Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Interview and photos by Paul Silver

Lots of kids start bands when they’re in high school. Lots of high school bands suck. Lots of high school bands play in the basement for a few weeks, maybe play a “Battle of the Bands” or something like that, and then move on to other things. Few high school bands play music that’s interesting, and fewer stick it out for the long haul. Most never get paying gigs, let alone opening for musical luminaries. Big Bad Buffalo, though, isn’t “most high school bands.”

Started four years ago by two lifelong friends and a third who they met through a shared love of music, Big Bad Buffalo is eighteen year old Jordan Krimston, guitar and lead vocals; nineteen year old Silvio Damone, bass and backing vocals; and drummer Alex Staninger, also nineteen. Together, they’ve been evolving and fine-tuning their sound and conquering the local San Diego indie scene for the past few years. I met with them on the eve of recording their sophomore full-length album to talk about what makes them different from most younger bands, how they got to where they’re at, where they’re going in the future, and how they’re going to handle coming changes in their lives.

Q: When and how did you all meet?

ALEX: On Tinder [laughs] I swiped right for Jordan. Silvio and Jordan met on Grindr. [laughs]

JORDAN: Silvio and Alex met …

SILVIO: We were in kindergarten together, so we’ve known each other for a long time. But you guys [points to Alex and Jordan] met in the School of Rock?

JORDAN: Yeah, we met because Tyler Ward (Music Director at the San Diego School of Rock) teaches both of us music. Or, taught Alex. I’m a current student, Alex is a former student. Alex and I wanted to start a band, but we both played drums. So I started playing guitar when Big Bad Buffalo started, and we needed a bass player, so we got you [to Silvio].

SILVIO: And Alex messaged me over Facebook, “Hey! You wanna play bass in a band?”

ALEX: I asked you in person.

SILVIO: Maybe it was you who asked me over Facebook, Jordan.

Q: And how long ago was this?

SILVIO: Four years ago?

Q: What made you decide to form a band?

ALEX: We all like to boast about ourselves. [laughs]

JORDAN: Our favorite thing is when we’re on a stage that’s elevated, so we’re preferably five feet taller the audience and we can look down at them, both figuratively and literally. I never want to see eye-to-eye with anyone. [laughs]

SILVIO: I always wanted to be in a band.

JORDAN: Prior to Big Bad Buffalo, I was in a ton of short-lived rock bands that didn’t really do anything. Big Bad Buffalo is the first bad that’s really grown and expanded and taken off to some extent.

ALEX: I mainly wanted to play because I like to control people. [laughs] I want to control their musical tastes. It seems like people have worse musical tastes than me. [laughs] So I wanted to show them my musical taste.

Q: Where did the name Big Bad Buffalo come from?

SILVIO: Good ol’ Alex. In a dream, right? He was in a band, called Big Bad Buffalo in the dream. And it wasn’t just us, we weren’t in the band. That was the only name that stuck. We didn’t really try any other ones, because we never came up with one that was good enough.

JORDAN: And for a while, I was bummed on the name, because I thought it was a little bit silly, but I’ve come around, I like it now.

SILVIO: I was embarrassed. People would ask, “What’s your band called?” And I would meekly say it, but it’s confident now. I like the name.

JORDAN: A lot of really good bands have really silly names. The Beatles is such a bad name. The Foo Fighters, kind of silly. Weezer is super silly.

SILVIO: As long as the band is good. I’m crossing my fingers.

Q: You touched on this a bit, but how does the school of rock fit into the picture? Jordan and Alex, you said you’ve gone, but what about you, Silvio?

SILVIO: I did go. I started a little bit later. I think I only did about three or four seasons. Alex and I did one or two shows together. I think it was important for getting a little bit of initial support.

JORDAN: School of Rock bands are usually a little bit more in tune with show etiquette. That’s one of the greatest things we picked up from the School of Rock, is that we’re always pretty fast about loading our gear on and off stage.

SILVIO: Tyler always stressed that you have to get your gear on and off the stage as quickly as possible, so that was kind of a big deal for us.

JORDAN: Tyler Ward has been a huge influence on all of us. He’s taught all of us a lot of things about music and songwriting and just being in a band in general.

