Dinosaur Jr. Roars Again on New Album “Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not”

JAG285Dinosaur Jr.
Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not
Release date: 8/5/16

Break out the ear plugs. Western Massachusetts’ own alt-rock power trio, Dinosaur Jr., is back.

New album Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not marks the fourth release by the band since the acclaimed 2005 reunion of the group’s original line-up – J Mascis (guitar, vocals), Lou Barlow (bass, vocals) and Murph (drums). In fact, this current incarnation of Dinosaur has now actually lasted longer and produced more records than it did in the ‘80s, when Mascis and company turned out such ear-crushing gems as You’re Living All Over Me and Bug. And while the new album bears less resemblance to those early classics than it does to the band’s more recent reunion work, that fact only aids the assertion that the group’s second life is no fluke, it’s a full-on resurgence.

Opening with the one-two punch of singles “Goin Down” and “Tiny,” Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not hits the ground running.

“Are you with me?” Mascis sings on the album opener. “I got more to say.”

Though not normally cited for his loquaciousness, the guitarist lets his axe speak for him with catchy riffing and skittery solos filling up both tracks’ running times. It’s alternative rock with a pop sheen for the ‘90s nostalgia age, and the Murph and Barlow rhythm section keep up a relentless chug.

“Be A Part” slows the tempo with a repeated guitar figure ringing out between lines focusing on being “broken hearted.” But it’s the Barlow penned cut “Love Is…” that marks the first deviation from the band’s trademark crunch. Over acoustic guitar and some lurking fuzz, the Sebadoh founder feels right at home on a song that wears its ‘60s influence on its sleeve. It almost even sounds like another band is playing complete with Mascis’ ragged Neil Young-like solo conjuring a classic rock vibe.

The album’s second half features a return to a heavier sound. “I Walk For Miles” feels like a slow trudge with a bludgeoning grunge riff that stomps along as Mascis’ reach for a higher register accents the weary atmosphere of the track. At nearly six minutes in length, the number also pairs with the five-plus minute “Lost All Day” to hammer out an air of wistfulness that sees lyric subject matter looking backwards at past relationships and the things that went wrong.

“Knocked Around” follows suit. “I miss you all the time and I’m lonely,” Mascis laments on the first half of the number, sounding plaintive and wrung out. Then, strength gathered, the band soars into overdrive for the rest of the track with the furious strumming barely keeping up with the relentless drumming.

Finally, it’s left to Barlow to close out the album with his second contribution. “Left/ Right” again sounds like a song that could come from another band, only this time that band is Barlow’s other group Sebadoh. More acoustic instrumentation rears its head, but where “Love Is…” showed off a wily Mascis guitar solo, here his playing feels restrained, almost terse. There are still textures aplenty, but the idiosyncrasy of the moment leaves question marks on an otherwise strong track.

Overall, Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not sees Dinosaur Jr. making subtle tweaks to a tried and true formula. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But the clock is ticking on referring to this phase of the band’s career as post-reunion. When you’ve already outlasted the era of your earliest rumblings and eclipsed a spell spent under a major label banner, those events soon start looking like bumps in the road of a significant career that just needed some time to grow into its current arc.

Read more by Michael Cimaomo at www.valleyadvocate.com/category/blogs/northeast-underground/


’90s Music Strikes Back: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Sebadoh

In_Utero_(Nirvana)_album_coverThe arrival of the fall season always brings with it a feeling of the past being renewed. For every homecoming parade and harvest yield, there is a palpable sense that one is obligated to look back, not only over the past year, which is rapidly coming to a close, but also to much older moments long since committed to memory or jotted down in now-faded script.

For the purpose of this essay, let’s revisit a time 20 years ago, before the Internet had worked its way into nearly every home, before smart phones brought the Internet into nearly every pocket, before texting, before Bieber, and before “twerking” became a national buzzword.

1993 was a tumultuous year in American and world history. From the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, to the standoff at the Branch Dividian compound in Waco, Texas, tragedy often shared space in the headlines alongside glimmers of hope, as evidenced by the peace accord that was reached in September of 1993 by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, as well as the December signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement by then-President Bill Clinton.

But amidst all the good news and bad news there was also music. Two years removed from the moment that punk “broke” into the mainstream via the release of Nirvana’s seminal Nevermind album and still months away from that sad day in April of 1994 when the alt-rock curtain started to come down, music in 1993 existed in an isolated window of time.

