Thursday, January 25, 2007

Interviews:: Lou Barlow

When we started this blog years ago, we never dreamed we'd be talking to musicians that we grew up listening to. Too be honest, we never thought anyone other than a few friends would ever look at it, so to get the chance to sit down and talk with Lou Barlow today was kind of mind blowing.

Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, Folk Implosion, and now his solo work - Lou's unique lo-fi style of songs have been anthems for teenagers for years and his honesty makes his work as relevant today as they were 20 years ago. Sebadoh is heading on tour with the original line-up, including a stop in Vancouver in March.

HH:: Obviously, first question. How does it feel to be back together with Eric and Jason and playing the songs again?

LB:: It feels really good. We’ve always had good chemistry as players, but it’s more familiar than I thought it would be. Eric left the band so long ago, and was in and out of the band so much that we were relieved to have some stability. I really had to downplay how much I liked playing with him. It’s like a second chance.

HH:: How does it feel to be playing them again? And how do you think they stack up as an artist all these years later?
LB:: I think they are great – I mean I still play a lot of them, so it’s not like I ever didn’t enjoy the songs. It’s interesting though. I think we came into our own as an electric band on Bubble and Scrape – and I love those songs. I really just love writing songs, so I love playing them as well. I’m not one of those artists who has trouble playing songs I wrote in high school.

HH:: Well that’s good, because I have no problem listening to songs I loved in high school. Are you at all curious about who’s going to show up?
LB:: Completely. Even when I went out solo or with Jason, the turnout was very patchy. I got accustomed to small crowds, and sort of used to curbing my disappointment. So it’s going to be a complete surprise when we head back out.

HH:: I’ve always wondered how the song writing went for you? I mean, there is always a duality in the projects you worked on. You could always listen and say, that’s a Lou track or a Jason track. So was the songwriting always done alone?
LB:: I guess it depends on if you mean with Dinosaur Jr or Sebadoh?
HH:: Sebadoh. I'm sure you've explained the Dinousaur Jr. years too many times.
LB:: Well, it was always sort of just they way it worked. You always wrote your own songs and brought it to the other two. Then we kind of fleshed it. I never told Eric or Jason what to play. I mean a couple of times there was a complete framework, but especially for Eric, as we had such completely distinct personalities, he was much better when I let him just go. I liked it better too.
HH:: Leads to a question unrelated to the current tour. News came out yesterday that the Dinosaur Jr. record is done. How did that whole process of working with J again go? If you don't mind talking about it.
LB:: Good – I mean it started with reunion almost two years ago. it was really easy, surprisingly easy. I was surprised that he wanted to do another record, but as we started working, all of the doubts all kind of fell away. I mean we worked really hard on this record over about seven months, very off and on. We really worked on it a lot for two months, and it was surprising how easy and how much I enjoyed it.

HH:: I'm so excited to hear it. I can't wait. This next question is important for us. We are an online magazine, so this is probably more important to us than major publications, but how do you see music now? When you guys were first starting out, bands recorded on tapes and had to work their asses off to make rent. Now it’s a lot different – myspace, the net, commercials. Indie rock is more embraced by the mainstream. Do you ever wish you some of your music was being made now and getting more exposure.
LB:: Ha. I don't know. It's completely different now. Lots has changed in 20 years. Right now better atmosphere, much more democratic. The web has taken over how music works. Jason was just saying the number 1 on billboard last week sold like 17,000 records. That's crazy. I mean as opposed to hundreds of thousand a few years ago. Free downloads, it's really killed record sales, but made it much easier for a band to get along and survive. It's a great time in music, but then again, I always think it's a great time.
People tend to fetish-ize music, like music in the 90's was this golden age. I look back and have to say ... 'really?' People seem to think bands back then were making such great music that was so much was so much better then it is today. I look back and think that not many bands were very experimental. Punk rock was punk rock. The scene didn’t allow for many influences. Now everything is all mixed up at once. I really like that.

HH:: So are their bands out now that you really like?
LB:: Of course. I love the new Gossip record. I’m trying to listen to the new Joanna Newsom record. I loved her first one, but it’s tough with the baby. I put it on and the baby starts freaking out. It’s so busy that the baby can’t focus on anything. But when I put the Gossip record on, the baby dances around and we can do things.

HH:: Last question – it’s something one of my best friend’s Lexi wanted to ask you – your music has always had the youthful cynicism. She wants to know how you manage to keep that from being replaced with an older, more bitter cynicism when you write new material?
LB:: Wow, I’m not sure. Let’s see, I’ve always – wow this seems cheesy, but I’ve always believed in the power of music and lyrics. And honesty. Honesty above all, it never goes out of style. Never really wrote songs to make myself feel superior or smart. So I hated getting labeled as bitter. 'He wrote this song attacking a member of his band. He’s so angry.'
When I go back and listen to my songs, I don’t hear bitterness. I don’t feel I was bitter. My songs have always been a tool to actual understand a situation, not put myself above it. It was never a case where I wrote I wasn’t actually trying to attack someone. It was never a sutuation that was so one dimensional. I wasn’t trying to make it one-dimensional. I’ve just never written like that. I’m not out to make anyone feel smart for listening to me, or put myself above my problems. I really just try communicate not preach at someone.

Posted at 2:07 PM by ack :: 1 comments

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At 7:15 PM, Anonymous Ewan did sayeth:

Beautiful. Nice work Bryan.


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