Q: What made you want to go to the School of Rock, initially?

JORDAN: My parents signed me up when I was really young.

SILVIO: I wanted to go because I saw a couple of shows Alex played, and that inspired me. Alex was singing some songs. [laughs]

Q: Alex, why did you want to go?

ALEX: I didn’t. I was forced to go. [laughter] No, I dunno, I just wanted to beat stuff, get out of the house.

Q: I can imagine what it might be like for some young bands, when they get that first bar show, and telling their parents where they’re booked to play. How supportive have your families been?

JORDAN: Our families have been very supportive. I think when we went on our first tour, I was sixteen or seventeen.

SILVIO: That was one of the only times we had to convince them that something was worth it. We had to sit everyone down and…

JORDAN: Negotiate.

SILVIO: Yeah, we had to make it work.

JORDAN: And mind tricks. [laughs] Yeah, all of our parents have been very supportive, and we appreciate that a lot.

SILVIO: It’s a pretty big deal. There are some parents who don’t appreciate their kids playing music, so it’s nice that ours do.

JORDAN: All of our parents have pretty good taste in music, too, I think.

Q: When high schoolers start bands, they’re usually classic rock cover bands, metal bands, or punk bands. But Big Bad Buffalo is different, with a distinct indie sound, replete with creative flourishes and hints of math rock. How did you decide this was the sound you wanted for the band?

ALEX: I think that, nowadays, classic rock cover bands are 90s rock cover bands, so we’re just falling into the same thing [laughs], since it’s been twenty years since the 90s, and twenty years from the 90s was the 70s, when classic rock was big.

SILVIO: I know Jordan really likes Hot Snakes, and that was the first influence I latched onto. But, recently, Alex has been having more of a hand in it. I feel like he’s one of the main reasons we started playing more simply, and I think that was a good thing. So, trying to move away from the “hints of math rock,” maybe.

JORDAN: We still have some mathy elements. Big Bad Buffalo has been a roller coaster of genres. When we first started it was very straightforward punk.

SILVIO: Or we wanted it to be.

JORDAN: That was our first EP’s kind of sound, and then, with “American,” our first album, it’s kind of post-rock/math-rock/indie, and, at that point, we weren’t really trying to write a certain way; that’s just what was happening when we were writing. We didn’t really have a filter on what we wrote. If we wrote something, then it was for Big Bad Buffalo and we would record it. Now, we have a certain idea of what we want Big Bad Buffalo to sound like with our new album, so we write toward that, which is kind of an alternative rock sound. It’s similar to Thingy (San Diego band from the late 90s featuring Rob Crow), or early Weezer.

SILVIO: We’ve been a lot more critical of ourselves, in a good way.

JORDAN: A lot pickier.

ALEX: Ideally, we want to be an alternative to the current alternative. [laughs]

Q: You mentioned writing. Who does most of the writing? Is it one or two of you, or do you work in collaboration?

JORDAN: With “American,” usually I would come in with the base for a song, and Alex and Silvio would help me embellish on it, but with the new stuff, I think we’re all bringing songs to the table. Like, Alex will have a song, he’ll bring it in and we’ll work on it together. Silvio will bring in a song, or I’ll bring in a song.

SILVIO: I think it’s still primarily Jordan bringing in the general skeletons and doing the main songwriting, just because he’s the guitar player and lead vocalist, but there’s definitely been more contribution, musically, from our sides of the band, too.

JORDAN: All of us have been a lot pickier with the stuff we write, too. We’re not afraid of telling each other that we absolutely despise what the others write, if we do. [laughs]

SILVIO: And part of growing as a band is being able to accept that. It’s still hard, but…

JORDAN: We’re getting better at it.

Q: Most songwriters look to life experiences to inform their song writing. At your young ages, what sort of life experiences do you turn to, when writing, and what
inspires you?

SILVIO: [points at Jordan] You have most of the lyrical content, so this is on you. Girls?

JORDAN: I still have songs about clichéd shit like relationships and girls, but I think a lot of my writing, right now, has been about my future. I’m eighteen, I’m going to college next year, and I don’t really know what my future is going to entail. That’s kind of a personal thing, but I think it’s universal, and that’s why people can relate to it. Or I hope people can relate to it.

