeling the folk influence from. It’s funny because I used to be in a totally electric punk band called wake up dead, and people used to tell me they heard a folk thing going on with the songs.
With regards to the production style, I have always been a big fan of Sebadoh albums like “Smash Your Head on The Punk Rock,” and love the sound of buzzing instruments and tape hiss. I actually prefer it to really quite and clean studio albums.
Even though you’ve been playing with Tim for almost 20 years, was the writing process any different for this EP?
Yes, definitely, because when I used to play with Tim in the Jazz June he would be one of five people standing in a rehearsal room playing a loud instrument over other loud instruments, so now our attention is focused much more on a few quiet instruments that we try to layer and weave in and out of the songs.
Last time we talked I asked if you were nervous about releasing new Jazz June material after more than a decade. Do you still feel any of those nerves now, like you have a reputation to uphold, or is this project a clean slate?
A little bit. I guess the anxious person inside of me thinks that I am going to put anyone who has ever listened to The Jazz June off forever if I put out a new album that they don’t like, but that is just good old paranoia kicking in. I use a small group of friends that I have had for many, many years as a sounding board for all my new music. If they like it and think I should put it out then I am 100 per cent sold and don’t really bother worrying about anyone else’s opinion.
Don’t get me wrong, I want everyone to like it, but my personal satisfaction comes from the people who get the style and references and creativity that I am trying to achieve. Plus, the Jazz June has had so many bad reviews over the years that I am totally immune to negative criticism. It was funny, just after “After the Earthquake” came out we received a one line message from a kid in Australia asking the question “why do you guys suck so bad now?” My point is that I can take the criticism so it is not as nerve wracking as it used to be.
Do you see this EP being a one-off thing, or do you think at this point in your life or career that it gives you some sort of satisfaction that the Jazz June maybe doesn’t?
Definitely not. We have already started working on new songs and converse about video, music, podcasts and other ideas almost every day. I have a back log of ideas on my phone that I need to send to Tim to work on, and he has three or four new ones for me to develop. I am going to do solo gigs in the UK and he is going to come over in April for some shows. We’ll probably do some U.S. shows when I am over in June.
Are you tired of all these Jazz June questions yet?
No, those guys are some of my favorite people in the world and I like having to think about them and the music we have been making for the past two decades.
Did writing for “After the Earthquake” spur you to write more? Or have some of these ideas been bouncing around for a while?
To be totally honest, some of these songs I had originally sent to the Jazz June guys for a follow up EP to “After the Earthquake,” but we are just not able to work on new music right now for various time and scheduling reasons. I have been pretty busy the past 16 months since my daughter was born and those guys all have at least two kids each, businesses to run and busy lives. We’ve had births and deaths, house moves and house fires, new jobs and lots of other things happen over the past two years. Tim visited London for two weeks last April and we just started recording some of them for fun, but once we got into the process it was going so well that we decided to try and see how we could work on them via email between Brooklyn and London.
“Fight” is a song that has had many incarnations. The lyrics are about being mad at yourself for being lazy. If it had been recorded with a band, I would have asked the drummer to steal the drum beat from the Archers of Loaf song “Web in Front,” but I think Tim has selected just the right mix of instruments to suit the down tuned new mood of the song.
Lastly, what can you tell me about “Mutant Albino Radioactive Crocodiles”?
That was just a joke name for the EP. It is actually from a Werner Herzog documentary called “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” that I have not seen yet but heard him mention it on a podcast. Apparently, there are albino crocodiles that have been mutated by radiation from a nuclear plant in the movie. That is all I know. I just thought it was fucking weird and amazing combination of random words, and when you hear Werner say it in his accent it is even better. I must have listed that by accident on the MP3 I sent to you.
This footage was shot in NYC in the summer of 2000 at Brownies, a once great rock club that closed its doors in 2002. This show was a precursor to the Medicine tour, which kicked off a few weeks later.