These days, it’s usually pretty easy to hear an artist and put them in a box, often labeled “pop,” “rock,” “hip-hop,” “blues,” etc. Although we hear musicians from all over the world, the styles all seem to correlate to one or the other.
Enter Cordelia & The Buffalo; the group that cannot be put in any box. Drawing inspiration from Mexican Indian tribes and Native American cultures, using percussion instruments, and Mayan flutes to create a tribal sound, the group have managed to curate an ethereal sound with raw power heard in both the instrumentals and the vocals.
Planet Stereo: Thanks so much for doing the interview. How are you?
Cordelia & The Buffalo: Good, Thank you for asking! How are you?
PS: Your self-titled EP has recently been released. How are people responding?
C&TB: Thankfully, we’ve been blessed with lots of love and good feedback. This EP has not only given us great show opportunities, but also the ability to reach out to new crowds and expand our Herd. My favorite part so far has been the reactions from such varied age groups, ranging from enthusiastic teens all the way to the young at heart who write to us with kind words that greatly inspire us. It’s also fun to see the different interpretations each person has of the message within one’s lyrics.
Our music is a dialogue with our listeners; we write for them, and sometimes about them. It’s an opening statement to a conversation with anyone and everyone who wishes to Join The Herd.
PS: Do you have a favorite song from the EP?
C&TB: “Lather & Rinse.”
PS: What is your favorite part about going into the studio?
C&TB: I love focusing on the songwriting, pre-production, and sound design of every record. But there is nothing like the feeling in your stomach when you’re in the control room and you hear your music come alive for the first time. My skin itches with good bumps that very first take.
It still astonishes me to think that something so small like an idea, a melody or a few words that popped into your head can become something almost tangible you can share with the world.
PS: Would you mind walking me through the creative process?
C&TB: Every single song has its own fingerprint, and therefore a different process of creation. I never write two songs the same way, and I strive not to. There are some that I start with the chords on the piano or guitar, others with just a riff, hook, or melody, others with a weird sound design or sample I worked on, but my favorite is when I come up with a lyric phrase tied to a melody that I recognize as the chorus. And that chorus will become the axis around which the song revolves.
I like finding song seeds within the simplest things in life. It is there where you find the truths of which are worth writing about. Something like sound of the pedestrian crosswalk light when it lets me cross the street, for example. I wrote “Take it up a Notch” while I crossed and unconsciously marked every step with the tempo of the sound it makes. That 1 track on the EP represents the courage to take step forward towards what you want to achieve.
Once I get the song seed, I get home, sit on the piano, and write the chords that will determine the tonality. I then open up Logic, Protools, or another DAW I’ve been recently working with, and sound design something interesting over which to continue writing the song. I keep sculpting the piece to produce something concrete enough to show to the band in the next rehearsal.
After letting the ideas marinate, and maybe playing the song live once or twice, we are ready to go into the studio.
PS: Your music is very eclectic. Where do you find your inspiration?
C&TB: Thank you! I have a deep love and admiration for different ethnic tribes and their percussive instruments, colorful wardrobe, and vocal hymns. They have an astounding organic connection to music that inspires me everyday to develop fusions of instruments, rhythms, and lyrics that aim to lift the listeners’ spirit.
Since I was young, I’ve had a love affair with all things Mayan and Aztec from my heritage, but most of all I am quite infatuated with instruments with character from all over the world, like the Flageolets (Aztec Flute), the Ayoyotl (Aztec jingles), the Mayan panpipes, the vertical wooden drum (known as ‘huehuetl’), the African Sansula, marimba, the Caribbean steel drums, and the African Burundi drums being some of my favorites.
PS: “Free” is your latest single. Would you mind explaining the importance of that track?
