Originally formed as the 1980s cover band Congo Death Lazer, Bay Area natives Peter Davies, Bobby Renz and Robinson Kuntz have been playing together for nine years. When they became comfortable enough to write and record their own tunes, they evolved into The Buttercream Gang. Their fun, energetic sound is reminiscent of both Animal Collective and the theme to a 1960s “Gidget” movie. The band’s new album is “Oh Brother”; the EP “Oh Sister” is slated for a spring release.
How did you find the name The Buttercream Gang?
Peter Davies: There is a straight-to-VHS film called “The Buttercream Gang” that was made by a religious film group; it’s part life lesson, part children’s entertainment. It’s one of those movies that is so wholesome and bad that it’s comically entertaining. Some of us had grown up with this film in one capacity or another (mainly through purchases from school book fairs), so it became sort of an inside joke amongst everyone.
Your music is like a mix of new-age and surf-rock. Who and what are your influences?
P.D.: Some are a sort of lead-by-example of what a band can be when they’re at their best. A good example would be the Talking Heads and David Byrne because of all that they encompass: innovative studio recordings, amazing live shows, great incorporation of visuals, music that affects you both physically and mentally in equal amounts. You can dance to it, you can relax to it, you can sing along with it.
What was your goal with “Oh Brother”? How does it differ from what you’ve already done?
Bobby Renz: The goal for us is always to make great, fresh, new music that we enjoy playing together. We went into this project having spent about a year accumulating demos and ideas and ended up with over 20 songs in total. So our No. 1 goal at that point was to make sure each song was going to be quality and that we weren’t forcing anything.
How do your nonmusical skills contribute to the band?
B.R.: I think one thing that helps us collaborate on music so well is that we all have different hobbies and jobs outside of the band that keep things fresh. Rob is a photographer for the Fairfield Daily Republic, Pete teaches English, and I serve and bartend. Everything in our lives, in essence, contributes to the band. Whether it’s certain sounds, stories, experiences, they all might end up inspiring or becoming part of something we work on together.
Whatever happened to Congo Death Lazer?
P.D.: When we started, all our music was covers, so we basically had two cover bands, one that did only ‘80s, and the other did everything, with a focus on party rock. Once we started writing our own material it seemed like working on Congo Death Lazer was a distraction (albeit a very fun one) from working on our own music. We still do covers here and there though. I think it's a pretty awesome way to have fun and expand your musical palette
You rotate lead vocals – how do you decide who sings what?
P.D: It's pretty simple. So far it's just been, whoever writes the lyrics sings the lyrics. Maybe next we'll have to try writing lyrics for each other. That could either be awesome, or a total disaster, who knows?
The song “Couch Games” on “Oh Brother” has the lyrics, “You're always on my mind” and “I drift away and come back to you.” You guys have a thing for your couches, eh?
B.R: It was the working title of the song because I was laid up with a broken ankle for a couple months and it was the first instrumental track I wrote while injured. Since I was stuck on the couch and writing music gave me a nice sense of entertainment, I named the groove “Couch Games.” [When] I brought it to practice shortly after feeling well enough to play, Pete came up with the vocal melodies and the lyrics and that's how it became what it is now. Sorry, no true inanimate love.
How does social media play into your touring and promoting?
B.R.: We do all the social media ourselves, and even though in the past we haven't been that great at connecting, we're getting better. Music's always been first for us and being on top of the social media world hasn't been our main focus to say the least. We're on Twitter (@thebuttercreamg) and Facebook and you can hear about all our shows through those.