DFW Music News

Buffalo Ruckus' Influences Are as Wide-Ranging as the Animal It's Named For

Buffalo Ruckus play Filthy McNasty's in Fort Worth on Sept. 2.
Buffalo Ruckus play Filthy McNasty's in Fort Worth on Sept. 2. Dan Porter
Buffalo Ruckus, Saturday, Sept. 2, at Filthy McNasty's in Fort Worth.

Buffalo Ruckus plays the kind of music critics have called “the perfect blend of country and rock” that is “made by musicians who take the outlaw part of ‘outlaw country’ seriously.” It’s a sound steeped in Americana mixed with psychedelic postmodern avant-garde and countrified rock.

“The original idea of the band was not to be boxed into a genre,” vocalist Jason Lovell says. “It was to be wide open like a buffalo roaming the plains.”

The band is based in Denton, and its members look like blue-collar outlaws who should be sharing the stage with the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Lovell, who hails from southern Georgia, resembles a 1970s version of Jennings when he steps behind the microphone, strumming his acoustic guitar.

Lovell met guitarist Brad Haefner in 2013 after they both answered a Craigslist ad seeking bandmates. Haefner and bassist Michael Burgess had just left a band that played mostly Texas country, seeking to do something more creative with their music. Lovell had recently moved to Hurst. He’d worked as chef for nearly a decade, playing music mostly on Sundays and Mondays when the restaurant was closed, but he was ready to play music full time.

"The original idea of the band was not to be boxed into a genre. It was to be wide open like a buffalo roaming the plains." – vocalist Jason Lovell

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“Well, the rock 'n' roll lifestyle of ‘chefing’ got to me a little bit,” Lovell says. “I got jaded after 15 years of it. When we moved here, my wife said, ‘Don’t even get a chef job.’”

Rock 'n’ roll helped to inspire Lovell’s songwriting. When he was a fifth-grader, Lovell received what he calls a “ghetto box” and three cassette tapes: Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin IV, Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. He grew up around good music, listening to a lot of old country and Jeff Buckley.

“I’m inspired by a good message from church or a good cry from my wife, and my son will inspire,” Lovell says of his songwriting. “Man, I just love people and life, and I just want to spread light. I think that songwriting is a great outlet to do that.”

Lovell often collaborates with Haefner, whom he says is the engineer who keeps Buffalo Ruckus' train rolling. Haefner works as a graphic designer, and he’s created a lot of the band’s memorabilia that it sells at shows and online at buffaloruckus.com. He’s also building guitars that he jokingly calls “The Bradocaster.”

He built his first guitar when he was 15. Both of his grandfathers were woodworkers, and went to his grandfather’s shop to build it. “It was just an experiment,” he says. “I still have it, but it weighs a ton.”

Haefner started building them again a couple of years ago and spent about 120 hours to build one. He’s working on his fifth one now. “With each one, I feel like I’m getting better at it,” he says.

“And more expensive,” Lovell adds.

Lovell, Haefner and Burgess picked up their drummer, Jerrod, Ford from a church in Hurst where Lovell plays on Sunday mornings. Ford says he’d never been in a band before joining Buffalo Ruckus. He’d mostly played in jazz band.

“Every weekend is something different, and every show feels different; you get to experience all the facets of what it means to play music,” he says. “In jazz band, you get to play for people four or five times a year, but when you get to do it 50 shows a year, you improve.”

“We played 100 shows last year,” Lovell points out. “Jared is a road dog. He likes to be out on the road.”

They decided to call their band Buffalo Ruckus because the band’s music was a sound that didn’t fit a particular category. Burgess came up with the “Ruckus” part of the name from an old saying that he used when he was serving in the Air Force. “‘No more ruckus’ was always kind of my saying,” he says.

They recorded some demo tracks and entered KHYI 95.3 The Range’s Shiner Rising Star competition in 2013. They had only rehearsed a few times but won second place. They entered again the following year and won. They also earned first place in the ninth annual Texas Music Showdown in Fort Worth that year.

Buffalo Ruckus released its self-titled debut in August 2014. Grammy nominee Chris Bell, who has worked with the Eagles, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Erykah Badu, helped the band produce the album that spawned two radio singles, “High Again” and “Angilee.”

Haefner says they put their first album together by pulling songs from the live shows they’d been playing. “It was much closer to what we were doing live,” he says. “The second one, we sifted through a lot more tunes. Jason was writing a ton of tunes, and we tried to pick the ones that fit best as a record.”

The band called its sophomore album Peace & Cornbread. Chuck Taylor from 95.3 The Range said it was one of his top 5 albums of 2016, and Texas Music Pickers said it “has the squared-jaw and fire of rye whiskey, the distinctness of bitterness and the sweetness of sugar; and best enjoyed at full volume.”

The band has been gaining popularity in Texas, Georgia and New York and throughout the Midwest. It appeared on the nationally syndicated Troubadour, TX television show and jammed at House of Blues and Billy Bob’s 4th of July Picnic. It also has been raising ruckus with longtime idol Ray Wylie Hubbard, who praised the band on Twitter.

“I dig what you guys are laying down,” Hubbard wrote.
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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.