THE PRESS RELEASE: “Before settling in to make Jazzhound, their most extravagant, ambitious, and fully realized album to date, The Buttertones had to face the hounds of real life. Prior to a headlining summer tour in support of 2018’s Midnight in a Moonless Dream, a fiery blast of an album capturing the band at their purest distillation, drummer/multi-instrumentalist Modesto ‘Cobi’ Cobiån had a sudden and serious medical scare involving his eye, requiring emergency surgery. He lost half his vision (it will hopefully return with a future operation), and the tour had to be cancelled. Music took a backseat for the time being. “It gave us some perspective on our health,” says bassist Sean Redman, “and the fact that we have to look after ourselves and one another first, or else the music just can’t happen.” Cobiån, Redman, and vocalist/guitarist Richard Araiza have been playing together for seven years now, having first come together for a self-titled debut in 2013; along with London Guzman on sax and keys, they’ve come to establish themselves as one of L.A.’s tightest groups, conquering stages from Coachella to Tropicalia. When one of their own had a scare, they rallied around him — and used the experience to come together stronger than ever for the record they were getting ready to make. “He says it adds charm to his character,” jokes Araiza, who led The Buttertones back into writing mode, taking the reset moment to really focus on the approach and style of the record. The material he was working on took the band forward into a heavier sound — and it also brought them back to the spark of their first album. “It allowed us to go back to the roots and the spirit we had when we started,” Redman considers. “We are kind of a new band, in a lot of ways, is what it feels like.”
MY TWO CENTS: Give these L.A. oddballs points for individuality and originality. Even when it comes to describing their own sound. Their bio namedrops both The Walkmen and Fleshtones, while suggesting their singer sounds like a cross between Ian Curtis and Bobby Darin. It’s hard to dispute any of that. But I can add that their eclectic sound has echoes of everything from noirish indie-rock, spiky new wave and gloomy post-punk to strummy, jangly ’80s Brit-pop and ska — much of it laced with brash blasts of swaggering, sweaty sax. How it all fits together is beyond me. But somehow it does. As for what to call it, your guess is as good as mine. But at least you’ll have fun trying to figure it out.