performance

Quick Q and A with Buffalo Rose

Buffalo Rose is a Pittsburgh-based band that is quickly gaining fans well beyond their home base. In just a few short years they have produced several EPs, one full-length CD and one on the way soon. Damn, these are hard-working folks: Lucy Clabby (vocals), Margot Jezerc (vocals), Bryce Rabideau (mandolin), Malcom Inglis (dobro), Jason Rafalak (upright bass), and Shane McLaughlin (guitar, vocals). Their creativity, lush harmonies, and dazzling arrangements make for an engrossing listening experience. This band offers tight tonal textures and surprising twists in their songs and the craftsmanship shines throughout their catalog.

As is mentioned in the interview below, Buffalo Rose had the opportunity to work closely with legendary folk icon, Tom Paxton during the dark days of COVID. They co-wrote the songs on their latest EP, Rabbit, with Tom and they also reinterpreted a song of Tom’s called “I Give You the Morning.” The video for the song includes archival footage of Pete Seeger introducing Tom to his audience and in a similar manner, Buffalo Rose is introducing Tom to their audience as well. The grand part of this musical partnership is that it portrays a musical bridge between generations across time.

And now for the interview!

A six-piece band requires a fair amount of commitment to the “cause.” What are some of the challenges you face as a multi-musician entity?

We make most of our decisions as a group, so learning how to communicate and be creative as a team can be a challenge.  Ultimately, it’s brought us very close together.  Lots of sacrifices have to be made in the interest of releasing music consistently, getting to shows on time, etc. but we wouldn’t have it any other way.  It’s all out of love for the craft.

Your sound is a wondrous combination of various genres. In spite of all those influences, is there one particular artist or band that all of you agree upon as a major inspiration?

There isn’t one artist we cite as our biggest inspiration, but artists like Punch Brothers, Lake Street Dive, and Molly Tuttle keep us moving forward.  As far as genre goes, the band listens to a lot of contemporary pop music mixed in with folkier acoustic stuff and Motown.  We think the diversity of our influences is our strength and keeps things interesting.

How do you answer the question “What do you sound like?”

We still struggle with this one – it’s hard to boil it down to one thing. What do you think?  We’re open to suggestions 🙂

Tell us about your songwriting process. Do you all contribute or do individual members present a song to the band? Do you take a vote? How does all that work?

Usually, Lucy and Shane bring in songs they’ve written and then the rest of the band collaboratively arranges them.  Having Tom Paxton as a co-writer has given the process even more life.  Our creative process has become pretty smooth and efficient at this point and adding his voice into the mix was a treat.

Here’s an example of a Buffalo Rose original called “Rocketship.”

I’m curious about your collaboration with Tom Paxton and what led to your recording “I Give You the Morning.” I admire the reverence that you give to the song and how you integrated Tom’s vocals into the mix.

Mac grew up listening to Tom Paxton and suggested the song as a cover.  We were all stricken with how beautiful the song was and wanted to put a lot of love into the arrangement process.  We tried to do the emotional content of the song justice by using different chords and harmonies in each section to tell different parts of the story. 

This is a question for Margot and Lucy — do you happen to have any experience singing a Capella? Your harmonies are so tight! Do your voices just intertwine naturally?

I (Margot) don’t personally have any formal experience singing a Capella! When I first joined the band last year, I learned all of my parts for the songs by singing along to isolated vocal tracks. Listening to the same songs over and over again could’ve gotten boring, but the harmonies that the other vocalists put together are so challenging and so fun to sing! I’ve loved learning from Lucy and Shane and listening to our voices meld more and more over time is seriously the coolest thing ever. Lucy and I both have a lot of texture and a lot of breath in our voices, and lately I’ve been loving how our vocals play together on songs like “U Up?” and “The Last One.”

Another one for Margot. The article that you penned about youth and womanhood that appeared in Atwood Magazine recently was very articulate. In a nutshell, can you tell us what your experience has been to be a young emerging artist? Any words of wisdom or cautionary tales for other young women who hope to break into the music business?

My experience as an emerging artist has been complicated, but at the end of the day, it’s been very rewarding and worth every difficult moment. As a woman, I felt that I had to choose a path that others would consider “practical” or “stable.” The life of an artist is thought by many to be uncomfortable, risky, and unsustainable. But the advice that I would offer to other young women trying to break into the music business is this – just go for it. Don’t ignore your dreams and goals. Don’t spend all of your energy on the dreams and goals of others. I work in a cafe right now – it’s not something that feeds my soul, but it allows me to do the things that do feed my soul. Think of what truly makes you feel joyful and alive and do that every chance you get!

[Editorial Note: The article written by Margot for Women’s History Month can be found here.]

Do you have any fun anecdotes about road trips that the band has taken?

Our trips are full of competitive games, deep dives into the catalogs of obscure bands, Shane and Jason making hip-hop beats on the computer, Mac falling in the mud, that sort of thing.

Other than music, what brings the band joy?

We’re lucky enough to really enjoy each other’s company outside of band activities.  We like to play Dungeons and Dragons and we have a lot of family dinners.  We all spend a lot of time with Jason’s daughter Lila, who is three and a half years old and a delightful honorary band member.

What are you looking forward to in 2022-2023?

We have a full-length album completed that we can’t wait to share with the world. Besides that, we’re just eager to travel to new places and play for in person audiences again. We miss the communal experience of sharing music with people who cherish it as much as we do.