Perhaps the most-hyped album of ’93 was Nirvana’s third record In Utero. A 20th anniversary edition of the album is even being released this week. And perhaps now, with all the B-sides, demos, and remasterings of the original material seeing the light of day, proper weight can be given to the significance this record had back in a year when Kurt Cobain was still alive.

First and foremost, much like 20th anniversary re-release of Nevermind, this reissue of Nirvana’s final studio album is stocked full with riches. The “Super Deluxe Edition” even features a recording of the group’s frequently-lauded “Live and Loud” concert from December 13, 1993. However, for hardcore fans the real focus is on the two never-before released instrumentals “Forgotten Tune” and the aptly-titled “Jam.”

Though highly hyped, each of these long-lost cuts is ragged and unfinished, begging the thought that the bottom of Cobain and company’s alt-rock barrel might have finally been reached. Indeed, the real prizes are outtakes of album cuts, like a more R.EM.-influenced take on “All Apologies,” and drummer Dave Grohl’s first solo rendering of the B-side “Marigold.” Sadly, Nirvana would never get to realize the potential showed by such songs’ drastically different-sounding versions, but now listeners can rejoice in the group’s defiant last gasp.

Of course after the dust finally started to settle on the time when Seattle rock ruled the world, there was still one band from the scene that was left standing – Pearl Jam. In 1993, there was probably no other group that understood the pressure Nirvana was under to record a follow-up to its breakthrough album better than Eddie Vedder and company. After riding in on the grunge tidal wave with its 1991 debut Ten, the band released its sophomore effort, Vs., in 1993 and watched over a million copies of the album fly off shelves in just its first week of availability.

20 years later, the record still holds up. Sure tracks like “Daughter,” “Animal” and “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town” now receive airplay on classic rock radio stations instead of Top 40 outlets, but little of the record’s vitriol and aggression has waned. And the band responsible for such material isn’t settling into elder-statesmen status just yet either.

Pearl Jam’s 10th studio album Lightning Bolt is set to be released in just a few short weeks on October 14th. Featuring the singles “Mind Your Manners” and “Sirens,” the album is already garnering praise for nodding to the past with a frenetic pace on some songs and for employing a mature vibe on others, proof positive that the band members are ready at times to embrace their status as survivors.

Watch the official video for “Sirens” by Pearl Jam here:

Speaking of survivors, there are few, if any, musicians that can lay claim to being fired from one band and intentionally disbanding another, only to rejoin and reform each group respectively with no drop-off in the quality of output and critical recognition. However, by reuniting with the other original members of Dinosaur Jr and by reconvening his other project Sebadoh over the course of the past decade, former Westfield resident Lou Barlow has accomplished such a feat. It just didn’t happen overnight.

In 1993, Barlow was several years removed from his bitter ouster from Dinosaur, and his new band Sebadoh was on the verge of a notable period of success. The group would release its final album recorded with founding member Eric Gaffney, Bubble and Scrape, during the course of the year. But as the decade wore on, the release of acclaimed albums like Bakesale and Harmacy would bring the band even greater recognition in indie rock circles and beyond.

Then after the tour for Sebadoh’s 1999 album The Sebadoh, the group went on an extended hiatus. Barlow had a new project dubbed The Folk Implosion, and group member Jason Lowenstein was hard at work on solo material.

Various Sebadoh reunions started to occur as early as 2003. But after Barlow rejoined the original lineup Dinosaur Jr in 2005, things really started to kick into high gear. In 2011, Sebadoh, now consisting of Barlow, Lowenstein and new drummer Bob D’Amico, hit the road for a tour to promote reissues of Bakesale and Harmacy. And just one year later, the band began releasing its first new music since The Sebadoh.

Fortunately for ‘90s music fans, that release, The Secret EP, has proven not to be just a one-off. In fact, the band released, Defend Yourself, its first full studio album in 14 years just last week. Featuring indie rock gems like “I Will” as well as more alt-country influenced tracks like “Inquiries,” the release is more than just a nostalgic tour through the halls of college radio’s past, at times it even plays like a hopeful wish for the future.

