Spotlight: Buzz Jar

In a world where thousands of bands jockey to make names for themselves, Burlington’s Buzz Jar remain committed to their artistic authenticity. The band evolved out of The Marigolds, begun in 2004 by then New Jersey high-school students Jake Brennan and Johanna Hiller.As of October, with add-ons Willy Lamb-Orgel on bass and Steve Harutunian on drums, Buzz Jar is fast garnering a local following. Amidst clouds of cigarette smoke, the band settled around a large maple coffee table swapping bites of cereal and fish cakes and passing the mic. In their small apartment above Radio Bean, the soft candlelight established the mood as casual and sensual-a sincere reflection of their music. “Our first real show was a midnight show at Nectar’s in September, which was pretty big for us,” Hiller said. “We had to make a name for ourselves as musicians in Burlington as Buzz Jar,” she said.At the heart of Buzz Jar is their love of music. With no intention of fitting into one genre, the band is currently “experimenting with different tunings, [and] just trying to tackle new frontiers,” Hiller said.A self-declared ‘hodgepodge,’ Buzz Jar is influenced by “Wilco, Sonic Youth, Modest Mouse, country and rock ‘n’ roll,” agreed the band. “After writing quieter, slower ballads, I’ll want to write something that’s borderline punk,” Brennan said. The band’s lyricists, Jake and Johanna, have both evolved as song writers, each approaching the craft from a different angle.”All the lyrics that I write are very personal,” Brennan said. “They are either about me or people that I know, situations I’m in or situations that people I know are in. Sometimes I write in the first person about someone I know,” he said.For Hiller, her experience playing is akin to acting. “I mean I get to be up on stage. I’m an actress; I get to pretend to be someone else for that seven minutes,” she said. “For ‘Don’t Bite The Hand That Feeds,’ which is one of the epic songs we sing, I’m writing fabout a girl with whom I have nothing in common,” Hiller said. In the past few months, Buzz Jar has been working to weave the melodies and countermelodies of the two lead guitars in a classical style – in effect, establishing a mood that coheres lyrics and sound. It’s the area in which bassist Lamb-Orgel finds his purpose. “You leave the sound relatively open with the way your two parts interact, which is nice for me as an active bass player,” Lamb-Orgel said. “I find my role is to link everyone together.” Buzz Jar has been a popular fixture in the local student community, but as its members approach graduation (Hiller from UVM and Brennan from CCV), the band is looking to establish itself beyond the University.”We’re kind of stuck in the middle,” Brennan said. “We don’t quite fit in with the local scene, the ‘non-student’ downtown scene. It’s a little more about style, not so much about the music,” he said.While the upcoming months bring uncertainty, the band seeks to continue their fostered collaboration. “I really like what we do, the four of us,” Brennan said. “It’s hard to form a band, especially a band that sounds exactly the way you want it to sound.”