The Sebadoh reunion tour has soldiered on at a snail's pace for nearly a decade, so, fittingly, the band churned out fresh material nearly 14 years after their last release. “The next step is to play new songs to keep it interesting for us,” lead singer Lou Barlow says humbly. “And it's a nice gesture for people who care about the band.”
Getting back into his Sebadoh headspace is no challenge for Barlow. It takes 30 minutes, tops, he says, despite the long spurts of time he goes without playing with his band mates. Sebadoh have toured sans new material since 2004, staying “semi-active,” as Barlow calls it, by playing a few shows yearly for devoted fans.
Joining Barlow (moonlighting bassist for Dinosaur Jr.) are Jason Loewenstein and drummer Bob D'Amico, a recent addition. (The latter two do double duty as backing band for Brooklyn sibling duo the Fiery Furnaces.) Sebadoh went on hiatus in 2001 as its members concentrated on various side projects. For instance, Barlow was half of “Natural One” duo the Folk Implosion, which saw chart success thanks to the soundtrack for the 1995 film Kids and remained together until 2004. A founding member of Dinosaur Jr., Barlow was kicked out in 1989 (see 1991's “The Freed Pig” on Sebadoh III), but he rejoined J. Mascis in 2005 when the band reunited.
The last batch of Sebadoh music was 1999's The Sebadoh, much to the dismay of the influential indie rock band's fervent fans. But all that changed last year when Sebadoh quietly released Secret EP on their Bandcamp. Inching toward the release of a full-length from the same sessions, Defend Yourself, out on Joyful Noise Sept. 17, Sebadoh stop by the Constellation Room in Santa Ana on Sunday.
For Defend Yourself, there was no label support, no big-reunion-album pressure from A&R guys, just a casual vibe between three old friends with the know-how to write and record beautiful music together at Barlow's LA home. Fans can expect the classic Sebadoh sound, the ongoing conversation between Barlow and band referencing everything from early hardcore punk to Captain Beefheart and the Cocteau Twins–even a little country.
“We finished the record on our own before we even introduced it to other people,” Barlow says. “It was sort of like, 'Here it is. Take it or leave it.'” The album's artwork arrived at the label on a sketchpad via FedEx.
Barlow and Loewenstein finished their vocals individually at home. Barlow's lyrical inspiration came from his recent split from his wife of 25 years, which parallels his time with Sebadoh. And while the words are biographical, he keeps things vague enough to shelter his private life. “It's definitely referring to something very specific for me, but the words are very general,” Barlow says when asked if he's comfortable baring his soul. “I don't know why anyone thinks it's extraordinary, especially how indie rock has been evolving since the 1990s–bands such as Bright Eyes really bring you into the really uncomfortable details and make you sweat it out with them.”
For the first time in 14 years, the band are playing songs unfamiliar to fans. “The way I was introduced to music–like, if I were seeing Hüsker Dü in the '80s, they always played whatever their next record was,” Barlow says. “You showed up and were like, 'I hope they play this and that,' but they never did. It was kind of a thing bands did back then, before you would even call it indie rock. It was like they owed it to their fans to play the next step.”
But Barlow and company are happy to relive their glory days, as well as offer some nibbles of the new stuff. They're always up for a gracious gesture.
Sebadoh perform at the Constellation Room at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.constellationroom.com. Sun., 8 p.m. $12. For more information on Sebadoh, visit www.sebadoh.com.