"The blues to mean is a release, a de-stresser. Playing and singing gets my mind of whatever petty problems are bugging me."
Interstate Buffalo: Southern Comfort
Interstate Buffalo is the combination of a wide range of influences and circumstance. Originally started as an acoustic blues cover band in 2006, Interstate Buffalo has grown to a full on electrified experience, known for their blistering guitar work and scorching live sets. Members include Jack Poff on vocals and rhythm guitar, local guitar instructor Stephen Compton on lead guitar, Chris "Scooter" Chandler on bass, and Nick Reeves on drums. Recent shows have the band playing a Southern-favorites mix of covers and originals with a blues, funk and classic rock theme, and they always bring out the jam wherever they play, often skipping breaks and continuing on for hours at a time -- a true crowd pleaser for sure! This approach to music has earned Interstate Buffalo a solid following and a reputation among central Arkansas music venues.
Interstate Buffalo is proud to have received a few recognitions over the years: They were chosen to perform at the 2009 Waka Winter Classic and played on the emerging artist stage at the 2010 Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival. They have also been a staple for the past four years at the local "SAVE THE BISCUIT" fundraiser that helps raise money for the famed KING BISCUIT Music Festival in Helena AR, a cause close the bands heart.
Interstate Buffalo had enter the studio in January 2012 to record their first full length album "One Step Away" where run to the old I-30 Speedway...
What do you learn about yourself from the blues, what does the blues mean to you?
Stephen: I think I once heard BB King say that the blues wasn’t about sadness, its about letting go, which can be a good thing. So playing a good blues tune can be very cathartic for me and I think when I write a “blues” song, its about going through that release. I might focus on love, or hate or money or why the sky isn’t blue…but often times it about finding what’s really on my heart, and learning from that process. So it also helps me with a kind of discovery. I feel blessed that I can take that and turn it into a song that someone else might enjoy.
Jack: The blues to mean is a release, a de-stresser. Playing and singing gets my mind of whatever petty problems are bugging me. I can channel my frustrations, joys, concerns into the music and let go.
How do you describe Interstate Bufffalo sound and progress?
Stephen: We’ll get to the sound in a minute but the progress is very organic.
Jack and I handle most of the writing, but its kind of a joke when one of us tries to tell someone else how their part of the song should sound. I’m not a drummer, or a bass player, and they’re not a lead guitar player. So when we have a song or an idea, we open it up and see what happens. We don’t always agree and some songs don’t make it out of the practice studio. Others get changed dramatically, but we all changed it together. So everybody gets invested in the song. Personally, I really enjoy that. It keeps it interesting for me to see whats going to pop out at the end of practice.
As for the sound, we’re definitely blues based. Its at the heart of what we do, but we know its more blues rock. But you have to remember, we grew up in the South. Which means we’ve got blues (and I mean every category of blues you can think of), we’ve got country, funk, soul, R&B, rock and roll, southern rock, metal, heavy metal (yes, there is a difference), and last but not least, jazz. Most of this stuff was created less than two hours drive from where I do this interview. My wife was born in Clarksdale, MS; let your readers Google that town and see what pops up. So we throw it all together, and you get Interstate Buffalo. Keeps it interesting.
Jack: I think we have definitely made progress over the last year. Better cohesion, which I believe came out of the studio process.
What characterize Jack Poff and Stephen Compton’s music philosophy?
Stephen: A while back, it got tough for the band. I was really busy trying to push this album which created a lot of stress. I kinda lost sight of why we do this. Don’t get me wrong, I want our album to do well. That’s good for the band and my family, but selling albums isn’t the focus. Having a good time creating music with my friends is the focus. That’s how it started, and that’s the way it should always be. I think you can call that a music philosophy.
Jack: I have a folk and blues background. So I think of things as chords. I prefer simplify. Less is more. Compton is a guitar instructor. He is always talking about some sophisticated scale or tone to add to chords, embellishments. He is the bells and whistles.
From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the blues music?
