Biography All Music GuideWikipedia
All Music Guide:
Although heralded by the critics and championed by their musical peers, the '90s alternative/roots rock trio Grant Lee Buffalo failed to break through to the mainstream, despite strong songwriting and an original style. The band's leader was singer/guitarist/songwriter Grant Lee Phillips -- born in 1963 and raised in Stockton, CA, Phillips was equally influenced by rock music early on (David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Kiss) as well as country icons (Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, etc.). By the dawn of his teenage years, Phillips began playing guitar and penning his own original compositions, as he sought to combine his both preferred styles of music together as one -- leading to the formation of his first real band, Bloody Holly.
Prior to his 20th birthday, Phillips relocated to Los Angeles, where he roofed houses with hot tar during the day, attended film school at night, and reserved the weekends for music. By the end of the '80s, Phillips had formed the neo-psychedelic outfit Shiva Burlesque, issuing a pair of critically acclaimed but commercially overlooked releases, 1987's self-titled debut and 1990's Mercury Blues, before splitting up. Phillips then recruited Shiva's drummer Joey Peters and multi-instrumentalist Paul Kimble (the latter of which doubled on bass and keyboards and, later on, production duties) for a new project. Utilizing a backlog of songs unused by Shiva, the new group first went under several different names (including the Machine Elves and Mouth of Rasputin) before settling on Grant Lee Buffalo.
The newly named outfit landed a weekly residence at West Hollywood's Cafe Largo in the early '90s, as they honed their songs and live show, while building up a substantial following in the process. The trio sent a demo tape to the Singles Only label (headed by Hüsker Dü/Sugar frontman Bob Mould), who in turn issued the song "Fuzzy" as a single in 1992. By this time, the buzz surrounding Grant Lee Buffalo had spread to other record labels, as Slash Records signed the trio and issued their full-length debut, also titled Fuzzy, in 1993.
Grant Lee Buffalo supported the release with nearly a year of solid touring -- opening for the likes of Cracker, ex-Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg, and Pearl Jam. Instead of taking some much-needed time off from their grueling schedule, the trio went directly back into the studio to work on their sophomore effort, 1994's Mighty Joe Moon, which spawned their first single/video to attract the attention of MTV and radio (albeit mildly), the gentle ballad "Mockingbirds." Despite landing a prestigious gig opening for R.E.M. (the group's first arena tour in five years) and Phillips being recognized as Male Vocalist of the Year by Rolling Stone magazine, the album failed to break the band commercially. Further fine releases followed, 1996's Copperopolis and 1998's Jubilee, which, again, were critically acclaimed yet commercial underachievers. Fed up, the trio quietly disbanded in 1999.
Phillips immediately launched a solo career, issuing a pair of albums, 2000's Ladies' Love Oracle and 2001's Mobilize, both of which were completely penned and performed by the ex-Grant Lee Buffalo frontman (Phillips has also guested on albums by such other artists as the Eels, Neil Finn, Harvey Danger, Robyn Hitchcock, and Michael Penn, while producing Eenie Meenie's self-titled 1997 EP). In 2001, a 30-track Grant Lee Buffalo overview was issued in England (where the group had enjoyed more substantial success than in their homeland), entitled Storm Hymnal: Gems From the Vault of Grant Lee Buffalo. Rhino released it stateside three years later.
Grant Lee Buffalo is a rock band based in Los Angeles, California, consisting of Grant-Lee Phillips (vocals and guitar), Paul Kimble (bass) and Joey Peters (drums). All three were previously members of another Los Angeles band, Shiva Burlesque.
Grant Lee Buffalo released four albums: Fuzzy (1993), Mighty Joe Moon (1994), Copperopolis (1996) and Jubilee (1998). They toured with major bands including R.E.M., Pearl Jam, the Smashing Pumpkins, and The Cranberries. In the United States, the band's 1998 single, “Truly, Truly” received extensive airplay.
Paul Kimble departed the band in 1997, but Grant Lee Buffalo's next album Jubilee met with more success than the prior releases thanks to "Truly, Truly." But, as Phillips describes, a number of changes led to the dissolution of the band's time at their label and their time together."The celebrational spirit of Jubilee actually brought a renewed optimism to me personally. The album was well received and understandably the expectations at the label were high, probably too high. Although the highly refined Jubilee had brought the band considerable success at radio with "Truly, Truly," a shift within the industry was well underway. The label's constant nagging about "Call-out Response" was both a new term and a bewildering concept to our ears. The basic strategy: a radio station arranges to call up a listerner who is asked to consume about 30 songs over the phone, perhaps 20 seconds of each. From this remote encounter, the listener will then proceed to judge the material. Insufficient call-out response was a big reason that Jubilee hardly got a shot at Warners. Grant Lee Buffalo tunes are often like an old car or an old amp that needs a few seconds to get warmed up, but when it does... look out! Meanwhile, a new crop of young record buyers, the largest since the Baby Boomer era, were now being targeted to the exclusion of Gen-Xers, like myself, still waiting for the Pixies to reform. As for Grant Lee Buffalo, I sensed they were beginning to wonder if we'd ever get through finishing school. Before that could happen, band and label parted as did Peters and myself. The scenery was changing and I was looking for new explorations. I'm sure we all were. Perhaps we always will be."
In 2004, a compilation of singles, album tracks and rarities called Storm Hymnal was released.
Phillips continues to pursue a solo career, releasing seven albums between 2000 and 2012.
Grant Lee Buffalo's sound is comparable to Neil Young and an electrified version of Americana song writer John Stewart. Phillips writes that their first album "would galvanize the sound of Grant Lee Buffalo, i.e., the acoustic feedback howl of overdriven 12-string guitars, melodic distorto-bass, tribal drum bombast, the old world churn of pump organs and parlor pianos."
Lyrically, they reference American history as well as contemporary events. For instance, “Lone Star Song” from Mighty Joe Moon references the Waco siege and “Crackdown“ from Copperopolis references the murder of Yoshihiro Hattori as well as the Oklahoma City bombing.
As of May 5, 2011 the band has returned on a limited tour, making stops in Los Angeles, Dublin, London, Brussels, Copenhagen and Oslo. On August 8, 2011 the band performed at Dranouter festival in Belgium, and on August 9 in Copenhagen. Plans for an extended tour have not been released, yet the band has been confirmed to play at the German Haldern Pop Festival in August 2012.