While Fraser Valley–based group We Hunt Buffalo is well aware of the general shift in popular music towards electronics, the trio remains dedicated to its sound.
“The name of our band is a metaphor for rock music,” Ryan Forsythe, the group’s singer and guitarist, tells the Straight over a lunchtime coffee. “Right now on the radio, the DJ is king, and heavier guitar music seems to be dying—like the buffalo, which is becoming extinct. The phrase ‘We Hunt Buffalo’ is a play on that. We’re still choosing to play rock and roll on real instruments and write our own tunes, which is becoming rarer.”
Since the band’s inception, the need to carve its own creative path has been an important tenet for the trio. Although We Hunt Buffalo was formed in 2010, its members had been jamming together for over a decade as part of a previous band that, after just one album, was inspired to rebrand as the new project.
“When we were in our last group, we were young,” Forsythe remembers. “Other people’s opinions really influenced us. We hooked up with a producer who told us that the band should sound a certain way and, being a little naive, we went with it. The record we made just wasn’t what we were looking for. It was very commercial, and very polished. That experience taught us a lot about needing to keep creative control, and to make music in the way that we wanted to. That was a big reason for us to start fresh with a new name and direction.”
Along with bandmates Brendan Simpson on bass and vocals and Brandon Carter on drums, Forsythe has spent the intervening seven years releasing an EP and LP, and getting We Hunt Buffalo’s self-described “fuzz rock” signed to Toronto-based heavy-music imprint New Damage and, fittingly, to Sweden’s eminent Fuzzarama Records. Despite these hard-earned successes, however, it was after working with Vancouver producer Jesse Gander on its latest record, 2015’s sophomore album Living Ghosts, that the trio felt it had turned a corner with its music.
“Jesse’s ideas worked together seamlessly with our vision,” Forsythe says. “We knew his discography, of course—he’s worked with people like the Pack A.D., Japandroids, Bison, and Anciients—and we were really excited to get into the studio with him. He was great at teasing out the dynamic contrasts or honing a particular guitar part and melody. It was a game-changer for us.”
Watching its status shift from a local group to a touring band, the three-piece has spent the past year playing in over 15 countries, including a two-month stint in Europe. Now gearing up for a rare hometown performance in Vancouver, the trio is ready to blitz a five-date tour across Western Canada.
“We love playing in Vancouver,” Forsythe says, “but since we’ve been touring regularly, we’ve had to be much more strategic about it. While previously we’ve been doing shows in the city twice a month, now we’re pulling back to about twice a year. It makes it really meaningful for us to be in a place that we love, and it’s hopefully more special for our fans when we play local dates.”
We Hunt Buffalo plays the Rickshaw Theatre in support of Truckfighters on Tuesday (March 21).