It’s been 25 years since Boston-based band Buffalo Tom released their third album, ‘Let Me Come Over,’ and it is as strong today as it was back in 1992. In celebration of the anniversary, Beggars Arkive, a division of Beggars Banquet Records, will be reissuing the album in a deluxe expanded edition including a live recording from a 1992 show in London, which you can order HERE
Prior to the original release of ‘Let Me Come Over,’ Bill Janovitz (guitar, vocals), Chris Colbourn (bass, vocals), and Tom Maginnis (drums) were attending the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where they formed Buffalo Tom in 1984. Four years later the band released their J. Mascis-produced self-titled debut in Europe. Then it was released not long after in the United States. The band’s sophomore album, ‘Birdbrain,’ would follow in 1990. Along with their Boston musical peers, Throwing Muses, Dinosaur Jr., and Pixies, Buffalo Tom was a main staple of college radio during the early part of the 1990s. This allowed the trio to tour the States, Europe, Australia, and Japan.
“Time always goes faster and faster, but it all depends how you look at it,” Buffalo Tom front man Bill Janovitz said. “I look back and think ‘wow that was 25 years ago,’ but it’s always been a continuum for us. It’s like a prism. I look at the years of the band through my kid’s eyes; as in my kids are 12 and 18 and it makes me remember things in that time span of my life.
“For example, the band never broke up, but we took time off from constant touring and that was the time I had my kids. ‘Let Me Come Over’ was prior to my kids being born. It’s like I equate the band timeline based on my kids’ lives.”
After building a steady following behind the first two releases, Janovitz, Colbourn, and Maginnis headed to Dreamland and Fort Apache Studios to work with producers Paul Kolderie and Sean Slade to record ‘Let Me Come Over.’
“That time period, here I am talking about time again. But that marked a different time period for the band. The first two records were at Fort Apache, the first record was at the original Fort Apache, which was in a rough part of town, they graduated to Cambridge which was a lot nicer in this Rounder Records old place and that’s where we recorded our second record ‘Birdbrain.’ in 1990. Those first two records were really raw. It was like ‘ok, let’s get in there, we only got so much time and so much money, so let’s hurry up and knock it out.
“Then for ‘Let Me Come Over’ we left Boston for the first time to record an album at this old church in upper New York, out in the middle of nowhere by Woodstock. It was so much more developed as far as the recording goes. We were in this church, which I don’t think is there anymore and it had big beautiful stained glass windows and we cut the basic tracks there then finished everything back home at Fort Apache.”
A dozen new tracks made the final cut to become ‘Let Me Come Over.’ As with many bands on their third record, Buffalo Tom showed an expanded and more mature sound. The guitar-driven alternative rockers were still in place, but the trio added in folksy ballads with striking imagery in their lyrics for the perfect balance of Buffalo Tom.
“Most of that album isn’t about us. It is impressionate glimpses of our friends’ lives and early domesticity. We were just out of college. I was the last to graduate and all our friends were moving in with girlfriends or getting married and finding real jobs. You know how it is in your 20s when you are coming to the push and pull of adulthood.
Looking back on that with the reissue of ‘Let Me Come Over’ it is very much alive again. It’s like looking at a photo album in a way and you put yourself back in that mindset. We were “adults” when we started this band, but we were adults when this album came out but not the same adult I am now; I thought I knew it all back then, but now I know I didn’t know anything.”
The first single off the record was “Taillights Fade” and it would not only show growth in Buffalo Tom’s songwriting with Janovitz’ car crash metaphors, but the song would also become one of the bands signature singles of their career. “Taillights Fade” helped solidify Buffalo Tom’s impact on the music scene, but it was the deep cuts—”Mineral,” “Stymied,” and “Crutch”—which elevated ‘Let Me Come Over’ to be one of the best records of 1992 and the decade itself.
“I never went back to listen to these songs, even when we were rehearsing to play them live. We played them as our memory had them stored. I cringe listening to my own songs. You can always learn something new from yourself. I had very strong opinions about mixing and stuff like that on this record, I wish I was more openminded then because, as an artist, you feel like you can always do better. That’s why I don’t go back and listen to our albums, I am a bit of a control freak, and I know I’d want to change so many things.”
As important as ‘Let Me Come Over’ is to music of its time, it wasn’t even the bands peak. The power trio went on to record a string of hit records in the 1990s— ‘Big Red Letter Day’ (1993), ‘Sleepy Eyed’ (1995), and ‘Smitten’ (1998)—but they never reached huge success like their friends Belly, Dinosaur Jr., and other bands from the area.
“We started out as three guitarists. Tom learned drums and Chris learned to play bass. I learned how to sing and write songs. We signed a record deal with SST in 1989 and were up and running. For the first few years we were either in the recording studio or on tour for the better part of 10 years. During that time, all our friends like Belly and Dinosaur Jr were on the cover of Rolling Stone and getting nominated for Grammys; we were happy for them. Then the whole Seattle thing happened and the labels were signing any band in a flannel and Doc Martens, which was great too, but we didn’t fit in to that. Then the industry changed and bands like Creed and Limp Bizkit were becoming famous and playing up to 12-year-old girls. At that time labels were folding or merging, doing anything to hang on. We knew then our time to find a major label had passed, so that’s when we took our break.”
Returning in 2007 with ‘Three Easy Pieces,’ Buffalo Tom has routinely played shows and record albums, their most recent being the much overlooked ‘Skins’ (2011). Now with the 25th anniversary of ‘Let Me Come Over,’ Janovitz, Colbourn, and Maginnis have a renewed strength. The band has been playing shows where they have played duel sets—the first being ‘Let Me Come Over’ in its entirety, and the second being favorites from their career.
On the horizon, Buffalo Tom has a new album in store where they have funded the project via Pledge Music, which will see release later this year. You can pledge and participate in the campaign by simply pre-ordering the digital download, a variety of physical limited-edition product bundles (CD, vinyl, a new t-shirt), or even one-of-a-kind experiences. See all the unique offerings at http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/buffalotom. A percentage of the proceeds of the campaign will be donated to Greater Boston Food Bank.
“Yep, it’s true, for the first time in about five years we are going to have a new album,” Janovitz said. “We are about 99-percent done with it right now and are hoping to release the new album this fall. We are excited about the album as you’d expect and I think Buffalo Tom fans will like the new music too, at least I hope.”
UPCOMING LIVE DATES
May 13 – New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom
May 27 – Portland, ME – Port City Music Hall
May 26-28 – Boston, MA – Boston Calling Festival
June 6 – Brussels, Belgium – Ancienne Belgique
June 7 – Masstrich, Holland – Muziekgieterij
June 8 – Amsterdam, Holland – Paradiso
June 9 – London, UK – Islington Assembly Hall