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Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Monday 24th March, 2014 11:08AM

Iconic indie rockers Sebadoh are heading to New Zealand this week for the first time in nearly two decades for a series of shows around the country. The trio's visit follows on the heels of their first studio album in 14 years, Defend Yourself, which was released last September via Domino Records. We spoke to self-confessed cat person and Sebadoh frontman Lou Barlow (who is also known for his work with Dinosaur Jr) about what got the band back in the studio after such a lengthy hiatus and how a simple Facebook message got them back Down Under after almost 20 years...

Hi Lou, how are you, what are you up to?

I’m at home in California...I just took a shower and I was listening to a Warren Zevon song.

So Sebadoh hasn’t been here for nearly 20 years, do you remember anything from the last time you were here?

I know that I’ve been there in the last 10 years, I think. I played a couple of solo shows and I was just there with Dinosaur Jr. But Sebadoh hasn’t been there for 20 years??? Haha, anyway I love going to New Zealand so I’m looking forward to going back.

It’s really great that you can do so many shows, often bands come to New Zealand and they might just play one or two cities…

It’s cool... It all came about because someone sent us a message on Facebook, saying "I would love to bring Sebadoh to New Zealand if I can". And we were like "sure, what do you have in mind?". Pretty soon one show turned into two, turned into three and so on. I’m really excited about that.

And you will be playing parts you your new album Defend Yourself, how does that feel to be taking that new material to audiences?

I really love it. I probably enjoy it more than anyone else. I love playing new songs and it really come together for me. I really love it.

What got you guys back into the studio to make that album?

Well, we had done several reunion tours and Bob D’Amico started playing drums with us and he’s an old friend of Jason’s (Lowenstein). So when Bob started playing the older songs became really focused and we started to develop a sound, a new Sebadoh sound, or at least a new version of Sebadoh began to really coalesce. I think that we knew we had to make some new songs to really express that and to keep us really interested as well.

I read that single ‘State of Mind’ is a song based on parenthood, is that a new influence to your music?

I guess so, I’m a fairly recent parent, I mean my oldest girl is nine, so it takes me a really long time to digest a situation and understand what I’m going through. So it’s only recently become a real subject of songs, so yea it is new.

What are some of the other key differences between Defend Yourself and your earlier material?

Ummm… To be totally honest there’s not a whole lot that does make it different from our earlier material. It’s three guys, you know bass, drums and guitar. The heart of each song is a live performance, that’s the way it always kind of was with us and we are not really embellishing stuff, we kind of draw upon our own influences to make music. When Sebadoh makes it record it’s never “OK this time we are really going to explore the rhythm and blues side of our persona, or this time we are going to make heavy metal record”. We make Sebadoh records.

That must keep your long-time fans happy...

I don’t know... hahaha. Like I said, when it comes down to playing live songs I’m probably the one have the most fun and enjoying it.

That seems important, if you enjoy making the music then that will come through in the sound…

Yea, I always assume that the people who do like our music are people of like mind, you know. There is something similar between ourselves and our listeners and so something feels natural to us and sounds good to us, then maybe they will feel the same way.

Were there any challenges in recording the new album?

Not really, it was pretty easy. I guess getting the songs together was pretty easy, we had a very productive period where we recorded all the songs on the record and an EPs worth as well and that was an incredibly efficient period. The main challenge was that we had to finish the album separately. When I mixed my songs I was by myself and when Jason mixed his songs he was by his self. It's always a challenge in the end because we live so far apart from each other. That is definitely a challenge.

You’ve been doing a lot of touring lately with the new record, does it get exhausting?

Yea! But I’m so used to it. It can be exhausting but I can’t dwell on it too much. When I get home I have to step right back into the life I left behind, whether I’m exhausted or not. I think when I was younger when I got back from long tours I used be like “oh my gosh I’m so tired I can't believe I did that”. And I’d sit around on the couch for a week. Looking back and thinking how I was in my 20s and early 30s and thinking, oh my god what a whiner, who cares hahaha.

A lot of enduring Sebadoh fans down here are really looking forward to the show, what can they expect?

Well, I guess since we haven't been there for a long time we are going to feel very free to play whatever we feel like. We play a lot of songs from what is probably the peak time of the live band, which is probably the last time we were there, the Bakesale and Harmacy period. We draw a lot of material from that to play and we play songs from every Sebadoh record.

Last question, what’s your favourite Sebadoh album and why?

My favourite one is Sebadoh III (1991), because it’s the weirdest record we made. It’s very a strange record. There are a lot of different sounds on it. It’s a really collaboration, there is some of there some of the most crafted work by my bandmate Eric Gaffney at the time, his personality really came out on that record and I though mine did too. I think it’s a very intense record and I love it.

Watch the video for 'State of Mind' from last year's album Defend Yourself below...


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