Words by Emily Lozeau
Photo by Buzz Jar
When asked how or why they became musicians, all four members of Buzz Jar gave similar responses. “My house was full of guitars,” singer and guitarist Johanna Hiller said. Drummer John Willis said as a kid he would drum and bang on tables and finally received a drum set after writing a persuasive letter to his parents. Regardless of circumstance, the four musicians grew up surrounded by music.
As a group, these four have been together since August of this year. Hiller and Jake Brennan (singer and guitarist) are the band’s original members. They were joined later by bassist Willy Lamb-Orgel and most recently Willis. Brennan explains that as a sound, he does not feel that categorizing Buzz Jar is a necessary task. “Every time we play we sound like the same four people; we’ve built a sound that’s our own. [We don’t categorize ourselves] not because it’s ground breaking but because genres do more bad than good.” Lamb-Orgel agrees, “You have to be removed from it to know what you sound like.”
Hiller and Brennan are the band’s two songwriters. Brennan writes mainly about personal experiences and situations he has found himself in, rather than political music. He feels that “Good art should be interpreted in different ways. I don’t feel, necessarily, that I need to explain in detail what every song means.”
Hiller estimates she writes about a quarter of the band’s songs. “It’s strange,” she explains, “something happened since I moved to Vermont – I can only write soft jazz-country winter songs.”
The four are quick to admit that living in such a cold climate has affected their music’s style profoundly. Brennan feels living here has greatly impacted his writing as well, “The way you feel physically, and it makes music sound different. Like J.J. Cale. His playing sounds like he’s in a room that is so unbearably hot and he can’t exert any more effort.”
Buzz Jar’s music has the opposite feeling. “There’s something to be said about living in Vermont and being cold all the time; there’s a distance to [the music],” Hiller says. No matter how they write their music individually, it is always transformed when the band comes together as a whole.
“That being said, we’re a post-rock-free country band, ”Lamb-Orgel jokes.
Willis said in the past Buzz Jar did mostly live shows in downtown Burlington, but as of late, the band is in an “input” rather than “output” phase. Brennan, a prolific writer, noted they have an extensive library of songs, and that there will be recordings coming soon. Their recent break was a result of not wanting to play the same songs over and over live and that in order to accomplish the “buffing up” they desire, a move to a warmer climate might be in order in the near future.
Buzz Jar is playing tonight, 3-10-10 at Higher Ground. Doors open at 7:30pm, the show is at 8:00pm.
You can check out Buzz Jar’s music online at: