Contributor’s Note: The Loyal Order first hatched as a studio project several years ago in Portland, when Jeff Buehner was approached to write a theme song for a regional outdoor hunting reality show. He reached out to guitarist Brandon Cook for a heavy riff, and the result was a song called Off the Grid (Superhuman). It aired regionally in the Pacific NW for two seasons.
A bassist by trade, singing is a new beginning for Jeff. The songs were originally crafted with a different vocalist in mind, but after laying scratch tracks for the first few songs, the producer convinced him to lay the final tracks himself.
From this songwriting partnership between Buehner and Cook, the songs began to flow. They soon approached Producer Rob Daiker at The Commune in Portland, Oregon, who has crafted major label releases with Slowrush, The Dan Reed Network, and Royal Bliss.
Ready For Dead was originally released independently in 2019 as a single and music video (Bühner Media/Von Artists/The Orchard) and rang up 50,000 Facebook views in its first six weeks and now sits with over 200,000 views. With the expertise of Thom Hazaert (EMP Label Group), the band is now positioned to hit the airwaves and tour nationally, re-releasing the single to radio.
I had the opportunity to have a chat with Jeff Buehner of The Loyal Order recently about the writing process and “Ready For Dead” for Madness To Creation. Fans can find The Loyal Order at the following locations:
Mark Dean: Hi Jeff, how are you today?
Jeff Buehner: I’m good, man. How are you?
Mark Dean: All fine here in the UK.
Jeff Buehner: I’m in Los Angeles here and I just settled into a cafe here.
Mark Dean: Obviously you seem to have a bit more freedom of travelling and stuff at this time compared to what we have in the UK currently.
Jeff Buehner: Yeah, man, it’s definitely a little bit of freedom. I travelled down here the other day from Portland. And I’m down here doing some songwriting with another band. So yeah, man, so it’s pretty cool.
Mark Dean: So another band, how many bands do you have?
Jeff Buehner: Well, I’m also, besides being the singer for The Loyal Order, I also play bass guitar. Have you ever heard of a band called Rough Cutt, from the ’80s?
Mark Dean: I have indeed, yeah. Is it with them that you’re currently working with?
Jeff Buehner: Yeah. And so that’s who I’m writing with right now. They’re doing a resurgence right now and we’re putting together some singles to release. Yeah, so it’s pretty cool, man. And it’s really fun writing with those guys because some of them are legends. It’s just two of the original members, so Dave Alford and Chris Hagar. And yeah, they’re phenomenal guys, man. And then we got Steven St. James singing, who was a Sunset Strip singer guy, and he was in a band called Sarge back in the day, back when Ratt was getting started and everything.
Mark Dean: Yeah, I just wanted to get some background on your own musical history- Taking you right back, what would have been your first introduction to music growing up? How did you progress from listening to music to actually pursuing it as a career?
Jeff Buehner: Oh, man. Well, as a child, I was completely enamored with… My brothers and cousins used to get together and play Johnny Cash songs at family gatherings and stuff. And my eyes were always just wide open during holidays and stuff. And so I can remember picking up my first acoustic guitar when I was 10-years-old, and had bought it at this nasty old kind of a pawn shop in my hometown of The Dalles, Oregon, and which is a small town, about a hour-and-a-half drive east of Portland, Oregon, which is where I reside. And anyway, yeah, so I started playing acoustic guitar, and then I got into school and I started playing bass about halfway through school. And I thought that was the coolest thing in the world.
I was also a trombone player. But I started playing jazz band stuff in high school on the bass. And that turned into a jazz band before school started, first period music practise, second period band. So I was completely… At that point, it was a done deal. So, that’s kind of how I graduated into it, and then just recently started doing the lead singing thing, which is a completely new instrument for me. We’ve had some good success with The Loyal Order record, which is set to come out here in a few weeks.
Mark Dean: I was going to ask you about that. Off the Grid was obviously the first song that the band put out. Ready for Dead is also getting widely positive reviews. Several tracks-
Jeff Buehner: Yes.
