Lou Barlow Valentine
Sebadoh hearts Red 7 tonight!
By Luke Winkie, 1:45PM, Fri. Feb. 14
Lou Barlow’s legend. A now decades-long career, two potential first-ballot Hall of Fame bands in Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr., and some of the most iconic songs in indie rock. On the phone for the former group’s Red 7 show tonight, he’s easy and honest, quick with a laugh and story. He seems charmed at the very idea that somebody would want to pick his brain.
Austin Chronicle: What was it like writing a new Sebadoh album after years of not writing Sebadoh songs?
Lou Barlow: Sebadoh really only stopped touring for about two years. Jason [Loewenstein] and I were doing Sebadoh tours as a duo and that went really well. Then we started doing it every year. Even when I wasn’t doing Sebadoh stuff I was playing solo shows where I was playing Sebadoh songs. It’s always been part of my life.
AC: You’ve written a lot of songs over the course of your career. Can you remember them all at the drop of a hat or does it take some time?
LB: I can definitely remember the songs I’ve played live, but there are many songs I’ve recorded with different tunings and overdubs that I’ve never made an effort to remember how to play outside of the recording. But I’ve got like 50 songs I can pull out at any time.
AC: Who’s your favorite wrestler?
LB: The time that I cared about wrestling was very short. I was really into it in the mid Seventies, but I don’t remember anything. Just a lot of color and noise.
AC: Sometimes you Instagram albums that people have given you. What’s the most interesting one you’ve received from a fan?
LB: Years ago after a show with Dinosaur Jr., someone came up to me and handed me a record in a plain white sleeve. On it was printed “Slay Tracks.” So I think that was Scott [Kannberg] from Pavement handing me the first record they ever made – before they even made a single. That was pretty cool in retrospect, from a historical perspective, because a year later they were all over the place.
AC: Did you ever care about the term “indie?” Do you care now?
LB: I always thought it was kinda dumb. When Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh started, it was called “college-rock,” and college radio was a very fertile environment to hear all sorts of stuff. I heard the early Discord records because some guys who lived in D.C. went to school where I lived. I listened to the first R.E.M. record the other day and remembered how hugely influential they were. How they were the quintessential indie rock band. Mumbling singer, arty cover sleeve, that was the blueprint.
The idea of “indie-rock” came from independent charts in England, and I don’t know, I saw the term being developed and I thought it was kinda bogus. Like indie-rock refers to who owns the record label. It had nothing to do with who listened to it or what it sounded like. At least college-rock referred to college kids.
AC: You’ve been reconciled with J Mascis for a while now. Do you think that your songwriting has changed since that happened?
LB: Whenever people ask me if I think my songwriting has developed, I always say no. I do things exactly the same way. Something will occur to me, and I’ll choose to sit down and draw it out or I won’t. If anything has changed, it’s that things aren’t as heart-wrenchingly, deliberately personal anymore.
I think I’ve gained confidence with Dinosaur Jr. I write a lot of my Dinosaur Jr. songs about the feeling of being in Dinosaur Jr. again. That was a conscious decision. I think it charts my experience with the band. Whenever I record with Dinosaur Jr., I go home and live in my parents’ house and do the drive to J’s house every day. It’s coming back home and coming back to something that’s very familiar.