Sebadoh Biography

Based in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, Sebadoh are led by Lou Barlow (Louis Knox Barlow, 17 July 1966, Dayton, Ohio, USA; vocals/guitar). Before his well-publicized partnership with J. Mascis in Dinosaur Jr, Barlow had also played guitar to Mascis’ drums in primal Boston hardcore group Deep Wound. However, as Dinosaur Jr worked their way out of the alternative/college rock circuit and into the mainstream, friendships within the band began to fray. The break came in 1989 when Barlow mistakenly let his bass feedback after missing his cue. Mascis’ response was to walk over and hit Barlow over the head with his guitar, thereby irrevocably damaging their relationship. Afterwards Barlow was fired, and admitted to being ‘just kind of lost, for a whole year’. When he eventually regrouped he began to record four-track demos with drumming friend Eric Gaffney. Sebadoh’s early recordings led to them being heralded as kings of the US ‘lo-fi’ scene, which also encompassed Pavement and Guided By Voices. These cassette releases, untutored but full of the pop hooks with which Barlow became identified, were dwarfed by the impact of 1991’s Sebadoh III, at which time the duo was expanded with the addition of bass player/vocalist Jason Loewenstein.

Seen by many as the ultimate 90s college rock album, 1991’s Sebadoh III was composed of irony-laden indie folk rock with continually surprising pop twists. It remains the band’s most enduring achievement. The UK-issued Rocking The Forest EP included the tongue-in-cheek ‘Gimme Indie Rock’ single and saw the band adopt a comparatively professional rock/pop sound. The Sebadoh Vs Helmet EP included Nick Drake cover versions as well as a revisited version of ‘Brand New Love’, originally issued on Freed Weed and released as a cover version by Superchunk. The band then joined Sub Pop Records for 1992’s deftly titled Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock, which was issued in the wake of Nirvana’s global breakthrough.

Sebadoh’s prolific output of albums continued in the mid-90s, forcing critics to reassess perceived notions of Barlow as a minor figure in Dinosaur Jr’s success, and as a genuine talent in his own right. With Sebadoh now a band proper, Barlow still found time to write solo material which was credited to Sentridoh, and collaborate with John Davis as the Folk Implosion. In 1994, Eric Gaffney left Sebadoh, to be replaced by Bob Fay, although Gaffney had ‘sort of’ quit and been replaced at least three times previously. Bakesale was the band’s first album to benefit from production at the celebrated Fort Apache Studios in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The greater depth of sound allowed the listener better access to the Sebadoh ethos, with Barlow’s voice having developed a real empathetic edge on songs such as ‘Careful’ and Dreams’. As Barlow maintained: ‘What’s really important are the words. We play guitars so you can actually hear the texture of the music. As a songwriter, if you have anything to give at all, it’s what your words are.’

In 1996, Barlow made a surprise entry into the US Top 40 with a song written with his Folk Implosion partner John Davis. ‘Natural One’ was issued as a single after being featured on the soundtrack to Larry Clark’s controversial movie, Kids. The new Sebadoh album Harmacy seemed like an unintentional bid for pop stardom and was peppered with catchy riffs. A new drummer, Russ Pollard, was brought into the line-up on 1998’s The Sebadoh. The band then remained inactive for several years, during which time Loewenstein released a solo album and Barlow a split album with Rudy Trouvé (dEUS). The majority of Barlow’s time was spent working with the Folk Implosion. He reconvened Sebadoh with Loewenstein in 2004 to launch a North American tour.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.