Watch the official video for “I Will” by Sebadoh here:

Perhaps the chill in the air that comes with crisp autumn mornings has always existed as a reminder. Every time we pull our collars up to shield ourselves from the change in temperature, or maybe every time we see the leaves change color and fall, we are being told to look back. Though 1993 was a flash in time, 12 short months split into 365 days, the echoes of that period can still be heard today. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sebadoh – the music of the ‘90s lives on in the 21st century. So look back or lean forward, it makes no difference. The season is changing, but the soundtrack stays the same.

For more information on Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Sebadoh, please visit nirvana.com, pearljam.com, and sebadoh.com.

Plus, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter:


The top albums of 2012 A-Z part 1

BJM logoWell, it’s that time of year again. It’s time for every music blog, website, and magazine worth its salt to come up with highly divisive best-of lists for readers to argue over, deride, and generally fault for not being the same as their own. Still, with all that being said, the Underground is participating in this year-end tradition anyway. And this year, we’re going alphabetical.

Read below for part one (A-M) of the Northeast Underground’s list of the best albums of 2012, and check back next week for part two (N-Z).

A is for Aufheben by The Brian Jonestown Massacre

This newest album from the BJM is an updated take on the band’s affinity for ‘60s psychedelic revivalism. Frontman Anton Newcombe keeps his vocals to a minimum, but still manages to conjure an eastern-influenced sound merged with an ‘80s dance vibe. “It’s as if the record was conceived during a fantasy trip where during their stay in India the Beatles went out clubbing at night with the members of New Order.” Read more about the album with excerpts from an interview with Newcombe here.

B is for Bonnie Prince Billy and his album Now Here’s My Plan

Though it consists merely of six tracks that have all been previously recorded by Billy (aka Will Oldham), this release is a compelling reimagining of what each song could’ve sounded like when given an alternate arrangement, and also serves as a precursor to the singer’s recently released autobiography “Will Oldham on Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy.” Producer Steve Albini contributes to the EP’s overall no-bullshit approach, but it’s guest vocalist Angel Olsen who almost steals the show during the duet “Three Questions.” Read more about Now Here’s My Plan here.

C is for Cat Power and her new album Sun

On her first disc of all-original material since 2006’s The Greatest Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall) returns with a record that dabbles in several different genres. For instance, discarding the more soul-influenced sound of her last album, Marshall turns her focus to electronic music for the opener “Cherokee,” which features repetitive samples, a drum machine, and even handclaps. “Silent Machine” is anything but silent, with a catchy guitar intro and pounding beat. But most surprising of all is probably the appearance of veteran rocker Iggy Pop, who duets with Marshall on “Nothin But Time.” Though his vocals don’t spring up until nearly the six minute mark of the almost 11 minute track, Pop doesn’t feel out of place on the number, managing a charming croon alongside Marshall’s plaintive lead.

Watch the video for “Cherokee” by Cat Power here:

D is for The Dandy Warhols and their new album This Machine

Recorded during 2011 at the band’s studio and entertainment complex the Odditorium, this latest from the Portland, Oregon-based Dandys is proclaimed as a return to a more “guitar-centric” sound than the group’s last three records, which featured a more electronic-influenced style. “We’ve been told that it’s our gothiest. I thought it was our grungiest. So I’m really hoping it’s a hit with goths who are, um, really outdoorsy,” says group frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor. And he might get his wish. The much-hyped cut “The Autumn Carnival” includes songwriting contributions from David J (Bauhaus, Love and Rockets), and describes an ethereal journey through what sounds like a funhouse from another dimension. Read more from an interview with Taylor-Taylor here.

E is for EP as in The Secret EP by Sebadoh

While only available online or on the merch tables during the band’s summer tour, this fresh blast of indie rock marks the first new material from Lou Barlow and company in 14 years. New drummer Bob D’Amico (Fiery Furnaces, Circle of Buzzards) adds a propulsive drive to the mix, but the real joy is in hearing Barlow and Jason Lowenstein cut loose on tracks like “Keep the Boy Alive,” “My Drugs” and “All Kinds” just like it’s 1999 all over again. Listen to these tunes and more yourself by visiting the band’s bandcamp page here.

F is for Funeral as in Blues Funeral from the Mark Lanegan Band

Blues Funeral - Mark Lanegan BandOn his seventh studio album, alternative mainstay Lanegan teams with producer Alain Johannes and fellow rockers Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs, Gutter Twins) and Jack Irons (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam) to craft a varied but satisfying disc filled with meditations on boredom and addiction. Opening track and first single “The Gravedigger’s Song” pulls listeners in with lines about “piranha teeth,” and Queen’s of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme shows up to lend guitar flourishes to “Riot in My House.” Strangely, “Ode to Sad Disco” casts Lanegan’s brooding baritone over a synthesizer and drum machine beat, but much like the rest of the album, the track works with surprisingly positive results.

