Making a Scene Presents an Interview with Peter Buzzelle of Devil Love
Blurring the boundaries between ’90s alt-rock, ’70s rhythmic crunch, and the savvy songwriting of Big Star and Elliott Smith, Devil Love makes its own brand of hook-heavy pop/rock. It’s a modern sound that nods to the best parts of the past, fusing the melodies of frontman Peter Buzzelle — a longtime member of Boston’s songwriting community — with the thick guitars and stomping percussion of a full-throttle indie-rock band.
“Be grateful for what you have; it won’t last,” Buzzelle warns during “Everywhere Leads the Sound,” the opening track from Devil Love’s full-length debut, Broken Things. Like the album itself, it’s a song about chasing down a better existence, regardless of the rubble that stands in the way. For Buzzelle, that same kind of perseverance has played a consistent role throughout a career that began in the Pacific Northwest, where he attended college with members of Sleater-Kinney and played drums for The Posies’ opening act. This was the last decade of the 20th century — the golden era of alternative music — and Buzzelle had a front-row seat to history in the making, often sharing shows with the genre’s bigger acts. Although he’d later return to his native Massachusetts and kickstart his own songwriting career, something about those years in Oregon never left him.
Buzzelle began making a name for himself in Boston’s diverse music scene, rolling the full range of his influences — including the amplified hooks of Matthew Sweet, the heady pop of The Shins, and the bedroom symphonies of Elliott Smith— into four solo albums that blended indie-rock punch with bright melodies. Along the way, he began collaborating with some of the area’s most celebrated instrumentalists, gradually laying the foundation for the band that would take the place of his celebrated solo career.
Drummer Chuck Ferreira was the first member to join Buzzelle in Devil Love’s lineup, bringing a love of Led Zeppelin and other bottom-heavy rock acts to the table. Lead guitarist Ken Rothman was next, complementing Buzzelle’s own guitar playing with his Stones-inspired approach. Bass player Jason Raffi finalized the rhythm section, while Josh Cohen — a veteran keyboardist who had previously toured with Guster — completed the quintet. Led by Buzzelle’s songwriting, the group began recording Broken Things at various studios across Boston, working with studio pros like Benny Grotto (Ben Folds, Dresden Dolls), Matthew Ellard (Elliott Smith, Wilco), and Matthew Girard (Parks, The House Jacks) along the way.
Broken Things’ title references the splintered nature of the modern-day world, but the album itself — from the guitar-filled, album-opening bombast of “Everywhere Leads the Sound” to the harmonized warmth of the closing track, “Carelessly Comfort” — is taut and cohesive. “We Can Leave Tonight” is an anthem for the desperate and driven, with Buzzelle rallying himself for a late-night escape from a dead-end town, while the stomping “Soul Clinic Bible School (Redux)” is a larger-than-life rock epic that encourages its listener to “live life to the fullest, make everything count…[and] find something better.” Together, those songs turn Broken Things into a rare kind of debut album — one filled not only with the electricity of a new band, but also with the sharp expertise of all-star musicians.
Buzzelle believes whole-heartedly in Broken Things’ seize-the-day message. For nearly two decades, he’s been sharpening his skills as a songwriter, steadily working his way toward the formation of his ideal rock band. Devil Love represents a dream fully realized. And while the band’s name nods to the human condition’s unique balance of good and evil — the push-and-pull of our shared human existence — there’s nothing but love here.
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