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Black Gold Buffalo’s seaside salvation

Ahead of their Waiting Room gig and album release, band with ‘totally punk DIY’ ethic tell how moving out of London saved them

12 January, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

Black Gold Buffalo play live at The Waiting Room next month

IT was while hanging out in a van at a festival in Croatia that singer Keziah Stilwell and bassist Hannah Holland met the legendary reggae producer Adrian Sherwood.

They were speaking about how hard it was to get by in London as a musician, with the cost of living so high, when he wondered aloud if they had considered heading to the Kent town of Ramsgate, where rent was cheap and a burgeoning arts scene would inspire.

Keziah and Hannah – half of band Black Gold Buffalo, whose debut album is out next week – were living in the Hackney. While it sounds like the ideal stomping ground to forge a music career, Sherwood’s advice was solid. A complete change of scene gave BGB a step upwards.

“We were struggling to keep the band afloat and pay the rent,” recalls Kez. “We had gone from one shitty living situation to another. But, after meeting with Adrian, he convinced us both to move to the south-east coast. He told us Ramsgate was a heaven for musicians and artists.”

It was here that they met the producer Nicholas De Carlos, who worked with them on the new album after enjoying a show they did at the Ramsgate Music Hall. Now the band split their time between London and Ramsgate.

BGB is made up of Kez and Hannah, joined by drummer Joy Joseph and Marc Hayward on guitar.

The foursome met through the East End club scene in 2012, at club nights such as Hannah’s Batty Bass – a mixture of art, live music and DJ sets.

Drummer Joy, originally from west London, played in her family’s Calypso band, playing the steel pans from an early age. Her influences are wide – she played in a reggae band through her teens, and says her favourite composer is Bach. She also loves soul and funk and has worked as a session musician for a number of artists.

Bassist Hannah is self-taught, picking up the instrument by jamming along to Dub records. She then directed music videos and worked as a DJ and ran the Batty Bass record label before eventually returning to the bass to perform with the band.

Marc has a background in journalism, working for the likes of NME, and has played guitar from an early age. Originally from Cornwall, he moved to London as an 18-year-old to study journalism and played in outfits such as Scarletinas, a celebrated indie band. The final piece in the BGB jigsaw is Keziah, who has a dance background. Inspired by bands such as Dead Weather, Santigold and Hercules and The Love Affair, she switched to making her own music.

Personnel changes saw two previous members move on, leaving Kez and Hannah looking for fresh collaborators – and that was when Marc and Joy stepped in.

“Something clicked and we knew it was going to be special,” recalls Hannah.

“The difference in backgrounds complements each other.”

Influenced by the likes of Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, as well as Massive Attack and Blood Orange, in terms of production for the record, they say they have a hands-on approach to their work.

“Our attitude to the industry is totally punk DIY. We run our own label, we make our own art, and we call on friends to make videos and remixes,” adds Kez.

Now they are promoting the album through what they do best – live shows.

“Our main focus now is to get it heard and start playing live, which is where the band is at its peak,” says Hannah.

And you can hear BGB on Wednesday, February 7 at The Waiting Room, 175 Stoke Newington High Street.

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