lazyhome         reviews         hype         webboard                interviews


Sebadoh: Don't Call It a Comeback

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: Aug. 18, 2004

w/Tom Heinl & The Bombardment Society
Friday, Aug. 20
9 p.m.
Sokol Underground
13th & Martha

What's your favorite Sebadoh song?

Is it "On Fire" from 1996's Harmacy? Maybe it's "Not Too Amused" from '94's Bakesale. Or perhaps the old-school standard "The Freed Pig" from the 1991 classic III.

Whatever it is, there's a good chance you're going to hear it at the Aug. 20 Sebadoh show at Sokol Underground, which is being billed as sort of a "greatest hits" tour for a band that never had one.

Sebadoh co-frontman Jason Loewenstein says back-catalog material is the only thing he and partner Lou Barlow can play since they haven't written any new Sebadoh music in five years and don't intend to.

"We're not calling it a reunion tour or anything," Loewenstein said from Barlow's L.A. home where the duo was busy rehearsing for the tour. "The only new thing we'll have for sale is T-shirts. We're playing this whole thing by ear."




For this tour, Sebadoh will consist only of Loewenstein and Barlow. Drums will be supplied via a CD of recorded Loewenstein beats. "We had to completely remap the songs," he said. "We won't be able to improvise an extended verse. The whole process of recording the drums was more intense than I thought it would be. We screwed around with it for days. I didn't think it would work out, but it swings well and really controls the evening's dynamics."

Still, there will be a fair amount of winging it. "We have 25 to 30 songs prepared with recorded drums. If the show goes well, the encore will be stuff we haven't rehearsed at all. And if it's too loud, we'll turn the drum thing off and go without it.

"Lou and I always play to the situation, and the situation is the drum machine," he added. "We're not being different just to be different. We had a five-year break from playing a lot of this stuff. This will be a slightly different interpretation."

Regardless, fans are sure to recognize the classics that they've been listening to for over a decade. Sebadoh's story goes back to 1988 when Lou Barlow was a member of seminal indie punk band Dinosaur Jr. He, along with 16-year-old Loewenstein and drummer Eric Gaffney all shared writing duties, producing some of the earliest classic low-fi music.

The band released its debut, The Freed Man, on Homestead in 1989, effectively marking the end of Barlow's relationship with Dinosaur Jr. Throughout the '90s, Sebadoh shared the thrown as the Kings of Indie Rock with fellow low-fi darlings Pavement. Gaffney left the band in '94 and was replaced with drummer Bob Fay for Sebadoh's two most accessible CDs, Harmacy and Bakesale, the first album to chart in the U.S. Both feature Barlow's and Loewenstein's very diverse songwriting styles -- Loewenstein's jangly, loud indie rock vs. Barlow's mellow, tuneful pop.

The band's last album, The Sebadoh, was released in 1999 on SubPop. According to the band's one-sheet shortly afterward, Sebadoh just sort of faded away when they failed to "crossover."

"It wasn't a break-up, it was a break that got out of control," Loewenstein explained. "We had an intense year after the last Sebadoh record, a certain amount of personal weirdness was going on."







"We're not being different just to be different. We had a five-year break from playing a lot of this stuff. This will be a slightly different interpretation."







"It wasn't a break-up, it was a break that got out of control."



Loewenstein said the whole idea of he and Barlow playing again came out of an invitation to the 10th Anniversary celebration of their European record label, Domino. Sebadoh was one of the label's first bands, and it only seemed proper that they play a set at the party. They figured that if they were going to go through all the trouble of rehearsing and traveling to Europe, they might as well book a week of shows in Holland, the UK and Ireland. "It sort of blossomed from there," Loewenstein said.

"We're discovering that people have kept up with us for the five years we've been gone," he said. "People who come out to the shows know the words, so there's been a good amount of sing-a-long action."

On the other flip-side, Loewenstein said that, without new material, he and Barlow don't expect to see a lot of young kids at their shows. "There's no reason why we would have new fans because we haven't had any new records," he said. "There's 10 years between us and latest generation of people going to shows -- that's a whole generation of kids younger than us that have never heard of us and never heard of the punk rock bands that got us going in the first place. It's striking to see that our music actually endured for an entire generation."

Loewenstein credits the band's fans for putting up with the disjointed songwriting styles that were the hallmark of the best Sebadoh records. "We were not zoned into one sound," he said. "We've been an intensely lucky band to have fans that can deal with that."

So is there any chance of them ever writing new material? Loewenstein says the lack of pressure to make a new recording has been a blessing. "Lou's finished a solo album and I got a couple projects that I want to do after this," he said. "We're preaching to the converted on this tour. We don't have to prove anything."

Back to  huge.gif (2200 bytes)

Published in The Omaha Reader Aug. 18, 2004. Copyright 2004 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.