G is for Grass Widow and its new album Internal Logic

This third full-length from a trio of San Franciscan females is a gorgeous slice of indie pop. Opening track “Goldilocks Zone” sets the mood. After a brief bit of sound resembling an outer space transmission, some surf rock guitar emerges with a pleasant twang and three voices begin gliding smoothly over the proceedings. Elsewhere, the majority of numbers fly by in a rush of airy vocals, sometimes making individual words indistinguishable. Still, when everything comes together like on “Milo Minute,” listeners will have a hard time not singing along. Read more here.

H is for Hoonah also known as Sarah Smith with her album Sneak

Delicate and powerful – two words to describe both singer/songwriter Sarah Smith (aka Hoonah) and the unique sound found on the PVPA grad’s first full-length release. Though musically the album consists largely of soft finger-picked melodies and playful vocals, tracks like “Primitive Patches” evoke strong emotions amidst ominous piano chords and raw lyrics. Elsewhere, Smith isn’t afraid to put her heart on her sleeve with lines inspired by relationships and nature. “I like stories,” she says. “I like hearing them and telling them. I think that people who like my music like that it’s personal and about me but also something that they can relate to in some way.” Read more here.

I is for I Bet On Sky the new album by the Valley icons of Dinosaur Jr

Since reuniting in 2005, the three original members of Dinosaur Jr. – J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph – have been busy. In between tours, side projects and other band-related ventures, the Western Mass natives have also managed to turn out three albums, much to the delight of alternative music fans who clamored for the trio’s resurrection in the first place. On their latest disc, the guys further cement their ongoing partnership with a record that ranks among their best. Read more about the disc in an interview with bassist Barlow here.

Watch the video for the new Dinosaur Jr song “Watch the Corners” here:

J is for John Cale and his new album Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood

On his first studio album since 2005’s blackAcetate, former Velvet Underground member Cale crafts perhaps the most inviting avant-garde record of the year. The opener “I Wanna Talk 2 U” is the result of a spontaneous session between Cale and Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) with a solid acoustic strum providing the foundation amidst numerous electronic effects. And “Nookie Wood” is a strutting invitation that beckons listeners with a gratifying yet ominous groove. The track could also be a joke. But at 70 years old, Cale is the one getting the last laugh. He’s still breaking new ground, and doesn’t show signs of stopping.

K is for Kelly Hogan and her new album I Like To Keep Myself in Pain

Stepping back into the spotlight after years spent serving as a popular back-up singer for artists like Neko Case and Jakob Dylan amongst others, Hogan charms listeners on her latest solo release. Displaying the stamp she’s put on a collection of tracks written by the likes of such indie faves as Andrew Bird, M. Ward, Robyn Hitchcock and more, the singer exudes confidence and even shares her own ability as a songwriter with “Golden,” a song she wrote in tribute to friend and frequent collaborator Case. Much like the rest of the disc, the song goes down smooth and provides inspiration for others in the background to step forward and take their moment in the sun. Listen to a stream of I Like To Keep Myself in Pain here.

L is for Lion the new double-album by comedian Stephen Lynch

Lion - Stephen Lynch1Easily the most ambitious and lushly recorded project of his career, the new album from comedian Lynch is two treats in one. The first disc features 13 tracks of risqué humor played mostly to the sound of acoustic guitar, banjo and harmonica, while the second disc consists of live versions of each song played with the help of collaborators Rod Cone, Courtney Jaye and David Josefsberg. Longtime fans will note a more refined style, but the subject matter is still classic Lynch. Juggalos, genitalia, and even the state of Tennessee all become fodder for ridicule. But even after all these years the singer’s wit is as sharp as ever, and despite all the easy jokes his talent has become undeniable.

M is for Magic Castles the double-album by the Minnesota-based group of the same name

Hand-picked and released on the record label run by Brian Jonestown Massacre leader Anton Newcombe, this self-titled disc is an entrancing nod to the summer of love and all things psychedelic. Created by six guys with a love for farfisa organ, atonal guitar leads and hypnosis-inducing chord patterns, the album is also a return to days when listeners treated the idea of listening to records as an experience, not just as a means to kill time on the way to work. “I believe in [the Magic Castles] project enough to release it with my own money as a document,” says Newcombe. “Actions speak louder than words. Music is meant to be heard more than talked about. I love the way some of their songs make me feel.” Find the band on Facebook here.