Stephen: Learning about life from different musicians up and down Beale Street really means a lot to me, but I’d have to say I give Duane Allman, Albert King and Jimi Hendrix the credit for most of my guitar knowledge. I’m constantly learning how they approached the guitar and the styles they created. I guess if you’re going to study someone, study the best.
Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?
Stephen: The best is opening the box to our album “One Step Away”. It took years to get that done and I really felt like we had accomplished a good thing and produced a great album; and the worst is missing the airplane going to St. Louis for us to compete as one of 24 national finalists in the 2012 Bud Light Battle of the Bands Contest. It was a pretty bad ordeal.
I-10 in Mobile Alabama can kiss my ass.
Jack: One of our first shows outside of Little Rock was the worst. Everything went wrong. We got bumped and didn't take the stage till after midnight. The place had nearly cleared out by then and I broke my guitar after the first song. Nothing went right in the first set.
We had a great show at a late night place. The crowd was with us, lots of energy, even after the lights came on. Super excited. Then we made it outside and someone mistook our cars for the bouncers and threw a large rock through the window. Bummer. I think Compton still has the rock.
What is the best advice a bluesman ever gave you?
Stephen: I once asked T Model Ford what advice he’d give a young guitar player, and he told me: “Gotta learn to play them blues.” That’s something I took to heart and I’m sure not going to argue with T Model Ford on that.
Jack: B. B. King sings, "I never make my move to soon."
What is the “feel” you miss most nowadays from Greatful Dead, Hendrix and Muddy’s era?
Stephen: I think musicians like that set the bar higher for other musicians of the era. They all achieved a status and level that truly influenced and changed music, and the blues was at the heart of it all. Imagine if Jimi Hendrix was as big as Justin Bieber right now. What a world that would be. Some might call that heaven!
Jack: I was watching The Last Waltz the other night. Lots of instrumentation and guest coming and going. Great stuff. A real camaraderie out there.
Why did you think that Psychedelic Blues and Southern Rock continues to generate such a devoted following?
Stephen: Maybe its part of growing up in the South, but I get this feeling from listening to the Dead or Hendrix. I watch Muddy Waters sing “Mannish Boy” on the Last Waltz and it gives me chills!!! I think a lot of people get that feeling and that’s why we’re still buying and listening to musicians like Jimi Hendrix 42 years after he left this earth.
Jack: An element of escapism is at play with psych blues. Tune in, drop out and let your cares go. As for southern rock, it is a blend of rock, blues, and folk. What is not to like about that? Also, there is still a strong sense regionalism in the story telling.
What the difference and similarity between the BLUES, SOUTHERN ROCK, and JAM ROCK feeling?
Stephen: “Blues Music” as we know it has so many flavors nowadays its hard to pin down, but you better know your I-IV-V. Southern Rock needs to have a bit of country in there to really be southern rock, and this question is going get me in trouble, because I think a really great Jam Band has to have all three. I place the Dead, the Allman Brothers and Panic in that category. Tedeschi Trucks Band and Gov’t Mule are great examples too.
Jack: Jam Rock to me is looser, while blues and southern rock have more structure especially in the solo/improve sections.
What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?
Stephen: Playing at a venue that was a gas station/grocery store/liquor store/bar was quite an experience. Sleeping in the “Sexagon” that same night only capped the deal. As far as jams go, we recently had a show at the local Jazz club and we had about 9 or 10 musicians on stage at one time playing some mean ass blues rock music!! I think we closed with “Love Light” by the Greatful Dead and the crowd loved it!! I really enjoyed looking down the line and seeing all my friends on stage.
Jack: Just last week we closed a show with Love Light and invited musicians up. Well, more showed up to play than there were instruments. We had two bass players that you could tell wanted a spot up there. It was a blast and everybody got a solo.
Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES
Stephen: It’s the feeling we get when we listen to the blues. That’s not something that goes away. I think it truly moves from one generation of musicians to the next.
And I wish more musicians would find the “blues” earlier in life. I think all forms of music would see a benefit, and gain some true lasting power if they had more of the blues in their sound.
Jack: The blues is relatable. Also I think it is "new" listener friendly. You don't have to know the songs, or band, or understand some unique dance steps to enjoy it. You can simply sway back and forth if the spirit moves you.
