Sebadoh Rides Again

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

After twenty-two years spent in the modern rock trenches, the members of Sebadoh would have either gone crazy long ago or simply thrown in the towel out of complete frustration were they not able to make the best of a complicated situation. For over two decades now, the band has rolled with every imaginable punch and their current tour (the band's first in four years) has proven to be no exception; the series of dates was originally scheduled to happen in support of Sebadoh's reissues of Bakesale and Harmacy but, when the reissues got postponed, the band still got in the van [well, most of them – both Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein have returned to the fold, but former Sebadoh drummers Bob Fay and Eric Gaffney have chosen not to participate – having been replaced by Fiery Furnaces alumnus Bob D'Amico –ed] but and elected to do the shows anyway, rather than postponing the tour. “Originally the reissue was meant to come out in January or February, but apparently our record label wasn't apprised of that whole concept so we're out on tour, but it's not out,” explains singer/guitarist/bassist Lou Barlow with a laugh. “I had the tour set and scheduled, so we're out on the road to make some money. I'm confident the tour's going to be fine though, I don't think whether the record is out or not will affect the turnout to the shows that much.”

Barlow's statement comes honestly, frankly and matter-of-factly, but it also makes sense and is pretty bold. Going against convention, this tour supports no particular release and doesn't take some contrived or novel angle to its design; while this outing has been coyly dubbed the “Bakesale/Harmacy Remembering Time Tour” by the band, Barlow takes care to be very clear that Sebadoh will not be giving any one album a painstaking examination on a nightly basis. There will be no “top to bottom” performances of a single album. Sebadoh has been off the road for a while, sure – but that just means the band wants to give fans a great show, not a painfully focused one. “To be fair, I think the sets are working out to being comprised largely of songs from Bakesale and Harmacy, but we're doing some other stuff too,” says Barlow. “I mean, it's not like, 'We're going to try and recreate the Bakesale record, here's track one' or anything like that. I've seen bands do that, and it sort of feels a little contrived. I don't think it makes anything any better, really, I think the reason that bands do that is because they're just offered stupid money to do it. Like, 'We'll give you twenty thousand dollars to play your album front to back! Will you do it?' Uhm, yes? [laughing] Dinosaur's doing it this year – we're going to be doing that with Bug – and it's pretty tough to turn it down; you end up getting double or triple the money to do it over just doing a normal show. Sebadoh did it a couple of years ago for the Bubble And Scrape record in London at this really great theater and, I have to say, that was pretty great. Dinosaur did it for You're Living All Over Me too – and I really enjoyed that as well so here I am complaining about it but, when I have done it, there's something cathartic about it [chuckling]. I mean, it's a difficult space to be in; the idea of just being a dancing monkey or human jukebox isn't exactly thrilling, but the money is there so obviously people want to see it. Just the same though, on this tour, we're not doing anything like that; we're just out to give people a good show and maybe get a bit of energy and interest behind the music again, then maybe we'll start working on new music.”

Such a loaded and exciting statement begs for follow-up, and it doesn't take much pressing to get Barlow to tip Sebadoh's hand – if only slightly. The implication is that, if this tour goes well, there is the possibility that Sebadoh may begin working on new music for what would be the band's first album of new material since the band's self-titled album came out in 1999. Nothing is set in stone just yet but, as the conversation progresses, it begins to lean in that direction so heavily that a forthcoming Sebadoh record doesn't just seem likely, it seems inevitable; if nothing else, after Barlow ties up a few loose ends this year, Barlow plans on writing some new songs – the only question will be which project the singer elects to put them toward. “It's pretty difficult to write on the road, but we're going to have some time off coming up when we get finished with this tour,” says Barlow with a coy, almost teasing tone. “I've set aside about a month and a half before I have to go do a bunch of work with Dinosaur in the middle of the year – I'll be touring with them, playing Bug front to back through June and July – and I'm kind of hoping to write a bunch of songs in that period before I have to go out and do that.

“As I say though, I'm not sure which project I'll end up writing for yet,” continues the singer. “It usually breaks down to 'on what' a song was written that will sort of predicate which band I think the song would be best for. Like, for Sebadoh, most of the songs I've done previously were done on four-string electric, or a four-string tuning so, if I were doing more songs for Sebadoh, I'd probably do that again and any kind of riffs or ideas that would come out of that form would go to that band. Songs that I write on standard six-string tuning would be the ones I'd be able to show J. [Dinosaur Jr. guitarist J. Mascis –ed]; things with Dinosaur can't be too abstract, I have to be extremely literal in everything that I do with them. However, if I wrote something on six string and it didn't work with Dinosaur, I could try it solo – there aren't really any hard and fast rules to it or anything, but that tends to be how it works out. I don't think about it too much while I'm doing it, I just wait until I have the idea down and then I can kind of suss out how I think it would be best served.

“What I can say for Sebadoh is that we've got touring coming up later in the year, and I think we'll just see how it turns out and then, in 2012, we'll try to fit some recording plans in around the world ending [chuckling].”



Dates vary, but Sebadoh's reissues of Bakesale and Harmacy will either be released on May 2, 2011 or June 14, 2011. Pre-order it here on Amazon

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