Photo by Jack GouldJay Buchanan and his buddy Ty used to head out to Krispy Kreme at bar-closing time, unplug those quarter kiddie rides you see in strip malls, and plug themselves in instead for a little guerrilla busking. The people who lined up for Hot Glazed—sometimes up to 60 cars—loved it, but it sure pissed off the nearby homeowners, who called the cops. Goddamn homeowners.
Were the cops nice? "No," says Buchanan. "The cops were stupid."
Jay Buchanan is scruffy and pink-cheeked. He has ridiculous Hawaii Five-O sideburns and good shoes. He is elfin, even Beck-like. He's also the most soulful pup to hit the county since . . . well, the county's not really known for "heartfelt," is it? Sure, No Doubt's got a pretty, soulful new song about wanting babies and a home, but does anyone really believe Gwen Stefani's claim that all she ever wanted was "the simple kind of life"? Then why did she spend 10 years trying to become a rock star? Answer me that, Gwen Stefani!
I'm sorry. This is not an article about No Doubt—although they are woefully underexposed, aren't they? This is an article about 24-year-old Jay Buchanan—who has the simple life you want, Gwen, with a wife and 2-year-old baby of his own—who is not woefully underexposed. He and his backing boys (who, sadly, lack a name) are conquering OC town by town; they're setting up residencies at places like Fullerton's Hub Cafe, Anaheim's Linda's Doll Hut (where they just finished a monthlong Wednesday-night run), Lake Forest's Gypsy Lounge and Long Beach's Lava Lounge (the hippest bowling-alley bar in the goddamn world), pounding and pounding away until every sensitive hipster within the city limits is showing up weekly and mouthing the words while gazing at their loafers.
His music even made the Doll Hut's Linda Jemison cry. "He'll break your heart," she says. He doesn't fit into any of our easy OC genres (although I suppose he could be emo, since I still can't figure out exactly what emo is), but you could call him a Southern-fried alterna-folk-rock hippie, if you were hell-bent on pigeonholing. One recent set at the Doll Hut opened with a greasy, skull-splattering version of "If You Leave," a vicious song in which he threatens to get out his shotgun 'cuz his woman's been doing him wrong. It's sexy as hell, in that mean-as-a-snakebite way that Christopher Walken is sexy, but he doesn't perform it often.
"I don't want to give props to domestic violence," Buchanan says, explaining that he wrote it four days before O.J.'s Bronco chase down the 5. Former Long Beach buzz band Ruby Diver used to play the song a lot. But "evil" is only a part of Buchanan's repertoire—although as far as I'm concerned, it's the best part. When Buchanan's not being evil, he's being downright sensitive. Hell, half the time (especially on the melodic "Violence") he sounds like Tracy Chapman, for God's sake. Do you want "Sympathy for the Devil," or do you want "Rocky Mountain High"? "If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)" or "Dancing on the Ceiling"? Picasso or Thomas Kincaide?
Consider the malevolence of these lyrics: "She is so skinny/So sick and pretty/And if I can't have a girl like that/Then I don't want any."
Or: "Well, the pigs can make their promises/And the chickens, they just cluck/But when the rooster is walking up the ramp/They all know it's time to fuck."
Or: "And I heard she killed her husband with a black frying pan/La-da-dee-dee-dee."
Are they not malevolent? Oui.
Now consider these lyrics: "I'll pick you up/And I will not desert you/I will never let them hurt you again/ I'll pick you up/And deliver you from silence/And walk away from violence."
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That's great. That's nice. But that ain't no shotgun or rutting chickens, you dig? Or these: "You had on your brown dress/A little darker than your skin/But I guess that you know . . . That is my favorite thing/That you wear."
Now, that's downright icky!
Luckily, although Buchanan's tunes feature loads of lovely guitar work and some unfortunately gloppy love stuff, he's still a bastard. Keep it up, Jay. In fact, do your best to become a real motherfucker. They'll thank you in the end.
Jay Buchanan plays La Vida Roadhouse, 6105 Carbon Canyon Rd., Brea, (714) 996-0720. Sat., 10 p.m. $8-$10. 21+.