Mark Dean: Several tracks are available on the internet. I was just going to ask you, has an album been recorded, or was it just a conscious decision just to drip feed tracks slowly to the general public?
Jeff Buehner: Well, basically what we did is it started off as Off the Grid was a song that we recorded for… It was for a regional outdoor hunting show, right?
Mark Dean: Yeah.I understood that .
Jeff Buehner: So it was a reality show. And I got approached to write the theme song for that. And so I reached out to my guitarist and co-writer and co-partner in this band, Brandon Cook, and I said, “Hey, man, I need a real heavy riff. Can you come up with something kind of Jerry Cantrell-like or Pantera or something like that?” And he came to me with a guitar riff for that song. And so we took it into the studio, and we were working with a gentleman named Kevin Hahn from Portland, Oregon. He’s a producer there.
And we started tracking it, and I said, “Hey, I think I have a melody and a chorus and some lyrics that I think will fit this show.” So I’d written all the lyrics and stuff, and I said, “I’m going to come in and sing a scratch track so we can, whenever we pick a vocalist for this project, he’ll have a guide to go by.
And so I laid the scratch track, and the producer and Brandon were like, “Dude, I think you should just sing this one because that sounds really cool.” And so I ended up laying the tracks for it and learning a new instrument in process. And I had sang before, cover songs here and there, but not a lot. And anyway, so that’s how I just reluctantly landed becoming a lead singer. And then once that had some regional success for a couple of years, we started writing some other songs, just kind of as a studio project.
And before I knew it, we had half of a record recorded, and I’m like… And at that time, the producer, Kevin Hahn, got really busy with some other projects, so we went to Rob Daiker, who is also a producer that lives in Portland. And he’s done records for the Royal Bliss, actually Royal Bliss and The Dan Reed Network and had some success with record deals and stuff like that with his bands.
And anyway, he was kind of like more fitted for what we were aiming at, which is kind of a modern rock production. And we just ended up staying there. And we ended up retracking. We piped in all the stems from the other songs that we had done at Kevin’s and we retracked everything. It’s hard to pick between those two. Kevin’s phenomenal and Rob is phenomenal, just a couple of different… They have their own signature.
So anyway, we pulled in those tracks and retracked those so it sounded like it came from the same studio, of course. You want to have that continuity. And we ended up finishing the record just a couple months ago, released the video last year for the single to kind of get our feet wet and see how it would perform in the market. And we released that and the video. And the video’s, as we speak, I would say right now we’re at about 750,000 views on Facebook on that. And I think it’ll hit a million within the next few days, because it’s going crazy. And yeah, and then we put it out to radio just recently, like four weeks ago, and it entered the charts at 60-something. And it’s now in the top 40, at least it was last week. Hopefully, it doesn’t fall off. And yeah, it’s performing well, man. It’s been really good.
Mark Dean: So the album’s all been finished? Are you holding off on a release date, obviously with what’s going on in the world at the moment, or have you got a release date defined for the album?
Jeff Buehner: Well, we have a release date. We’re going to do a presale on the record later in June. And the album is going to actually be released through the Orchard and EMP label group and Von Artists in the… I think July 17th is the actual date. So and with this COVID thing going on, we thought, should we push the date back a little bit? And so we didn’t really know what to do, but we thought, “You know what? No, it’s a good time to release a record, with everybody paying more attention to their digital world.” And we just thought it’d be a great time to introduce the band and get going.
We were looking at some tour dates to take off when all this hit. So it kind of threw us into the… So we actually shot… And we just thought we’d make use of our time, and so we shot another music video for a song called Hellfire, which is the second track on the record. And we shot it with social distancing and everything. So we just shot one guy at a time, with no primary full band shot. And so it was…
When you shoot a music video, you have what’s called a primary shot, and it’s the band on a stage, or whatever that primary shot happens to be, where you go back to that shot all the time. In this case, we didn’t have that. We didn’t have that luxury. So it’s just basically a really cool highlight reel that follows along with the vocals and stuff and it created some… And it’s a really different looking video, and I really love it, actually. It turned out even better than I thought it would. So I can’t wait to get that out there too.
