Beginning life as a band by busking on the streets of Scarborough, Buffalo Skinners have since embarked on a journey which has seen them take their brand of soulful folk and skiffle – later termed ‘zydefolk and roll’ – from the attention of passing crowds in northern coastal towns to Hollywood nightspots with audiences containing the likes of Rod Stewart, no less. (More on that later)
Now based in Sheffield’s fair city, the five-piece have been spending time down at Yellow Arch Studios with local producer Colin Elliott, the right-hand man on Richard Hawley’s solo albums, working on what will be their third album release so far.
We spoke to the band – James (violin), Robbie (bass), Peter (guitar), Kieran (piano) and Miles (drums) – before they stepped in front of the cameras to hail in a brand new year of Exposed In Session.
So, it all began from busking sessions around Scarborough?
James: Yeah, we all went to university there. Three of the guys who originally formed the band – Robbie, Pete and myself – are still in it. Since Scarborough, we moved to York and now we’ve ended in Sheffield, so we slowly seem to be making our way down the country.
Robbie: We were all listening to the same music at the same time and kind of discovering it together. What we listened to was all acoustic stuff, or at least could be played acoustically, so it wasn’t a huge step from playing a few of those songs together then having a go at busking.
And what was the music you were discovering together at the time?
Robbie: The likes of Bob Dylan and Blues Brothers, that sort of thing.
James: Simon & Garfunkel too. But yeah, we all seemed to discover it at the same time and eventually decided to give things a shot ourselves.
After busking in cities up and down the UK, you must have a few highlights or stories to tell?
Pete: We met Johnson from Peep Show. That was massive. He actually ended up buying a CD from us.
James: We’ve had so many great moments and experiences from doing our busking – I wouldn’t know where to start.
I guess that’s the beauty of busking performances: when you’re playing on street corners to complete strangers, anything could really happen.
Robbie: Yeah, for sure, it’s a great way to engage with people. You come across a load of different characters each time. We still do a bit every now and again.
And your music has since taken you all the way over to the US, where you recorded the second album. How was that? Some contrast to Scarborough, I’d imagine.
James: Going there was great, and we got the opportunity to play at some really nice venues in LA like The Hotel Café and The Satellite. We recorded the second album in California and basically gorged on burgers for 30 days.
Pete: The venues were great; we played in a bar called The Spare Room in Hollywood, and Rod Stewart came in with an entourage of supermodels. Madness.
No way?! Did you get the chance to chat to him?
Pete: Yeah, he asked us how we started and I told him how we all met at university in Scarborough. He just looked at me and said, ‘Scarborough? What did you go there for?’ Which I guess is a fair comment when you’re living in Hollywood.
James: We were later moved away by a huge bouncer who told us Rod had enough of talking. And that was that.
You’re all based in sunny Sheffield now, and have been recording your third album at Yellow Arch Studios. How’s that been going?
Robbie: Yeah, four of us live in a house together on Bramall Lane. Me and Pete actually share a room – it’s all very rock and roll.
Pete: Living the dream. We’ve got a thin curtain dividing our beds and a strict ‘no masturbation’ policy at night. We’re quite strict about that.
James: But anyway, the album recording has been going well. We’re just applying the finishing touches now, so it should all be wrapped up in a couple of days.
And you’re working with Colin Elliott, who worked closely with Hawley, but also the likes of Jarvis Cocker and Paul Weller. How did that connection happen?
Pete: Basically just by rehearsing here all of the time and getting pally with everyone. We booked in to record and originally they were going to put us with someone else, but some time came free for Colin and he took us on. It was a bit lucky for us really.
Robbie: Yeah, lots of things happened – originally we hadn’t even planned on recording in Sheffield – but it all fell into place nicely in the end.
Richard Hawley is really into his rock ‘n’ roll… maybe you could see if your producer could wangle a nice collaboration for the album?
Pete: That would be nice. We’ve actually bumped into him here before.
Kieran: Yeah, Robbie asks about him all of the time.
Robbie: I love him, so it’s been awesome to work with Colin. I was even pestering him to give him a Christmas card from me. A collaboration with Richard would be incredible though.
How does this album differ to your previous record, The Other Nine-to-Five?
James: A bit rockier, I’d say. There are definitely more up-tempo tracks on it. Plus we’re a lot better at our instruments these days, which obviously helps a lot.
Pete: And the production is going to miles better. I think this is the one which the most effort and time has gone into.
What else is on the agenda for the band in 2016?
James: The album is scheduled to be out around April/May time, so hopefully we’ll have a big old tour to coincide with that.
Robbie: Our next Sheffield gig is here [Yellow Arch Studios], on February 27th, and it will be great to get a big crowd down. It’s a really underrated live venue in Sheffield here so it would be good to see it packed.
James: Is that the final question? I feel like we’ve been a bit boring.
Maybe throw in another Rod Stewart anecdote?
James: Yeah, well let me tell you something about Rod: he’s, erm, really good at giving foot massages. And, yeah, he’s just a great laugh to be around. We’ve had some great times.