Turntable Interview: Lou Barlow
While Lou Barlow may be best known for his work with Dinosaur Jr., his albums with Sebadoh were always more personal and, in that respect, far more interesting to listen to. After taking a 14-year recording hiatus, the legendary indie rock pioneers announced the release of their first new LP. The longtime project of Barlow, Jason Loewenstein, and Bob D’Amico are releasing their full-length album Defend Yourself on September 17th filled with the same lo fi sound and DIY ethos of their seminal albums Sebadoh III and Bakesale. To talk about the new album, Barlow braved a Turntable Interview and hopped online to talk about going back in the studio with Sebadoh, what appeals to him musically, and his secret cinnamon roll recipe.
Melissa Locker started playing “Time Of The Season” by The Zombies
STEREOGUM: Hi Lou! Welcome to Turntable Interviews!
LOU BARLOW: What version of time of time of the season was that?
STEREOGUM: I think it was just the album version.
LOU BARLOW: Nah..it wasn’t the original. not to nitpick…it almost sounded like something they did semi-recently
STEREOGUM: Then I don’t know. It was what was in the Official Turntable Database
LOU BARLOW: Yea…the database.. it’s not a bad selection overall..
STEREOGUM: Not too shabby! Are you a Zombies fan?
LOU BARLOW: I’ve got some cinnamon rolls in the oven for my kids I gotta check em quick
LOU BARLOW started playing “Contraption/Soul Desert” by Thee Oh Sees
LOU BARLOW: Didn’t burn em.. a miracle
STEREOGUM: Did you make them from scratch?
LOU BARLOW: I’m a huge zombies fan
STEREOGUM: Have you seen them recently?
LOU BARLOW: I saw them at an awards show that dino jr was at.. They were sitting at a table next to us…Haven’t seen them live
STEREOGUM: Did you recognize them? I don’t think I would
LOU BARLOW: I did.. they were all sitting together looking more or less like themselves but decades older…They stood up together and stood in a line and looked like an album cover
STEREOGUM: I saw them live and it was pretty impressive. They still cut a good figure
LOU BARLOW: Colin Blunstone!
STEREOGUM: Think Sebadoh will look as good as them on stage?
LOU BARLOW: Um.. sure
STEREOGUM started playing “Watch Me Fall” by Uncle Tupelo:
STEREOGUM:You are touring in support of the new album right?
LOU BARLOW: Oh yea
STEREOGUM: When is the last time you toured together?
LOU BARLOW: Is this gonna automatically play the stuff i chose?
LOU BARLOW: We toured last year several times and the year before.. we’ve been active for awhile..
STEREOGUM: But this is your first album in awhile
LOU BARLOW: Oh yea.. many many years
LOU BARLOW started playing “You Take My Breath Away” by The Knife
STEREOGUM: What made you want to start making music together again?
LOU BARLOW: The touring went well.. my experience with dino jr proved that making new music was a worthwhile pursuit. It’s great to have new songs to play too.
STEREOGUM: I’m sure your fans agree! What was it like with Dinosaur Jr that made you want to do Sebadoh again?
LOU BARLOW: It was easy, more or less and I knew it would be even easier doing it Sebadoh style. Just take the plunge
STEREOGUM: Do you think it’s easier now than it was years ago?
LOU BARLOW: um..yes.it is easier, less expectation.. no outside pressure. With Sebadoh especially..self contained..recorded by the band , self managed..etc etc
STEREOGUM: So are you able to do it just for fun more or less?
LOU BARLOW: Well.. it’s our source of income too..but my fun is my job..
Melissa Locker started playing “Business Cats” by Mika Miko
STEREOGUM: That’s an enviable position to be in
LOU BARLOW: Is this that LA band?
STEREOGUM: Yes they are from LA. I think they are in Bleached now.
LOU BARLOW: I have to focus and keep things together as much as anyone with a real job.. It’s just that I know, from experience, that the more fun I have doing something that the more successful it will be..
STEREOGUM: Oh, your position is probably harder. Balancing family, touring and being self managed
LOU BARLOW started playing “She Don’t Know Why I’m Here” by the Last
STEREOGUM: So you think the secret to success is having fun?
