XS ROCK: Tell me about the latest band news? Any new projects coming out, live shows, or announcements?
Ernie: We’ve got a couple of shows tentatively in the pipeline but nothing is being announced until the lockdown situation becomes clearer. Our debut EP will be released later in the year and we’ll be playing release shows for that, then working on a record. But so far, we’re on hold at the moment, unable to practice. I’ve just been holed up writing and recording demos for the last 2 months.
XS ROCK: So how long has the band been together?
Ernie: I started writing the first few tracks in late 2018/early 2019. I think our first show was about a year ago now so probably we’ve been a band for like 15 months? The lineup finalized in February this year, so it still feels completely infant.
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for originally starting or being in a band?
Ernie: I’ve written music almost constantly for the last 10 years, I had a clear idea of a new project with a bunch of demos but no idea of how to get there. Bison Face started as a way for me to group together all those ideas into a cohesive project and have a creative outlet to pump all my energy into.
XS ROCK: What is your music background?
Ernie: I heard Nirvana, Led Zep and The Stooges and kind of just got hooked on the loudness of it all early on. I started teaching myself drums at like 10 or something on a cushion and a practice pad, then started on guitar shortly after. I spent a lot of time learning songs by ear, so I developed my own weird playing style. As I got older I went back and learned some more “techniques” but for me, it’s always been about how things sound and fit together. The crafting of a sound became the romanticized part of music, that’s what made me fall in love with songwriting.
Alex: I started playing guitar when I was 13 and primarily started playing classic rock then moved onto metal in my teens. I ended up going to music college down in Brighton and got into more atmospheric and experimental music and now have found a happy medium being influenced by bands like QOTSA, Pixies, and Portishead.
XS ROCK: What image do you think your music conveys?
Ernie: I think we’re just normal guys; There’s no charade or bullshit. No outfits or gimmicks. Just four guys that love music, playing music that we love. There’s something wholesome and visceral about no bullshit music like that I think. It calls back to the 90s, and our sound evokes that.
Alex: I think it’s a real mix, Ernie brings a grunge/hard rock feel to the band while I bring a more ambient and desert rock vibe. Johnny is the middle ground between the two of us with also a more psychedelic rock background and Arthur has only just joined us so he is the mystery element for the time being!
XS ROCK: What are your current music career goals?
Ernie: Being able to make a living doing something that I love doing is everyone’s dream right? I’d love to tour the world with my friends and play my music for people everywhere. That’s the ultimate goal.
Alex: To be able to get to a situation where we have released and toured an album that we can all be proud of is the biggest goal for me. Outside of that, it would be great to play certain gig venues one day like Brixton Academy, Play KEXP, and play at larger festivals in the future but for now, releasing our EP and then the album is the aspiration.
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?
Alex: That’s a hard one, I guess it would be to play live as that’s the ultimate way to express your music, in front of a live audience! But it’s also hard to beat when you have just created a track, riff or vocal that you are really proud of.
XS ROCK: What are your songs’ lyrics about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
Ernie: It’s a big melting pot really, some of them gestate out of poetry or random phrases I scribble down. I talk about mental health, personal experiences, and struggles, pop culture, obscure film references, space, dystopian themes. I don’t sit down to write a cohesive narrative or running theme. Inspiration comes from all around and deep within so it’s pretty varied. Some of it is quite dark
XS ROCK: What is the single most important thing to you as a musician?
Ernie: I think staying true to myself has always been the most important thing. Creating any art is such a personal thing, it’s a reflection of your feelings and your mental state so I guess trying to evoke that and connecting it to other people. That’s what music did for me growing up, it was the encouragement, support, and affirmation to get through a lot of things. Making something with a real heart is important.
Alex: The ability to express my art and creativity, in a way that I feel you can’t with other mediums. The goal for me is to capture a certain feeling or emotion in its purest essence. If we can convey that in even one song or riff, then that is our job done.
XS ROCK: Do you have any outrageous tour stories from the road? If so, please fill us in.
Ernie: We haven’t really played enough shows for anything that mad to have happened! After lockdown, I’m sure the tour chaos will ensue…
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
Alex: Not with Bison Face but I used to play function gigs down in Brighton and at a wedding, halfway through the set a guy came up to me and requested we play Escape ( The pina Colada song) as it was his and the brides ‘special’ song and that he demands we play it. I had to politely turn him down as the bride and groom and already picked out their requested songs and on hearing this he went off into a rant of rage and lost love.
