Rival Sons' Schtick-Free Rock is Ripe For NYE Homecoming

Ready to rock Long Beach.

If you were to peruse the Weekly archives from the late '90s and early '00s, there's a musician whose name was covered in Costco-sized tubs of music journo slobber and repeatedly heralded as the next big thing. We had it bad for Long Beach's Jay Buchanan from the first note. It was only a matter of time before Buchanan was a huge star, we screamed, and anyone who didn't agree could just pull up a chair in Hell.

Since 2008, Buchanan's busied himself fronting the 290-horsepower Z28 of rock bands, Rival Sons. Guitarist Scott Holiday's blistering Led Zeppelin-style riffs combined with our old friend's lyrical lovelies and haunting, pitch-perfect vocal chords torqued the band to fame abroad.

Our British brethren over at Classic Rock magazine heralded Rival Sons as the "saviours" of rock. Buchanan and the boys shared stages with AC/DC, Judas Priest and too many more high school, black light pinup boys to count. But strangely, Rival Sons are not household names in America, or even Long Beach where the band has played only a handful of times.

This, even though shortly after the release of Rival Sons' 2012 release Head Down Jimmy Page declared himself a fan of the band in a Rolling Stone interview. Buchanan and Holiday, along with drummer and fellow Long Beach alum Mikey Miley (Bird3), have kept busy ever since playing sold out shows around the globe.

The stateside following is revving up, and to feed the masses they, along with new bassist Dave Beste (Wonderlove, Square) who joined the band earlier this year, will head to the studio to record a new batch of facemelters, planned for a late spring or early summer release.

In a celebratory homecoming, on New Year's Eve Rival Sons headline downtown Long Beach's festivities après fireworks upon the East Coast kaleidoscope ball drop. We checked in with Buchanan to see how he's holding up now that he's (finally!) the international sensation we knew he was along.

OC Weekly (Arrissia Owen): Rival Sons has been a big change musically for you. With your solo stuff there were rock elements, but the songs that stood out were quieter and more earnest. Was it a smooth transition for you?

Jay Buchanan: I just decided to do it. Once I decided, it wasn't difficult.

I've played guitar since I was a kid. I'm a singer-songwriter at heart. I've never had any desire to front a rock 'n roll band. Rock always seemed absurd and really juvenile and elementary to me. When I was a teenager, I fronted old school blues bands.

When I got with these guys, I figured we'd have fun playing around LA. I had no idea this would become a career and rock 'n roll would commandeer my life and artistic expression, and that I wouldn't have time for anything else.

Once we got together and started playing, it all sort of fit. The kinetic energy between us on tour, the relationships, the songwriting--the energy was so strong it felt like it had to be done.

Did that energy help you bring the swagger on stage?

I'm not a natural exhibitionist. It's always about the music internally and getting inside the song. To this day, it doesn't matter if we are at a festival in front of 30,000 people or 100 people, I don't know how to be a front man. I don't know how to dance. I don't have moves. I don't have a schtick.

My eyes are closed half the time because I'm just trying to think about the music. As far as stage presence, I feel more comfortable the more I deny the crowd, the exhibitionist aspect of it. I can't think like, 'I'm up here, or we're on TV and this many people are watching,' I'd freak out and have a panic attack.

It was that way when I was a teenager, cutting my teeth as background music in cafes and bars. The audience was there, but they didn't really care. Chances are they came to that café to chat with their friends or to the bar to cut loose. So working on that at such a young age trained me to not care, or to even have disdain for a crowd, and I guess that never left me. Everyone just disappears.

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