Buffalo Tom discuss new album Jump Rope (2024)

Ahead of the release of tenth studio album Jump Rope, Bostonian legends Buffalo Tom spoke to Louder than War’s Sam Lambeth about their near-forty year career, honing their craft, and why they’re ageing like a fine whiskey.

Since forming in 1986, Buffalo Tom have ploughed a consistent furrow of fizzy melodic rock that combines the vintage fuzz of The Rolling Stones and the folk sensibilities of Bob Dylan. With new album Jump Rope, they continue to develop their songwriting process and enter more organic, acoustic-laden waters. Louder than War caught up with the band’s flame-haired firebrand, singer and guitarist Bill Janovitz, and the introverted bassist and fellow vocalist Chris Colbourn.

Louder than War (LTW): The writing process for Jump Rope began quite quickly after your preceding record, 2018’s Quiet and Peace. Did the pandemic derail you guys at all?

Chris Colbourn (CC): Speaking for myself, I feel like I ‘found’ time in Covid lockdown rather than lost time. Though such a tragic and overwhelming era for the world, I found myself with a great amount of time for self reflection, long walks, and free time to delve into old song notebooks, play guitars outside around campfires with friends, and write lots of music/lyrics. I raided a bunch of very early demos too – and created new tunes, like the Stones did on the Tattoo You album.

Bill Janvoitz (BJ):We hadn’t started anything at that point, and we’d kind of been on this cycle of every five or six years we’d make a record. But this time, after Quiet And Peace, I felt we should keep it rolling here a little bit and make something sooner and quicker. We’re all aligned a little better these days, while in the 2000s and 2010s we had kids growing up. Like Chris, being at home meant we wrote a lot of material.

We always write on acoustic guitar anyway, but with this record in particular, Tom suggested that maybe this was going to be more of an acoustic album. The songs sounded acoustic, but then we’re also all concerned about tinnitus and our hearing, especially Tom who is a little worried.

That was sort of the impetus and philosophy moving forward. At one point, we thought there might be no drums at all, but that’s not what it turned out to be. We ended up adding a lot of layers until it probably sounded the same as the other Buffalo Tom records!

Well you say that, but I was actually very surprised at just how stripped back Jump Rope is. I know you guys have made more acoustic-driven records in the past – and your previous two albums have been less reliant on distortion – but this is very gentle and organic. Bill, was it interesting for you to approach the guitars in a different, more textural way?

BJ: I’ve always loved the recording process, period, and then I love it even more when it gets into guitar overdrubs, backing vocals, that sort of thing. I love making textured records, but I get your point and I agree – it’s a different album for us.

The big difference on this album for me is Tom not really playing the drumsticks very often. He’s playing with more of a splat than a crack. Even more upbeat songs like Helmet and Pine For You have less of a rock drum sound, which is cool. It’s a little bit more pastoral and moody.

There’s always been a melancholy feel to Buffalo Tom songs, and I can hear it in Jump Rope. Without giving too much away, what was influencing you guys as songwriters?

CC: I love listening to sad songs – but for myself the subject of the songs come out quite randomly. I don’t think about sitting down and writing about any particular feeling for lyrics. I personally lean towards Bill’s more abstract and melancholy tunes – which I think he has really mastered on the last few albums. I think in the end we might be best known for our 1990s indie pop songs, but I would hope that we are remembered later for the more thorny and poetic Bill songs we have recorded in the past ten years. This is ‘indie rock’ on a whole other level for BT – like a strong peaty single malt whiskey, not for everyone, but very powerful dark stuff. It takes years of living and decades of songwriting to achieve this level. Impressive to me.

I look at you guys’ longevity and it’s quite rare to have the same lineup. I think it’s something very special. As you’ve got older, have you recognised how fortunate you are to still have this chemistry and to be still making music with the same people?

BJ: Yeah. We’re not middle aged anymore. I’m going to be 58 next month and Chris is 60 this year. Tom is somewhere in the middle. You hear of mortality more and more, about people and their spouses getting sick. Just from that perspective, to be healthy and to have a healthy family is a feeling I am fortunate for. But to have these friends with whom I was friends before we even formed, and then to make a band out of friendship and collaboration – I do feel extremely fortunate about that.

