Best of What's Next: Buxton

Music Features Buxton
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Hometown: Houston
Members: Sergio Trevino, Chris Wise, Jason Willis, Justin Terrell, Haley Barnes, Austin Sepulvaldo
Album: Nothing Here Seems Strange
For Fans Of: My Morning Jacket, Avett Brothers, Robert Ellis

“When you look at things in life, it seems so weird, like unnatural a lot of times,” Buxton frontman Sergio Trevino says. “But in the sense of how strange and weird things can be, it’s always been that way.”

He’s describing how the band settled on Nothing Here Seems Strange as the name of the Houston band’s impressive third album. “It’s a line from the last track ‘Body Count,’” he continues. “It’s basically just looking at the way people are and the things that people do. And that’s the way it’s always been, and that’s the way it’s always going to be—that people are going to be bad, people are going to be good. It’s saying that that’s just the way it is.”

It’s clear that Trevino and fellow co-founder Chris Wise have become comfortable just rolling with life’s punches, particularly when it comes to the band’s trajectory. It’s why you don’t see many “Best of What’s Next” artists finally garnering attention eight years and three records into their career. The slow build has allowed the band to develop into the evocative Americana-laced six-piece that they are today.

Buxton began as an acoustic trio in 2003, when Trevino, Wise and Jason Willis lived in the Houston suburb of LaPorte. Still in high school, the three friends wrote songs together for fun with no real serious aspirations. It was the first time Trevino and Wise had ever been in a band.

“Of course we wanted more people to hear our music, but it was never, ‘Let’s try and be the biggest thing in the world,’” Wise recalls. “We just liked writing music together and it was kind of happenstance. It just continued to build into something bigger.”

After writing music and playing together throughout the years, the founding three members slowly and thoughtfully developed their vision for what Buxton as a band could and should become, later more vocals and instruments, including drums for a fuller sound.

“We were recording our [sophomore] record Family Light, and at the time we were still kind of a three-piece with drums being filled in,” Wise explains. “It wasn’t so much of a concerted effort as it was writing for the songs. … I think we’ve just naturally written on a bigger scale.”

They doubled their size with Justin Terrell on drums, Haley Barnes on keyboard and vocals, and multi-instrumentalist Austin Sepulvaldo—a former member of fellow Houstonite Robert Ellis’ backing band The Boys.

There’s simply more energy on Nothing Here Seems Strange. Trevino’s songwriting has matured, and the group’s expansion adeptly fills out his songs, adding multiple harmonies one moment while emphasizing his narratives the next.

As the band grew in size, so did its aspirations. After refining their sound around Houston for years, they caught the attention of New West Records—a label that’s been emphasizing emerging acts after signing songwriting stalwarts like Steve Earle, John Hiatt, Kris Kristofferson and Buddy Miller.

Instead of looking for ways to get noticed, Buxton refused to let their ambitions get ahead of their own self-evaluations, always questioning if they were even ready for the next level. But the band’s time has come, and Nothing Here Seems Strange simply begs to be heard. “On the previous record [A Family Light], I don’t know if we were ready to do that,” Wise admits. “I feel like on this record, everyone believes in it enough where it makes sense… to invest yourself in it.”

At the very least, Wise and Trevino feel confident enough about the band’s course that they recently quit their day jobs—a sign that they’re as serious as ever about Buxton. It may not have always been the end goal, but it’s slowly progressed to this point where these six musicians seem ready to make this jump. “We definitely put the chips in at this point,” Wise says. “This is what we want to do, and fortunately we got to make a record where it makes sense to do that.”