It's 2016, and bands that appear out of thin air are now irrefutably a part of the musical decor.
That doesn't make it any less astonishing that a band like Green Buzzard – with their enticing guitar licks, gritty lo-fi energy and meticulously catchy hooks – can all of a sudden become one of our brightest indie stars. Beginning as a wild thought from frontman Paddy Harrowsmith's nostalgic mind way out in Oberon, Green Buzzard have gone on to sign with heavy hitters I OH YOU, land countless Triple J spins and announce a debut EP – all in the space of a year.
Best Before's Alexander Kelly caught up with Paddy a week before the release of their debut EP and deliberated over searching for hidden gems amidst the analogues of musical history, life on the farm, comic book inspirations and the difference between EPs and mini-albums.
Alexander Kelly : Hey Paddy! How are you?
Paddy Harrowsmith: Good, dude. What about yourself?
Yeah! Really good. I’m actually just getting ready to see Kendrick Lamar tonight in Sydney.
PH: Fuck yeah! I wish I was going.
Yeah. I’m super keen! I’m actually just going to rush through your interview, if you don’t mind...
PH: *Laughs* "Your band is great…Kendrick Lamar, Kendrick Lamar…"
What are you up to today?
PH: Nothing much. Just chilling at home.
You’re living in Sydney, correct?
PH: Sure am!
I read you were from Oberon, so I wasn’t sure whether you were still out there.
PH: That’s where I was living when our first song came out (“Zoo Fly”). My parents have a farm out in Oberon, so I work out there. Now I’m back in Sydney.
Now that you’re a big rockstar, you can officially live in Sydney.
PH: *Laughs* Yeah. Living that luxury Sydney life.
It’s not everyday that I hear about rock bands coming from little country towns like Oberon. Was there much of a music scene there?
PH: To be honest, there’s nothing. There’s a really great bakery, but not much else.
But that’s where you wrote everything for Green Buzzard, right?
PH: Yeah – while I was living on the farm by myself for about a year. I found it to be a really great creative area and way of living. I’ll usually spend a good couple of hours on a song, and it'll generally sound like complete and utter shit for a while before it finally starts to take form. I really don’t want people around for that first stage. It's the perfect place for me to write.
I mean, you hear it more and more now – bands are usually only a couple of months old before they have a ‘breakout’ track. It’s so easy to put something on the internet and then get signed.
Did you start losing your mind and begin asking for second opinions from the cows and chickens?
PH: There are definitely some moments where you lose your mind out there. That’s all part and parcel of it.
I’m sure you’ve heard this many times before – and we’ve even mentioned it when writing about your new tracks – but it's safe to say that Green Buzzard kind of come out of nowhere. “Zoo Fly” was released just under a year ago, and you played your first show a few months back. What was happening behind the scenes for the past few years? Were you a part of any other bands?
PH: I’ve been playing guitar in heaps of different bands since I was 17. I was keeping myself occupied doing that, but then I started doing my own songs when I moved up to the farm. That was a good few years ago. Then I started demoing them to whoever would listen, and I learnt to record more efficiently. For a while, they just sort of sat there, and I didn’t really know what to with them. It was nothing too pre-meditated, to be honest. We released “Zoo Fly”, and then I OH YOU contacted us about wanting to put it out. Then we had to quickly get a band together, and that was that. I mean, you hear it more and more now – bands are usually only a couple of months old before they have a ‘breakout’ track. It’s so easy to put something on the internet and then get signed.
Did you ever imagine that you’d be releasing an EP after a year of of being signed?
PH: No, not really. I mean, we put “Zoo Fly” and “Slow It Down Now” out together because they were recorded at the same time. I didn’t know whether we would try and do a couple more 7-inch’s and then follow that up with an EP. I’m just happy that those singles are out and the rest are about to be released.
It sounds like you never really positioned yourself to be a rock god, but I’m sure you’ve developed a bit of a fan base now. Have there been any eye-opening moments? Maybe some messages of appreciation?
PH: It’s really cool having people that you don’t know at all – people that aren’t your ‘friends’ – come up to you and tell you they really like your sound. It’s still baby steps for us, so if anyone says they like our music, we're super humbled by it. It's cool gaining some fans.
I wanted to touch on your writing formula. Do you have a specific method? Do you start with a guitar line and then ramble out your lyrics to the wildlife?
PH: Yeah, that’s about it. You got it. *Laughs* I mean, I started a lot of the songs with the idea of the band first. It all began initially with the name...
I had a really clear comic book vision in mind with some of the early art direction. Think '50s-esque comic book stuff. I had villains and everything, so in having the name and this huge elaborate idea behind it, it was far easier to then start writing from that frame of mind.
Where did that name come from, by the way? Let's take a quick segway…
PH: It’s kind of a comic book thing, as well as a reference to a Lez Claypool song called “Buzzards of Greenhill”. It's crazy, but I love it.
So the ‘Green’ is referencing which comic book character?
PH: It was an attempt at making my own comic book character. I had a really clear comic book vision in mind with some of the early art direction. Think '50s-esque comic book stuff. I had villains and everything, so in having the name and this huge elaborate idea behind it, it was far easier to then start writing from that frame of mind.
So you write in terms of how it would fit in with your idea and how it would sound live with the band?
PH: Yeah. I found that it was just easier that way. I had lots of art and album covers for the name ‘Green Buzzard’ before I had a song or the band. If you have all of that sorted, you'll inevitably know what you're going to sound like as a band. In a way, I flipped the creative process.
