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Angst & Joy Sublimely Combine: An Interview With Buckets

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Buckets are a garage-punk four-piece from Los Angeles who make tried ‘n’ true indie rock fun and relatable. Their debut self-titled LP, which got held up by COVID, arrived on April 23rd and it was worth the wait.

The LP’s songs are angsty, guitar-driven mini-anthems longing to be heard in packed basements and at backyard BBQs, hopefully later this summer and fall.

There’s a lively energy that’s not always easy to capture on record that makes Buckets’ debut full length so exciting, whether it’s the vibrant guitar tones, gang vocal chants (like at the end of “Punish Me”), or stomping rock drum beats. Buckets are clearly passionate about their music and who are poised to break out at any moment.

Read our exclusive interview with the band members to find out more about them and their music:

Stereo Embers Magazine: Hey there! Good to touch base with you about your new album. There are certain tracks that showcase your dynamic and creative range, like the loud-soft vibe on “Paintings” or the pseudo-rap-delay vocals on “Burn.” Do you feel like Buckets fit in a specific genre? Do you even think in terms of genre when you’re writing?

TANNER: I don’t know a damn thing about what genre means what, so I’ll leave that up to the listeners rather than embarrass myself trying. I think my inability to replicate sounds and genres of bands I like, and my overall lack of music theory knowledge often leaves me to my own devices when I’m writing songs. Hopefully, my ignorance produces some unique sounds in our music. In the simplest most cliché terms, we just do what we think sounds cool and don’t think much beyond that. 

I also have some more hip-pop-centric projects, so I do try and be conscientious of keeping them fairly separate. I guess that slipped out a little on that second verse for “Burn”…

SASHA: We don’t usually think in terms of genre at all when writing. There are a few songs on the record – one that didn’t make it – that started basically as demos on Tanner’s computer and the vibe of the songs are so wildly different. It’s cool to think back on them now. The key part for us in our sound has been trying embellish on an idea or riff as quickly as possible, and the “Buckets” sound is sort of just a byproduct of us all doing it together. Sort of like when the Power Rangers would combine into one badass Megazord robot. 

SEM: To me this is a guitar-rock record at its core and the guitar tones are really interesting; heavy, but with a lot of heart and soul. It seems like there are cool chorus and other effects on them. How were they recorded and what gear was used?

TANNER: Most of the songs on the record got a slightly different treatment when it comes to guitars. Not on purpose, just through a series of trial and error, experimenting, reamping, using amp simulators, and stacking tones. What’s consistent for most if not all tracks, to try and get big wide guitar tones we would record the rhythm twice or four times with slightly different tones and pan hard left/right. And we did the same with lead guitar occasionally. I don’t quite know what compelled us to do that, because I don’t usually hear mixes that do the wide double rhythm guitar. We were just obsessed on figuring out how to make the guitars sound as heavy and big as possible, and we still have a lot to learn. 

SASHA: On this record, Tanner and I really experimented with recording while making this album. Mainly because we had little to no idea what the fuck we were doing. You’re hearing the ‘J Mascis Jazzmaster’ in different pick-up positions pretty much all over the record. We recorded the same guitar parts probably a million times a little differently – DI, reamped, amp sims, etc., just trying to chase some unattainable tone and in part because we didn’t have a whole lot of gear to work with. A lot of the chorus and doubling you’re hearing is the infamous ‘rainbow machine’ from Earthquaker. For the doubling, I think almost all the guitars and vocals were recorded twice and panned hard for that really rich and wide sound. 

SEM: Upon first listen the lyrics seem to cover themes of yearning and early adulthood doubts, mixed with societal confusion. Do you think that’s accurate? What themes did you set out to cover when you started writing?

TANNER: These songs were all written over a span of a year or two, before we started taking the band more seriously and tracking the record. So there wasn’t a moment where I thought, “the album should be about this or that.” These (unfortunately) just happen to be consistent themes in my life. Struggling to love myself and feel like I belong, wrestling with depression, shame, and the anxiety that things might not get better. The one thing I intentionally try and keep consistent with all the songs I write is vulnerability and humility. I couldn’t ask for anything more than for someone to hear these songs and relate to the authenticity of these struggles, and then hear me exclaim with certainty during an interview like this that things DO get better. Some people just need to work harder than others to be okay. Shout out to my therapist.

SEM: The two transitions in “Advice” are super-cool. Was there any deeper meaning to including them or were they just nice accent pieces to the songs?

SASHA: I can’t really speak to a deeper meaning here, to be honest. I know that “Advice Part II” was created from an accident Tanner made while we were working on “Pt. I.” Part 1 was a challenge because we thought it sounded way too cheesy and poppy; not much our style. Tanner accidentally looped this tiny section and we were like, “Woah, WTF,” and that became the main loop for the Pt. II interlude. The sample for we ended up using in “Part II” was off of some vintage mental health cassette I got at a random thrift store off the freeway in Oregon. It kind of fit the theme of the first part of “Advice” – being just sick of hearing the cliché advice and trying to find the words to better describe what you’re feeling.

SEM: A highlight track from the album is “Punish Me.” It’s got such a unique groove and drum sound, plus the bass feels extra-heavy. Any writing or studio memories you can share about that one?

HIRAM: I’m glad you like that song! It’s very fun to play. I think that track actually started to build from the drum rhythm, and we pieced it all together pretty much all at once during a rehearsal. I have a habit of playing around with funky rhythms while we practice – I guess because when I was a kid, I was influenced by the Jackson 5 vinyl we had at home (which later on I destroyed trying to be a DJ at around 8 years old – I definitely regret that now). The dynamic of the funky-heavy undertones come from Mr. Bungle and an incredible drummer named Jose Pasillas.

MITCH: I learned “Punish Me” after the track had already been sketched out a bit by the rest of the guys. I’m a big fan of using quiet/ loud dynamics in the structure of a song – so it was imperative to me that we implemented the heavy bass tone throughout, especially to contrast the staccato feeling of the verses. This one took a bit to get just right (especially because we tracked it mostly from afar during quarantine), but I think we nailed it.

SEM: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about this record that we didn’t cover here with our questions?

MITCH: We’re just incredibly happy that the record is finally out in the world for people to hear. We’ve gotten nothing but positive responses thus far, which is very rewarding as a brand new band trying to navigate an ever-changing music scene. We’ll have live shows and new music to announce soon. Can’t wait to see how this fever dream goes!

Purchase/Stream Buckets:

https://bucketsband.bandcamp.com/album/buckets

Find out more about Buckets:

https://www.bucketsband.com/