LOU BARLOW: For me
STEREOGUM: What’s that old adage: If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life? I don’t know this band
LOU BARLOW: Yea.. it’s precarious too.. surviving on your wits.. still a struggle… but that’s life, y’know? The last were a punk-era pop band from LA
STEREOGUM: I like them a lot, I just don’t know them
LOU BARLOW: Late 70’s early 80’s power pop..
STEREOGUM: Thanks for introducing me to them
LOU BARLOW: Nicely 60’s influenced i love 60’s garage/psych
STEREOGUM: Based on your song choices so far you seem to stay up on music
Do you seek out new stuff?
Melissa Locker started playing “Cut It Out” by Kitten
LOU BARLOW: I listen to college radio..always have..
kxlu here in LA..
STEREOGUM: College radio is the best.
LOU BARLOW: There’s always always always amazing new music happening.
STEREOGUM: Yeah! Do you run into bands on tour, too?
LOU BARLOW: A bit on tour.. yea.. Kitten is also the name of Kim Gordons band from the 90’s
STEREOGUM: Yeah! I was shocked that there could be another Kitten but I guess people forget
STEREOGUM: The girl in this band is 17 or so. Possibly younger.
LOU BARLOW: Hmmm.. a kitten , then.Kim could sue em!
STEREOGUM: That’s very litigious of you, Lou.
LOU BARLOW: Sounds like they can afford a lawyer. Are they English?
STEREOGUM: No, from LA
LOU BARLOW: Wha? They definitely have management
LOU BARLOW started playing “The People In Me” by The Music Machine
STEREOGUM: Yeah for sure
LOU BARLOW: A funded band no doubt…big production
STEREOGUM: Does that weigh against them for you?
LOU BARLOW: Um…only if I don’t think the music is that great. That was kinda faceless.. kinda whoosed by
STEREOGUM: I see. Not very gritty.
LOU BARLOW: Doesn’t have to be gritty.. just catchy
STEREOGUM: What does catch your interest musically?
LOU BARLOW: Melodies…just that unexplainable hook
Melissa Locker started playing “Falling” by Haim
STEREOGUM: Like the one in “Natural One” just kills me. I read an interview with a songwriter who writes for Rihanna and Katy Perry types and she said you always know a hook, even if you can’t explain it. When you write, do you know if something is working?
LOU BARLOW: Those people are geniuses…the behind the scenes songwriters..
STEREOGUM: They are! It’s crazy the number of songs they write and how they just try 20 songs and then find one that will sell 2 million albums.
LOU BARLOW: I just write…I follow the melodies that I can’t forget //the ones that pop up in my brain the most…whether it ‘works’ for other people, I dunno
STEREOGUM: So a melody just pops up and then you go for it? When do you write lyrics?
LOU BARLOW started playing “Boys Of Melody” by The Hidden Cameras
LOU BARLOW: Yea.. and maybe a lyrical concept that comes with it.. a phrase. Sometimes it takes years for it to come to fruition
LOU BARLOW: Oh yea
STEREOGUM: That’s dedication. What song do you think took the longest to write?
LOU BARLOW: I love writing songs …also if I finish something I want it to practically be a physical part of me by the time I play it for people live. I finished one recently that came from a melody that may be almost 20 years old.
STEREOGUM: Wow! Does it feel good to have it out of your head?
LOU BARLOW: Yes.. the lyrics didn’t come till very recently, or , actually the day I recorded it.
STEREOGUM: How do you come up lyrics? Are they usually on the fly like that?
LOU BARLOW: I just start singing nonsense while thinking.. eventually the meaning comes. Or deadlines help considerably… ha. Like, this is it! Time to order your thoughts
STEREOGUM: Ha! Are you working on a deadline now?
Melissa Locker started playing “Oblivion” by Grimes
LOU BARLOW My last deadline was last weekend.. 2 songs…now I’m on my own time again.. an album on the way…
STEREOGUM: Oh yeah?
