Calgary retro garage rock duo Scratch Buffalo jam it out loud and delicious on new album Strawberry soda

Pro-tip for bands and their bio writers: Steer the conversation to where you want to take it.

For example, mention a gig you played with a big-name act, name-drop the producer you worked with, talk about the shenanigans that went into the recording of the album, inspiration behind several songs, or past projects you’ve been part of.

Or, in the case of Calgary garage-rock act Scratch Buffalo, it’s a, erm, delicious idea that you note that one of your two members once held a day job of cleaning up roadkill.

“That’s Mark,” says SB frontman and songwriter Chris Naish of his partner, drummer-producer Mark Straub. “When I found that out I had to tell everyone — that’s amazing.

“(His wife’s) parents owned the only Chinese restaurant in Brooks, Alberta, so he would deliver for them at night and in the day he delivered roadkill.”

He corrects himself, laughing, “Not deliver roadkill, he would clean up roadkill.”

We should, at this point and for the record, clarify neither job had anything to do with the other.

Well, except maybe for the fact that it is one of many jobs that both musicians have held in order to keep the dream of making music alive.

It is. And kicking.

They take the next step with the release of their new 22-minute, eight-song album Strawberry Soda. It’s a tart and sweet blast of blistering retro garage rock a la The Gruesomes, Lyres and The Chesterfield Kings. Naish sings with a snotty swagger, plays like a Jack White stand-in — cool, nasty and tight enough to make loud, sloppy and shambolic a viable option — while Straub’s bombastic slaps and smacks add the perfect backbeat and backbone for the dynamic duo.

And dynamic they are, for while weighted under a defined sound — one that belligerent tone-setter Where’s Your Action emphatically establishes — Scratch Buffalo are far from a one-note act, showcasing on the eight cuts some subtlety and soft bristles via a couple of tunes, the lovely acousticy-leading-to-abrasion Call It Love and album closer Life Somewheres Else. 

“I have a theory to that,” Naish says of the mix. “It’s like Ralph Wiggum on The Simpsons, they found that they couldn’t put him in too much otherwise people wouldn’t like him, so it had to be just the right amount.

“It’s like the rock stuff, like Where’s Your Action, that’s our bread and butter, that’s our main thing, but the (songs such as) Life Somewheres Else and Call It Love are the Ralph Wiggums of the album.”

Strawberry Soda is the first full look at Scratch Buffalo as a duo, with their former bassist leaving the fold amicably after a B.C. tour because the life of a road warrior wasn’t one that he could afford because of family commitments.

For Naish, who had previously established himself as a solo artist in the city before going the Buffalo route several years ago, that loss, while requiring some retooling of their sound, wasn’t enough to end the dream.

“Quitting was never an idea,” he says simply.

Instead, again, some reworking was required, which meant the pair playing as “loud as we wanted and to push that.”

In the studio, that also meant filling in some of those bass parts to flesh things out a little more.

“The option was to stop doing solos entirely — which isn’t an option — or to find a way to play louder so that it doesn’t feel like you’re missing something,” he says. “So when you take that new louder playing style and you record it, and you can add bass it’s extra loud.”

They might be a little less loud during their release party on Saturday, Feb. 8. It will be an all-ages, afternoon affair at Railyard Brewing.

Part of the reason for the choice in venue is because, well, duh, beer

“We are madly in love with how many breweries and taprooms there are in the city — it’s just amazing,” Naish says. “When you go to a regular restaurant now it’s like, ‘Ah, this is not as good as a taproom.’ We love them so much. Any time we can go to Annex or Cold Garden or Citizen, it’s just so awesome.” 

They’d already done some shows at Village Brewery and Cold Garden, and Naish admits that when they were recording the album they were consciously “picking songs that would be fun in that setting.”

As for the choice of Railyard, that came about in December — with the record already in the can and titled — when Straub paid the brewery a visit and saw that they had a strawberry beer on tap. It was, Naish notes, “too serendipitous for us to pass up.”

So for Saturday during the day, Railyard has renamed the beer Scratch Buffalo Lager, which will be available for anyone of age — as will the album in an abridged, four-song strawberry vinyl form.

That’s also another reason for the choice of venue and the matinee time of the release show — 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. — the fact that it’s not a late-night club gig that would deter friends and family from showing up.

“I’d really like my daughter to come, but her fake ID isn’t good enough to get into a lot of these places,” Naish quips.

“This album is really important to us and the people who are important to us, we want them to come, so it’s perfect.”

He continues. “It’s free, it’s all ages, we wanted to make it the most accessible thing we could.”

Scratch Buffalo release Strawberry Soda Saturday, Feb. 8 at Railyard Brewing from 3 to 6 p.m.