In the process, the band made some unlikely converts: security guards, night shift workers, homeless folks, coffee house scenesters, and droves of kids trying to escape their bar closing-time blues. “We used to play until we’d get shooed away by security guards and cops,” recalls lead singer and guitarist Jay Buchanan. “But it was fun to cut our teeth on those early gigs, with everyone asking where ‘the spot’ was that night.”
Fast-forward a couple years. Jay Buchanan, drummer Chris Powell, guitarist Ty Stewart, and bassist Todd Sanders comprise one of the most talked-about bands in Southern California - having seduced Orange County, parking lot by parking lot. Of course, now most of Buchanan’s gigs take place on the stages of premier venues. And thanks to forward-thinking folks Ultimatum Music, Buchanan scored a unique record deal in which the band is supported by a close-knit and hands-on record company - a rarity in these days of cookie-cutter bands with sound-alike records. Yet through the recent successes, one constant remains: Buchanan’s soulful grooves, powerful vocals, and honest lyrics continue to speak to people.
Onstage, Buchanan’s music is irresistible. These are not the songs of sleepy coffee houses. This is the potent stuff of back houses, porches and bar room struggles and celebrations. It’s the energy of the band’s live show that drives listeners to a frenzied loyalty. “Your music hauntingly soothes me . . . or does it soothingly haunt me?”, quotes one fan from the band’s online forum. And as demonstrated on their upcoming album on Ultimatum, All Understood, that intensity is captured. Along with the nervy landslide of an emotional lyrical content that spares none.
Consider “The Sun Burns My Eyes” which answers an apathetic plea ... “The creative imagination, is stronger than any engine that our hands have built / There is no fiction for the dreamer, he has written history because he’s had the will.”
Yet still, it may be the influential differences between band members that melt to propel Buchanan’s vocal stylings and ideas forward. “We’re four musicians with completely different backgrounds and influences ... four musicians that are very passionate about our dreams and the influences that we have,” remarks guitarist Ty Stewart. “The differences are strong at face value, but the individual passion each of us has takes the music to amazing places for the four of us.”
The album, recorded over the summer of 2002, was actually in progress before Buchanan inked the deal with Ultimatum. “We set out to do our own thing, record our own record,” Jay recalls. “Just letting our maxed-out credit cards pave the way until we got picked up.” Bass player Todd Sanders adds, “We realized that the only thing we can be sure of is ourselves, we’re sure we can make our own recordings, we’re sure we can play as many shows as we can put together, and the only thing we can control is that. We figured we’ll put out our own record, we’ll gain fans on our own.”
Thankfully, getting signed to a record deal happened before Buchanan got around to recording some of the most impactful songs on the record, including “How Crazy I Am,” “Reborn,” and “Satan is a Woman,” which were recorded and produced by Don Gehman (Tracy Chapman / REM / John Mellencamp). And with the indie-minded Ultimatum label fully stocked and aligned with Buchanan’s ideals, the band now stands to take the music far beyond the reaches of their hardcore Southern California converts. On the prospect of their first extended promotional tour, drummer Chris Powell comments, “It’s all I want to do. I’m curious to see just how good this band can get.”
And in the words of infamously picky OC Weekly music editor Rich Kane, “[This band] is becoming like a bad, bad habit - hear them, and you’ll want to feel that good for the rest of your life.” And on the prospect of their first extended promotional tour, drummer Chris Powell comments, “It’s all I want to do. I’m curious to see just how good this band can get.”