Bill Janovitz, leader of three-decade-old Boston band Buffalo Tom, has some hard-won advice for young musicians aspiring to a long stage and recording career: Don’t give up your day job.
It’s what allowed the trio to take a casual seven years to issue its new Pledge-Music-financed album “Quiet and Peace. ” The band comes to town March 4 to promote the jangle-thon so inspired by New England’s rugged waterfronts and whales that it almost was named “Nautical By Nature.”
“We haven’t been making a living in music since the end of the ‘90s,” says Janovitz, matter-of-factly.
To keep the lights on, bassist Chris Colbourn runs a busy booking agency, specializing in local artists and longtime band buddies including Belly and Juliana Hatfield.
Drummer Tom Maginnis works for the U.S. government in visa processing near the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border, Janovitz says, adding, “Although I don’t get what he does, exactly. It’s all very top secret,” he says. “So now we don’t go out on tour for more than six weeks at a time, and when we get together, it’s something that we all want to do. We’re more like a family.”
Janovitz, 51, wound up with the most intriguing side gig.
In the 1990s, when Buffalo Tom was scoring hits “Sleepy Eyed,” “Taillights Fade” and “Soda Jerk” (which found placement on the TV series “My So-Called Life”), he grew frustrated with the tour-record-tour treadmill.
“We very decisively stepped off of that in ’99, and we didn’t ever want to get back on that cycle,” he says. In 2001, he got his real estate license and began selling property around the west Boston suburbs. He still felt unfulfilled.
Janovitz discovered his true calling when he and his wife moved to nearby Lexington, and he started riding his bike around town, marveling at its mid-century Modernist architecture.
When he learned that its main proponent was legendary Bauhaus School founder Walter Gropius, he decided to specialize.
“There were a bunch of starchitects, back before that was a term, like Gropius and Ben Thompson in my town and surrounding towns building really cool houses in cool neighborhoods like Six Moon Hill,” he says. “So I founded this website called Modernmass.com, and that’s been a pretty big niche for me.”
The singer often covers the same historical topics on his site and in song.
“There’s a real tension in New England, dating back to the general tension between intellectuals and anti-intellectuals,” he says. “So there was opposition to these post-war architects, for example, who were regarded with amusement more than anything else. Their houses just looked so unusual next to all the straight-up colonial ones.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Independent, 629 Divisadero St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. March 4
Tickets: $25 to $30
Contact: (415) 771-1421, www.ticketfly.com