Scranton D.I.Y. punk rocker releases studio engineered folk record
Sean Flynn has been a member of the Scranton D.I.Y. punk community for over 10 years, but now he is returning to his roots.
Flynn is a member of folk punk locals Old Charades and alternative band Those Clever Foxes. He said that he loves playing in those bands, but that he has always wanted to put out a record that was purely folk/Americana.
“That’s the music I really kind of grew up on, and that’s what I’m comfortable playing,” Flynn said. “I know more about folk, bluegrass and blues than I do about punk rock. That’s the truth.”
Flynn explained that when Old Charades formed, traditional folk was the original plan, but he and his drummer couldn’t help but continue writing fast, loud punk songs.
“I love that, I’m happy with it … but I really wanted do my folk thing,” he said.
So at the end of July, under the name American Buffalo Ghost, Flynn recorded the LP that he has been waiting for: “The Devil Takes Care of His Own.”
Flynn wrote all of the songs himself, and most songs on the record are stripped down and acoustic.
However, he brought in some friends to fill out a few tunes — Doug Griffiths on upright bass and electric guitar, Flynn’s girlfriend Shalon Corrigan on piano, Dan King on the cello and Steve Werner on drums.
“I got really lucky to get some really good players,” he said.
Flynn gave special adulation to King, who he said never heard the record’s single, “The Child The Earth Speaks To,” before recording cello on it — and Flynn didn’t necessarily make it easier for King.
“The thing is, I changed it as I was driving to the studio … I wanted to put it in a different key. I made my mind up on the way there,” he said. “So any reference point I had to show him, I had to just scrap that.”
In addition, King had a limited amount of time to record the cello part because of an emergency.
“He could only give me about 90 minutes or so. He recorded all of his parts in two or three takes, in forty minutes, and then he just left.”
The name was chosen to fit Flynn’s vision of the project — vast and truly American.
“I wanted to envision the bigness of the West, like the idea of the buffalo out in the herds on the prairie,” he said. “That’s what I wanted on the record too, the big sound,” he added.
Flynn said that this was the deeper side, but the more straight forward reason for the name is his favorite whiskey brand, Buffalo Trace, whose bottles display a picture of a buffalo.
“While I was writing some of the songs I’d have a glass of it, and I’d look at the bottle and be like, ‘That’s cool.’”
Also to meet his vision, Flynn drew influence from multiple folk artists, new and old.
“I wanted to make sure I was doing myself the justice I wanted to do. I had to make the decision: Do I want to keep the old-timey-ness? Or do I want to do what is considered new folk music?” He said the answer was the middle line.
During the writing process, Flynn did a lot more listening to music than writing it.
“The influences that I kept 100 percent in my mind was Gillian Welch, her and Dave Rollins, their duo. That was my starting point. Then I took early Neil Young, his acoustic stuff. I really like the old timey stuff, so I listened to a lot of Woody Guthrie,” he said.
Flynn also rattled off big blues names like Blind Willie John and Reverend Gary Davis among his influences.
“Even the local band Cabinet. I really like them, and I know those guys, and they’re doing what I was trying to do.”
Flynn said that most of the record was recorded live, meaning that all parts were recorded at once, rather than traditional tracking which is done one instrument at a time.
The entire record was recorded in fewer than ten hours at The Windmill Agency in Lake Ariel, and was produced, engineered, mixed and mastered by Eric Ritter from the studio.
Flynn chose the studio partly because local bluegrass band Cabinet records there.
“I love the Cabinet records, so I’m listening to them, and I’m like, ‘It was right here where they did that. That huge sound and everything,’” he explained.
This was also Flynn’s first experience in a “real” studio, he said.
“That blew my mind a thousand times over, because I’ve been a D.I.Y. musician for as long as I can remember,” he said. “Those Clever Foxes albums were recorded in living rooms and bedrooms. The Old Charades stuff, all of our stuff was recorded above a garage.”
American Buffalo Ghost does not have any shows booked yet, but plans to do so soon, Flynn said.
Reach Toni Pennello at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts.
Stream or purchase ‘The Devil Takes Care of His Own’ by American Buffalo Ghost for $5 at americanbuffaloghost.bandcamp.com.