Do you know why the sound of Arkansas is connected to the pure blues? What are the secrets of Arkansas Blues?
Stephen: Arkansas can get a bad rap for a lot of things, but we’re proud of our music. Arkansas was the breeding ground and the crossroads for blues music. Towns in Mississippi and Tennessee might get all the credit for where it started, but we all know it really came from Arkansas!!
Overall, I don’t think Arkansas Blues has a lot of secrets. Its mostly about life and learning how to live in this crazy world. But if there are secrets to Arkansas Blues, I think you’ll need to drive through Dyess Arkansas or visit the levee in Helena during the King Biscuit Music Festival first. Sitting by the Mississippi River across from Memphis TN for a while helps too. And don’t forget to take your 32-20 with you down to Hot Springs!! You do some of that and you get closer to learning the secrets.
Jack: I think location is a part in it. The Mississippi River delta and surrounding farms cultivated blues music. I have a buddy who has a map of Mississippi with names and origins of blues legends. We have similar circumstances on this side of the river, just not as many famous ones. I think the secret is that fortunately the road connecting Chicago and St Louis to Memphis and then down to New Orleans runs through Eastern Arkansas. They got to be a part of what was developing as it happened. People didn't get on Youtube or TV to check something out. They went to the local dive, juke joint or shack for entertainment.
Are there any memories from King Biscuit Blues Festivals, which you’d like to share with us?
Stephen: Dr John walking out onto the stage wearing a purple suit with a white feather sticking out of his hat that looked 10 feet tall!! What a night!! Plus I got to shake Pinetop Perkins hand earlier that evening. He was a true bluesman. One of the last.
Jack: I first attended in 1999 and have been to over half of them since. I was hooked. Lots of memories and stories. I always enjoy the street performances. I prefer to spend the day wandering between stages and get to the main stage after sundown. There is a spot on the levee where friends gather on blanket islands and share stories, pints of whiskey and the fall's usually good weather.
Which memory from King Biscuit Time makes you smile?
Stephen: Getting to spend time with good friends and my wife on Cherry Street ranks up there pretty high, but if Dr John and Pinetop don’t make you smile, I think you might have problems!!! Then its getting to see all these great musicians on the street. Some guys pull in on motorcycles with an amp on the side, plug in and just play. Hearing guys like that is something I always look forward to at Blues Fest.
Jack: I think I have heard some of the old King Biscuit Time shows from bootleg tapes. However, I don’t recall anything particular or where those tapes are. Just the general feeling of nostalgia and the history connected to it makes me smile.
What would you ask Jerry Garcia? How you would spend a day with Duane Allman? What would you ask Sonny Boy Williamson?
Stephen: I’d want to know more about Jerry’s thoughts on songwriting and arrangements. I’ve always really liked Jerry songs and how they’re put together. Asking him to walk through that process with me would be my question.
I’d get Duane up to the river house with a fishing pole, an acoustic guitar and enough beer to make it worth the trip. More or less let the day proceed from there.
And I’d want to know what Sonny Boy Williamson really said when he pulled that knife on Clapton. That’s a story that’s always intrigued me.
Jack: Jerry, “Did you get any resistance moving between genres? How did you balance your desire to play both folk/bluegrass verse jam/psych rock”
I would want to go fishing with Duane, and then I could pick his brain about all of his stories and advice.
I might ask Sonny Boy about his beginnings; how he got his start. I could use some harmonica tips, too.
Which things do you prefer to do in your free time? What is your DREAM? Happiness is……
Stephen: I’m big on trout fishing and guitar. So my free time gets spent there, but mostly on the guitar. I’m also a father and a husband, so spending time with my wife and seeing my little girl grow up before my eyes is pretty special. As far as a dream, I’d love for my music to open some bigger doors for my family. Maybe offer a chance to work with some of top musicians of the day and create some great songs. Who knows, I might even get someone else to carry around all these amps and guitars for a change!!! Wouldn’t that be something!
Jack: I enjoy spending time with my wife and family, going to a good blues festival, or local live music. I also spend some time in the summer at the lake or on the beach.
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