Come back next week for part two of this alphabetical best-of featuring letters N-Z.

Plus, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter:

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Lou Barlow talks Dinosaur Jr, making a new album, and what it’s like to return to Western Mass

Dinosaur Jr (Brantley Gutierrez) 2

Dinosaur Jr (Photo credit: Brantley Gutierrez)

Back in March of 2011, I sat down for a conversation with alternative musician Lou Barlow (see photo, middle) prior to an appearance by his group Sebadoh at the Pearl Street Nightclub in Northampton.

Since that time, Barlow has returned to the Pioneer Valley on several occasions, including an appearance at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton with Dinosaur Jr for a concert benefitting the Whole Children organization of Hadley, and a second appearance at Pearl Street with Sebadoh in August featuring the group touring behind its first newly recorded music in 14 years.

Now fresh off the release of Dinosaur’s newest album, I Bet On Sky, the third record since the original line-up’s reunion in 2005, I caught up again with Barlow as the bassist prepares to join guitarist J Mascis and drummer Murph on stage Wednesday for another show at Pearl Street with a portion of proceeds going to The Common School in Belchertown.

“I love Western Mass,” Barlow said during his call in from Los Angeles. “Every time I return there, the drive up from Westfield, I take [Route] 10 to Northampton. It’s just a lovely ride through the rolling hills to Easthampton and into Northampton. I love the Valley.”

And the Valley has proven to be a fruitful location for Barlow. I Bet On Sky was recorded at Mascis’ home studio in Amherst, and Barlow contributed two songs to the release – the up-tempo rocker “Rude” and the more riff-orientated “Recognition.”

“I’ve always wanted to do a Ramones-style song with Dinosaur,” Barlow says. “A simple song that could’ve also possibly been a Sebadoh song, but I just wanted to do it with Dinosaur and have a J Mascis lead in there. So my song ‘Rude’ I kind of had this idea of a Ramones-style song with a real country melody to it, and I picked together a song on acoustic guitar that seemed to fit that pretty well. I demoed the song here in LA with my friend Dale Crover from the Melvins.”

ibetonsky.textoptions2He adds, “‘Recognition’” was another one that’s on the record that I did. I’m a semi-closeted Queens of the Stone Age fan. I think they’re just a great hard rock band, one of the best modern rock bands, if not the best, and I had a riff that reminded me of Queens of the Stone Age. So I thought that would be really interesting to see if Dinosaur could pull that off.”

If early audience reactions to Dinosaur’s new material are any indication, the band seems to have risen to the challenge. According to Barlow, the group has been playing more new songs on tour than ever before. And set lists have been well-received, with a few surprises from throughout Dinosaur Jr’s career and beyond being played live on stage.

“We’re playing probably the best cross-section of songs from all the different eras of the band,” says Barlow. “We’ve been playing ‘Start Choppin’,’ a big kind of hit from the band in the ‘90s. We’re also doing a Deep Wound song from the very first band J and I had together. We’re spanning the band’s career I think.”

Another treat for fans has been a music video Dinosaur Jr completed for the new track “Watch the Corners.” The treatment for the video was written by the comedy website Funny or Die, and features an appearance by actor Tim Heidecker, who is known for his work on such Adult Swim shows as “Tom Goes to the Mayor” and “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!”

“If you want to make a video where no one knows how old and ugly the band is, that was the way to do it,” Barlow laughs. “Just throw a bunch of good-looking teenagers in the video, a sort of well-known comedian [Heidecker], and keep the band as low-profile as possible. In that way I think it achieved its goal.”

Watch the video for the new Dinosaur Jr song “Watch the Corners” here:

Still, despite all this focus on new material, Barlow notes that there’s another event on Dinosaur’s calendar that will see the band looking back into its past instead of towards the future. On December 1st, the band will be playing a special show at Terminal 5 in New York City to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its 1987 album You’re Living All Over Me. Special guests like Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and guitarist Johnny Marr have already been announced as participants in the concert, and Barlow is excited to revisit one of his favorite records.

