Song of the Day: Avi Buffalo – What’s In It For?

photo by Jeff Antebi

photo by Jeff Antebi

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday, we deliver songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “What’s In It For?” by Avi Buffalo from the 2010 self-titled album on Sub Pop.

Avi Buffalo – What’s In It For? (MP3)

Today’s Song of the Day is a refreshing dose of ear candy from Long Beach’s Avi Buffalo. Avi Isenberg, the band’s brainchild, and lead vocalist and guitarist, first appeared solo at a Long Beach vegan restaurant. He immediately caught the attention of the local music scene and impressed engineer Aaron Embry (Elliott Smith, Emmylou Harris). The acoustic set, backed up by fellow Millikan High School mates, Rebecca Coleman, Sheridan Riley, and Arin Fazio evolved into the full-fledged band, Avi Buffalo. With Embry on board, several tracks were recorded and put up on their MySpace page. The rest has been an ever-evolving ascension of popularity, most-notably getting picked up by Sub Pop for their debut full-length, which is slated to release on April 27th.

“What’s In It For?,” the band’s first 7-inch single, and one of the first songs they recorded just for fun, opens up right away, as if you picked up the telephone line and were eavesdropping on an intimate conversation. Coleman’s backup vocals add a multidimensional dreaminess and her lilting keys played in a seemingly nonsensical fashion add refreshment to the overall arrangement. The structure of the song is deceitfully simple, yet carries you away for slightly more than five minutes with little waves of inventive guitar lines and bent melodies. Isenberg’s vocals are nasally and weathered in a Neil Young-ish sort of way, and evokes the image of a singer far beyond Isenberg’s 19 years old.

The lyrics themselves are so exposed, you want to shy away from really understanding the raw sexual frustration that they evoke. Starting off with “I walked in on a plan to dissolve all of your wishes, but I couldn’t help your mouth which I missed by two inches…” Innocent enough. But with other songs such as “Summer Cum” and “Where Is Your Dirty Mind?” It’s hard not to wonder when Avi is speaking in double entendre.

Avi Buffalo is currently on tour supporting Japandroids, and you can look forward to seeing them this summer with Modest Mouse and Blitzen Trapper. Follow the stream of realization as their popularity unfolds on their Facebook page or check out their MySpace page for complete tour dates and more music. For now, check out this live video of “Truth Sets In” from the Laundro Matinee sessions at the Monolith Music Festival.

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  1. Chris Estey
    Posted April 15, 2010 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Good Lord! You really beat me to this at Three Imaginary Girls. What an amazing song (it’s been in my head all night last night, coasting through my dreams) and you did an amazing job writing up the band and their music’s appeal. Bravo! Though I’ve been totally scooped!

  2. Al
    Posted April 15, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    I really really love this song. It’s maybe worth mentioning though that the song’s title is actually “What’s In It For?”

  3. jason123
    Posted April 16, 2010 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Avi seems like a seriously talented kid. Crazy their so young and so good. “What’s In It For?” is a great tune. We have a really cool interview with Avi that will be up at

  4. James Christian
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    What’s in it for is a song that I just can’t get off heavy rotation in the deep corners fo my mind. It is already a classic, however, I was sad to hear that they can’t pull it off live, and that the song’s magic is studio based. This song works sooooooo well.

  5. Posted May 9, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Love this song! My band, Jessie Murphy In the Woods, is playing the Great Escape Festival in Brighton this month and I can’t wait to see Avi Buffalo play.

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