Press G

There is an endless amount of art made about the pain and glory of one's teenage years; considerably less is made of the period immediately following. Those transitional years, from 18 to about 22, are equally if not more significant than those which precede them, a time in which you are abruptly handed agency over your own life and forced to fend for yourself. The music of BUFFEE, based between Bristol and Manchester, precisely captures the agitation, thrill and downright chaos of those formative years. A collage of hardstyle, dramatic balladry and pop music at its most jagged, BUFFEE's soundscapes are paired with vocals whose plaintive clarity contrast winningly with the aural chaos that surrounds her. She recently released “Heaven”, a thunderous rager which brings to mind the cut-glass clarity of early-PC Music, albeit tempered with a very 2020s sense of information overload. A Noods Radio alumnus, BUFFEE spoke to TANK on composition, distortion and the poker-themed video for “Heaven”. Listen to her TANK Mix, which explores gothic chamber pop and experimental piano works, and read the interview below.

TANK How did you start making music?
BUFFEE I played piano as a kid until I was in my mid-teenage years, but I’ve been writing songs in my head since primary school. The first one I ever did was called “The Snow Will Fall in Canada”. I think it was because I had a friend who lived there for a short time but it was very boring and completely meaningless. I can still sing it. I have a whole library of songs that live exclusively in my head. When I was 17 or 18 I decided I wanted to write choral compositions so I started recording with my headphones on Audacity. I realised that I wasn't great at that and really I was trying to write pop songs: the voices could be instruments and samples instead. I got a crack of Ableton and taught myself on there.

TANK I’m struck at the way your music hinges on oppositions: clubby and DIY-sounding, sonically dense yet spacious, merging the “artifice” of synthesisers with the “reality” of the voice. How do you synthesise these disparate elements?
BUFFEE I think the voice is super important: that's where everything in my music comes from. A lot of the percussion and synthesised sounds are voice recordings that are sliced up and processed. Synthesis in the scientific sense is a bit of a mystery for me. I love club music and going out but I mostly listen to melodic songs when I'm home, so those elements creep into my music through the back of my brain. Dancing to club music is really euphoric: I use it as a shortcut for extreme emotions. At the end of the day, if you want to move people, you can just physically move them with a danceable song.

TANK You’ve spoken about the addiction of “fictionalising your experiences when on an emotional downturn”. Could you expand upon what this means for you lyrically?
BUFFEE It means using music as a way to get things out of your system. it gets a bit complicated when those things are used to construct a pop persona. You've got to be careful not to make feeling shit a part of who you are and your way of being.

TANK You described your single “Heaven” as a compositional “Frankenstein’s monster” assembled from other tracks. How conscious are you of songwriting structure – verses, choruses and the like – when composing your tracks?
BUFFEE I'm not very conscious of blocking things up: I tend to base things on a sense of what feels right. Heaven was assembled from lots of songs that didn’t feel quite right and I struck a balance when I sewed it all together.

TANK Could you name an unexpected influence on your music?
BUFFEE Dirty Projectors: lyrical and melodic geniuses, and most of all, great singing. Less of an influence, more of a benchmark to aspire towards.

TANK What inspired the video for “Heaven”, in which you play poker while constantly Googling life advice?
BUFFEE I had the idea initially because I wanted to look all cool and pop star and do something badass like winning at poker, for a song that is all cool and unemotional. Manu [Mactaggart] who made the video and developed the concept added the Googling and the arguing to undermine that and make it all fall apart. My attempt at the cool image falls flat – I've got a stiff face in front of cameras and an aversion to other people hearing my music which proves difficult when filming a music video. I think the Googles highlight quite well the sense that I don’t know what I'm doing, the sense that the successful construction of “Heaven” is as much of a fluke as me winning big in the video.

TANK What was the vision for your heavily distorted cover art?
BUFFEE I tend to use Photoshop in the same janky way I use Ableton, where I press a lot of buttons and see what happens. The shot for Heaven is a self-portrait I took in frustration after my SD card corrupted in the final five minutes of a two-hour shoot. I had to abandon my concept and I veiled the image in the colours that came to me when I thought of the song. It's a bit dreamy and obscure but still very ‘look at me!’ ◉