You can now read 10 articles a month for free. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

music

Buffalo Tom — and one superfan — celebrate 25 years of rock

The Boston-based rockers talk about music and friendship

MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF

Actor Mike O’Malley (center) with Buffalo Tom members Tom Maginnis (left) and Bill Janovitz at Eastern Standard.

Next weekend Boston-based rockers Buffalo Tom will celebrate 25 years of bandhood with three shows at Brighton Music Hall. Superfan Mike O’Malley will be one of several special guests helping the trio - singer-guitarist Bill Janovitz, drummer Tom Maginnis, and bassist-singer Chris Colbourn - ring in its silver anniversary. The former “Yes, Dear’’ and current “Glee’’ star, who also serves as a writer on the Showtime series “Shameless,’’ has loved the band for years and in 1999 asked them to provide music for his eponymous sitcom. The series only lasted two episodes, but the friendship between the actor and musicians endured.

The Globe enlisted O’Malley - in town to shoot scenes for the upcoming Jeff Bridges-Ryan Reynolds film “R.I.P.D.’’ - to have a chat with the band. Over the course of nearly two hours at Eastern Standard, O’Malley engaged Janovitz and Maginnis - Colbourn had a family commitment - in a convivial chat. Following are edited and condensed excerpts from their conversation.

Continue reading below

O’Malley: When I came to see you guys in April, you have never sounded better. Do you feel that, “God, we really know how to do this now?’’

Maginnis: We had already done a bunch of touring, right? I think that has a big part, just getting back in shape. I think you can kind of relax in a sense, and maybe that comes through.

Janovitz: I was just reading an interview with Eric Bachmann who hadn’t played with Archers of Loaf in probably a decade or something and he said there’s something that’s true about chemistry, getting certain people into a room. It’s not necessarily better than some other approach, but it’s just different. There’s something about the three of us. And I think this really speaks to why Chris, in particular, likes to keep it to a trio. When you introduce a different element it starts to change. Not necessarily in a bad way, it’s just that the three of us play together in a certain way. We grew up for so many years together, it’s that muscle memory, that “I know what he’s going to do here,’’ which can be limiting, but it’s freeing as well because you just know. It’s like playing basketball with certain guys, which you know, I’m a very good basketball player. (Much laughter around the table suggesting this is not the case.) So I know if I do a behind-the-back pass, Tom’s going to be there.

O’Malley: Do you think part of it might be knowing that you don’t do it as much anymore so you’re getting more out of it?

Maginnis: Not exactly. I would say I’ve been listening to some of our older records because of the anniversary shows and we’re trying to pull out some older stuff, so you kind of hear yourself as a snapshot of when you’re twenty-whatever. And it’s got amazing energy but technically it’s not that good. (Laughs.) You cringe, and say “What the hell was I thinking?’’ So in some ways, you’re technically better but you don’t have that crazy amount of energy to play with anymore.

Janovitz: That’s interesting about our early records because we really were way influenced by punk rock and early post-punk.

Maginnis: Things were really fast. Even the slow songs were fast. We don’t play them as fast, but we’ve got a better handle on where it should sit.

O’Malley: When did touring really stop being of interest to you? Was it when you (gestures to Maginnis) started having kids, because you started having kids earlier?

Maginnis: Yeah, that was difficult because they did not have kids yet. [The Buffalo Tom fansite] the Kitchen Door has every date we’ve ever played, which is shocking, but ’95 is probably the heaviest year we ever toured and [my daughter] Marley was born then. It was very tough and as a new father with a first kid you don’t even know what you’re missing until you start missing it.

O’Malley: What is it that you guys get from the band that you will absolutely miss and know deep in your bones you can’t give up?

Janovitz: Look, my alternative is just being a real estate agent. (Laughter.) I started doing real estate because it’s flexible so I could do music, right? So if I take the music out of the equation . . .

O’Malley: But honestly, now you have to think about the before and after as it relates to other people. I know it’s a conversation that comes up and even when you were trying to put [your latest album] “Skins’’ together you were thinking: Do the benefits outweigh the complications and the risks?

Maginnis: I think you weigh that every time you decide, “Are we going to do another record?’’ The business side really sucks, then you fight about the production and the music - well, not fight, but you know, there’s tension. It all plays together and like [Bill] said it’s all part of your identity at this point. To just completely shut it off you think, “[expletive], well, I’ll just go to my job every day.’’

Janovitz: I stopped there and it sounded almost like a joke about being a real estate agent, but I got through the identity part of it more or less in ’99 when I realized, “I’m not going to make a living at this anymore, what does that mean?’’ Now I need it as an outlet although I could always write songs and put them on the Internet. [Buffalo Tom] is clearly the most important artistic thing we’ve ever done. And I think we could find other things to do, even artistically, but that’s not to say that at the end of every record or tour we say, “We’re done, that’s it.’’ Although we should have at some point stopped. (Laughs)

Maginnis: We probably should have.

O’Malley: Why?

Maginnis: Then we could have our reunion tour.

O’Malley: I never even thought about that! Why don’t we promote a huge concert as if you guys broke up? (In a booming announcer’s voice) “Your favorite bands from the ’90s! We’ll have a day-care center and bounce houses! And we’ll bring back Buffalo Tom!’’

To read more from Mike O’Malley’s conversation with Buffalo Tom, visit www.boston.com/soundeffects. Sarah Rodman can be reached at srodman@globe.com.
Loading comments...

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week