Mark Dean: Yeah. Who else is in the band? You mentioned there, Brandon, but who else makes up the band? What other musicians have you got there?
Jeff Buehner: Yeah, man, we have Brandon Cook, is the guitarist and my songwriting partner on this band. And we took this thing from the ground up, he and I. And then we decided to start getting some of the best guys that we could, who were available around the area. And we ended up with a second guitarist named Justin Gibson, who is a phenomenal guitar player. He is top shelf, man. And he actually… Brandon, he studied with Brandon for a little while, because Brandon’s also a guitar teacher. And Justin definitely has his own flair. And he actually did the guitar solo on Hellfire, which was really fun, because he and Brandon got to compose it together, and Justin threw in all of his own individuality and stuff like that, but they worked on it together.
And then we have Patrick Young on bass guitar, which was hard for me to relinquish that position in this band, because I’m a bass player. But there were only a couple guys that were within arm’s reach, who weren’t too busy, that I thought could even play this stylistically, approach this project the way that we needed somebody to. And Patrick ended up being our guy. And I’ve always looked up to Patrick. He’s a great player, good rock and roll guitar player. And then also, then we added Kyle Baltus to the roster, who is our drummer. And Kyle has toured pretty extensively with a band called 36 Crazyfists.
Mark Dean: Oh, yeah I am obviously familiar with that band.
Jeff Buehner: And then also, Light the Torch, Howard Jones’s project. He was the singer for Killswitch Engage for a while. So Kyle tours with him, too, when they’re out here and there. So, nailing Kyle down was kind of a chore, but he’s the perfect guy for the part, man. We used a couple other drummers on the recording, Andrew Green from Portland, who’s a solid, incredible drummer, and Joe Mingus, who also is just… He’s the go-to guy in Portland as well.
So we’re not shy of great players. I mean, for me singing, I wanted to surround myself with people who were better than me, and so I’d have to raise my own bar as a vocalist, to walk into this thing. And so, yes, it’s definitely been a successful venture. I’m just in shock at the response and in the fact that I’m talking to people like you who are clear right across the world and who contribute so much to the industry. And you’re in London, correct?
Mark Dean: I’m actually in Manchester but originally from Northern Ireland.
Jeff Buehner: Oh, cool. Right on. I’ve spent some time over in London. I love it there. I have some friends over there. A friend of mine over there, we joke about going down to the moor and the werewolves and the wolf tea. And I’m like, “Let’s go down to the morgue and drink some wolf tea.” I absolutely love it there though. I love walking around London, because it’s such an old town. It’s incredible. So yeah, I’ve been there twice.
Mark Dean: Today I came across another track, Tears from Kelly. Will that be on the album?
Jeff Buehner: It’s not going to be on the album. I’m going to release that song separately.
Mark Dean: Why?
Jeff Buehner: There’s a couple reasons why. Number one, we already have two ballad-esque type songs on the record. It’s only a nine song record.
Because we wanted to emulate some of the… We didn’t want to overdo it. And 5150’s nine songs, and Blackout, I think, is nine songs. And we just wanted to have a nice power set for our debut release.
But Tears From Kelly is a song that was… It was a tough song for me to record because it was a really good friend of mine who passed away. But prior to that I’d gone to high school with her. And she had moved around the world like a vagabond, a situation where she would just move somewhere and try it out, and she would just drop everything, sell everything she had and move to somewhere else. And she ended up… The last time she did that, she moved to Australia and met her husband. And she ended up getting cancer.
And the last time that I saw her… She fought it for a while. She was very open about it on social media and stuff and telling everybody how it was going and their progress and hopes and then letdowns and all that stuff. She went through the whole thing. But she had come to the hometown, which is The Dalles, Oregon. And she was cancer-free. She had gone through all these treatments and everything looked really good, and they had knocked it back. And she was in town. And they hung out in Oregon for about a month, her whole family did. And she went back, went to the doctor, and it had just done a double reversal on her and came back with a horrible vengeance. And it was just a bad thing.
