How to Start A Buzzband, Mom

Dear Mom,

You should start a buzzband. Don’t worry, you’re not too old. You can even play the guitar well enough to be in one. You could be the 40-something-year-old-lady Bon Iver equivalent. In this letter I will cover the basics of being in a buzzband. I could go into so much more detail about what it is that makes the buzzband, but you really only need to know a few things to get you on your way to being just like Justin Vernon. Wait, you don’t know who Justin Vernon is? That’s just fine.


The first thing that you need to know is that you are not too old.

A few months ago, PJ Harvey released the record, Let England Shake, arguably the best album she has ever made. The album was rich with youthful energy, and political spite, but the absolute best thing about it was hearing how she could balance the opinionated energy of her previous releases such as Dry and To Bring You My Love, coupled with a newfound maturity that only comes with age. She recorded this absolutely wonderful album at an age that is usually perceived as “beyond artistic prime.” You could totally do the same.

It’s perfectly fine that you don’t know who PJ Harvey is. The point is that she was a totally successful and relevant buzzband as an old person. You are not too old.


The second thing you need to know is that you don’t need to be talented; you just need a reverb pedal.

You probably think that you are going to have to practice the guitar a bunch and start taking voice lessons. That’s not the case. Although, I don’t blame you for thinking that you actually need to be talented to be successful in the music industry, because that’s probably how it used to be.

I’ll be willing to bet you that 2/3 of people in relevant buzzbands don’t know how to read music.

You have bands like Animal Collective who just scream into microphones and hit buttons on a sampler machine to make dissonant noise. You don’t know what Animal Collective is? You don’t know what a sampler is? That’s okay. You don’t need to.

It’s perfectly okay if you can’t sing very well, either. Do you know who Noah Lennox is? Okay, just kidding – you don’t know his real name. His stage name is “Panda Bear.” Don’t laugh. That’s really what he calls himself. You really don’t know who he is? That’s perfectly okay.

See, Noah Lennox can’t sing all that well, either. But Noah simply uses this thing called, “digital reverb” to fix that. With “digital reverb,” Noah can sing into a microphone and the resulting noise sounds like he is singing inside of a cave. A lot of artists who have bad voices use it to cover up what bad singers they are, but in the name of being artistic.


The thing you need to know is that you need a good name.

Another thing we can learn from Noah Lennox is the importance of naming your buzzband appropriately. Try to think up words and phrases that are used in everyday conversation for your band’s name, like, “How Was Your Day?” Other things that work well are words that sound close to nature, things that sound sophisticated and foreign but really just mean something like “Good Soup” in French. Oh, also, because you are kind of old, don’t forget to include something that makes people feel nostalgic when they hear your band’s name. Like, “Record Player” or, “Drinking an Ice-Cold Soda On An Afternoon In The Summertime.” And don’t forget that anything with an animal’s name in it is failsafe. Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, Panda Bear, whatever.


The fourth thing you need to know is that you need a good story, a cabin, and even more reverb.

If you are still a little bit in doubt of your musical and singing abilities to form a buzzband, let me tell you about Bon Iver. Bon Iver is just one dude who can’t play the guitar or sing all that well, but people really respect him and his music because he has a really good back-story. According to him, he had a really bad breakup with a band and then took a guitar and a Tascam DP-008 multitracker into a cabin in Vermont and isolated himself and out of the isolation came “so much beauty!”

We don’t even know if any of this is true, but we do know that every single critic’s response to his debut album, supposedly recorded in aforementioned cabin in Vermont, said something along the lines of, “Isolation has never sounded this beautiful and you can really hear the wooden confines of the Vermont cabin it was recorded in!

It also might be good to note that Bon Iver follows many other rules of being in a buzzband, such as having a foreign sounding name and using a crapload of “digital reverb.” And he’s not even that good at his instrument – or singing, for that matter – he just loads a bunch of reverb on his music so it sounds “artistic” and “lonely” and “in a cave.”

But anyhow, you need a good story. I recommend you take a few days off of work and “isolate” yourself in our basement to record an EP. You just needed to take some time off of parenting, and the stress of working a job. The EP would be titled, “You Betcha’ I’m Taking A Break From Being A Hockey Mom, EP.” I can help you put in on


The fifth thing you need to know is that you are not in this alone.

Please reply and tell me whatever it is that you don’t understand or if, while you are researching buzzbands, you come across something that scares or confuses you. For example, while searching through the Tumblrs and Twitter feeds of many relevant people, you may come across a link to a song by a woman named Joanna Newsom. Do not click on this link.

I am here for you, every step of the way of forming a buzzband.


Your (Favorite) Son TC mark

image – Wikipedia


More From Thought Catalog

  • spencasaurus

    There are so many examples of “buzzband” singers who can't sing. You picked two who are very obviously talented. Seriously? 0/10.

