Saturday, March 12, 2016

Buzz Zeemer No Depression article - 1999

A July/August 1999 No Depression Buzz Zeemer article written by Phil Sheridan.

Buzz Zeemer - Nothing Comes Easy 
June 30, 1999 

The story of Buzz Zeemer is really two stories, each straight out of the standard rock 'n' roll manual. First, there was Flight of Mavis, a three-piece band from the Replacements school of melodic, attitudinal rock. Distinguished by Frank Brown's cut-above songwriting and warm, personable singing voice, Mavis seemed in flight toward great things in the late 1980s and early '90s. 

The highlight and lowlight were one and the same: a six-week tour opening for the Reivers. "We were exhausted," Brown said. "We were gone for six weeks and we each came home with $50 in our pockets. I mean, it was a great experience. It was fun. But 50 bucks?" A lot more than 50 bucks was riding on the second story, whose star was a promising rocker named Tommy Conwell. Signed to a big bonus and hyped to the hilt by Columbia Records, Conwell and his band, the Young Rumblers, were all set to be stars. Surprise, surprise: It didn't quite happen. 

The stories collided in the mid-1990s. Brown broke up Mavis around the same time that Conwell got his degree in education and became the hippest second-grade teacher in North America. Eventually, the two started playing together in a new band, Buzz Zeemer (whose lineup also included other former Mavis members). Their debut disc, Plaything, came out in 1995. 

Looking back, Brown can't say whether it was a mistake to break up Flight of Mavis. Any momentum they'd built up seemed to disappear with the name change, but Brown's view is that there wasn't much there to begin with. "We had momentum when the first Buzz Zeemer came out; that was like another round of attention," Brown said. "But I think you only get a certain amount. You have certain periods, and that really goes with any band." 

Buzz Zeemer's new record, Delusions Of Grandeur, is a subversively brilliant pop-rock record on Philly's Record Cellar label. Brown, 34, is a master of the three-minute pop song, a quality craftsman along the lines of Jack Logan or Tommy Keene. Brown's innate gift for melody is surpassed by spare lyrics that reveal layers of meaning and emotion not apparent on first listen. "Red Balloon", from the new album, is a straightforward tale of a kid being goaded to spend more money by the barker at a midway water-gun game. But when Brown lets loose with "Nothing is free, nothing comes easy," you realize the barker is every slick A & R guy and the kid is every wide-eyed musician who ever stepped up to take a shot at the grand prize. 

"I love pop songs," Brown said. "You get to a point where you invested so much time listening to rock music, it doesn't do you any good. You can't make any money from it, but you have all this worthless knowledge." 

Again and again on Delusions, Brown establishes the foundation with a catchy verse and memorable chorus, and then Conwell steps up and elevates the song to another level with a virtuosic solo or two. That might sound formulaic, but the whole thing is carried off with a joy bordering on goofiness. You can't help smiling along. 

"Tommy's great," Brown said. "My feelings about getting anywhere [with the band]...I mean, I don't think about it. But just the idea of playing with Tom, that's half of what keeps you going. I'd write a song and I always had this hole left for Tom. It's so hilarious to be able to write something you're happy about and then have Tommy put the icing on. Anything you imagine, he can play." 

There is a definite connection between the relaxed brilliance of the tunes and the life stages of the band members. Brown has a 1-year-old son and is working on getting his degree. Conwell is teaching. The pressure is off. 

"You still hope," Brown said, "but everyone has so much going on in their lives. It's so different from eight or 10 years ago. That's a whole different world. There's nothing you can do to make yourselves bigger. You can't just go, 'We're big.' Because we just can't take it seriously enough to believe it."

Through It All - Buzz Zeemer (live)

Fans on YouTube sometimes leave the most amazing quotes: 

“Wow!! Thanks for all of the videos. This one makes me wish i could go back in time. We're all lucky to have been part of this sh*t! And for all of you that missed it… Sorry about your luck. It was one hell of a ride!!!”
This statement really sums up the adoration for this amazing Philly band! Hope you enjoyed Buzz Zeemer week on Audio Rumble!

Travel Lanes' bass player Mitch Cojocariu on Buzz Zeemer

Travel Lanes' bass player Mitch Cojocariu adds some words about #BuzzZeemer20.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Gerry McGoldrick

From Gerry McGoldrick, frequent song co-writer with Frank Brown, a Record Cellar alumnus and songwriter behind Napalm Sunday, Emily Valentine and Solid for Sixty--with his thoughts on Buzz Zeemer’s Plaything. #BuzzZeemer20

Matt Maguire - #BuzzZeemer20

Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Matt Maguire with some words on #BuzzZeemer20.

An EP from Maguire's project, Larabee, was produced by Ken Buono, Buzz Zeemer drummer and a veteran of the Philly scene; Buono also played drums with Flight Of Mavis and for his own band, The Tell-Alls. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Buzz Zeemer - In Reviews

A snapshot of Buzz Zeemer…in reviews. 

(Various Buzz Zeemer critic reviews -- Plaything in 1996 and Delusions of Grandeur in 1998 -- compiled by Audio Rumble from the now defunct Record Cellar website.) ‪#‎BuzzZeemer20‬

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Buzz Zeemer Billboard Magazine mention - October 1995

"…melodic pop-rock band Buzz Zeemer…has stepped up to the most-unjustly unsigned level since adding Tommy Conwell on lead guitar."

- Billboard Magazine, Indie Labels Discover Freedom in Philly – 10/28/1995

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Onstage at the Theatre of the Living Arts: Buzz Zeemer

In 1996, PRISM, a now-defunct cable television channel in Philadelphia, aired a concert special -- PRISM and The Art Institute of Philadelphia Present ‘Onstage at the TLA: Buzz Zeemer.’ 

