On their third New West album Stay Out Late, Houston's Buxton deliver another set of emotionally engaging songcraft, with an organic warmth that affirms the subtle musical chemistry that's been honed over the years of the band's existence. Buxton's spacious sound is ideally suited to the vivid lyrical insights of singer/guitarist Sergio Trevino, whose restless romanticism is reflected in such indelible new tunes as "This Place Reminds Me of You," "Jan," "Haunt You" and "Hanging On the Coast."
Buxton's first new album in three years, Stay Out Late was produced by Thom Monahan (Devendra Banhart, Vetiver, Beachwood Sparks), whose creative rapport with the band was previously established on 2015's widely acclaimed Half A Native. Buxton and Monahan recorded Stay Out Late at Sonic Ranch, located on a spacious pecan farm in Tornillo, TX, as well as Trevino's home studio.
Trevino credits the three-year gap between Buxton albums to a bout of writer's block he battled following Half A Native. "It was weird not being able to write," Trevino observes. "I was writing songs, but they were nothing I felt good about bringing to the band. Often I'd feel like it was due to the fact that I was happy, with no angst or turmoil to sing about. I was about to get married, and I had built a studio behind my house, and I had access to everything I needed to be creative, but I wasn't coming up with anything. It was a year before something came out that felt like a natural step forward. I wrote 'New World' for my wife before we got married, and that opened the gate for the songs on Stay Out Late."
Another key factor in Trevino's getting back in touch with inspiration was his discovery of Talk Talk's visionary 1991 post-rock album Laughing Stock. The album was given to Trevino by a friend while on vacation in California, and he was moved and inspired by the time he spent listening to it while surrounded by a forest full of redwoods. "To be confronted and surrounded by that kind of beauty and vision was humbling for me," he recalls, "and it gave me something to shoot for. There are those records that can completely scramble your trajectory as a writer. Finding something so clear and yet undefinable. Killing your idols has always been a motto of mine, make something better than the people you admire, but with Talk Talk it’s like trying to kill a ghost.”
In addition to chronicling the evolution of Trevino's distinctive songwriting, Stay Out Lateshowcases the instinctive musical rapport that the band has developed over the years. "If you play together long enough, you get an understanding that's very similar to a family," Trevino notes. "We've had our highs and lows, our successes and failures. It's been a huge investment of time and dedication, but I'd do it all over again without thinking twice."
Trevino describes his, and the band's, approach, as instinctive. "I don't write with a purpose or an agenda," he explains. "But once a tone is set, I follow it and try to turn it into something real and relatable. Looking at Stay Out Late now, I think it's a reflective album. It's almost like looking at your past in a mirror. Looking back at time, love, music and growing older. It's cryptic like most Buxton albums, with a few unintentional lighter moments that create a balance. I think that a lot of this album is about being comfortable in one's own skin.
"Personally," Trevino states, "I hear this album as very tonal, and would hope it kind of wash over the listener. Once the songs started coming, I started making music with more syncopated vocal rhythms, which was different for me. I honestly feel like this album is like a little experiment, in terms of focusing more on vibe than on lyrical content. The performances on this album have more bravado than what we've done in the past. Thom Monahan said 'I think I'd like to hear a bigger version of what I'm already hearing.' So instead of having me sing with headphones into a microphone, he had me sing in the small studio space I'd built in Houston, which is where we recorded most of the vocals. That forces you to project and be loud and really sell it."
Throughout Stay Out Late's 11 tracks, it's clear that Buxton's longstanding dedication to their craft has once again yielded potent musical results.
"I love music, and I want to contribute to music's progress," Trevino concludes. "I know that music will do fine without me, but I want to be a part of music's place in this world. Buxton, within itself, has so many different opinions and ideas of what's right, and it can be very challenging sometimes to get everybody to agree. But I have a lot of faith in the members of Buxton to do their thing and make it better than anything I could do on my own. When that works, it's incredibly satisfying for me, and it's the same for the listener."