If Welsh sensation Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard was a dessert they would probably be a Knickerbocker glory. They're feel-good, they don't take themselves too seriously and they're sprinkled with colour! And having witnessed lead vocalist Tom Rees dance around to their cover of The Strokes 'Soma', scroll down to see it in all its (knickerbocker) glory, F Word's editor-in-chief Maisie Jane Daniels knew this was going to be a fun-filled Zoom interview.
Read on to hear all about the origins of Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, some in depth chat on the lack of support for creative industries in Cardiff, why authenticity is key, oh, and why Tom spends a lot of time on the toilet...
P.S. Tom, if you're reading, you and the band were amazing at Green Man!
Maisie Daniels: Heya Tom! I’m so sorry I’ve just realised I’ve placed my laptop where I have this giant cardboard cut out of Elvis [Presley] in the background. I hope he doesn’t freak you out!
Tom Rees: Not at all. I don’t think I’ve listened to much Elvis! Sorry, my hair is fucking horrendous! *sorts hair* M.D: No, your hair is amazing! T.R: Ah thank you very much, I’ve been mixing in the studio so been doing a lot of moves. But yeah, I should listen to more Elvis… I could never get into the 50s’ rock ’n' roll stuff, I always thought it was a bit the same but I guess that’s a bit ignorant.
M.D: Try it out, you might be surprised! So enough about Elvis, how are you today? Is it sunny in Cardiff? T.R: No [laughs] not really but that’s fine. It’s overcast but it’s good. My girlfriend is from the Madeira Islands so she’s back there for the week, so I’m on my own and getting a lot of work and mixing done.
M.D: Who’s this little fella in the background? T.R: It’s my dog! M.D: I want one so badly but it is a big commitment…
T.R: You should just do it! My girlfriend was like “we should get one!” And I was really scared but now we’ve got one it makes total sense.
M.D: How did the band form? T.R: I was in this indie rock group called ‘Tibet’ which was very poorly named as I’d always say I was in Tibet and people think I’m this ultra, holistic guy who went to Tibet to find himself for years [laughs]. I was in that band and we had a good crack at being in the industry, and failed, which is fine, it happens all the time. And started again and as we did that and the lead singer (I played bass in that band) was writing more songs and I was like ‘ah I’ll mess around doing some stuff myself’. I’d heard this song ‘Spirit in the Sky’ by Norman Greenbaum, Gareth Gates did a version - do you know it?
M.D: Oh yes! I know both versions, bangers!
T.R: Absolute stunner!
T.R:I heard that and I realised I’d been lying to myself for a long time. I love indie-rock and I was writing lots of songs about “loves I’d never had” and I wasn’t being honest to myself in the songwriting I was doing. So after I heard that, I was like I’ll write something that’s really exciting and that’s where songs like Double Denim Hop came from, these stupid, silly songs. So I was doing that by myself for a while, I was going around to Ethan's (drummer’s) house to record stuff before he’d even wake up. I was recording in his house and after maybe like 6 months he came on board to play drums and Zac, who is the guitarist in the band, came on board and my brother [Ed] and we’ve been playing since then. And what’s nice is it started really organically and it has bled into this thing which is really cool for us. We all feel really connected as bandmates. And it’s been like 4 years now, which is terrifying. I’m 26 now, getting on…
M.D: Oh you’re not! I turned 30 the other week and that gave me the horrors!
T.R: But once you’re 30 you can be like 'okay I can be 30 now’, that’s the vibe right?
M.D: Yeah! I mean it comes with a lot of pros, you know yourself a lot more than in your '20s and you don’t people please as much! T.R: That’s why I wanna be 70 because I want to be the rudest person to everyone and people can be like “ah yeah, he’s just old”. Both: [laugh] T.R: 26 is a weird one because I’m getting old but I still have the chance to do something.
M.D: From Tibet to Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, where did the name come from, come from, come from? T.R: [laughs] very good! When I was a kid I always wanted to be in a band called Buzzard for some reason, it’s like the Buzzcocks thing. So when I was 18 I was working in a bar called The Moon and they had a big Buzzcocks poster and I just thought the two ‘z’s’ were really rock. And ACDC stuff is really angular and sharp. Originally we were just called Buzzard and then some band in Scotland threatened us with legal action as they were called Buzzard as well… our Twitter handle was already Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard so we went with that!
M.D: I like it! The best things come in threes…
T.R: Yeah, for me now it’s getting old, it’s been many years, I can’t hold onto it for that long. Now I’m like ‘is it a lame name?’ As I’ve been sat with it for too long.
M.D: Your single Crescent Man vs Demolition Dan. I’ve been watching the video and it’s really fun! Featuring you running around, dressed in some spandex, fighting your nemesis… but to flip the coin, it’s laced with some poignant undertones that relate to lack of support for creative industries and the death of independent industries.
