Chris Wise, the bassist for the band Buxton, says four albums and more than a decade into its career, the group is more solid than ever. Some of that comes down to him, and his bandmates finding time to connect with each other and to reach compromises.
When the Houston-based band entered the studio with producer Thom Monahan last year to record the album Half A Native, the band was determined to have a good experience and allow Monahan—whose previous credits include Beachwood Sparks and Devendra Banhart—to guide the sessions as he saw fit.
“We had kind of talked about it beforehand—just wanting to go in with the most open-minded approach to the whole thing because Thom made a lot of records that we really enjoyed," Wise says. "I respect his decisions, and I respect ideas, and so does everyone else. I don’t think we ever argued too much about anything. There was really no back and forth, like, ‘No man. It has to be this way,’ because usually the compromise is the best decision for the song.”
The band lived with the songs through several weeks of intense writing sessions in Athens, Georgia, then the recording and mixing process. In the end, the band members were so close to the material that when they could invite friends and family member into the listen to the material, it was a moment filled with relief and some momentary tension.
“That moment is very strange," Wise says. "I can listen to it by myself all the time but then you really listen to it differently with someone else or someone you really care about. It’s probably one of the best ways to listen to a record. It makes you listen in a very different light.”
There are some unusual moments on Half A Native, including the song “Good As Gone,” which features some sounds that run counter to the tune’s melodic nature.
“Me and Jason, the guitar player, we just… I don’t know if it was intentional, but we kind of held out this note, and it doesn’t make any sense," Wise says. "I mean, I kind of wish we had caught it. We actually do it live now, and it’s really cool. It provides us a little bit of tension and release. It’s fun. It’s nice that you can maybe surprise yourself a little bit.”
After living with the songs for a while, Wise continues to find surprises, such as in the lyrics to “A Little Bit More.”
“There was one day where the lyrics actually got me," he says. "I’ve heard them a million times. There’s that line ‘Sometimes I feel like a worn out napkin/Hiding on the floorboard of a car/And you love is the moonlight landing/On me in the dark.’
“It was awesome. I was so happy that I could listen to it in a way that I almost never get to.”
The good feelings surrounding the record are in no small part thanks to the time the members spend writing the material in Athens.
“We went out there pretty much distraction free," Wise says. "We cooked for each other and watched Seinfeld every night. We played music in the living room every night. We spend a lot of time together, but we don’t really get to spend time like that together. Man, I can’t even put a value on that time. It produced really great music out of us. We ended up coming out of that session with 17 songs. Thematically, it all winds up working together because it’s all made in the same time. You kind of snowball it into this big thing.”
Buxton’s fourth album, Half A Native, is out now. The band performs at Lucky’s Everyday Saturday evening.