Sebadoh puts the past behind and reforms


:: Sebadoh :: Fox Theatre :: March 17 :: 


By Tim Dwenger

In late 2006, Lou Barlow, prolific musician and founding member of several influential bands including Dinosaur Jr., announced the reunion of the original line-up of Sebadoh. To truly understand the significance of the reunion of the original line-up, it is critical to understand something about the history of this seminal indie-rock band. 

The project rose out of the ashes of the original Dinosaur Jr. in 1989, when bassist Lou Barlow was plucked from the brink of depression by experimental recording partner Eric Gaffney. “I was sorta heartbroken, having been just kicked out of Dinosaur and he was like, ‘Fuck it, let’s just do this, I know this kid who plays drums and he’s awesome, I’m gonna bring him down,’” said Barlow in a recent interview with The Marquee. “Turns out he was pretty awesome and we ended up getting the band together really quickly.”

The other “kid” that Gaffney had brought down to the practice space was Jason Lowenstein, a brilliant musician who turned out, over time, to be more of Barlow’s musical partner in life than Gaffney. “When things finally came together with Sebadoh all I wanted to do was tour, constantly. I knew it was critical to our success, having done it once already with Dinosaur. Unfortunately, Eric simply wasn’t comfortable touring and he ended up taking more of a Brian Wilson role in the band.  In the end we couldn’t really abide by that so he left the band,” Barlow said.

Gaffney wasn’t the only one in the band that seemed a bit unbalanced at the time. Barlow himself was on his way to developing a reputation for freaking out on stage. “It wasn’t like the longer the tour was the more I’d freak out. You could catch a freak-out within the first week of a tour depending on what happened that day,” admitted Barlow. “I played a show at the Fox in Boulder years ago and we went to this place beforehand and it was like ‘woohoo, free Margaritas.’  Anyway, I drank way too many, they were way too strong, and tequila has a way of obliterating all sorts of technical know-how and coordination for me. I was basically incapacitated and had a meltdown on stage because I was too drunk.” 

Sure, there were other Barlow freak-outs over the years, but they eventually took a back seat to the music as the band began to veer toward the mainstream. “When Eric quit the band he took a huge chunk of the band’s sound and personality with him and we felt we really had to go in another direction,” Barlow said. “I had recently rediscovered playing guitar in a standard tuning and all these songs just exploded from me in about two years. I actually ended up writing some pretty good pop songs. When I look back on it now it really looks like a streamlining of the sound but it was something new to me at that point.” 

That streamlining of Sebadoh’s sound is what brought them their biggest success. With the release of Bakesale in 1994, mainstream music fans began to get wind of Barlow and his band.  Songs like “Got It” and “Skull” received massive attention, revealed the softer side of the band and demonstrated to the world that Lou Barlow was much more than an indie-rock noise maker. 

Riding that wave of success, Sebadoh carried on strong throughout the ’90s, before going on hiatus in 2000 so Barlow could concentrate on his side project, Folk Implosion. Barlow and Lowenstein have staged a couple of Sebadoh tours since 2000 but it wasn’t until late last year that Eric Gaffney agreed to return to the fold. 

“I had been locked in an e-mail war with Eric for about four years, hashing out the details of the Sebadoh III re-issue and other things. We used to write really long letters back and forth and now with the advent of e-mail is just so much quicker,” Barlow laughed. “We just work well in writing.  It took us four years on e-mail, so on paper it probably would have never happened.”

The week before Thanksgiving of last year, Sebadoh got together in an L.A. practice space and after just one week Barlow felt the chemistry falling back into place. “It’s kinda funny because it just immediately makes sense. The three of us hadn’t actually been in a room together in, God knows, 15 years? And when we all started playing we realized that, musically, we haven’t really changed. We still play in the same style that we used to and we tap into each other really quickly, it is just a good feeling,” said Barlow.

While the music still flows organically, the band has matured and has strayed from their adolescent ways. “It’s a little different than drinkin’ a bunch of beer, trollin’ around for a diner or trying to score weed, living that life that you lead when you are in your early twenties. These days, we practice for a while and have a really good time and then we come back to my house and my baby’s here and we all sit down and have a nice dinner.” 

In many ways, the fits and starts of the Sebadoh story reflect the maturation process of its members. Barlow skirts around the issue of whether or not everyone in the band has matured to the same point and breaks into laughter when asked if there is still one guy in the band who is tied to some of the vestiges of his early 20’s lifestyle. For the time being, a chuckled “we’ll see” is all he is prepared to reveal, but he is quick to admit that, “This never could have happened unless all that time had passed.”

:: Sebadoh ::

:: Fox Theatre :: March 17 ::


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