Q: Sort of the uncertainty of the future?

JORDAN: Yeah, a lot about that stuff, and how I’ll react to it, if I’m nervous about it or if I want to kick the future’s ass. It kind of depends, from song to song. I go back and forth. The lyrical content of some of my songs might be contradictory, because I change my mind a lot.

Q: Who do you listen to? Do you listen to mostly indie-rock? Do you listen to other genres?

SILVIO: I listen to a lot of Pavement and any Rob Crow project, mainly Thingy and I’m really into Other Men (another Rob Crow project). There’s one Other Men album, and it’s awesome. Pavement, Weezer, Fugazi.

ALEX: Most of the time I end up listening to wind rustling through trees, [laughs] the freeway outside my window. Car alarms, and stuff.

SILVIO: What do you prefer, musically, though?

JORDAN: That is music!

ALEX: All the stuff Silvio says, right?

JORDAN: I have to agree with that. I would throw in Beach Boys and Young Thug, two very similar music acts that Big Bad Buffalo sounds a lot like. [laughs]

SILVIO: A lot of (Washington) DC stuff. Devon Ocampo, from Faraquet, The Medications, and stuff like that. A little of Shags in the corner.

JORDAN: There’s a big debate about The Shags in our band, right now. Alex is in love with them, and I’m a little bit opposed. I get it, but I don’t. I think Big Bad Buffalo’s music is influenced by the intersection of all of our musical tastes. We all have individual tastes, and sometimes they align, and that alignment influences us.

SILVIO: We like a lot of the same bands, but have different interpretations of them.

Q: As an underage band, you’ve certainly done your share of playing bar shows with some pretty well known bands. The first time I saw you was at Soda Bar (in San Diego), opening for Joan of Arc. You’ve also opened for Hot Snakes, Into It, Over It, and Drive Like Jehu. How did you get spots on these shows?

JORDAN: I think the Joan of Arc show was the first time we opened for a national touring band that’s been around for a while. I just emailed Cory Stier (booker at Soda Bar), and I must have sounded desperate. I was like, “Cory, please let us play! I love Joan of Arc so much, please!”

ALEX: We all know how desperate you sounded. [laughs]

JORDAN: So, initially, that’s how we got our shows, by being a little bit desperate. But recently, I think we’ve built connections with a lot of the bookers at venues, and some of the bands that tour, like Into It, Over It. We’ve played with them a couple of times when they’ve come to San Diego. I think that, just because we’ve developed a relationship with all of the bookers in San Diego, we’re able to hop on some pretty cool gigs.

SILVIO: We’re lucky enough to be fairly close with Tim Pyles (booker and marketing at The Casbah and host of “LoudSpeaker,” a local music program on radio station 91X in San Diego), so that’s been a big help with getting gigs at The Casbah. I think we played his “Anti-Monday League” thing once. I think that’s how we got the Jehu thing, was because we talked to him.

JORDAN: That was Tim Mays (owner of The Casbah). They hadn’t announced that there was an opener yet, so I reached out to Tim Mays, and he had to confirm with the band that it was OK.

Q: You’ve typically had to stay outside the venue, except when you’re playing. How frustrating is it that you can’t stay to see the other bands?

JORDAN: I think it depends on who we’re playing with, but if we’re playing with a good band, it’s usually pretty frustrating. Like the Jehu show, it was kind of frustrating. We actually got to go in for a little bit, towards the end.

SILVIO: Shhhhh….

Q: I remember they had the door next to the stage cracked open, and you guys were sitting there, listening. How have you been received by the veteran performers you’ve played with?

JORDAN: Usually pretty well. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from John Reis, Rob Crow, and Evan Weiss, which I think is pretty cool, because they all have their own sounds, so it’s cool that people of different genres can appreciate what we’re trying to do. We’ve gotten a lot of weird feedback, too, in the comparisons we get. Usually we get 90s San Diego or DC comparisons, but we’ve gotten some weird stuff. I think the weirdest comparison we’ve gotten was Agent Orange plus John Mayer.

SILVIO: Plus The Cure.

JORDAN: That was the weirdest one, by far.

Q: The last two summers you did tours along the west coast, the first to San Francisco and back, and the second to Seattle and back. How did those come about?

SILVIO: The first one was a little less autonomous, we had Alex’s dad drive us, because that was the agreement we came to with our families. Booking was kind of a nightmare, both times. It’s really tough when you’re trying to book small places and everyone that runs a small place is flaky.

JORDAN: Or if it’s volunteer run. A lot of the shows in the northwest were better than the shows in California. Our Seattle, Portland, and Olympia shows were all pretty good. Our mid-California shows were pretty wacky.

SILVIO: In Seattle, we were lucky enough to play at a house that already had an established audience.

JORDAN: There’s a better all ages crowd in the northwest; people just go to shows. Even though we were the touring band, a lot of people who hadn’t heard us before would come to see our set.

SILVIO: Yeah, people would go to the house just because there was a show, regardless of the bands playing, which doesn’t really happen here. There isn’t a house show scene that’s comparable here. That was pretty cool.

Q: How did you go about developing the contacts and getting the shows booked?

SILVIO: Email, Facebook…

JORDAN: Our other friends who have toured the west coast before. Also, there’s this fairy that comes to me when I’m sleeping, the booking fairy. [laughs] I ask the booking fairy questions, and I always receive answers.

Q: How were you received by audiences outside of San Diego?

JORDAN: Pretty well.

SILVIO: We still had really sparse audiences, sometimes.

JORDAN: The audiences in the northwest were the bigger audiences, and we were received well by them. I can’t say how we were received by the mid-California audiences, because there weren’t really audiences, at all.

SILVIO: It was mainly the other bands…

JORDAN: And dogs. [laughs]

SILVIO: It’s kind of hard to tell, when another band tells you that your set was great, how genuine that is, or how much of it is the obligation they feel.

Q: How would you say those audiences compare to hometown audiences in San Diego?

JORDAN: Hometown audiences forever! To an extent. We haven’t played too much outside of San Diego.

SILVIO: I loved that Seattle audience; that was fun. But, also, we had never really played a house show where there are a lot of people, and it was college kids who had access to alcohol, and we were at a party, also. That was also a factor.

JORDAN: Yeah, we need to play more…

SILVIO: Parties, to drunk people.

JORDAN: Find the drunk people; that’s our best audience. [laughter] We’re thinking of live streaming our shows in the future, so people won’t have an excuse not to watch. [laughs] They can watch from their couch, and eat potato chips at the same time, and they can be in their underwear.

ALEX: We don’t even have to play at a venue, we can just play at our house.

Photo courtesy of Big Bad Buffalo

Q: You released an EP back in 2012 and a full-length album two years ago. You’re now in the process of recording a new full-length. When do you expect that to be released?

JORDAN: We’re hoping July. Definitely over the summer. We’re recording it with Ben Moore, at Singing Serpent Studios, and then we want a month or two of promotion. We’re probably going to put out some singles beforehand, as well.

SILVIO: We don’t even have art yet, or T-shirts yet, or anything. That’s all stuff we’re going to focus on after we’ve recorded.

Q: I assume this is going to be released digitally and on CD, but no vinyl?

JORDAN: We’re not really sure of the format yet. Definitely digital, that’s a gimme. We’re debating between CDs and vinyl right now.

Q: How does the new album differ from previous releases?

SILVIO: I think it’s more concise.

JORDAN: It’s cohesive.

SILVIO: Yeah, we know more of what we’re going for this time. I think last time, we went into the studio, and we weren’t positive, so in the studio we were trying to change as we were recording, and it didn’t come out like we wanted, exactly.

JORDAN: When we recorded “American,” that album is twelve songs long, and we’d only written twelve songs for the album. So everything we wrote, we put on the album, whether or not it fit or we liked the song. But with this new album, we’ve gone through a lot of songs. We’re going to record nineteen songs. We don’t know how many are going to be on the album yet. But we’ve gone through a lot of songs that we’ve cut entirely or taken parts from and rearranged them. We’ve rearranged all of our songs twice or three times, maybe.

