At the beginning of 2015, Avi Zahner-Isenberg had enough. The 24-year-old Long Beach-native had already experienced a degree of success in his music career when he signed a two-album deal with Seattle's Sub Pop back in 2010. But something wasn't right for Avi Buffalo. Despite the fleeting success, he reached his breaking point. When he announced over Facebook this past January that he was disbanding the band aspect of his project, he felt free.
“I realized gradually that my management thought of my creative abilities only in their own personal definitions of it, began trying to add many restrictions to what I felt like doing,” he explains over the phone. “They convinced me they were leading me down the road to creative freedom, but in a very manipulative way. I should not have put as much trust in someone else. Everything I did in the last year and my album was compromised by their involvement.”
That said, he quickly points out how much he loved working with Sub Pop and his booking agent. Inherently Zahner strongly believes that the structure of working within the conventional music business became shackling and stifling to what he calls his creative potential. Thus had no choice but to put it behind him.
Now a solo artist, Zahner soldiers on, but on his own terms without the “corporate vultures” that threatened to take away from his love of music. He's played a few shows sporadically over the past six months, but he's found himself engaged in his music as he's ever been.
“As soon as I was out of the whole responsibility or obligatory feeling to anything other than my own music, I felt a much more pure expression in myself of music and writing songs, which is something I've needed for a long time,” he says of his absence from the public as a solo artist. “So when I bring back my refined music to the public world, I think it's gonna be a lot better.”
But that doesn't mean he isn't staying busy. On the surface, working on Litronix with his friend Kevin Litrow, seems like it's a departure from what fans are used to from the indie rocker. He disagrees.
“I was in high school when I first got into his band,” he says. “I love his guitar playing and his reason for making music. The places where he comes from are meaningful things and his writing about the human experience feels very medicinal on an emotional level, especially when I was on the road with my band, I'd listen to his music.”
So far, the collaboration has been a revelation for Zahner. The Litronix project has seen him play guitar and work with 20 other musicians that they added as underdubs and overdubs that helped him explore a sonic space he hadn't had the freedom in a while. The improvisational nature of the project has gotten him back in touch with roots as a session player and has made music fun again.
As for his solo material, Zahner is still getting over his decision to get rid of his backing band. He continues to tour and record music behind the Avi Buffalo name and continues to identify as such.
“I needed to go off the corporate grid because that was what was holding me down,” he laments. “Going to work with a pattern that worked for other bands didn't work for me. I'm back to playing the music I really love and being in touch with my songs and its good to reconnect with them.”
Avi Buffalo performs solo as part of DLBA's Live After 5 Series outside East Village Arts Park, 150 Elm Ave. at 9 p.m. (music starts at 7p.m.). Free show. Litronix is also playing Live After 5; they'll be performing at 333 Pine at 6PM.For more details, click here for their website and here for the event's Facebook Page.
Daniel Kohn is a writer based in Southern California. With bylines in an assortment of outlets, Kohn primarily specializes in music with other interests ranging from sports to food. As a transplant, Kohn loves the beautiful weather and is glad he no longer has to deal with brutal winters. If you see him, say hi and of course, he’s always willing to down a beer or two…if you’re paying.