“The toughest part was when we were sort of being picked over like livestock, ” singer/songwriter Grant Lee Phillips said of the A&R exex who swooped down on folk-grunge trio Grant Lee Buffalo. “They weren’t necessarily coming to a show to have a drink and enjoy some music. They were coming to an auction.”
The winning bidder for the promising ensemble was L.A.-based Slash Records, which released the band’s debut album “Fuzzy” late last month. Slash A&R man Randy Kaye was an interested follower from the beginning. “Randy was always with us,” Phillips said. “He saw things grow and evolve. That made us comfortable.”
Over the course of a year, Grant Lee Buffalo developed a loyal L.A. following at Cafe Largo. Audiences went from a handful to overflow with lines out front. “One of the last nights we played there, we couldn’t even get in,” Phillips said. “We should have been on the list.”
Grant Lee Buffalo plays a permutation of folk-rock mixing seemingly incongruent elements: the soft, suppleness of acoustic ballads driven home with a full, deep outburst of amplified sound. Phillips is given to pushing the limits of the acoustic guitar to get electric guitar-type power and feedback. “I’m still learning things about the acoustic guitar,” he said. “I’m still being surprised by it. The kind of feedback that comes from it, the way it resonates and screams, is pretty unearthy.”
Grant Lee Buffalo originated as Phillips’ stage persona for a solo gig. “The name provided me with a character,” Phillips said. “By wearing a mask, it was a way I could deliver the things I really wanted to say. In my daily life I don’t feel as free as I do onstage.” He comes across like a burly farmer who sings in a mellifluous voice, talking deliriously between songs as if channeling the departed spirit of a female soul singer.
Phillips, bassist/producer Paul Kimble and drummer Joey Peters (who recently toured with Cracker) were the percussion section of Shiva Burlesque in the late ’80s. They struckout on their own, periodically playing clubs as a trio and billing themselves by a different name every time. “One night we’d be Mouth of Rasputin and would play the kind of music you’d expect from a band of that name. It gave us the freedom to explore and write different things. The style of music we play now is something we’d naturally gravitate toward.”
The trio recently filmed a video for title track, which is the record’s second single (the first is “Jupiter and Teardrop”) and are touring the States and Canada with Mary’s Danish.