He says, “It’s going to be cool. It’s my favorite Dinosaur record. Everything really came together for us sound-wise. We’re rehearsing [for the show] in Easthampton, and we’ll throw together some ideas and see how we can make it something unique and special.”

In addition to his upcoming plans with Dinosaur, Barlow also can’t wait to get back into the studio with his other band Sebadoh to follow-up on the material the group recorded for its “Secret EP,” which was sold during stops on its recent summer tour, as well as possibly work on some songs for a solo release.

“[Sebadoh] has a bunch of material that we’re working on,” he says. “We put out an EP earlier this year, and we’re going to do an LP for next year. Solo stuff, I don’t know. It depends. I always have stuff. I just have to sit down and finish it.”

As for any final thoughts he’d like to leave with fans in Western Mass who are thinking about attending the Wednesday show at Pearl Street, Barlow wants to give a shout out to one special person in particular who’s been there from the very beginning.

“I just want to say hi to my mom,” he says. “Hi mom Barlow.”

Dinosaur Jr with opener Hush Arbors, Nov. 28, 8 p.m. $25, Pearl Street Nightclub, 10 Pearl St., Northampton, (413) 584-7771, http://www.iheg.com/pearl_street_main.asp.

Plus, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter:

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“Just 4 Strings” Sebadoh’s Lou Barlow discusses his recent return to the Pioneer Valley for Pearl Street show– May 5, 2011

“Just 4 Strings” Sebadoh’s Lou Barlow discusses his recent return to the Pioneer Valley for  Pearl Street show– May 5, 2011

Sebadoh’s Lou Barlow discusses return to Pioneer Valley for Pearl Street show


Sebadoh (Photo credit: Mikala Taylor)

Mere minutes before my recent conversation with Dinosaur Jr bassist and Sebadoh founder Lou Barlow (see photo, second from left), I briefly pondered breaking one of the cardinal rules of journalism: Be professional.

Though our interview took place the day after St. Patrick’s Day, I wasn’t hungover like so many other Americans no doubt were, and I somehow thought a single beer just might do the trick to settle the nerves I had gained from the knowledge that I would soon be sitting down for a talk with an indie rock icon.

Roughly half an hour later, beer sitting still full on my desktop and Barlow conversation already in the books, I realized I had been worried for no reason at all.

Since reuniting with alterative legends Dinosaur in 2005, and in between periodic tours with various incarnations of his lo-fi project Sebadoh, former Westfield native Barlow has been busier than ever with new albums and tours taking up most of his time and family filling in the gaps.

Now, almost 17 years after the release of perhaps his band’s most accessible and commercially-successful record “Bakesale,” he’s bringing it all back home again so to speak as he returns to the Pioneer Valley on Friday as part of his most recent tour to celebrate the release of a deluxe edition of “Bakesale” as well as its follow-up record “Harmacy.”

What follows is a highlight reel of sorts of my conversation with Barlow, while he checked in from his home in L.A. before going out on tour, where I asked him his thoughts on returning to Western Mass. for a show, what it was like to revisit past albums for rerelease purposes and whether or not he’s planning on another solo record.

Underground: So, what led to this most recent Sebadoh reunion?

Barlow: Well, Jason and I have been getting together every couple of years anyway. The band kind of broke up, I guess 2000 would’ve been the last year we played together, and then Jason and I played and I think did a tour in like 2004 as a duo. We played in Western Mass. at this benefit for families with children with autism with Sonic Youth and J played solo. That was kind of like our first reunion thing. And then probably three or four years after that, we got back together with Eric Gaffney and toured the country and toured Europe that way. Now four years after that we’re getting back and touring to support this reissue of “Bakesale” that should be happening later this year.

And is that the reason why Eric’s not on this tour because he wasn’t on “Bakesale?”

Yeah, it is.

bakesale-sebadohWhat about your current drummer Bob D’Amico?

Bob D’Amico is a partner of Jason’s. They’ve been playing together for probably about seven or eight years.

What was your first impression of playing on the road with him and Jason?

It was awesome. I mean those guys have been playing together for quite awhile, and I think with rhythm sections, at least in my experience, the more time you spend together the better you get. It would be kind of hard if we were trying out a new drummer for this stuff, like if we played with him for a week and then left on tour with him, I wouldn’t be comfortable with that you know? And Jason and Bob they’re just good friends and anyone who’s a good friend of Jason’s has been a really good friend of mine.

