"I guess it's about me having things to say and then saying things with friends," Kristina Moore, vocalist and songwriter of Where Are All the Buffalo? says in regard to her band.
While this sounds like the mission statement of most bands, the collective and collaborative nature of Moore's project makes this statement seem pretty genuine. The band's performance at the Phoenix FMLY fest in December, for instance, featured an ensemble of musicians rotating in and out of the performing lineup every few songs, with Moore being the only constant. A basket filled with maracas and other thrift store idiophones were also present for any audience member willing to be part of the rhythm section. It even could be argued that the trance DJ across the street, who seemed to be drowning out the mostly acoustic performance with a completely unrelated set, also was part of the act.
"I like involving everybody. That was my original goal passing out the instruments and stuff. Why can't we all be in a band just for a time? Just for a song?"
While the band includes, "unofficially" as Moore puts it, everyone, the official lineup is Moore, Janna McCluskey, and Dominic Armstrong. Together, along with contributions from audio engineer and local songwriter Dylan Pratt, they put out the band's debut self-titled EP last November. While the unassuming self-released and hand-packaged CD was a somewhat rushed effort to get out a recording of the band, it still manages to be the good kind of lo-fi indie pop record, one that strives for high goals in spite of any seeming limitations and moves on once those are accomplished. Musically, it is all over the place, with accordion parts and myriad percussion instruments, but it collectively serves as a document of experimentation and a reference point for growth.
"I just wanted to have recordings. I didn't have anything. I was really excited and wanted to get it done," Moore says, "Now we are working on something that isn't rushed through. Something that I can look at and be like, 'All right. I got it all out of my system, so how do I explore not only songwriting but also studio recording? How can I make that be something I can be proud of and not just be happy about?'"
For Moore, writing and recording music involves such extensive introspection; questioning oneself and one's authenticity, but it is also a source of self-discovery and the bravery that comes from it.
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"I feel more comfortable in that I always knew that I was writing honestly but now I know that you can't escape who you are and what you like to do," Moore says in regard to lessons she's learned as a songwriter. "So I don't feel as uncomfortable playing different instruments kind of shitty instead of playing one instrument really really well."
Though some might disagree with her assessment of her musical ability as being "kind of shitty," the spirit of approaching a project disregarding any notion that mastery is required resonates broadly in the climate of the indie music. It's a reminder that punk ethics can permeate even the folksiest and quirkiest corners of the scene. But regardless of that subcultural legacy is just the general sentiment of challenging oneself.
"I think, like, my mantra every day is, like, 'This is right now. This is your life right now. What are you doing?'" Moore says. "Like, don't ever let yourself be bored, because if you are bored, then you are doing something wrong."
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However Where Are All the Buffalo? manages to stave off boredom in the future will be interesting to see. Given the nature of the band, we probably all will be invited.
Where Are All the Buffalo is scheduled to perform Saturday, March 30, at The Lot by Songbird Coffee & Tea House.