Lou Barlow interview with ‘the godfather’ of the DIY indie aesthetic

LouBarlowLou Barlow is humble.
Often times when interviewed, the interviewer mention Barlow’s status as indie rock royalty; a title which he often shrugs off. But Lou Barlow is an important figure, often named ‘the godfather’ of the DIY indie aesthetic. Between his work with Sebadoh, Dinosaur Jr., Deep Wound, Sentridoh as well as his own solo records, Barlow has pioneered some of the most influential music and recording techniques.

Stephen Malkmus of Pavement is also credited with bolstering the importance and popularity of lo-fi recordings. Malkmus and Barlow could probably be considered contemporaries. But while Malkmus’ style of lyric writing was always sarcastic, Barlow often writes from a place of sincerity, if not confusion. This is re-affirmed by Sebadoh’s bandcamp page, which mentions, “historically speaking, Sebadoh’s albums have paralleled momentous experiences in Barlow’s life”, making their albums all the more cathartic.

As a true watermark of the DIY camp, Sebadoh still even have a bandcamp page, with a limited release cassette (as well as digital downloads) for sale.

Sebadoh, started up in 1986, is playing Jack Rabbits in San Marco this Sunday night.

On your bandcamp, the importance of Defend Yourself aligning with Sebadoh’s older material is mentioned. Do you think that the band has developed any differently over the years?
LB: We’re pretty consistent. We’ve always been able to lock in and play. When we got Bob Demico in the band, things came together almost quicker with him, so that’s cool.

On a recent interview at Amoeba Records, you mentioned that the Folk Implosion was actually some of your favorite music you’ve ever done. What has made that special?
LB: It was an expression of the friendship that I had with John Davis. Like we were little music professors talking to each other. We would just make music based on what we had talked about liking. It was a real mental exercise. It was a particularly free time.

In an odd twist of fate, Billboard named Sebadoh a “New Alternative Artist” for your 2013 record, Defend Yourself. Do you know how that happened?
LB: I don’t know. People keep mentioning it to me.
Well, we did take a 14 year break and were never really that popular.

What is the back story of the album art for Defend Yourself?
LB: It’s just something that I came up with. I started cutting things up, messing around with markers and crayons and that’s what came out of it. I found out as I went through that I was actually starting to make layers of things.

When we submitted it for album artwork, we actually wanted it to show the layers, the cut out and the die-cut on the front of the heart. It’s a recreation of that my actual notebook looked like. In Sebadoh, we always make our own artwork.

The last proper Sebadoh album, The Sebadoh was recorded at a proper music studio in Los Angeles, while the other releases were done at more intimate, DIY settings. Do you have a different relationship with The Sebadoh compared to the other records with this band?
LB: I really enjoyed The Sebadoh It was a pretty hands-on experience, even though we had bigger studios and worked with other people. What we had released was really well produced.

But the record didn’t do that well, so it was kind of a stigma attached to it. It wasn’t a widely appreciated Sebadoh record. Harmacy was actually done in studios too and that one I felt [most] separated from the process. That record we kinda let control go a little bit. For that reason, that’s about my favorite [Sebadoh] record.

Before I was like, I want to be as in control as possible. To do that now, studios are extremely expensive. It almost beyond our financial grasps to do something like that. Studios are very prohibitive now.

About Andie Cunniffe