By Hannah Many Guns
CALGARY — Songwriter and frontman Chris Naish says the name of his alternative-rock band Scratch Buffalo is a secret. “Even the other guys in the band don’t know the meaning of the name.” What we do know about Scratch Buffalo is that they’ve been playing gigs since 2014. The group consists of Naish on guitar and vocals, Mark Straub on drums, and Scott Wildeman on bass. Each of them are music aficionados who have spent a good sum of their years scouring a selection of albums, from rock-n-roll to post-hardcore to good ol’ guitar driven blues. Their music brings all of these genres to Calgary’s indie-garage-rock scene, and after two years of fiddling with tunes and jamming them out at this venue and that venue, they’ve finally come out with the culmination of those efforts: debut EP Wanna Know The Secret?
While the debut doesn’t unveil the secret behind the band’s name, it grinds and grooves through six tracks, which are thoughtful in lyricism and lively in composition. “To me, I always think that we’re like sort of ‘60s garage meets ‘70s glam rock with singer-songwriter-y lyrics,” explains Naish. In this vein, opening track “Kick It Out” kicks the EP off with the steady beat of Straum’s drums, swells with Wildeman’s bass groove, and comes to life with Naish’s pronounced guitar and escalating vocals. It’s gonna be a rock ‘n’ roll record, that’s no secret, and as the second track “Why D’Ya Leave” hits your ears, it is impossible to keep your head from bobbin’ up-and-down. The distinct, and instantly catchy chorus exemplifies Scratch Buffalo’s ability to create danceable tunes, and it wasn’t even their only hook in the book.
“When we were recording, we had three or four different melodies kickin’ around for the chorus of ‘Why D’Ya Leave,’” notes Naish, “and so we were like ‘which one is the best one? That one. Okay, let’s just do that.’” That’s what distinguishes their groove. Their music lives in the essence of their own instantaneity. “We’re kind of crazy about that sort of thing – trial and error,” asserts Naish. “Not having a finished, 100 per cent perfected piece, but more like a ‘this is what’s happening right now, this is what’s going on, this is what we sound like now’ piece.”
Having caught the ear of the listener within their first two tracks, third, fourth, and fifth track come together as a triad of compositions that exhibit the trio’s musical ability. “Funeral In The Streets” is poignant in its surreal lyricism; “Get Sick” is characterized by a distinct surf-melody; and “I Know Your Name” embodies the group’s foundation of rock ‘n’ roll. Finishing off strong, the album’s standout track “Black Water” brings us back to the early ‘70s blues revival. The hard-hitting arrangement will have your head nodding along with their bashing guitar, smashing cymbals, dashing solos, and Naish’s impassioned vocal stylings.
If you really want to get a good idea of what the group has to offer, check out one of their live shows. “I’m a big fan of Iggy & The Stooges,” says Naish. “I heard that when they were first starting out they would write two minutes of a song and then they could go for 45 minutes because the last whatever amount of the song was all just improvised. I thought that was a cool idea, and I put that into my songs. So when we play live, we’ve got chunks that are improvised. It goes verse, chorus, verse, chorus, that’s always the same. But then we’ve got this one chunk right here, and that could go on for three minutes or 10 minutes, whatever we want. There’s chunks that we can just go crazy in. But it isn’t a jam band sorta thing, there’s always somewhere we can go back to.”
Learn Scratch Buffalo’s secrets at their album release party April 7th with openers Highwind and All Hands On Jane. They’ll be rockin’ it on Broken City’s intimate stage, so be sure to come out and listen to the trio the way they’re meant to be heard: live.AB, Alberta, Broken City, Scratch Buffalo