I was actually going to ask about the EP cover. Is that one of your early designs?
PH: No, I won’t take credit for that. It’s really fucking amazing. The artist was actually the godfather of a friend of ours named Allan Hewitt. He’s an airbrush artist, and one day we were at his house for a BBQ, and at the end of the day, he took us into his studio, showed us his work, and we saw that artwork. Luckily enough, he let us use it.
Speaking of your EP, it comes out next Friday – April Fools Day, to be exact. Seeming as you conceptualize everything, was that always part of the plan?
PH: Yeah, 100%! *Laughs* I actually didn’t realize, but then someone brought it up. It sort of fits in a way, I think.
What’s the feeling at Green Buzzard headquarters as the EP release date draws closer?
PH: I just want it out. I’ve been listening to these songs for so long. I’m really ready for all of them to be out there, and to play them live, and have people know our songs a little bit more. Above all, I feel like this is a much better introduction to what Green Buzzard is than a few singles and a 7-inch.
It’s a fairly lengthy EP.
PH: Well yeah, that’s right. We actually cut one and made it a B-side to “(I Don’t Wanna) Break Your Heart”. It was actually going to be seven tracks, but then we might have had to change it to a mini-album.
I’m sure you got into a really heated philosophical debate about the difference between EPs, mini albums, albums, mixtapes…
PH: Yeah, we actually did! We came to a point where we were screaming to the heavens, “Does anything matter?!" *Laughs* I don't think we ever want to release a mini-album – it just sounds super heinous.
Where did the name ‘Eazy Queezy Squeezy’ come from?
PH: It’s just a stupid line from one of the songs, and I liked the sound of it. It reminded me of a Pavement lyric. It sounds a bit like a nursery rhyme, so I thought it would make a pretty funny name for the EP.
The lead single, “(I Don’t Wanna) Break Your Heart” and “Frequency Overload” are my two favourite tracks from the EP. “(I Don’t…) seems to be a sort of ‘tongue-in-cheek’ song about not wanting to hurt somebody. Does that come from a personal experience?
PH: It’s not really about anything at all. It was originally supposed to sound like a mix between The Beatles and Roy Orbison. It’s my attempt at taking the piss out of conventional love and pop songs. It’s not meant to be taken seriously. That would be a bit wild if it was written about me actually not wanting to break someone’s heart.
A bit wild…
PH: I wonder if that comes across. It did make me cringe for a while.
It doesn’t come across as that. The frantic lo-fi arrangement plays into that tongue-in-cheek concept. People are going to take what you say on face value sometimes, though.
PH: Yeah, definitely. That’s why we really wanted to do that ironic video.
And that’s the way your lyrics tend to come out? You’re aiming more for an emotion or an image?
PH: Yeah, pretty much. My lyrics tend to come to shape about halfway through the arrangement of the track. With “(I Don’t Wanna)…”, I had the main hook stuck in my head, and then I just built around that.
That way of creating lyrics is really refreshing, because it does emanate this effortless authenticity.
PH: That’s definitely all a part of our attempted vibe. That track – and most of the songs on the EP, actually – are built around a really melodic pop structure, which is obviously meant to be a song, if you know what I mean?
With the EP cover and your distinct lo-fi sound, there seems to be this inherent need for connection with the energy of the past. Where does your musical inspiration stem from? Does it come from specific bands or eras?
PH: I get more excited about finding old bands from the '70s and '80s as opposed to new bands. The inspiration comes from what I’ve found. Bands like Guided by Voices really inspired me to start writing. Robert Pollard’s lyrics and the way they sounded were so gritty and so exciting, and I thought that the song always shone through, even with its lo-fi edginess – I hate that word lo-fi – but for the lack of a better word, lo-fi.
I just find that I get more excited about finding a band that’s disappeared after putting out one album. Having said that, I still get excited about a lot of bands nowadays. I hate it when people talk down about music today – there’s still loads of great stuff.
It really is annoying to use all the time, but it's so fitting. Your sound could also be described as nostalgic – another word that I hate using – but it's actually really perfect.
PH: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I look up to those bands. You’re going to sound like what you listen to one way or another.
So what’s your outlook on current music? Do you have a disconnect with it if you’re always searching for older music?
PH: Look, it’s not so much that; I just find that I get more excited about finding a band that’s disappeared after putting out one album. Having said that, I still get excited about a lot of bands nowadays. I hate it when people talk down about music today – there’s still loads of great stuff. It’s just that I get most hyped about the older bands.
So you do have an optimistic connection with today's music scene. What are you listening to at the moment?
PH: I always have a Kurt Vile record nearby. I think his stuff is incredible. Same with Deerhunter.
I want to ask about the first ever show you did as Green Buzzard. What was that like?
PH: It went really well. I was actually really nervous, and it was a very interesting night. The crowd was amazing, and it was a really great turn-out – packed out, actually. All in all, it was awesome.
Have you got a few tricks up your sleeve for the upcoming tour?
PH: We’ve been playing together for a year now, so we're a lot more comfortable. I’m excited about playing all the new songs and not worrying too much about fucking up.
Good luck with the EP release, and I look forward to seeing you soon!
PH: Yeah, cheers! Have fun at Kendrick Lamar!
Oh, I will. I’ll yell out Green Buzzard at him over and over again.
PH: *Laughs* He’ll love that.
'Eazy Queezy Squeezy' arrives April 1st. You can purchase it right here.