“Tadaloora” is the latest album from the Portland-based experimental pop-rock band Phantom Buffalo. Over the course of the album’s 13 songs, listeners are led through a mystical place where sea lions save librarians, amateur florists try to flourish and the listener journeys to a magical castle.

The band is composed of Jonathan Balzano-Brookes on vocals and guitar; Timothy Burns on guitars, keyboard and vocals; Sean Newton on bass; Jacob Chamberlain on drums; Philip Willey on guitar; and Joseph Domrad on drums, percussion, keyboard and vibraphone. The CD-release show is scheduled for early March. In the meantime, GO was let into the world of “Tadaloora” by Balzano-Brookes.

Is “Tadaloora” a made-up word? How did you come up with it?

Yeah, “Tadaloora” is a made-up word that I came up with several years ago. At the time, I made a drawing of a cat named Tadaloora. I decided that he wasn’t an ordinary cat and that he could take a few different forms like a flying cat with bird wings, a humanoid cat that could stand on two feet but still had fur, a cat’s face and a tail, and he could also take the shape of a normal cat. I put the drawing aside for quite a while, but I would think about it often.

When I began to write the story of the land that is the concept of our album, I imagined that the flying cat had safely led a ship through a violent storm on the ocean to an uninhabited island. The many people who had been on the ship settled there on the island, picked a king and queen, and started to build their town. To thank and pay tribute to the cat, they named the island “Tadaloora” after him. Pretty outlandish, I know, but I love that kind of thing. 

Was the intention all along to write a collection of songs around the “Tadaloora” theme, or did that happen on its own?

I had the idea pretty early in the songwriting process, to write the songs about a made-up place and the people and animals who live there. So yes, the intention was there all along.

If a person were to travel to Tadaloora, what three things should they pack?

First — and most importantly — they would want to remember their good manners. Anyone being rude, disrespectful or destructive would be quickly escorted away. They would not be allowed back without a written apology with a promise of better behavior in the future. Ha ha!

The second thing that they would want to bring along would be some binoculars. There are many beautiful and expansive views, from cliff tops and mountain tops, of waterfalls and smaller outlying islands that you’d want to get a closer look at (not to mention the people — wary animals that may not let you get close enough to get a good look).

The third thing to bring would be a small handful of dried cat food to leave at one of the many Tadaloora cat statues. This is said to bring you good luck and good weather while you’re there, though the weather is almost always foggy and rainy.

Tell us about the song “Sea Lion Saves Librarian.”

“Sea Lion Saves Librarian” is a song about a sea lion who is friends with many of the stray dogs and cats in the village part of the island. One night, the old librarian is walking home from work when she gets disoriented in the fog and slips and falls. The sea lion, with all of his “mongrel friends,” comes to her rescue.

They drag her (very gently, of course) to her home, where the sea lion applies some cold seaweed to the bump on her head. The librarian is so thankful that she knits them all little outfits with “yarn and thread.” The song was, in part, influenced by children’s books that my parents would read to my sister and me when we were kids. One of my favorites was called “Sammy the Seal” by Syd Hoff.

How did the “Tadaloora Adventure” game come to be?

Phil (Willey), who is in the band but didn’t play on the album, did the vast majority of the designing and creating of the videogame “Tadaloora Adventure.” He and the rest of us wanted him to be involved with “Tadaloora” in some way, and since Phil programs games and does digital animation-type things for a living, we decided to make a 3-D explorable “Tadaloora” world.

The object of the game is mostly just to explore the island and listen to the album’s songs as you do. When you get to a spot on the island that has to do with one of the songs, the song plays. There is more of a “game” element there too, though. As you explore, you’ll find different colored gems. If you find all 13 and return them to the stone crown in the center of the village, you will be able to hear another song from the “Tadaloora” recording session that we didn’t end up putting on the album. You can play “Tadaloora Adventure” and check out Phil’s other games at dirigogames.com.

Where can people purchase copies of “Tadaloora”?

You can purchase the album on our label’s site, microcultures.fr/shop, at Bull Moose Music in Portland or on iTunes.

What’s in the immediate future for Phantom Buffalo?

We’re beginning plans for a weeklong Northeast tour for sometime in April. It’s also looking like we’ll tour again in Europe sometime this spring, which would be great!

Staff Writer Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:

[email protected]