Back in the UK for today, taking a lockdown-breaching trip down south to chat to Bison Face…
We’re from St Albans, just outside London. Close enough to get to all the venues growing up but there’s a bit more space and a few less people!
How did you meet?
Ernie: I’ve known Alex since secondary school, we were in a previous band together when we were about 17 – we first bonded over Pixies and Whiskey so not much has changed. Alex lived on the same road as Jonny and introduced us for a jam in a practice room last year. Arthur works in Al’s local and we got chatting when he heard us talking about the band. Everyone’s been active in the local scene for a while, so we all kinda knew each other by face anyway.
How long have you been playing as a band?
Ernie: I was writing the songs in early 2019 and think I had started the actual band by February. Alex and I had jammed a few ideas prior, but that was when actual songs were being put forward complete. Our first gig was June of the same year, so just about a year. Arthur only joined a couple of months ago!
Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?
Ernie: I used to draw a lot and make comics, it was the name of a kind of superhero character that had been knocking about for a while. Also, the sometime nickname of my cat. Somehow it was lodged deep in my brain and popped up one day. It was the first suggestion Al and I both fully agreed on.
What are your influences?
Ernie: We all listen to a LOT of music. The influences in Bison Face are abundant and vastly contrasting but the obvious ones I usually list off would be bands like Soundgarden, Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, Sonic Youth, Radiohead, Weezer and My Bloody Valentine. I’m very 90’s grunge/garage punk and shoegaze oriented whilst Alex is more of that Kyuss/Desert Sessions sound. Jonny brings the Zeppelin/psychedelic elements and Arthur is a folk man at heart but we all listen to (mostly) anything.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
Ernie: I think the different musical “upbringings” we’ve all had creates a pretty unique and powerful sound. We try our best to sound like ourselves and no one else; A song like ‘Treason’, although I wrote the entire song initially, has enough space where now we’ve all put our own sonic fingerprints all over it, and I don’t think it sounds like anything else out there at the moment. It’s heavy, it’s melodic and it can even be cinematic at times so it’s quite distict.
Do you have any particular lyrical themes?
Ernie: Most of the lyrics are really about my personal experiences in life, opinions, memories and mental health struggles. People being great, people being arseholes, heartbreak, all that shit. There’s a few tracks that are fairly dystopian and environmentally charged, I’ve always enjoyed creative writing and poetry so there’s a lot of image conjuring and picture painting in those, but mainly they’re quite relatable, isolated lyrics.
What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?
I think we’ve played 5 or 6 shows now, so we’re still newborns at this point; We had a bunch of gigs in the works but due to the lockdown nothing came to fruition. It’s a proper rock show, we get pretty deep into the planning of it, structuring setlists and song transitions, I’ve always loved the seamlessness of a show like Muse, where things all connect. But in the end, its’s 4 guys getting extremely sweaty and playing loud noise.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?
Ernie: I saw a guy at an outdoor Prodigy show off his nut with no shoes on, dancing real hard on gravel. That’s just a shit idea. Once he landed back in reality his feet must have been in absolute tatters.
What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?
Ernie: I play a modded Fender Jazzmaster HH through a Dr Z stack and Alex mainly plays a Gibson SG through a big Fender combo.
Pedals wise, the main “Bison Face” tone is pretty much a JHS mod Rat and an EHX small clone, but we both have quite hefty boards for the live shows. I use a Strymon Flint, a Way Huge Supa Puss, an MXR Phase 90 and an EQD Hoof gets kicked on for the really heavy fuzz. There’s a lot of different sounds to cover, a Digitech whammy for some weirdness, some huge ambient reverb stuff Al does with his BigSky, we do a lot of tap dancing! I’m sure our boards will get another overhaul before the EP release shows.
My friend Dan from the band Plastic Barricades also runs Guitar Garage London, and I use him for all my setups and mods, he’s a genius.
What are your plans for 2020?
We just released our first single Ladybird, so that’s out there doing the rounds whilst we’re all in isolation, and the response has been amazing. Our friend Tom made a video for it which is killer.
Before the lockdown I was finishing up recording our first EP with Ben at Forgotten Media Studios in Hertfordshire, so as soon as I can get back to it, finalising that and getting it released will be priority number one. After that just gigs, gigs and more gigs. I want play a release show in London and one in Brighton, where Alex and Jonny went to music college.
I’ve been spending the whole lockdown writing new material, so now all I want do is go and play shows; I can’t wait to get some of the new tracks into the live set.
If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!
I’m going to say headliner Them Crooked Vultures, then we’re sneakily getting to play in front of Grohl, Homme and John Paul Jones with one answer. Plus I’ve never seen them live and we all love their record (also maybe Dave would let Jonny use his kit).
I’d bring TV COMA out because they’re a great local band that we also went to school with and are very close with. They put us on the bill for their show as our first gig and they’re a joy to watch live.