T.R: Yeah, so I feel like it’s probably a situation that’s going on all over the UK but especially in Cardiff it feels like there’s no protection in place for independent music venues, independent art spaces. One of Cardiff’s oldest streets called The Guildford Crescent which had two independent restaurants and an independent music venue, which in the blink of an eye got demolished. Completely written off because the owners of the property decided they wanted to build a multi-story apartment block. And you know, those are the rules of the game, it’s fine, it’s going to happen because that’s the society that we live in but there’s no protection put in place by Cardiff County Council and beyond that. I understand we are part of the UK government and they can’t just come and be like “no you can’t do that because we are a local council” but beyond that there was no effort to re-home the spaces, the venues, and it happened over, and over again. Where they would be like “well we hold our hands up” and say they can’t do anything but they haven’t made an effort to makes spaces available for artists.
M.D: Do you think that’s a product of the pandemic, or has this been going on for a long time? T.R: Unfortunately, this happened pre-Covid. And it’s been happening for a really long time, especially in Cardiff. And I can liken it to cooking lobsters, it’s been happening so slowly that it hasn’t been realised. The thing is, the population of Cardiff triples when there’s a Rugby day on. So the perspective of the council and Welsh government, generally, are counting the pennies and they look at something like that happening and the population gets so much larger and the see the tax revenue; everyone eats out and buys tickets, gets fucked up and that costs money and they spend that money. So they think 'well if we can build a hotel that people can stay at, apartment blocks that people can Airbnb… knock that place down to build a Taco Bell, so people can get burritos then that will make us more money than if they keep alive the music venues'. What they don’t understand is that by building all these buildings… what they’re trying to do in theory is create a culture around the city and they’re going about it the wrong way. There just needs to be a shift from the council and the government, away from quick money grabbing opportunities, which is realistic and understandable but to shift it to cultural growth.
M.D: I’ve heard you say you’re at your wits end with what to do, and it's hard to find the answers, but I think you putting out this song, and shining a light on these matters, spreads awareness. T.R: Ah, thank you.
M.D: You do bring so much fun with your music, do you find you use humour as a coping mechanism for more serious matters?
T.R: Absolutely, all the time! Nervousness, fear [laughs]. But I think it’s a really good tool because it disarms people. You can be playing in the most hostile of rooms, with people who aren’t open to watching, but you crack some jokes and suddenly people become disarmed. And I wanted to do that so much from being in so many serious band that were boring me!
I have such an affection for stand up comedy as well and the art of that. It’s insane how good people can be at making people laugh, and it’s all about putting that in!
M.D: Speaking of fun, your videos are so joyful and quirky! What’s the process for producing these, is it a collaborative experience?
T.R: From past experience I’m a big fan of giving creative processes away. I’m a producer as well, and I hate it when people feel like they need to be in full control all of the time. This David Bowie (or falsified David Bowie) complex where they perceive that he was in control of everything, this master-mind genius, so they feel like they have to aspire to that. But all those people we love like Prince - super stars - they just did their music and surrounded themselves with creative people. Bowie, in most cases, didn’t even really do the music! And so I always want to make sure I do that! You have to have trust and not cross any of the lines.
M.D: If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
T.R: Teleportation since day one. M.D: That’s mine! T.R: Right?! It probably goes back to some childhood trauma…
T.R: … I always used to read comics as a kid and Nightcrawler was my favourite as he could teleport. I’m a simple guy, people who want to fly are egomaniacs, they want people to see them flying and all that shit. People who want to be invisible are fucking creeps. Don’t trust them! M.D: You’ve got a great sense of style, I do see a lot of Marc Bolan there (not just because of the corkscrew hair!) but the songs, your vision… We know you’re not into the '50s but I’m guessing the '70s has had a big impact on you? T.R: Yeah, I think it was a big thing growing up but more recently I’m more inspired [by the 70s’] but comparing it with contemporary stuff. The records my Dad gave me were only from the 70s'. Even though he was 20 in 1980, I think he gave us those because those were the records he’d listen to the he was a kid. I love it though, I think it was an age of such cultural prosperity and because nobody had to worry about a thing. Economics, Governmental freedom - in the UK any way.
M.D: Would you say you’ve created a character for Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, or is that you?
T.R: I’d say it is who I am from day-to-day. I used to be obsessed with making a stage persona and it pushed me away from the music. And now, everything we do in the band, the decisions we make, are whether we are being completely honest or not. If I really love denim, I’ll write a song about it.
M.D: And what a great song it is! What’s your process for songwriting?
