Shad Buxman spends his nights working at a Commerce City asphalt plant where the raw material that will one day become road pavement is loaded onto large trucks. The late hours partially informed the name of his five-member alt-country band, Shad Buxman and the Graveyard Shift.
“Another part of it was a band I like, Uncle Tupelo,” Buxman says. “One of their songs is called ‘Graveyard Shift,’ so it was kind of a blend between that and then having to go play shows and come straight to work afterwards.”
Buxman, who grew up in Cañon City and now calls Denver home, says he didn’t intend to start playing the alt-country sounds that grace the album, and admits that his original musical tastes consisted of “metal and shit” as a teenager. He eventually found the classic rock that his parents grew up on, and that led him to the Velvet Underground, forever changing the trajectory of his life in music.
“Once I started listening to the Velvet Underground, I got into Bob Dylan and Wilco and Uncle Tupelo and a lot of indie bands, and then I started writing my own music,” he says. “Then it just kind of progressed from there. I wrote some shitty songs when I was fifteen or sixteen. I had a garage-rock band when I was seventeen, and we played around Cañon City for about a year.”
The Graveyard Shift's latest release, Last Ditch Effort, unfortunately dropped around the time COVID-19 shut down most of the country and, along with it, any chance of promoting the album through live shows. But the record offers up twelve solid tracks of twangy alt-country/Americana goodness. The sound evokes Uncle Tupelo but has a more overtly country style than the alt-country heroes that inspired it. Buxman’s vocals, however, strongly recall ’90s-era Jay Farrar.
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Buxman says people at shows have occasionally opined that the band has a bluegrass sound, but he rejects that label outright and feels his band has more in common with punk rock.
“I wanted it to sound almost like cowpunk, like weird country,” he says. “I always thought punk and country were pretty similar. I wanted it to sound country — but not like modern country, and not necessarily like classic country.”
The album might even be a bit more country in style than Buxman intended when he put the band together. He bought an electric guitar a few months ago, and he sees future songs taking a different stylistic bent, moving in a more indie-rock direction while retaining a bit of the country influence.
“Since that album, a lot more of the songs we’ve been planning, there’s a lot more electric guitar and more of an indie vibe than country,” he says. “When I first started the band, we had a fiddle player, and it felt really country.”
The songs on Last Ditch Effort deal with country themes like loss and substance abuse, with an odd love song tossed in here and there. “Post Apocalyptic Love” addresses romance in a nightmarish world. He says that some of the lyrics are open to individual interpretation and are more akin to indie-rock bands like Pavement and Silver Jews than the straightforward messages in some country songs.
“My sister passed away when I was probably sixteen or seventeen,” Buxman says. “I deal with a lot of loss. I think my lyrics come out that way. I don’t really ever aim to write about anything in particular. Whatever comes out comes out.”
He says he has always leaned into music when times are hard, and he’d like people who listen to his music to do the same.
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“It would be pretty cool if people would use it for that and be able to let the songs help them get through tough times or get through happy times,” he says. "Or just remember back on a moment and remember listening to certain songs that we wrote. I guess that's the main goal."
Since COVID-19 derailed the music world, he doesn’t know what the future holds in the professional sense. The band hasn’t gotten together to play much lately because of the pandemic, and he misses that outlet. He hopes they're playing together again soon.
“I’d stopped playing for a few years,” he says. “Once I started a band again, I realized how good it is for my overall well-being and mental health to play music.”
Last Ditch Effort is available at Bandcamp.