Buffalo Fuzz are releasing their new album "Buffalo Fuzz II" this week and to celebrate we asked frontman Jared Zachary to tell us about the song "The Reaper". Here is the story:
"I said I needed love, I said I needed life - I need a token from some measure of the divine." The Reaper started out as a menacing guitar riff back in February of 2017; I still have the original recording in my phone's voice memos. The pulse of The Reaper riff evokes the feeling of running away from something. For weeks, I was waiting impatiently for the melodies and lyrics of the story to present themselves. At the following band rehearsal, I brought the riff to my drummer Jake Allan. Jake came up with an idea for a melodic motif by repeating the filler words "I need some space to run". Jake had a gift of coming up with compelling melodies that were simple and just 'sounded good'. I usually see compelling melodies as shapes, and put them together like a puzzle until it makes sense in my mind. I was able to take Jake's initial idea and mold it until the melody formed a pattern. The melodic motif that we came up with sounded, to me, like a plea for help. I could picture the desperation of this character, living in a paranoid mental-state, in the conditions of an uncertain world. By the time I left practice late the night, I could see the entire cinematic story in my head. I just had to create the screenplay.
The Reaper reflects that old saying - 'live every moment like it could be your last'. Death is a theme in a lot of my songs. I'm not sure how or why that came to be. The subject of death is thought-provoking, and something that all humans can relate to. The moments of death that surround us during our lifetime bring about the questions that are at the core of our being. Humans spend their lives searching for the answer to these questions. Jake was an existentialist. He also battled depression much of his adult life, so we talked a lot about mental illness during that time. We often held an open discourse about mental health, individual existence, consciousness, and spirituality when we were supposed to be practicing our setlist. Our conversations sometimes inadvertently played into the themes of my lyrics. I try to embrace the caveat that life in this world is uncertain. I try to spread that awareness to people through my lyrics, mostly with the message 'don't take the time you have for granted, because you don't know when it will end'.
The Reaper is about trying to make a deal with Death. The lyrics of the first verse of The Reaper are a plea for more time. The character in the story promises to strive for a better, more fulfilled life, if given one more chance - "am I the only one longing for the light? Afraid that death will come and take me into the night?" In a state of paranoia, the subject doesn't know what is really happening, and is calling for help. Jake was insistent that the chorus ends with "The Reaper's on the way" twice, because it sounded better, and that idea ended up reinforcing the notion that our thought-patterns obsessively repeat themselves in a paranoid state. The second verse reflects the confusion between calling to a higher power for help or using your worldly resources. "I'm praying to the throne, I'm praying to the sky..." It's a final plea from the deathbed, and a final a reflection of how the character didn't have the time to fulfill their purpose in life.
The song was the first in our new repertoire as we prepared to compile our second album together. We began to play the song live, at the opening of our setlist, because it kicks off on the pickup note at full force. Opposite of the long intro from our debut album, with which Perfect Man opened our debut album, we wanted Volume II to be a short fuse to an explosion of sound. The themes in The Reaper weave in and out of the rest of the album. We composed the rest of the songs between shows dates and a handful of tours throughout 2017 and early 2018 before entering The Pearl Recording Studio in May 2018. We completed the basic tracking in 3 days, which was followed by vocal sessions and a few overdubs over a few weeks until the recording process was finished. Less than two months after recording Volume II, the lyrical themes soon hit much too close to home. Jake died by suicide on June 26th 2018.
When I received the phone call that he didn't show up for work that day, I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach - I knew that I was about to face the most devastating news that I'd ever been confronted with. Since Jake's death, I've spent a lot of time reflecting on our moments together. I've struggled with the indirect correlation between the themes in our songs and the reality that played out in Jake's life. Although The Reaper is not a direct story about Jake or myself, it is about the struggle with meaning that we all face in our lives. The honesty in the lyrics is derived from the human condition. The feelings we deal with while facing grief, on any spectrum or scale, are a major component in what makes us who we are. Although The Reaper is a dark subject-matter, my intention with this song was to bring the listener to the awareness that nothing in life is certain, so we should take every opportunity to live while we have the time. After nearly two years - dealing with the grief and then dealing with mixing phase of the album, Volume II is finally set for independent, worldwide release on Friday June 5th.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen and watch for yourself below and learn more about the album here