C&TB: Not at all. It took a while for me to fully immerse myself in the pursuit of a music career. I had to shed my skin and let go of a lot of things holding me back like a long-distance relationship, the home I grew up in, and, most importantly, my fears. But in that cathartic route I found an incredible freedom to draw the life I wanted to lead, personally and professionally. I think we all go through that as we grow into the person we want to become, or that we are meant to become — if you believe in that sort of thing. I wanted each song from this EP to symbolize the moment you find a different piece of one’s own puzzle.
My music is like my cheap psychologist sometimes. As cliché as it may sound, this EP is really what kept me going for the past 3 years, and it came to represent the blueprint of what is now Cordelia & The Buffalo.
PS: What would you like people to come away with when they hear your music?
C&TB: That, they too, can be listened to. [As said,] our music is a dialogue with our listeners; we write for them, and about them. Our purpose is to give voice to those who aren’t listened to. An example of this is the 4track of the EP Hand Like Guns. It speaks of an imaginary conversation I have with Venezuela’s military police that currently suppresses and takes the lives of many who are fighting to survive in spite of the receding vital supplies in their country. What inspired me to write about their story were our Venezuelan fans and the two Venezuelan members in our band. The song paints the anxiety that they live with, and the constant fear that the next call they get could dictate the life, death, or liberty of a loved one that has fallen into the hands of the authority. The government has blocked all social networks, controls all newscasts, and the ability of this country to express their agony through the media. Fortunately, music is the purest form of communication that man has created, and the only one that can’t be muffled. So, what better instrument than The Universal Language to say what muted lips can’t?
PS: Do you have a favorite song to perform live?
C&TB: “Free.” No doubt. We always play it last in our sets because it is just so powerful, and the perfect ending to the built up of energy.
PS: How did you get involved in music? How did you come to be as a group?
C&TB: Since I could talk, I knew I wanted to make music. It just took me a bit to say it out loud and admit it to myself. I’ve been singing since I was 3, and ten years later I wrote my first song on my grandfather’s demi-grand piano. A piece of evidence of my early musicianship he loves to remind me I will inherit someday.
I came to Berklee in 2011, determined to find a group of people who I could play my music live with. After 5 years of soul-searching, I found the perfect combination from across the globe; I met Diego, the Venezuelan drummer, in one of my early recording sessions. He later brought Rodrigo, from Venezuela as well, in as one of the guitar players. Yusuke, the Japanese guitar player, who was an old friend of mine, who had a band with Dan, the Alaskan bass player. We always had gigs together while I had other members in my own band, but one day Yusuke came in to jam with us when I was teaching them “Take It Up a Notch” and the rest is history. Dag, the Norwegian percussion/sound trigger/drummer, came into play because I felt we needed to sound exactly like the record does when we play like. He was the last piece of the puzzle.
PS: If you could work with any artist, past or present who would it be and why?
C&TB: Bjork. She is such a fearless genius, or John Lennon he is got such great charisma and wit. I would like to see his thought process up close.
PS: What advice do you wish you’d been given before you became a musician?
C&TB: “Get ready for the DIY world.” As a kid I had no idea what starting a company or a brand entailed. You have to do so much by yourself. To help your dream break through your subconscious into the real world you must learn to do a little bit about everything. Starting this project has made me learn and take care of the managing, booking, the legal aspects, graphic design, marketing, copyright, publishing, engineering, arraigning, production, and more. It is incredibly fun to take on the role of different people that maybe someday will be part of your team. That way you’ll know how to stir the ship once it is fully boarded.
Before I became a musician, few people in my life knew that I wanted to be one. Therefore, I got no advice. But I like to think that because of that, I found my way and came into my own little crazy head.
I felt like I was blind at first, but now at least I’m in the “still need glasses” stage.
PS: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
C&TB: Making music for a bit more ears than the ones listening to us now; have a record label and produce music for fresh new artists with raw talent and a vision. Give them a chance in this rocky industry. But making music all the same.
PS: Any last words?
C&TB: Join the Herd 🙂
Cordelia & The Buffalo’s self-titled EP is out now. To purchase a CD or for more on the band, click HERE.