Jason’s just a magnet for interesting people, but also like really awesome people. He just attracts really interesting and great people, so I knew that anybody he’d been attached to for a little while now and played with would be a good thing. And it was immediately, just like bam, okay. And Jason’s playing a lot more guitar and we’re playing a lot more Jason songs. It reasserts the feelings that I had initially when he was writing songs for “Bakesale,” and when he became a main songwriter in the band. His songs were like the best songs we had, or among the best, if not the best that you know, the songs that people really respond to. So it’s been great to see that.

How would you describe the differences between this reunion and that of your other band Dinosaur Jr?

Sebadoh was fashioned as my band you know. It was my band with my friends and we had a pretty sort of collaborative thing that we had going on. Dinosaur is not like a particularly collaborative experience, but that’s part of why it’s as great as it is you know? So as far as touring with them it’s totally different. As far as playing shows it’s totally different because the volume level is so much lower and we can communicate with the audience. Our songs are way shorter. It’s totally different, and when I travel with Sebadoh it’s just three guys in a minivan and that’s it. It’s very broken down. Dinosaur too even like for what it is, is a pretty stripped down crew that tours, but it’s on just such a greater scale that makes it a bit different.

Do you think that’s because there was a bit more mystique there or that you had achieved greater success with Dinosaur than perhaps Sebadoh?

I don’t know. I think it has to do with J and how he’s cultivated and preserved his rock ‘n’ roll identity. He’s becoming this enigmatic personality as he gets older, as he starts talking more and as he gets more comfortable. There’s just a lot of star power there. There always has been. J has always been by far the biggest rock star even though he doesn’t act like one. He’s just a really unique person.

It just seems like he’s growing into that role more as he gets older I guess.

Yeah, it seems like it and I’m really into it. I think it’s great. I’m totally into supporting it and going on tour with that and doing all that stuff too. But it’s great to do Sebadoh because it’s so different and it’s more my thing.

What’s it like to resurrect and play material from your youth? “Bakesale” originally came out in 1994. What’s it like to play those older songs now?

I never really stopped playing most of those songs. I consider them amongst the best songs I’ve written. And, they’re songs that I’ve played acoustically and the response that I get has always been consistently “Wow, thank you.” People always request them. I kind of go off what people request when I play live and when I play acoustic shows, and the Sebadoh songs are always what people kind of really want to hear. I get a lot back from it. I’ve always done that. Never really given up on the songs and never forgotten them. So now, to play them with Jason in a lineup that’s pretty true to the original recording is a little more dynamic, more lived in.

Watch the video for the song “Rebound”off of “Bakesale” here:

Are there any plans in the works for Sebadoh to record new material?

There are no plans, but we certainly could do it you know? We have the means. Jason’s a recording engineer, and I’ve got a spot out here in Los Angeles that’s really awesome. If ever there was a time that we could do it now’s the time. In the next couple of years maybe if we’re able to do something like that we just might do it.

What would it take to tip the scales and get you back in the studio?

Money probably because we live far apart. Just bullshit money stuff. It costs money to do stuff that’s all. The older you get the more money it costs unfortunately. The more you have families and lives and stuff, the more you have to be very pragmatic about everything. And I think if the time comes, maybe I can get some help moneywise and maybe we could do it.

What do think of the albums “Bakesale” and “Harmacy” now?

I think “Bakesale” is a really cool little kind of scrappy little record. Like when you’re talking scale and scope between Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh, Dinosaur’s records were always pretty huge sounding. And Sebadoh never really kind of attained that sort of instrumental power, but on a record like “Bakesale” we captured it all pretty consistently for the first time.

It’s still kind of ramshackle. The songs are so concise and come one right after another. I just think it was a really good time for Jason and I songwriting wise. And I think we were feeling just a real surge of energy after Eric left the band because he was always very ambivalent about the band’s success and ambivalent about touring, so when Eric left it kind of freed us up to tour constantly.

Yeah, you just sort of had your moment right then and you took advantage of it.

Yeah, we kind of seized it because I had already been through the whole Dinosaur thing and I was like “Fuck, let’s go. We got to go on tour again, we got to keep touring because people care.” I could just sense that people cared about what we were doing, and it’s so rare that people care about the music you’re playing. I knew that enough then, and I know it even more know. If you have people’s ear for a little while, and you’re young and you can do it, you should just get in a fucking car and get on the road, get on a plane to go to Europe and just exploit any fucking interest that anyone has in your band before it goes away you know? That was I guess the only real ruthlessness that I’ve displayed in my career, deciding after Eric quit the band to really go for it, tour as much as possible, just because we could.