And then one night I saw a post that she had made on Facebook, and she said, “I just kind of feel like I turned my last corner here and I just have to face the endgame in this. I’ve lost hope. And I don’t want to give myself false hope, so I have to focus on this, and I don’t know how long I have, blah, blah, blah,” is suffering, just talking about all of that openly.
And I made a comment to her, I said, “Hey, Kelly, if there’s anything I could do for you, you just reach out and you let me know.” And anyway, so she said, “I would love it if you would write a song for me.” And she said, “But the trick is you have to become famous so everybody knows who I was.” And I said, “Well, I don’t know about the famous part, but let me think about this for a minute.” I said, “Number one, I want to do it for you, but there’s got to be a way to say it and do it and pronounce it and how to convey it. And I just have to put myself in that space.”
So I thought about it for a little while, and I started thinking about some of the stories. I just said, “Tell me some things about what your life is like now,” because I’d literally hadn’t seen her for quite some time, and except for her short visit. I saw her for one day. And so she started telling me things about herself and her life and things she liked and how she felt and trinkets that she had that were hers and only hers.
And it kind of landed on me. And I just was thinking, “How do I convey what you’re feeling?” And the song ended up coming out in first person, her talking to her husband. The whole song is her talking to her husband. And so writing that, I really had to put myself in that space. And so it was hard and very difficult to write, number one, because I know her and it was personal and what she must be going through, how she must be feeling, letting go, preparing, all of that.
And once I had the idea down and showed her a little bit what I was thinking, she loved it. And she said, “That is exactly what I’m going through.” And so once I figured out how to articulate it, I called my producer up, Rob Daiker, and I said, “Hey, I got this song.” And I explained the whole situation to him. And he’s like, “Get in here. Let’s do this.” And I said, “We got to do it fast, man, because the clock is winding down pretty quick here for her.” So we went in and recorded it. And lo and behold… Are you familiar with Dan Reed?
Mark Dean: Absolutely.
Jeff Buehner: The Dan Reed Network.
Mark Dean: Yes,a great band.
Jeff Buehner: So Dan is a… The whole band, they’re great friends of mine, every one of them. And I’ve grown to a solid relationship with all those guys. Matter of fact, the Dan Reed Network’s drummer shot the video for Ready For Dead.
But anyway, so Dan happened to be flying in from Prague, and I heard about it. And the song was done, and I reached out to Rob and I said, “Hey, when Dan gets here, see if you might be willing to do some background vocals on this Tears From Kelly song. And he did, and he called me and he’s like, “Hey, Jeffrey,” he’s like, “I’m in and I’m honored.” And I said, “Well.” And he’s like, “I won’t take anything for it. I just want to do this.” And I said, “Okay.”
So we went down to the studio and he did a cameo spot towards the end. If you watch the video, you see him there, in the outro basically. And he just did a phenomenal job. And so I began to catalog this whole process, during the time, with a gentleman named Anthony Gainer started shooting it, while we’re in process, a video. And Kelly, of course, was expecting me to pick up an acoustic guitar at my kitchen table and shoot an iPhone video for her. And I didn’t tell her what I was doing. She had no idea.
And so we did this full production and did a video along with it. And then when it was all done, I dropped it on her timeline, right about the time she went to bed in Australia. And I woke up the next morning and it had over 5,000 views overnight. And it was just the perfect gift to give somebody. And now, every time that in a few of these podcasts interviews, I’ve been… Like, you’re the fifth guy who brought it up. And it’s really cool that you took the time, and I really appreciate you seeking it out and bringing it up, because it’s a beautiful thing how everybody’s found it.
Mark Dean: Do you think maybe then, given the personal subject matter and your closeness, do you think it would maybe be better placed as a solo song, separate from The Loyal Order, rather than a band project?
