Hot Buttered Rum Plays SOhO

California Band Brings Its Newgrass Sound to Santa Barbara

Hot Buttered Rum
Dave Fleishman

California newgrass jam band Hot Buttered Rum sound just as their name implies: warm, lively, and addicting. The quintet and its three songwriters croon heartfelt three-part harmonies about the good, the bad, and the ugly life tosses at us. The band will bring its spirited melodies and impassioned onstage chemistry to SOhO on Friday, May 15, at 9 p.m. In anticipation of their upcoming show, I spoke with guitarist/vocalist Nat Keefe.

What’s it like working with three songwriters?

Well, we certainly have no lack of material. I think that makes us define and focus on what really makes a Butter song. We all write a lot of songs, but only some are going to fit into the HBR songbook. It’s brutal to let some good ones go — collaborative creativity is red of tooth and claw — but it makes the music better. Not every band has the luxury to choose songs from so many.

You guys have great songwriting and onstage chemistry. How did you and your bandmates meet?

Erik and I were in the dorms at Lewis and Clark College. I came back for sophomore year after traveling in Nepal and India, and there was this shaggy dude downstairs who’d just been to the same countries. He had a bansuri flute, I had a tabla, and we’d play ragas in the lounge. We soon found we met more girls playing bluegrass music, so we shifted our efforts to that. [laughs]

What’s your favorite city to play in?

We’ve actually had a long love affair with Santa Barbara and SOhO; it’s always a good scene. Folks remind me of the time the power went out there and we played the second half of the night totally acoustic. Our last time there had really stellar energy; it was a sold out room of people ready to move. That makes the pickin’ and singin’ easy!

What does the future hold for you guys? Are you working on any new material while you tour?

In the next year we are releasing three EPs, each with a narrow focus. The first will be music we’d play at an acoustic encore; the second, the music of bluegrass cornerstone Ralph Stanley; and the third, our late-night dance music. The idea is to give our people a lot to listen to, and to improve our game in each department. Each recording will have a different producer, to be announced soon.…We’re focused and fired up to dig in on this project.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done while touring? Any pranks?

Our bassist Bryan Horne used to be a fashion model. He also got into some light porno films—nothing too hardcore—more like HBO late-night stuff. We were playing in a small ski town in Colorado and our friend was behind the bar. He managed to find Bryan’s porn debut and play it at set break on every TV in the place. The audience really paid attention to the bass line after that!


Hot Buttered Rum plays Friday, May 15, 9 p.m., at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.). The Coffis Brothers open. For tickets and info, call (805) 962-7776 or visit


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