sebadohPioneers of the lo-fi movement, Sebadoh, have returned over the past few years to continue to bridge the gap between punk rock and folk music. Having reconvened to play some live shows that celebrated their Bakesale album, the trio have released their first album in 14 years, Defend Yourself. They hit the Rosemount Hotel on Tuesday, March 25. CHRIS HAVERCROFT reports.

As a member of Dinosaur Jr and the driving force behind Sebadoh, Sentridoh, Folk Implosion and also having a swag of solo records, Lou Barlow is often hit with the tag of being a prolific songwriter.

Barlow doesn’t necessarily see this as being the case, and spending 14 years between Sebadoh records may have given the prolific label a bit of a dent.

“People have always called me prolific and I have never agreed,” offers Barlow in matter-of-fact fashion. “In general, it is strange because no matter how little I release, people tell me that I release too much. To me it just seems that they are sending me a message that maybe I shouldn’t make songs at all.

“My solo records are very well spaced apart and people still think, ‘its too much’. I think people like young artists to be prolific, but once you get to a certain age people want you to stop already. They tend to think what are you trying to prove.”

Barlow’s relationship to the band that brought him to the attention of the punk world  and his at times turbulent history with Dinosaur Jr frontman, J Mascis, have been well publicised. With Dinosaur Jr having new lease of life that has been a particularly fertile period, is it a case of history repeating itself with Barlow escaping from the restrains of Dinosaur Jr by a reinvigorated Sebadoh?

“I don’t know if it was like a reaction to Dinosaur,” he says. “It wasn’t that simple. It was certainly something that I wanted to do. Playing in Dinosaur Jr as a bass player with a very charismatic guitar player who writes all the songs, I don’t think that it is unusual for a musician to also want to be other things. Even now having Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr, they really are good counterpoints for each other. All these years later it is even more rewarding. Each band has a different relationship to its audience, and one band’s audience is considerably larger than the others, and that is interesting too.”

Defend Yourself is a fairly confrontation title for any album, but Barlow feels that the name almost chose itself. When the trio convened to work on the record, Jason Loewenstein (bass) had written a song called Defend Yourself, and Barlow himself had wanted to call one of his songs by the same name. Listening to all the songs at that point, it became obvious to the band that there was a theme going on there.

“I like the words when they are put together as there are certainly a lot of signs of struggle on the songs on the record to be perfectly honest. There is struggling for peace of mind in relationships and struggling for equality and so I think the title just came bursting through and it was obvious what it was going to be called. It is a pretty aggressive title, but hey!”

Defend Yourself is a record that Barlow says he had to make. It came around the time that the marriage to his long-term partner dissolved, leaving Barlow to reassess his hand and negotiate how to raise his young family from under a different roof. It is this subject matter that forms much of the flavour of Barlow’s contributions to Sebadoh’s eighth album.

“In some ways, for me to finish the record I needed to be honest in my personal life to be honest in my songs. That was an interesting revelation that I had when writing this record. A lot of things were pointing in the direction of change in my life and those things manifest themselves in my songs. I don’t write with a lot of poetry, it is just cold hard facts of my situations that I write about. In some ways it is almost like this change needed to be enacted in my life for the songs to finish themselves.”

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