LOU BARLOW: I have a couple dozen songs that are getting close.. in the cocoon stage.. egg, caterpillar, cocoon.. moth/butterfly ..
STEREOGUM: That’s exciting! And to clarify, these are for something other than Defend Yourself?
LOU BARLOW: Yea..other than the new sebadoh record
STEREOGUM: Wow! That’s a lot of creative output!
LOU BARLOW: I have to be at least a year ahead of myself because i work so slow and it takes so long for me to order my ideas.
STEREOGUM: Would this be a new Sebadoh album or solo?
LOU BARLOW started playing “I Think I Can” by Animal Collective
LOU BARLOW: I’m not sure what it will be, a solo acoustic record was my first thought but I started a band with a couple of friends and we had a great session the other day that suggests a band record might work too..i dunno
STEREOGUM: Well it sounds intriguing.
LOU BARLOW: maybe!
STEREOGUM: I don’t want to take up too much more of your time, but I would love to discuss your upcoming Sebadoh EP and LP
LOU BARLOW: ok
STEREOGUM: You started releasing the tracks onto your site secretly. Why not announce it?
LOU BARLOW: We made a cd ep that we sold at shows last year.. songs from the LP session that we finished first. We did it to have something to sell at shows…announcing it would have created a bunch of work for us!
STEREOGUM: Not that!
LOU BARLOW: Sending it out.. trying to get reviews etc..we didn’t have the time or will to force it on people
STEREOGUM: But your really dedicated fans knew
LOU BARLOW: All 300 of em
LOU BARLOW: God bless em
STEREOGUM: And are these tracks all going to be on the new LP?
LOU BARLOW: Anyway..we decided to finish the record, find a label or 2 let them figure it out.. The EP is separate from the LP. All different tunes plus there’s a ‘bonus’ 7″ with the LP 20 songs in all.
Melissa Locker started playing “Feel The Rain Fall” by Red House Painters
STEREOGUM: Wow! That’s a lot of Sebadoh for your buck
LOU BARLOW: Maybe so…we’ve always tried to make sure we gave way too much
STEREOGUM: I think that’s why you have such a dedicated fan base.
Of 300. Was it fun being back in the recording studio with Sebadoh?
LOU BARLOW: Oh yea…or my practice space as was the case
STEREOGUM: What had changed over the years?
LOU BARLOW started playing “Two” by Ryan Adams
LOU BARLOW: We did it like we did the very early releases…by ourselves.. no studio , no producers, not much outside help. The last Sebadoh records were complicated with label politics, expectations, large budgets…all of which hurt us, ultimately.. the band was at it’s best when it was between us…when we were self contained.
STEREOGUM: So this is a return to form, in the best way possible
LOU BARLOW: That’s how we approached the new record…that’s what we learned.. keep it to ourselves till it’s time to share it..
STEREOGUM: And September is the time.
LOU BARLOW: Yea..
STEREOGUM: Can’t hardly wait!
LOU BARLOW: EP was out early this month LP is September
Melissa Locker started playing “Song For Zula” by Phosphorescent
STEREOGUM: I have the EP and I am definitely looking forward to the full-length. But, honestly, right now I can’t stop thinking about cinnamon rolls. Do you have a secret recipe?
LOU BARLOW: Pop open that cardboard. give the doughboy a squeeze…make em giggle, watch the timer
STEREOGUM: Then that’s what I’m going to go do. Thanks so much for chatting with me!
LOU BARLOW: No dishes, other than a baking pan were harmed ..
STEREOGUM: Also, I think I had “Natural One” stuck in my head for 12 years
LOU BARLOW: Great! Thanks
STEREOGUM: No, thank you!
07/30 – Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theater
07/31 – San Francisco, CA @ Cafe Du Nord
08/02 – Portland, OR @ Bunk Bar
08/03 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza
08/05 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
08/06 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
08/09 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Crescent Lounge
08/10 – San Diego, CA @ The Casbah
08/11 – Santa Ana, CA @ Constellation Room
Sebadoh’s Secret EP is out now. Defend Yourself drops 9/17 via Domino.