  • Lazyroar

    Of all the people you could have picked as being bad singers, you picked Noah Lennox? The dude is a classically-trained choir singer.

    • Briana

      says squirtle

  • ifalldownstairs

    This article sucks. Instead of critiquing the endless (and sometimes vicious) cycle of blogs and buzzbands, you just sound like a bitter, jealous failure.

    • ifalldownstairs

      Also, the idea that you would call PJ Harvey a “buzzband” is insulting to both you and her

    • thought-cataloged

      Both “bitter” and “jealous” sound like wonderful selections when describing a self-proclaimed klutz (stairs, eh?), but certainly not appropriate when offering oddly fervent criticism of harmless teenage satire. Certainly, the most “bitter” and “jealous” fellow feeling like a failure must be Mr. Oreck and his vacuums; how could he have imagined the very function of his product being debased for lack of a better personificatory verb. Talk about reevaluating one’s successes…how about Mr. Webster and his dictionary! I bet he’s banging his head against the wall, wondering how he could have failed to equip the modern blog critic with a more dynamic vocabulary (Imagine, an entire generation reduced to “suck”‘). Also, can you please pass the tissues to Ms. Harvey when you’re through with them?

  • itsguccitime

    Hope she gets on Gorilla vs. Bear!

  • Greg

    I really liked this….you should seek out the clip in jean-michel's documentary radiant child when they are talking about the improvised band he formed w/ vincent gallo named gray. pretty much the pinnacle buzzband

  • Brian McElmurry

    I enjoyed this.

  • sidebar

    I'm not sure buzzband is a term because its not on urbandictionary but maybe that site is soooo 2005. This article is hilarious for everyone but music nerds. Mostly because yeah, we don't know what you're talking about.

  • Reallyyyydude

    this sucked, dude.

  • Aelya

    I think the back up story to For Emma, Forever Ago just adds to enjoyment of the songs. Loads of people don't know of it when they first hear the album. I certainly didn't.

    I like the article, but I feel it was a bit harsh.

    Also, your examples kinda suck.

  • JonQ288

    Yeah, animal collective has been putting out since the early 00's which is a buzzband you're right. They just became “indie famous” over night. Oh and bon iver yeah his voice totally sucks, I mean have you seen him live with just his guitar. He totally uses reverb.

  • abuzzband

    This is monumentally embarrassing.

    • Chuck Norris

      people that say things like this make me want to kick a kangaroo

  • sanbasl

    Bon Iver (Justin Vernon) is from Wisconsin, not Vermont.

  • jwg

    why are all you thought catalog contributors like, five fucking years younger than me.

  • anon

    There are far buzzier bands than you chose…
    I mean seriously?
    Why not attack Best Coast? That's like the easiest target ever.

  • microfiche

    yes, that song's obviously dissonant noise:

    • Kelsea

      This is my favorite song ever dgjfklghf

  • Bcoates

    Ya know, as popular and buzzworthy as Bon Iver is, the dude has a pretty voice and writes pretty music. That's fine by me. Watevs.

  • federico

    yea the name is really important. and what you look like

    • Asforteri

      dude, pretty sure that what you look like is MOST important.

  • scott

    Articles like this make me hate this site.

  • Taylor

    To echo many of the comments here, you completely failed to pick artists to back up your argument.

    Really Noah Lennox?

    Sheesh, some of these articles are really idiotic.

    Unprofessional really.

  • Hertzy

    Don't get how multiple critically acclaimed albums gets you status of buzzband. Not too much a fan of AnCo, Fleety Foxes and have gotten pretty bored with Bon Iver at this point, but you can't say you don't recognize their relevancy in Western music (at least the two former).

    Should have picked on the XX, tUnE-yArDs or James Blake.

  • typo

    i am a huge AnCo fan and Panda Bear fan, almost embarrassingly so, and i thought this was a riot. chillax people, it's just music. what is missing in music today is confrontation and meaningful conviction, and ideas that make people uncomfortable. buzzbands like Best Coast or Sleigh Bells, though interesting and fun, really feel superficial and ephemeral, like candy.

  • Jennifer Fallingstar

    I taught your son everything he knows about PJ Harvey.

    • Karim

      I should have cited you as a source.

  • Alex Keen

    Guys, chill. This article is a tongue-in-cheek analysis of a recent musical subgenre. The whole point of the 'letter to mom' conceit is it allows a reduction of serious musical talent to a formula, but OF COURSE you can't just follow it and be successful. The best art movements are those that look so obvious that anyone could do it, because that shows the extent to which that movement has captured and become a part of the zeitgeist.

  • Iammclovin

    hey karim, guess what?! your a winner

  • steven hawking

    Best article ever!!!

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