Ernie: In our old band someone drew us and kept sending it to the band accounts, that was kinda odd.
XS ROCK: Are your friends and family supportive of your choice to play in a rock band?
Ernie: Yeah, my family has pretty much always been stoked on me doing music, and our friends are massively supportive of our ventures, coming to shows, wearing merch and listening to the tracks. My parents both have massively polarized but equally good tastes in music, I was exposed to some great stuff early on.
Alex: Very much so, My Dad was the one that got me into music and guitar so he has been supportive from the beginning. If your friends aren’t supportive of your endeavors musical or not that would be a worrying sign of your friendship!
XS ROCK: What advice do you have for new bands trying to get started?
Alex: Patience… Lots and lots of patience. Make achievable goals and deadlines for yourself and work hard, you will get there.
Ernie: That 100%. Don’t try and sound like something you’re not, it always ends up sounding shit. Be original and work hard.
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play live?
Ernie: I love Heathers and Mallrats, they both just have this driving energy that seems to really pump crowds up. Heathers in particular is just this heavy but sugary grunge-pop track, and it’s electric live. Great fun.
Alex: For me it’s Treason, I love the desert rock vibe. It also provides lots of space for me to experiment around with live. I do also love Mallrats as I feel it’s a great opener and gives you a clear idea of what we’re like as a band.
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour for your band, who would be on the bill?
Alex: Queens of the Stone Age, Pixies, Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, Alice in Chains, Portishead, Placebo, Demob Happy, and us… that will do for me.
Ernie: Christ that’s a festival you’ve got there dude! Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Pile-Up, Us.
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
Ernie: For me just finally finding a solid band is the best thing. Having a group of us that are all committed to music seemed like the most unattainable thing for a while. The release of Ladybird has been a real spur for us, and our first hometown headline show was a killer. It’s been a great first year!
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
Alex: Well I guess I would be continuing down the career I do outside of music in finance which unfortunately I will have to do until we can get into a situation where we can do the band full time! Outside of that after everything that has happened recently, I have really considered retraining for a career in medicine/healthcare.
Ernie: I always loved English so I guess I’d still be writing. Or something with animals, conservation, or working on a safari shooting poachers or something.
XS ROCK: What type of equipment do you use for live shows?
Ernie: I’ve got a modded to hell Fender Jazzmaster which is my main touring guitar, a DR Z Maz 38 Sr, and then a pretty big pedalboard. The JHS Rat is my main dirty and the EHX Small Clone is the signature Bison Face warble sound.
Alex: I primarily use a Gibson SG as it covers so many tones, however, I have used a telecaster and plan to incorporate my Jazzmaster into the mix at some point. Our songs do vary quite widely from clean and ambient to dark and grungy. In terms of pedals, there are too many to talk about but I would say the key ones are the Strymon Bigsky for the huge hall and spring reverb sounds, The Delay Llama (Really) for that classic analog delay sound and the T Rex Mudhoney for that distortion fuzz blend that is so important to our sound.
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene?
Alex: I believe it’s as unpredictable as it’s always been. Obviously, with COVID and the shutdown of venues and festivals it has taken a huge blow to the performance aspect of music, but as it always does if one aspect struggles another bloom. I’m sure once we come out of this, we will have a huge surge in new records, artists, and general creativity as a response. The music industry is always changing and it’s hard to keep up with and adapt to and I think all you can do is try to be as original as you can to yourself and your vision and you will find a place if your music resonates with enough people.
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?
Alex: I work for a financial management firm in central London, not very rock and roll, but gotta pay for all those pedals somehow, right?
Ernie: I’m pretty predictable and vocal about what I like/dislike. Not many surprises lurking here. I’ll just make something up – I played the shark in Toy Story. Howdy, howdy, howdy.
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?
Alex: Thanks for the great reception we’ve had for Ladybird, the response has been amazing and unexpected and we are so grateful for the ongoing support.
Ernie: Yeah all you guys listening to us and sending us messages are killer. I can’t wait to come and rip up some shows again with you all. Stay safe, big love.
XS ROCK: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us at XS ROCK!