Back in the day, it was much more life or death for me. It was part of my identity and it was how we made a living. I’m a very competitive person and was very wrapped up in it. But then I stepped off of that and said this was no longer my occupation.

When I started doing other things and having a family, it puts everything into perspective. Buffalo Tom will probably be the first line of my obituary, and it’s been one of the hugest parts of my life.

What do you feel has contributed to this longevity?

CC: Buffalo Tom, perhaps, keeps going through the years because we don’t really identify too much with being in a band. It’s a perk at the end of the day for sure though. Having only modest success in music was a good fit in my life. It could be different for the other guys, but I identify as a dad, raising kids. I was also part of a big family growing up (youngest of five kids), and totally wrapped up most days in a book or movie than ever being a rock guy. I value humor and jokes as much or more than songwriting at the end of the day – this world is such a crazy f*cked up mysterious place, and such a short time to enjoy it.

Having kids was a big change in your life, and there are many other artists who’ve released albums this year – MGMT and Real Estate are two that spring to mind – who have very young children and speak of how it influenced their songwriting. Your kids are all much older, but has that influenced you? The fact they are now independent adults entering the real world?

CC: Seeing our kids the age we were when we formed our band is a great circle of life feeling. Curiously, I don’t feel ancient. I still more or less view life out of twentysomething eyes. Quite a shock when I pass a mirror, of course. But I’ve not lost that excitement of plugging into a guitar, practicing new songs and playing concerts yet.

BJ: I don’t know that their perspective or my perspective of them is coming into it or their place in the world. I don’t know. I’d have to go through my songs and try to remember specific things.

But pieces of dialogue and feelings and things like that that come from them, I’m sure, make their way into it. But what was I just going to say about that here? I just lost my train of thought a little bit. Oh, but the way they do influence me in songwriting is actually by, for example, real estate might have been either way.

When you only release new records every five or six years, fans might be expecting more of the same and might not want anything radically different. Do you feel that pressure to please the fans or, when it comes to writing and recording, do you focus on following your muse?

BJ: I think the history of Buffalo Tom is an oral history that, you know, would have to be from all these different perspectives. But just as an example, I remember working really hard as a band but maybe I was the one that was driving it the most, or maybe not. But I just remember really hard working very diligently to deviate from the Buffalo Tom sound for Smitten (1998 album), which is our last record before breaking up. I put so much into that album, just getting it made, getting a new label, switching from our old label which was, in hindsight, probably a mistake. And, probably again, that was a mistake primarily driven by me. But I still listen to that record. I mean, I don’t listen to it, but when I consider the songs, I think well, okay, there are some different textures on here, but this is a Buffalo Tom song. This is Buffalo Tom, you know, it’s distinctly Buffalo Tom. And that’s the pluses and negatives of being in the same combo of personalities.

Like I said at the beginning of this conversation, it has a tendency to revert to the mean. And I mean as a fan – I think of music primarily as a fan more than an artist. And yeah, I’m as lame as most people.

CC: I do think Buffalo Tom fit into the category of artists who plow a similar type of soil each year. In literature I think of John Steinbeck, Somerset Maugham, Ruth Rendell – our aim is to not reinvent the wheel, but hone our craft and build this bigger body of work with different chapters of the same story. I feel this 10th album Jump Rope is a pretty nice bookend in a way.


Buffalo Tom are on Facebook and X. They tour Europe this autumn.

All words by Sam Lambeth.Sam is a journalist and musician. More of his work for Louder Than War is available on hisarchive. Hismusic can be found onSpotify.

We have a small favour to ask. Subscribe to Louder Than War and help keep the flame of independent music burning. Click the button below to see the extras you get!


Buffalo Tom discuss new album Jump Rope (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Tyson Zemlak

Last Updated:

Views: 6356

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (43 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Tyson Zemlak

Birthday: 1992-03-17

Address: Apt. 662 96191 Quigley Dam, Kubview, MA 42013

Phone: +441678032891

Job: Community-Services Orchestrator

Hobby: Coffee roasting, Calligraphy, Metalworking, Fashion, Vehicle restoration, Shopping, Photography

Introduction: My name is Tyson Zemlak, I am a excited, light, sparkling, super, open, fair, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.