Jeff Buehner: I would think that… It’s something I’m definitely pondering. I’ll probably do it that way and tie it to The Loyal Order, of course. But yeah, I think it’s probably the right way to go. And I just wanted… I want to release it the right way, and I want to make sure that the story is told too. So it’s one of those things that I’ve just been thinking about a lot. I’m not exactly sure how to do it yet, but definitely I’m going to reach out and seek counsel and get ideas on the best way to do it, because I think that song… I just want it to honor her.
And just the crazy thing about that song… Here’s the craziest thing about it. After I released that video that you saw, I hadn’t gone out for a while. Dude, seriously, after I put that thing down, after I’d gone through that whole process, I put it down and I slept for a week almost. And then I released the video, after I had some downtime from it.
And because, like I said, putting yourself in that place, it’s a heavy thing, if you’re going to do it the right way. Writing a song like that, you have to be there, you have to feel what they’re feeling. And I did. It was heavy. And so, I mean, I guess where I was going with that is just doing it the right way and putting it out there definitely… It’s got to be right, you know?
Mark Dean: I can certainly understand and respect what you are saying.
Jeff Buehner: That’s all I can say. And after I came back from the downtime, I went out to a local gig in Portland, and a lot of people had seen it. And I walked in and I wasn’t able to even watch the band because so many people came up and started talking to me about it. And they were telling me their story and, “Hey, you didn’t probably didn’t know this, but I’m a survivor. And I had cancer and I beat it”, or, “I just lost my mom to it. Can I play the song at her funeral?” That kind of a thing. And it was not just a few people, it was a lot of people. And I was just in shock and so humbled by the fact that an expression like that could be such a gift to so many people. And I felt super honored that I was the chosen vessel for it. But anyway, yeah, it was crazy.
Mark Dean: You mentioned there that you had a transition from bassist to singer. I just wondered, was it pretty easy to adapt and take on that new role as a singer?
Jeff Buehner: More than anything… You know what, man? More than anything, what it’s been, it’s been like a character change, if that makes sense. I played bass in Rough Cutt, and I sing in this other band, and even though it’s on me, it’s two completely different roles and you have to… You’re kind of two different people, your identity in this situation. So yeah, learning the techniques on how to… It’s learning the new instrument, which is a figure that I’ll be forever learning. You know?
But more than anything, it was the identity part of it. It’s like, who am I in this project? And that has been probably the most difficult thing, because I’ve always just identified as, “Hey, I’m a bass player and I do this.” And me saying, just saying I’m the singer, is a strange sentence for me. But I’m embracing it. I mean, the cool thing about it is I’ve been surrounded by virtuoso singers for so long. I mean, there’s a guy named Jeff Carroll, who’s one of my favorite singers in the world, and he’s every bit as good as somebody like Cornell.
And I was in a band called The Dragonflies and there’s a singer named Michael Armando for that band, and he’s just a top shelf singer. And I compare myself to those guys and I’m like, “Well, I’ll never be that.” But I came to the realization to say, “You know what? That’s okay.” And I glom onto the fact that somebody like Dave Grohl, who’s a drummer, can be a singer, too, for such a huge band. I look at his story and say it’s okay. And then just to say, “I’m not perfect, and I’m not going to be perfect, but I do have something to say,” I think as the thing that I latch onto the most.
Mark Dean: What about that first gig then with The Loyal Order, how was that? Did you get nervous because you were center stage and you’d no bass guitar to hide behind?
Jeff Buehner: Oh yeah, totally. That’s a great question. The Loyal Order has just come out of the studio and we’re gearing up to do some touring.
And we ended up taking this gig with a band called Puddle of Mudd, right? You know who they are.
Mark Dean: I think everybody does.
Jeff Buehner: Yeah. And there were so many people in Portland, and there were so many people that wanted to see the band. I mean, we filled that room. I mean, Puddle of Mudd had a lot of people there, of course, but I would venture to say that we really helped sell that room out. And it was sold out. 750 people lining around the block, probably the best case scenario. And I was all set to go and ready. And right before we were getting ready to walk on stage, I felt the energy, and I was ready. And it was kind of a transcending moment. I had the oxygen. I needed more oxygen just to… And then, but once I walked out there, man, it was a wave of approval. And the energy from the crowd was so phenomenal, it was easy to interact.
