Mile of Music Interview: Buffalo Rose

Photo by Smouse

Last updated on August 12th, 2023 at 01:46 pm

Charismatic 6-piece modern folk group Buffalo Rose from Pittsburgh experienced their very first Mile of Music Festival by playing at a variety of different venues across Appleton, WI. Witnessing their very last set in the 4 days, it was shocking the amount of energy and magnetism that they still had after performing so much. Lead singers Margot Jezerc, Lucy Clabby, and Shane McLaughlin traded lines and harmonized effortlessly while the rhythm section provided an entertaining sizzle to every song.

Photo by Smouse

Music in Minnesota: You have played shows and festivals, traveling all over to perform. But this is your very first Mile of Music Festival. What’s your perspective on it, and how does this feel different from other festivals?

Jason Rafalak: We played at South by Southwest a couple of years ago, and this feels kind of like a “South by Southwest done right.” It’s just on the perfect scale where the artists are appreciated, there’s all these amazing services, and we’ve had incredible crowds following us from show to show. It just feels like the love is a lot more tangible here than that sort of overblown experience we had.

Lucy Clabby: On a tangible concrete level, the artists are so supported here with the artist care program, which provides all of these things that we could not afford otherwise, like dental care and massages, free food, and lodging. It sounds basic, but it’s not expected for musicians on the road.

Then on a more vibe level, the people are just so enthusiastic and so supportive. We played at the Performing Arts Center on Wednesday night, and our sets after that were just packed with new people, new fans, and people who didn’t know us before this week. They followed us around and cheered for us.

Malcolm Inglis: To me, it’s a little bit more of a technical answer: we’ve played six shows here and haven’t had a single issue with load-ins, people in our way, or changeover times. We haven’t had any bad stages. The organization at this festival is unparalleled. It’s simple, but it’s a huge deal because it’s just not how it goes down most of the time, especially when you start getting 200 bands into a city.

Photo by Smouse

MiM: You’ve just wrapped up playing 6 sets of music over the course of 4 days. A year from now, when you’re looking back on it, what moment do you think will stand out?

Margot Jezerc: The Appleton Beer Factory set was extremely fun. I talked to the bartender after the set, and he thanked us for playing there and bringing like 380 people in on a Thursday at noon. It was so much fun to play for just a completely packed room full of people who were down to dance and shout and have a good time. Then we played at the 513, which is more of a listening room. I love the variety of venues here and how clearly it’s labeled as such in the program. I loved those two sets, probably the most out of all of them. We got to play really mellow, slow, and lovely songs that are gonna make you weep.

Shane McLaughlin: The first show at the Performing Arts Center was really special and unique. It’s a beautiful space. I think only first-timers at the festival played there. It seems like it’s set up to ensure that those artists have a great experience because it’s showcasing you with a couple of other awesome acts so that people will be at your shows throughout the week. I think it just shows the care and attention to detail with Mile of Music.

Photo by Smouse

MiM: I’ve covered the Blue Ox Music Festival for three years, and one of the bands that I discovered there was The Infamous Stringdusters. I’ve read they are a big influence of yours. They stand out for their showmanship and how they interact and connect with each other on stage. Witnessing your band for the first time, I see that same skill set. Does that come naturally, or are you very intentional with your stage presence?

Bryce Rabideau: We talk about how it starts with our natural chemistry with each other. If we are not very transparent and very open with each other, then that stage presence with each other probably couldn’t happen. I think we’ve gotten much better over the years because we’ve gotten closer as friends. Then we are very intentional about the decisions we make about how to present the songs. Because none of us are naive enough to think that just standing on a stage and playing songs will capture people.

Inglis: So the Stringdusters is a really interesting example because they’re a huge inspiration for us performance-wise. Definitely a little bit musically, but we’re not a bluegrass jam band like them. Years ago, we opened for them in Pittsburgh and saw how they run a technical system that allows them to move around.

So they’re all wireless, and they all have in-ears so that they can hear themselves all the time, and they can dance anywhere on stage. They all went back away from their 5 mics and jammed out for like 10 minutes, and then they all came back to different microphones. It just hit me. And that moment was an impetus for us to want to have that capability. That system gave us the freedom to be able to do those visual things. It even comes to the point where people tap each other’s pedal boards, and everything is moving constantly. And a lot of that’s technical freedom.

Jezerc: Choreography is really what we’re doing at this point. It’s really cool to see how we arrange our songs intentionally. There are certain parts of the songs that one instrument is mimicking another, playing in tandem and then splitting up and coming back together. It’s really cool to be able to do something with that physically. We used to just stand in a semicircle and sing into our microphones, staring forward. Having the freedom to play around is key to what we’re doing right now.

Photo by Smouse

MiM: I want to take it a step further and explore a quote from Tom Paxton about your band. “How can a band be loose and tight at the same time? Listen to Buffalo Rose for the answer.” If you’re too tight, it can lose feeling. Being too loose, and it sounds sloppy. How do you balance that juxtaposition? Can you practice that?

Rafalak: Part of it is just a function of our individual personalities and how that comes through our instruments, like vocally and instrument-wise. I hear Shane’s personality through his guitar playing, you know what I mean? The way all those are added together and mixed up just leads to that combination of looseness and tightness. I don’t think we could plan to do it the way it’s turned out to be.

Jezerc: I think that for me, I see exactly the same thing that you’re saying. Bryce and Jason to me are very tight. You guys know what you’re doing. You are so good at music theory and charts. I think Shane, Lucy, Mac, and I all come from a more rocky, funky approach. It’s really cool how we can kind of be there for each other in those ways and be known for this special blend.

Photo by Smouse

MiM: Obviously, I’m coming from the Twin Cities, and I’m curious: when are you coming to Minnesota?

Clabby: We have yet to play in Minnesota, and we would love to. We’ve met a few folks from Minnesota at this event, so we’re definitely gonna tell our booker to get us there.

MiM: Have you bumped into and seen any Minnesota bands while you’ve been here?

McLaughlin: I saw Humbird, which was maybe my favorite act that I saw. She was incredible, and I can’t wait to see that show again.

Inglis: I have an uncle in Minnesota. His name is Dwight, and he is far and away the nicest person in our entire extended family, by like margins and margins and margins. He also has lived an extremely long life and will probably do so for many more years. And we all blame it on the Minnesota water. Love you, Uncle Dwight!

MiM: Here’s to Dwight!

Photo by Smouse

Written by Smouse

Having spent 13 years recording and producing Minnesota artists, along with running a small record label, Smouse is a passionate advocate of musicians and artists in Minnesota.


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