T.R: The process is a bit weirder. I haven’t written a song in a while and since writing and recording the records I’m now I’m in a stage where everything tastes like vanilla. I don’t ever force anything. I don’t like writing for longer than 10 minutes. I like to go for a walk with the dog and think what I want to do, flesh out ideas more that way.
M.D: After a very long and hard 18 months with the pandemic, it seem’s you’ve hit the ground running with lots of live shows. Last weekend seemed very full-on! How the devil was it?!
T.R: Ah! It was so good! I don’t think I realised how much I missed it and needed it. I haven’t had that much fun in, literally, 18 months. I haven’t laughed that hard and being with the guys in the band and everyone involved. The whole process, going to the show, playing the show, coming back from the show… connecting with the fans - amazing! A lot of our young fans were at the last show in Sheffield and it was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had in my life. They were in awe that they were there with us and just hanging out. I had that feeling like when I watched Fall Out Boy when I was 14. To be a part of that experience makes me really happy.
M.D: I went to my first festival recently and I was dancing, jumping, screaming - I felt that I reverted back to my 15 year old self. And if I had have continued going to gigs, no lockdown, I don’t think I’d have felt it as much as I did. I will be seeing you play live for the first time as I’m going to Green Man [festival]! What can I expect? I have a feeling it won’t be boring?! T.R: Nooo, well I fucking hope not! Ah it makes me want to just take a shit thinking about it [laughs] because I’m so nervous. I get super nervous before shows and Green Man is the one that I spent my life being like ‘I’d love to play the big stage’ and now we are doing it! We’ve got some keys (name of keyboarder) coming in, so I can run around and jump around and he’s going to play Sax as well. And some album tracks… but more than anything I just want to allow these shows to be special and reiterate how cool it is to be there and how thankful we are.
M.D: Do you have any pre show rituals to help with your nerves? T.R: I’ve been changing loads. I get fucking cripplingly nervous which is fine because it keeps me alert. I spend most of my time doing lots of deep breathing really and spending time by myself. And I do spend a lot of time on the toilet…
M.D: I watched your cover of Soma by The Strokes for DIY and I thought it was a cracking performance. I wanted to ask how long did it take you to come up with the choreography? [laughs]
T.R: [laughs] Well I was due to go to the pub and I was doing loads of videos of me miming along to it and it was taking too long so I did that in one take, it was a one take wonder! As you can tell… it’s not sophisticated choreography.
M.D: [laughs] I love that, it really made me chuckle. T.R: It was good fun! And I managed to do it all and get to the pub for 5.30pm!
M.D: When you’re not doing music and producing, what do you like to do?
T.R: That’s a very good question! I don’t think I know, I think I just spend all my time at the studio or playing. Hanging out with my girlfriend at lot - hang out with the dog a lot now! Playing a lot of video games recently which is a 50/50 thing where it relaxes me but also makes me feel like a fucking loser [laughs] So have been doing that in little bits just to make sure I don’t hate myself. In all honesty, I love just hanging out with the dog and me and Carlota spend a lot more time together, going to the beach with the dog, all that stuff. I’m 26 but I have the mind of a 45 year old. I love being outdoors, you know!
M.D: You’ve got a lot coming up in terms of gigs including a sold out show in London… what else have you go on? T.R: Yeah! The Social, sold out which is mad. I’m trying to tell myself to get back into writing but at the moment nothing I’m listening to is making me happy and it kind of gets that way. After the first EP I had the same thing, you really idolise your own music and are like ‘this is the best fucking shit ever, I love this’ and it’s going to take me a while to come down from that pedestal. And just practicing on tightening the live show really, we want it to be floor-less.
MD: We now know that your debut album Backhand Deals will be released on Feb 25th 2022 via Communion - that's very exciting! Can you describe the album in 3 words?
T.R: Hopefully number one.
M.D: Love that! And finally, what is your favourite F Word?
T.R: It’s really boring - it’s ‘Functional’! It’s a really old man one again.
See Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard live in 2021/22:
5 Mar | Portland Arms, Cambridge
6 Mar | The Forum, Tunbridge Wells
10 Mar | Scala, London
6 Apr | The Caves, Edinburgh
7 Apr | Stereo, Glasgow
8 Apr | The Cluny, Newcastle
9 Apr | Arts Club, Liverpool
13 Apr | Thekla, Bristol
14 Apr | Bodega Social Club, Nottingham
15 Apr | Bedford Esquires, Bedford
16 Apr | Joiners Arms, Southampton
17 Apr | Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff (Matinee)
17 Apr | Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff (Evening)
19 Apr | Komedia, Brighton
20 Apr | Mama Roux’s, Birmingham
21 Apr | Soundhouse, Leicester
22 Apr | YES (The Pink Room), Manchester
23 Apr | Brudenell Social Club, Leeds