A Pain of Knowing: A conversation with Lee Buford of The Body
There are no bands quite like The Body. A prolific musical force to be reckoned with, the duo consisting of Chip King and Lee Buford create towering pillars of noise that crush mind, body and spirit, leaving only speckles of dust and fractured bones in their wake. With a career that spans just a little over 20 years, in which they have released countless of full-lengths, EPs and splits, as well as a myriad of collaborations with bands such as Full of Hell, Thou and Uniform, The Body have conjured an extensive and impressive body of work (no pun intended) that far exceeds expectations and continuously pushes the limits and tests the boundaries of sound. Just a few days ago, the duo released via Thrill Jockey their eighth full-length to date, entitled I’ve Seen All I Need To See, an album that was recorded together with engineer Seth Manchester of Machines With Magnets and and mastered by Matt Colton, and one that captures the complexities of distorted sound in stunning detail, its clarity and cacophony exceeding anything The Body had delivered up until that point.
With early reviews mentioning I’ve Seen All I Need To See as The Body’s most apocalyptic and vicious record to date, we talked with drummer Lee Buford the creative and recording process behind The Body’s new record, I’ve Seen All I Need To See, as well as the multitude of collaborations they have been involved in throughout their 20+ year career and their plans for the immediate future.
When you founded The Body, did you envision the band having such longevity, especially in the genre you play?
Definitely not. I mean, I don’t think we’ve ever really thought about it, we still don’t really think about it as far as, I guess, anything. Basically, it’s just me and Chip, and we hang out every day together, so I think it’s just a continuation of that. At this point, it’s kind of like second nature, we don’t really think about it. Maybe after the quarantine ends and things get back to normal, like touring and stuff, maybe it’ll feel different.
When listening to and researching about your new record, I’ve Seen All I Need To See, I read that it was both a return and a departure for the band. What do you mean by that?
We started out making records with all these extra overdubs, the choir and things like that because we couldn’t really sound like how we do live. So, we were like, how else can we fill up the sound to make it interesting and have the impact of a live show? And then, we started working like that and on this one I think we were like, let’s go back and see if we can make it interesting, but instead of adding other people, just add insane distortion and stuff. I think this record sounds more like we do live, so in that way it’s more accurate, I guess. But it is a departure from our usual recording style. It’s like me and Chip just went in and played it like normal.
You could almost say it is almost like a live album but with new material.
Yeah, I think so because, usually, we’ll build everything up. Like I’ll have a drum beat or Chip will have a sample, we lay that down and start building stuff from there. For a while, both of us haven’t gotten to the room and be like, I’ll count this off and you start playing [laughs] We haven’t done that in a while as far as an official release goes.
It’s also a way to keep things simple as well, right?
Yeah, definitely. It did seem weird to do it like that because it seemed like way too simple but I think it came out okay.
“I think this record sounds more like we do live, so in that way it’s more accurate,
I guess. But it is a departure from our usual recording style. It’s like me and Chip
just went in and played it like normal.”
Seth Manchester handled recording duties for the new record once again. How is it working with him and what do you feel he brings to the table in terms of the recording process?
Seth is one of our best friends outside of recording, so it’s always fun to work with him. I think he has fun in the same way we do because we like trying new things and for him, I think he likes having a break from going in and recording bands like, do a song ten times in a row, you know? So, for us it’s like, okay we have this part, what can we add to that? And we just fuck around with stuff and I think it’s more open for him. And at this point, he knows what we like and what we want to do, I think he had a lot of fun trying to figure out how to get the best sound out of doing it. Everything I record, I record with Seth for the most part, we’re on the same page like 99% of the time, so it’s definitely easy.
Was any of the material improvised on the spot or was it planned out before you hit the studio?
It’s usually never planned out. That’s another thing, me and Chip have been playing together for so long, it’s easy for us to be like, alright, we’ll go fuck around. Then it’ll be like, okay, we got something, and then Seth will record it and we’ll be like, alright, let’s have an idea for something like this going forward. It actually goes pretty fast and on something like this, there’s not too much editing as far as, you know, this part doesn’t work, let’s put this part in. It’s pretty much like, go in, record it and then fuck around with the sound for a couple of days.
It was a pretty straightforward process in terms of recording, then.
For sure, it was probably one of the easier ones on our end. But it was also weird to record it because once we figured out how it was going to sound, we kind of had to change the way we play. You can’t really hit cymbals, because they would just ring out forever and Chip can’t really play too fast because then it just sounds like mud. So, it was definitely like, okay, we can’t do these things, so now we have to like… It’s weird to think about music in a way of, okay, we can’t do this and this, so somewhere in between, we have to keep it and it’s weird to do that. [laughs]
The artworks of your releases have always been diverse, ranging from old photographs to minimalistic and sometimes aggressive drawings. How far into the recording process do you decide what type of artwork you want for a record?
