On their first full length album, Downtown, the members of Buzzed Lightbeer continue to rock out, with hearts full of soul and a skeptical sense of humor. “I’m the most optimistic pessimist ever,” said Gabi Araujo, the band’s bass player, laughing, “but that’s just life, so what can you do?”
Araujo and the other musicians in the trio—drummer Kendall Carroll and guitarist Mia Hillix—deliver lively performances, with energy to spare. They all write songs, sing lead and contribute to the arrangements, bringing a variety of unexpected influences to bear on their sound. “We genre bend a bit, but I think Downtown is cohesive, solid rock’n’roll,” Araujo said. “Someone called us slow-punk, and there’s some of that in there. Also a little country, some early French pop influences from Françoise Hardy and a little Cramps-style psychobilly on top of it.
“We made the album over a long period of time, during the lockdown and after, but COVID didn’t really influence the subject matter. We have to deal with the same stuff, no matter what’s going on in the world. I have written songs that refer to the global situation, but none of them were brought to the band for the album.”
Since they started playing, the band has released two EPs—the self-titled Buzzed Lightbeer and Hell. They were all recorded on the fly and include some of the band’s most popular tracks. “Fat, Pregnant, Stoned” opens with Araujo’s driving bass line. Thick, distorted guitar chords and Carroll’s bedrock drumming carry the song to its breathless finale. The surf/pop of “Wish You Dead” could be addressing the stifling behavior of a relationship gone wrong, while “Hell” brings to mind the foreboding sound of Link Wray’s “Rumble.”
Downtown took shape during the COVID lockdown. Unable to play live, the band members isolated themselves to write new songs. “I holed up in my basement and played guitar for hours on end. Normally we practice once a week, and run through a set to make sure it’s cohesive and warm up our fingers. If we have to wait for a couple of weeks between gigs, it can be hard to get into the groove.”
When the trio was ready to record, they asked a friend for help. “Anthony Aragon, the drummer with The Looseys, set the whole thing up, using borrowed equipment. He recorded it and mixed it. We were all friends and vaccinated, so we didn’t have to mask up, unless someone came into the studio. We did drums and guitar live. Vocals and bass were overdubbed. It had to be spaced out and recorded sporadically over a couple of months, so we could juggle our schedules. It was taxing for us to play stuff over and over till we got it perfect, but we did it. It was different from the first EP, where we booked an actual studio with an engineer and busted it out in two days. This time, we were able to space it out and workshop the songs and see what kind of fun little things we wanted to add.
“We’re not rushing to release the album,” Araujo said. “We’ve put CDs out before, with more of a homemade feel, very DIY. This one we’re doing more thoughtfully. We have a friend who takes photos for us, and we’re working on a booklet for inside the album, with credits and lyrics. We still have to see how much it will cost to make the album covers and such, but we’re lucky to have so many good friends to help out.”
All the players in the trio work hard, maintaining the balance between day jobs, relationships, rehearsals, school and performances. “I like seeing what roads are presented to me,” Araujo said. “I work nights and I’m in school, studying psychology. I have hopes to go into clinical work, but if the band takes off to the stars, that would be cool. I think we’re mostly having fun being in the scene and watching ourselves grow as musicians. It’s been super wild.”
Buzzed Lightbeer will be playing a benefit concert for abortion access on Sept. 13, with Wife and Blythe, at The Knockout, 3223 Mission, San Francisco. theknockoutsf.com
They’ll also be celebrating Joan Jett’s Birthday with The She’s at the Balboa Theater on Sept. 22. Balboamovies.com
You can listen to their music on their Bandcamp page: buzzedlightbeer.bandcamp.com
“Speed Dial” will be out digitally on all streaming platforms on Sept. 9.