SILVIO: It’s a lot more thought about, this time. I feel much more confident about every element of it than I did last time.

JORDAN: With “American,” one of the ways it was unique was through its complexity. We’re a little bit less complex now, but we’re still unique in how thought out our song writing style is. We’re focusing more on the song, itself, how it fits and how it sounds.

SILVIO: We grew up a little bit.

Q: What are your plans regarding promotion for the album?

JORDAN: We’re going to play on Saturday Night Live, [laughs] and we’re going to get David Letterman to take back Late Night and have us on.

SILVIO: So he can ask us if our drums are ours or if they’ve been rented. [laughs]

JORDAN: And then we’re going to get a giant blimp that says “Big Bad Buffalo” and has all of our faces on it, and it’s going to go all over the US, three times.

SILVIO: Social media, hopefully. We have a terrible social media presence, right now. It’s really inactive, so we’re hoping to pick that up a little bit, and post stuff that people will click on. I suppose we’re going to send our music to as many people as we can, hopefully get it reviewed and talked about. We did that last time, and some people talked about it, but it was still kind of on the down low.

Q: Are you planning another tour this summer for it?

JORDAN: We’re planning to tour, but we haven’t planned a tour yet.

SILVIO: There’s a possibility that we might jump on a tour with our friends’ band, Sleep Spindles, who we’ve played with a couple times. If we do it, this time we’ll do something a lot smaller, make sure everything is a lot more worth it.

JORDAN: We don’t want to go out and do a huge west coast tour if we’re only going to play to twenty people at a show. We want to stay within the San Diego/LA area, maybe the San Francisco range, and make sure we get good audiences for those shows.

SILVIO: What happened last time is a lot of the bands we hit up were also touring already. I think this time, if it works out with Sleep Spindles, it’ll be nice, because we know that we like them as people, and as a band, so that won’t be an issue.

Q: Jordan, you’re graduating from high school this spring. Alex and Silvio, I assume you’ve already graduated from high school?

SILVIO: Yeah, I’m going to (San Diego) City (College) for now, and Alex is at UCSD.

ALEX: I don’t want you to speak for me. [laughs, followed by a pause]

JORDAN: Alex goes to the School of Thought.

ALEX: He already said it, so I can’t say it now. [laughs]

Q: For each of you, what are your plans for the future?

JORDAN: I want to get really rich, I want every single person on earth to like me, and I want to be President of the United States right after whoever wins this election.

ALEX: Right after Bernie?

JORDAN: Yeah, right after Bernie wins. And somewhere along the way I’ll go to college at CalArts (California Institute for the Arts) and get Big Bad Buffalo famous.

SILVIO: I’d like to transfer to (San Diego) State (University), just because it’s cheap and they’ve got a good music program. The more that I think about it, the more I think it will work for me. Then I can stay here and keep going with this. I wanted to leave the city, originally, but I don’t want to stop Big Bad Buffalo.

ALEX: My plans for later? We’re going to go practice, after this. [laughs]

Q: So with Alex and Silvio both staying in San Diego, and Jordan going away to CalArts, how is this going to affect the band?

JORDAN: I don’t think it will affect the band too much. I’ll come back on weekends. Maybe some weekends.

SILVIO: It will definitely be harder, but it’ll work. If we want it to work, it’ll work, and I’m assuming that we do.

Q: What does the future hold for Big Bad Buffalo? What is it that you want to accomplish, as a band?

SILVIO: We want to be known. I want our music to be heard by more people than just in San Diego. Expand the audience. That would be nice.

ALEX: You want people to listen to our music? Why would you want that? [laughs]

JORDAN: I want our albums to get better and better. I don’t want to have a peak, like every other artist. I feel like a lot of artists have a bell curve, where they start off and it’s OK, then they get really good, and then they dwindle away. But I want Big Bad Buffalo to keep getting better and better.

SILVIO: Maybe one day we’ll have to make a decision: should we make another album or should we not? It might happen one day. is an independently published music fanzine covering punk, alternative, ska, techno and garage music, focusing on New Jersey and the Tri-State area. For the past 25 years, the Jersey Beat music fanzine has been the authority on the latest upcoming bands and a resource for all those interested in rock and roll.

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