Included with concert footage of Buzz Zeemer at Theatre of the Living Arts were thirteen songs, interspersed with interviews of the band: Frank Brown, Tommy Conwell, Dave McElroy and Ken Buono.

  • Sometimes 
  • Break My Heart
  • I Live Next Door 
  • Everything You Should 
  • Downed 
  • She Don’t Care 
  • Chosen One 
  • Red Balloon 
  • Don’t Pull Away 
  • Crush 
  • Lost and Found 
  • Goin’ Home 
  • Through It All 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Everybody’s got a favorite band that they think nobody knows about...

A 2007 Buzz Zeemer piece from the blog, Teenage Kicks:

"Everybody’s got a favorite band that they think nobody knows about. Mine is Buzz Zeemer (nee Flight of Mavis). If you live in the Philadelphia area, shame on you if you don’t know these guys. They recorded the jangle power pop gems Delusions of Grandeur (1999) and the near perfect Play Thing (1996) and if you’ve got room in your heart for Cheap Trick, the Replacements, NRBQ, Elvis Costello, Marshall Crenshaw, Big Star, The Clash and The Beach Boys, then head right to cdbaby and buy Play Thing. It's uber-melodic, heart-on-your-sleeve, poptastic songwriting with Frank Brown's slightly melancholic yet pitch perfect vocals evoking a love child of Elvis Costello and Lucinda Williams.

Yeah... it's that good."

L to R: Tommy Conwell, Ken Buono, Frank Brown, Dave McElroy

Buzz Zeemer on Walnut Street - 1996

Buzz Zeemer plays on Walnut St.- Philly-1996. Tommy Conwell, Ken Buono, Frank Brown, Dave McElroy.(Image from Buzz Zeemer's MySpace page.)

Buzz Zeemer PRISM Interview - 1996

To quote Tommy Conwell -- "Frank (Brown) is a great songwriter..." ‪

Buzz Zeemer's lead singer and songwriter, Frank Brown, talks about the "three-minute, thirty-second" pop song and how it fits into the band's mold. 

Interview on PRISM with Tommy Conwell, Ken Buono and Dave McElroy in 1996. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

I Live Next Door

“I live next door to Buzz Zeemer!”

This video performance showcases an early version of Frank Brown’s Buzz Zeemer featuring Kevin Salem (Dumptruck) on lead guitar. With Dave McElroy on bass and Ken Buono on drums.

A different version of the recording for the song "I Live Next Door" was later officially released on Play Thing in 2006.

Useless Information (live) - Buzz Zeemer

Just one of the many examples of their great live showmanship, here’s audio of Buzz Zeemer performing “Useless Information” live at Upstairs at Nicks in Philly, USA - ‪‬ April 4, 1997. With Tommy Conwell on backing vocals!

Audio featuring Frank Brown on lead vocals and guitar, Tommy Conwell on backing vocals and guitar, Dave McElroy on bass and Ken Buono on drums.


Bonus images of Buzz Zeemer [Brown, Conwell, McElroy, Buono] at the same event--Upstairs at Nick's in Philly! [April 4, 1997]

Thanks to Henry Kujawa for posting to his Facebook page.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Buzz Zeemer - 20th Anniversary Release of 'Play Thing'

The year 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the official release of an independently-released album from Record Cellar called Play Thing--made by the little band that could--a band called Buzz Zeemer.

Audio Rumble is taking a week out of 2016 to revisit the music and musicians of Buzz Zeemer--one of the great Philadelphia rock bands of the 1990s! ‪

Follow the posts on Audio Rumble's Facebook page.

Day 1 
:::: Concert audio (and images) - "Useless Information” at Upstairs at Nicks in Philly, USA - ‪‬ April 4, 1997
:::: I Live Next Door to Buzz Zeemer!

Day 2 
:::: To quote Tommy Conwell [interview]--"Frank (Brown) is a great songwriter..."  

:::: Buzz Zeemer - live on Walnut Street
:::: "Everybody’s got a favorite band that they think nobody knows about. Mine is Buzz Zeemer."

Day 3
:::: Buzz Zeemer concert special on PRISM - "Onstage at the TLA: Buzz Zeemer"
:::: Billboard magazine mention, October 1995 +
:::: The greatest combination of a lead rock singer and rock n roll guitar player since Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen: Buzz Zeemer’s Frank Brown and Tommy Conwell! 
:::: Record Cellar's Last Hurrah  

Day 4
:::: Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Matt Maguire with some words on #BuzzZeemer20. 

Day 5 
:::: Buzz Zeemer interview: Tommy Conwell's role in the band 
:::: "The hook on 'Crush' is so infectious you want to loop it over and over and play it forever."
:::: "TC in the house!" Buzz Zeemer performing "My Blue Heaven"
:::: A snapshot of Buzz Zeemer…in critic's reviews.

Day 6 
:::: Buzz Zeemer performs a cover of The Upper Crust's "Let Them Eat Rock" with Tommy Conwell on vocals
:::: "Don't Hang Up" mash-up video
:::: Gerry McGoldrick (of Napalm Sunday) and his thoughts on Buzz Zeemer 
:::: Buzz Zeemer at South by Southwest | 1996
:::: Record Cellar's promotional concert image of Buzz Zeemer 

Day 7
:::: Link to a July/August 1999 No Depression article written by Phil Sheridan
:::: Thanks to Travel Lanes' bass player Mitch Cojocariu for his contribution to #BuzzZeemer20 

:::: Buzz Zeemer covers Flight of Mavis' Through It All