It’s always afterwards. On this one, we knew our friend Alex [Barton] was going to do the cover. Alex is an old friend of ours – when I lived in Providence, I lived with him for ten years or something. He did the cover for the last Uniform collaboration and it’s the same kind of thing, he knows what we like, we’re on the same page. I sent him the record and was like, let me know what you can come up with, and he had a couple of different designs that were on the same vein, but there was no needed input from us. I think we were like, maybe a different font, but everything else was all him. It worked out perfect, I think.
Do you have a preference between using photography or an artwork piece as the cover of a record?
Not really, I think it just depends on what is what, you know what I mean? On All The Waters, we had a specific idea for that one, so photography worked. I had fought against it, I had a specific image in mind that I wanted to do, but beyond that, unless it’s a specific thing, I leave it to the artist.
Over the years you have collaborated with numerous bands, such as Full of Hell, Thou & Uniform. What is your approach when it comes to collaborations? Is there an initial goal you want to accomplish or you just let things flow and progress naturally?
The first one with Thou, we would go down to Baton Rouge, practice with them for like a week and then go into the studio. The second one, we kind of practiced a little bit and then went in. Those were a little bit more structured, I think. With Full of Hell and Uniform, it’s looser, kind of like how we record normally, where we have some ideas of what we want to do. With Full of Hell, we’d usually tour together and at the end of it be like, okay, we’ve been talking about what we want to do throughout the tour, then we get to the studio and it’s like, Spencer [Hazard] has an idea for this or Chip has an idea for that. And we kind of just go through the list and we try to figure something out. But it’s very “play it by the moment”, just do whatever.
“For sure, it was probably one of the easier ones on our end. But it was also weird to record it because once we figured out how it was going to sound, we kind of had to change the way we play.”
Most collaborative records are a “one time only” deal. What made you go back and do more collabs with some of the bands you had already collaborated with?
Mainly because we are such good friends. But also, a lot of collaborations when there’s just one, you’re kind of like, I wonder what they would do next, you know what I mean? I feel like a lot of time it’s like things will get touched upon but they don’t get… You know, it’s like a band’s first record, either it’s like really good because it’s what they’ve been building for their whole career, or you’re like, oh they’re really starting off, I wonder what the next thing is going to be. So, I think that plays into it a lot, just like, I wonder what else could happen beyond this, you know?
Are there other artists you would like to collaborate with in the future?
We actually have three collaborations coming out, I think this year! [laughs] We did one with Big Brave that is more straightforward, there’s not much distortion, Robin [Wattie] sings very pretty, there’s no screaming. I’m interested to see how that goes out. Then we did one with our friend AJ, who does like a techno thing called OAA, which is definitely more beat heavy. And we started a collaboration with Dis Fig, who is also great and with whom we have been sending stuff back and forth, and hopefully that will get moving along faster soon.
Despite the pandemic, and apart from this new record and the collaborations you just talked about, what are the plans of The Body looking like for the immediate future? Are you guys planning any tour?
No, not really. We had a tour booked for last Summer and that got pushed to next Summer, but even then, I don’t know if that’s even going to happen. It’s not that big of a deal for us, we can just wait, we’re okay not touring. When we can, we will, you know? We just did three records, we still got stuff going on.
Do you envision things getting better soon for artists to be able to tour again?
I don’t think so. Maybe in Europe, it seems better in Europe, but here… I don’t see it happening anytime in the next year or two, probably.
Personally, I don’t expect anything happening in the Summer, but maybe in the Fall, maybe next year, who knows?
Yeah, I mean, I see people posting things about tours over there so, I don’t know, let’s see what happens. I definitely don’t want to be the first round of touring, that’s for sure! [laughs]
What are some of the artists and bands you have been listening to lately, and what 2021 releases are you most excited about?
This year, I’ve been listening to a lot of reggae and stuff. As far as new records, I listened to that new Mary Lattimore record a lot and Julianna Barwick as well. Oliver Coates put out a record that was really good too. Yeah, stuff like that. I guess, more experimental kind of stuff but ambient, laid back stuff more than noise. I don’t know what’s coming out. I know that Full of Hell just recorded at Machines With Magnets with Seth as well, so I’m really excited to see what the Seth treatment does for them.
“It’s not that big of a deal for us, we can just wait, we’re okay not touring. When we can, we will, you know? We just did three records, we still got stuff going on.”
Interview by Filipe Silva
Photo by Zachary Harrell Jones, courtesy of The Body