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Articles and thoughts by Peter Holslin

Living all over again: Sebadoh returns with original lineup.

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[This ran in this week’s issue of San Diego CityBeat]
Photo: Eric Gaffney of Sebadoh

In 1989, things could get intense when Lou Barlow, Eric Gaffney and Jason Lowenstein holed up in Gaffney’s garage, puffed a bowl and churned out tunes.

“Nobody was really prepared to call themselves the leader [of Sebadoh],” Barlow recalls. While the egalitarianism was refreshing, Barlow says it was also “impossible to maintain.” He and Gaffney argued bitterly. Once, Gaffney decided to kick Lowenstein out of the band. Then Gaffney sat out for a few tours.

The tension became apparent in 1993 when Gaffney stormed off the stage during a Lollapalooza set and hurled a rock at Barlow. In 1994, he quit altogether.

“I thought it best to retire for a spell,” Gaffney says. “It wasn’t as fun as when it started, before we started making money.”

After the split, Gaffney and Barlow negotiated with Homestead Records to get their early records and singles re-released. The result is a double-disc re-release of 1991’s “III,” an ambitious work of haunting acoustic ballads and unconventional, aggressive rock. After the release, the three entertained the idea of playing again. So they booked a tour for this spring.

“The reason I think we formed the band is that [Gaffney] had kind of this wellspring of enthusiasm about writing songs and going out and fucking with people,” Barlow says. Now that Gaffney is back on drums—the three are all multi-instrumentalists, trading off on guitar, bass and drums—Barlow says, “I’m immediately like, ‘Oh yeah.’”

“They are much louder than before is all,” Gaffney says.

It is only appropriate that the re-release of “III” comes with an extra disc of b-sides and rarities. Between the three members, there likely are multitudes of unreleased gems, curious alternate takes and pot-addled garage jams. On tour, Sebadoh will hawk another collection of their garage favorites.

Old-school fans might attribute all this excess to Barlow’s love of analog. He started fiddling around with tapes in 1978, when he was 12.

“I had a cousin of mine who took a tape recorder and pressed the fast-forward button and the record button at the same time and made a voice that sounded like ‘Guuuaaah,’” he recalls. Soon after, he picked up guitar, started singing in a made-up language and recording on a Tascam four-track cassette recorder in his “quest for noise from these household objects.”

Then he got into hardcore and started playing bass for the fuzzy, booming outfit Dinosaur Jr. In 1989, Dinosaur frontman J Mascis told Barlow, now 40, the band was breaking up. The next day, Mascis embarked on a tour with his new band—Dinosaur Jr minus Lou Barlow.

Around that time, Barlow met Gaffney and, using his special tongue, dubbed their new band “Sebadoh.” When they met Lowenstein, the whiz kid was still in high school. Other friends joined them throughout the years, and the group progressed from a crackly acoustic sideshow to an angular indie force. Barlow and Lowenstein have played as a two-piece since 2001’s “The Sebadoh.”

It’s hard to say what will become of the original Sebadoh after this tour. Barlow will embark on a tour with Dinosaur Jr, and Lowenstein will be busy touring with the Fiery Furnaces and recording other bands. Gaffney is typically not forthcoming with his plans.

“Hopefully it will all go well,” Barlow says. “[But] we have our day jobs.”

Sebadoh plays with The Bent Moustache at The Casbah on Feb. 26. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. $15. 619-232-HELL.

02-21-07

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Written by Peter Holslin

February 21, 2007 at 5:41 am

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