What did you notice during the remastering process for the deluxe editions? Did you try to include anything different?

We kind of subtly beefed up the low end on the record. Very subtly. I don’t even know if you could AV it and really hear it. I was always kind of concerned that the record was very thin, and it is thin, but when I’m talking about the scope of the music and the scale of it, we weren’t really going for that. It was more about the spirit of the performances and the kind of fresh and raw feel of the lyrics. When I listened to it again it was kind of a relief because if I heard this today on the radio, and I listen to the radio all the time and I like new bands, if I heard something that sounded like this I would be really into it. That was kind of a cool thing to realize. If I heard this on the radio, I would think it was kind of unusual and sort of special. That was a relief.

Watch the video for the song “Willing to Wait” off the album “Harmacy” here:

How would you describe your songwriting process? Do you actually have to parcel up the songs you would contribute to Dinosaur and to your other projects?

What I do first is just play it the way I play it on acoustic guitar, or depending on what I wrote it on. It’s kind of easy because there are certain things that I write in alternate tunings on four-string guitar. So when I do that, I’m like “Well that’s Sebadoh,” because that’s what I do in Sebadoh. A lot of my Sebadoh material was written on four-string guitar with alternate tunings, so when I play that sort of an instrument it sounds like a Sebadoh song and when I play stuff in traditional tuning then it becomes more, ‘Wow, this could be a Dinosaur song,’ because J plays in traditional tuning and he always has, and also that gives me things like chords and stuff to show him. So that’s the way it will probably come down this time as far as splitting up songs, but I don’t know. I’ve only just begun to start getting ideas out and on to, you can’t even say on to tape anymore, into a hardrive. Just burn it. I’ve just started burning song ideas, and hopefully by the end of next month I’ll have so many to choose from and figure out what I’m going to do for the rest of the year recording wise.

Do you have plans to record another solo album? It’s been a couple of years since “Goodnight Unknown.”

I’m writing now. After I do this tour, I have almost a month at home by myself before I start doing some Dinosaur stuff. So, I think I’m just going to start writing, see what happens, and just write as much as I possibly can.

Right now, I think my most pressing concern for songs is another Dinosaur record because I know I have to be very, very specific about what I want from J and Murph. If I’m not defining everything I do like very, very explicitly they just are kind of lost. So, I have to do a lot of preparation this time.

What do you think about returning to Western Massachusetts for a show?

I love it. It’s where I’m from. I feel really privileged to have grown up in that area. I hope I’ve never wavered on that. I think it’s a pretty extraordinary place. I mean I grew up in Westfield, which is not exactly one of the greatest shining jewels of Western Mass. by any means. But having a place like Northampton, which was such an oasis when I was a kid and also all the college radio in the area, just really changed my life. There was also music fans out there and there were shows, and it’s still that way and it will always be that way out there because it’s just a good place. There are a few pockets around the country that are like that, and Northampton is definitely one of those special places.

Harmacy - SebadohWhat might audiences expect from your show at Pearl Street?

I don’t know. We just tear through like an hour and half’s worth of songs that are primarily from the “Bakesale” record and the “Harmacy” record. Not all, but we just kind of cook through it. It’s really fun.

Finally, how would you sum up your advice for novice musicians out there who are trying to make a career out of life as a professional artist?

Be weird. Make weird music. Be extreme, in some way or another, not necessarily like be Marilyn Manson, it doesn’t necessarily have to pertain to looks, but in your artistic way you look at things. If you just think, “Okay, I don’t have to write this song on a six-string guitar. I don’t have to do that. I can write it on something else.” That helps right away. That’s always good.

What about some words of warning?

Don’t drink too much. Don’t drink and listen to your own music and loudly proclaim how great you are while playing. Stay away from vanity. Don’t get too carried away with yourself at any point.

Sebadoh, April 8, $15-18, Pearl Street Nightclub, 10 Pearl St., Northampton, (413) 584-7771, www.iheg.com/pearl_street. For more information on Lou Barlow and Sebadoh as well as future tour dates please visit www.sebadoh.com and www.loobiecore.com.

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