We’ve always been an emotional band (without being emo, whatever that is). It’s our
willingness to follow those impulses that makes our music drift about.
Buttercup, or Buttercult as some endearingly refer to the band, has been churning out poignantly emotive arrangements for 15 years. Yes, 15. Nestled tightly in the South Texas music community, the ensemble is preparing to release their seventh full-length record and first release in eight years, “Battle of Flowers”. Mixed by Larry Crane (Elliot Smith, Death Cab for Cutie, Sleater-Kinney) in Portland, Oregon, the album is their first release to consist of totally live takes recorded in the band’s rehearsal studio.
Buttercup is comprised of three core members: Erik Sanden (guitar, vocals, and general front man), Odie. (bass, vocals), and Joe Reyes (guitar, vocals). Over the years the group has included numerous musicians on recordings and in their live performances. “Battle of Flowers” features Diego Navaira (guitars, keys, percussion, and voice) and Emilio Navaira IV (drums, guitars, keys, percussion, and voice). The Navaira brothers appear courtesy Warner Bros. Records.
“Buttercup loves dynamic music: artists like The Who, Morrissey, and the Talking Heads who can travel wide oceans of music, paddling their way thru wild mood changes,” tells Erik. This love for dynamism reflects heavily in “Battle of Flowers.”
“Since ‘Sick Yellow Flower’ came out in 2005 we’ve lived two, maybe three lives. We learned how to sing together with impossible Bee Gees-level accuracy. And then came the Navairas who urged us on to rock harder on ‘Battle of Flowers.’ At the same time we’ve become minimal: our new songs are more concise, clearer, and louder than they have ever been.”
The album is wildly diverse in the arrangements and powerfully showcases all the elements that make Buttercup, Buttercup. Filled with faultless harmonies, wilding guitar riffs, tight breakdowns, and leaving no detail untended to, “Battle of Flowers” takes the listener on an open-ended eargasmic adventure – all driven by rousing lyrical content. The album opens with “Let It Drop,” an ode to the less-refined, fuzzy sounds of early 90s, 2000s alternative and indie rock. Depending on what you store in the dome, you might lean early Weezer or Pavement, with a side of The Kinks.
“Acting Through Music” comes in with a strong intro reminiscent of a music baby with Arcade Fire and Quiet Company DNA. The melody is light and moves forward effortlessly. Tuning into the lyrics, the chorus reminds the listener there is something deeper to hear: On and on acting through music/ on and on acting on this suicide/ on and on and on. Moving through the album, “Gud Girls” intro is just similar enough to remind the ear of the 1993 release from Counting Crows, “Miss Jones.” The verse and chorus reveal Buttercup’s propensity for well-composed, detailed-oriented songs that remain wholeheartedly simple.
“How To Think More About Sex,” and “Champagne From Spain” showcase the genre-fluid nature of “Battle of Flowers.” They’re a bit softer, “Champagne From Spain” significantly more so than “How To Think More About Sex,” with a sharp turn into the indie/folk rock realm of Buttercups’ sound. Odie sings on “Swallow Fly” and it’s slower, soothing except the always lingering, reminding lyric of, “you’re fucked.”
There are performance art elements in every live Buttercup show. This has always been the case and adds incredible value and heightened emotional response for the audience. In the recording, the performance art quality still shines through explains, Erik, “in the way that ‘Vicious Rewind’ falls apart after 30 seconds of sweetness, or how ‘68 Playmate’ starts in a hurricane of disorder, or how ‘Open On/Shut Off’ starts with an absurd lie for an introduction. But mostly, the record sounds like us: 5 grown men in a room having the time of their lives making music.”
The gentlemen of Buttercup have performed their most exciting and ambitious shows in the last couple of years (the Majestic, the Cobalt Club, etc.), and still have so much more to say. Don’t miss the release this Friday at Empire Theatre with Slomo Drags and CLIFFFS. Tickets available here, doors at 7:30p, show at 8:30p.
Written By: Libby Day