I remember a lot about the show, but I don’t remember everything about it. It was just so transcending. And I felt at home. I felt home. I wasn’t perfect, but I felt home. And that’s what was really cool about it. And all the guys are just so good. Everybody in the band was just on top of their game. And then having Brandon right there next to me just… We glanced at each other a couple of times like, “This is it, man. We did this.” And we were both super thankful and overwhelmed with how great the response was. And we just can’t wait to do it again. And that’s when this whole COVID thing happened.
So you hit pause on the live shows. And we’re going to play. We’re doing a gig with Loudness in November though. So hopefully that’ll be a cool thing, in the same room. And do you know Thom Hazaert and David Ellefson?
Mark Dean: Indeed I do,yes.
Jeff Buehner: Okay, dude, that Ellefson project is phenomenal, and Thom’s the singer for that band. Obviously Megadeth is legendary. They’ve proven they’re putting out quality music for a long time. But yeah, I’ve been working with those guys, not with The Loyal Order. And Thom’s been kind of quarterbacking for me and helping me and working through stuff for me. And those guys have just become good friends of mine. And EMP Label Group and all that they can offer it’s… Then being in that fold is super cool. You know?
And Thom is so in the game, man. Not only is he a great vocalist and everything else, I mean, he is so plugged into the business, and everybody knows who he is. And he is the name in rock and roll right now, one of, that’s for sure. And he’s become a good friend and a confidant and all that stuff.
So anyway, I think as far as a live aspect goes, I’m sure we’ll figure it out, where we’re going to go. I really want to come over to Europe. I really want to go over there, and hopefully next summer or something, and do some of the festivals and stuff like that.
Mark Dean: What about then moving forward? Obviously, we can’t plan too far ahead. Are you going to work for both bands? I mean, you mentioned doing some new stuff with Rough Cutt. Are you going to operate both bands in tandem? Or are you going to have to make a choice?
Jeff Buehner: Oh, well, I mean, the way things are right now, I mean, I think it’s going to be easy to operate them in tandem, because when you’re booking stuff out, I mean, you’re a few months ahead of the game anyway. You know when things are coming, right?
And that’s a bridge that I haven’t really looked a whole lot at because, I mean, I just want to do the right shows with Loyal Order, and I know that the guys in Rough Cutt want to do the right shows. So I think it all fits together. And I don’t see a conflict really. Maybe there might come a point where it’s like, “Hey, we have this show, can’t do that. Can’t book a Loyal Order show because I’m in Rough Cutt show that night,” and that kind of a thing.
But man, I mean, I think it all fits, I really do, because there’s a lot of guys out there who do that. And I’m obviously not going to get too busy and take on other projects, I mean, because, I mean, these guys have my full focus, these two projects. And yeah, I don’t see it being an issue at all.
Mark Dean: That’s great then. Jeff, just one final one, if the roles were reversed, who would you like to sit down and interview?
Jeff Buehner: Man, well, I would love it if Dimebag Darrell was still alive, and Vinnie Paul, I would love to sit and talk with those guys, and I have actually. I talked to Vinnie Paul before, and had a drink with them and talked. Not extensively, but to have those two guys at the same table and just to talk about how it all happened for them and their game plan and how it all worked and where they got their sound and their intensity and all that stuff. Those would be the two guys that I would love to sit down and talk to, because I’m a… Pantera’s record, Far Beyond Driven, is one of my favorite records of all time.
Mark Dean: Brilliant. That’s great. Jeff, thank you very much for chatting to me.
Jeff Buehner: Oh, man, any time. And maybe, like I said, the record will be out. Maybe we can do it again soon. And after you give it a listen, we can talk about it!
Mark Dean: Absolutely. Yeah. Sure. Thank you very much again. Cheers. Bye.
Jeff Buehner: Take care, man. I appreciate your time.
And there you have it! Fans can find Mark Dean at the following locations: