Lo-fi veteran Lou Barlow returns to Headliners this Friday to celebrate the reissue of Sebadoh's beloved Bakesale. And cats.
As the 90’s dissolved, so did the uncertain future of Sebadoh that was left stalled in 1999 after their last album The Sebadoh was released. Every couple of years since then, Lou Barlow gets back together with bandmates Jason Loewenstien and Eric Gaffney to keep the legacy alive. Sebadoh breathed life once more when they embarked on tour in 2004, and again in 2008 during the wake of Dinosaur Jr.’s anticipated revival. “They’re all nostalgia tours for me at this point; not in a bad way,” he said in our interview conducted last week. “For us, it’s just a matter of keeping the light burning until the time comes for us to make another record, which seems to be getting to that time now.”
When Lou wasn’t touring, the music lived on through Loobiecore.com where he built an archive of Sebadoh demos and tracks from his stripped-down solo project Sentridoh, many of which fans can download for free. Although his music made the digital transition, the hand-made feel of his website suggests this to be the only change. It wouldn’t be surprising to find it looked the same exact way upon its launch in 2000.
Two years ago Dinosaur Jr. took on Louisville and this Friday Lou makes a triumphant return with Sebadoh for a night of ultimate low-fidelity. Mazes, sounding much like a blast from the 90’s themselves, claim the opening slot. Best word of advice: bring your cat. Lou Barlow LOVES cats!
Your website Loobiecore.com still remains very hand-made and DIY. It doesn’t seem to have made the digital transition. How involved are you on the internet side, with social media?
I’m there. I always check my forum and website, and I do my Twitter sometimes. I don’t have a smart phone so I’m not doing it every minute and sometimes Twitter seems really cool to me and other times I don’t think anything I have to say or am thinking is gonna be interesting, and I don’t feel worthy sharing it with the world. It’s pretty mellow. I definitely keep my own stuff up and I’m active, but I’m not obsessive. I don’t really get a lot of results from it either. I sell stuff on my website and get maybe 50 orders a year. There’s people on my forum, but you have two or three people on it at one time, if that. It pretty much stalled out 1400 followers. No part of it is really growing, and it’s kind of going on. Just trying to keep in touch with people. I like the aspect of that, like if you keep in touch with people, and if they wanted to they could contact me directly. But people don’t really contact me directly.
Yeah, it seems a lot more low-key.
It’s real low-key. [Laughs]
You tend to release a lot of recordings in your signature lo-fi quality that often blurs the line between demo and finished product. How do you determine what is refined?
I feel like if the lyrics are finished, the story’s been told. Having said that, I think there’s other...I mean, now it matters less and less as time goes on. I don’t think things have to sound finished. Back in the day, in the 90s, people were pretty hung up on lo-fi and it was considered lazy. It was this “lazy” thing and it’s just like, “you’re a stoner tossing stuff off.” I never really felt that way in a lot of the stuff I did do that was lo-fi. I mean, I really spent a lot of time crafting it. But I did all of that, and I would craft these things, and people would be like “you’re just tossing this off; why don’t you do it for real?”
I did spend some time doing some new stuff for real. But in the end it doesn’t really matter because, it just doesn’t matter. If I feel like I want to do something more with something or have ambition with the way something should sound, then maybe I’ll spend more time crafting it. But if I was to do a demo or something I recorded in a hotel room and think “wow that sounds great,” then I’d probably release that. And releasing- what does that mean? Releasing is like putting it on a CD no one buys. What is releasing?
Making it public, basically.
Yeah. With the website I can make things public immediately. There’s something satisfying about that. There’s not really an end to it.
And it’s free!
It’s free; it’s there if anybody takes it.
And you really only need to know the bare essentials of recording. Do you think that limits you sometimes?
I think I do all right. I did a couple solo records the last couple years that I did quite a bit of the work at home. But if I put the stuff I did at home next to the studio, you can’t really tell the difference. On a lot of occasions, the stuff I did at home sounds better than the stuff I do in the studio. I kind of know enough. Every time I get into a situation where I’m recording, I really get into it. I delve into it and I figure out what I need to figure out. It’s always a good trip/adventure. Every time I start a record I start from scratch and I feel like I’ve never recorded anything in my life and I don’t remember any of the things I did over the last record. I start everything from scratch and kind of build it by ear, and that’s what makes the project- the adventure: learning how to do it.
Have you ever felt inspiration from cats?
Cats? Of course. I love cats.
Have your own cats played a major role in your feline inspiration?
Well, all my cats split. At least, one of them got killed by wild animals. About six years ago when we had our first kid, our cats started disappearing. They left because they weren’t the most important things anymore and most of the cats we had were strays; they were the kind of cats that adopted us. And they kind of moved on. We don’t have cats now because my wife’s allergic. She had to go to the hospital a couple times when she was pregnant, so when the cats left I thought it was safer to not endanger my wife and keep her off asthma medication because she’s breastfeeding.
That’s crucial. And it’s a good thing that your cats are independent and they can just leave on their own. You didn’t even have to ask them.
I really believe what makes cats so unique-as far as housepets go- they really can lead a dual life. I guess dogs can have that duel life if they live in the country.
They’re so dependent, though.
Yeah, they kind of want you to be the pack leader. I find that endearing about dogs, but I also find that a little... One of the reasons I don’t have a dog, is because I have a lot of empathy for dogs and I feel like they spend a lot of time very sad and expectant and I find that a hard thing to look at every day. Where as with cats, you can look at them, and they can have these supremely relaxed looks.
It’s like total indifference.
Yeah. Depending on the cat. I’ve had cats that were really emotionally dependent, and we’ve also had cats that were incredibly empathetic. Like if I was sick, one cat would always know it in the proximity of wherever you weren’t feeling well. They’re simple creatures, but they’re not. Dogs have a pretty complex emotional life. The thing I really love about cats is, you know, it’s legal to let them run around and let them out of your house- it’s legal. The relationship to human beings is so much more...
Yeah, it’s really interesting. Dogs, you can’t let them run around because they’ll fuck things up. They’ll get together and eat babies. Your family pet will a baby.
Yeah, and we don’t want that. You know how people are about killing babies.
So on your website people can submit pictures of their cats- have you gotten a lot of responses to that?
Yeah, I did initially. I made a bunch of pages of people’s cats. That was a long time ago; I had a lot of time on my hands. Now we’ve got kids at home and there’s no time to do that, but people still send me pictures which is great because I love people taking pictures of cats. It’s why I need to be looking at cats because it can be really calming.
It really is. I’ve actually done that a couple times. When I was really angry I’d look up some cat pictures, and it worked.
[Laughs] Your heart rate comes down a little bit.
Definitely, my mind shifts to more positive things. It’s a different vibe. Do you think you’d ever do an album of cat shit?
Maybe if I’m really old. I think maybe once my kids split and I feel a little senile, you know. And maybe I could really hook into some really heavy medical marijuana. Like if I was 65-70 and cats was the central theme of what I do. Sell cat related merch...[Laughs] Till I give up on all that, I don’t feel mentally feeble enough to chase my tail like that; I might put off the cat album.
It’d be really good in a time of intense writer’s block. You can always remember you’ve got that cat album on the backburner.
Sure, and probably with that being the most successful thing I’ve ever done, I can start wearing cat related clothing exclusively... and I’ll get a guitar with cat ears.
You could become a cat!
People would love that. Like in Cat Fancy magazine they’ll have an interview with me.
You can be the Grizzly Man of cats.
Exactly, that’s true. [Laughs]
Sebadoh will be playing with Mazes and Deer Meet at Headliners Music Hall on Friday, Nov 4th. Tickets are available through Headliners and Etix.com. Doors at 8PM; show starts at 9PM. 18+ with I.D.*This article also appears at Louisville.com