Family Band

A Pullman band, formed by chance, saves itself from damnation.

Family Band
Young Kwak
Buffalo Death Beam: one big happy family.

You get the sense that Buffalo Death Beam is more like a family than a band. Three of them live together — four when a girlfriend, who is also in the band, is in town. They sing around the fireplace there. And on some days, like today, they make breakfast for each other.

Over the phone from the Pullman home he shares with his band mates, Curt Krause pauses as he’s explaining the roots of his folk-rock band — a smoke detector is squealing somewhere in the background: “It’s burning bacon,” he says, reassuringly.

Krause, the initial spark and primary lyricist behind the seven person band, is explaining how the group came together two years ago, and how they’ve continued to hone their sound over the course of the 60 to 70 shows they’ve played — beginning in Pullman bars and graduating to crowded Seattle music venues.

The band — an assemblage of friends and friends-of-friends — just happened. There were no ads listed on Craigslist looking for drummers or bass players. No recruitment was done. No auditions were held. Krause told his friend, drummer Chris Kiahtipes, that he wanted to play music. And so they did. They added guitarist Sean Knox. A friend, Tiffany Harms (an Inlander contributor), got drunk and said she could sing. So they added her, too. (As a bonus, she’s a bassoonist.) They added a violinist, a bassist, a mandolin player.

“I hadn’t played with them at all, I just liked their character,” Krause says, “and they happened to be really good players.

“It wasn’t like we had planned on anything.” And now, on just their second recorded effort, Salvation for Ordinary People, the band thinks big — musically and thematically. Each song ponders someone ordinary — Krause’s grandfather, someone’s brothers — and considers the beauty and complexity of everyday life. It’s a study in the fine line dividing the commonplace and the exceptional while persistently asking: Is everyone’s life worth a song?

Krause says that despite the album’s inspiration, the stories behind his lyrics aren’t obvious:

“I guess a lot of the songs wouldn’t make sense to anyone but me,” he says, “because they have these themes of what goes through my head … talking about this person and this person in my life.”

Though the songs his band plays are wrought in his brain, the members of Buffalo Death Beam play them like they are their own — as if their seven hands held a giant pen one day and wrote each song. They’re not unorganized, but they feel like an accident: like they got together one night and started singing and playing and an album came out. It is a record that never lacks in spirit or heart. Salvation is a collection of 10 impulsive, honest songs fraught with gorgeous, tingling moments of happenstance.

And it’s an album that exhibits this ragtag bunch of characters’ personalities: On its first track, “Staff of the Shepherd,” Harms and violinist Caitlin Dooley trill in what feels like a whisper next to Krause’s brassy, heart-on-his-sleeve pipes. And a mandolin clicks all the while behind them.

“I guess emotional music is like passion,” Krause says, “If somebody can express that through any type of art, it’s really cool. It makes you feel something. It makes you think. [Our] lyrics might not be superclear, but we can make you feel something.”

And Krause says that Buffalo Death Beam makes its members feel something. That’s where the album title came from: They were just ordinary people who found salvation — even though they may not have been searching for it — in making music together.

“You can find it anywhere.

[Salvation] doesn’t have to be religious. It doesn’t have to be anything,” he says. “We find our salvation in music. And not in a super-religious or spiritual way.”

They don’t just sound like friends. They sound like people who would have found each other no matter what. A family that pushes its members feeds each others’ spirits. And stomachs.

“It’s treatment for us to get together and just play and forget about what else is going on.”

He pauses again. “Shawn is bringing me some eggs right now,” he says. “Thanks, dude.”

Buffalo Death Beam plays with Terrible Buttons, Paper Tigers and Corey Dugan • Sat, Feb. 5, at 9 pm • Aclub • $5 • 21 • • 624-3629

Richard Marx @ Northern Quest Resort & Casino

Thu., Feb. 9, 7:30 p.m.
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About The Author

Leah Sottile

Leah Sottile is a Spokane-based freelance writer who formerly served as music editor, culture editor and a staff writer at the Inlander. She has written about everything from nuns and Elvis impersonators, to jailhouse murders and mental health...