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Musician Lou Barlow is back in two saddles and enjoying the rides

Sebadoh is (from left) Bob D’Amico, Jason Lowenstein and Lou Barlow.
Sebadoh is (from left) Bob D’Amico, Jason Lowenstein and Lou Barlow.

Lou Barlow has deep roots in the indie-rock world.

He is best known for his roles in two bands: as the bassist in Dinosaur Jr., the Boston band he co-founded with J Mascis and Emmett “Murph” Murphy in 1984, and Sebadoh, the band he focused on after he was dismissed from Dinosaur Jr. in 1989.

Sebadoh would release seven albums in 10 years, starting with “The Freed Man” in 1989 and including “Bakesale,” revered in the lo-fi/indie-rock world. In 2000, the band went on a long hiatus.

These days, Barlow is involved with both bands. In 2005, for the first time in 16 years, the original Dinosaur Jr. reunited. It has since released three albums. And in 2013, Sebadoh released “Defend Yourself,” its first album in 14 years. The band will perform at the RecordBar on Monday.

This week, Barlow answered questions about both bands, “Defend Yourself” and one of his now defunct side projects, Folk Implosion.

Q: What is touring with Dinosaur Jr. again like for you?

A: It was good when we began again in 2005 and better now. Because the band’s musical dynamic formed when we were young, there is a natural ease and confidence that I can tap into when playing. Because J (Mascis) is the leader, there is minimal pressure on me. The audience is focused on him. I can finish a show and walk through the audience without being recognized. It can be a nice change of pace from Sebadoh and vice versa.

It did reintroduce me to the feeling of playing way too loud and fully committing to the physical experience of playing. I spent most of my years between being fired and rehired by becoming an acoustic player, songwriter and forming Sebadoh, which is a much more vulnerable, musically varied band and, as a result, more unpredictable.

What has that band meant to you personally and musically?

There is no way to sum that up. The band started when I was 17. There are insecurities and strengths that I developed because of the band. It made me a career musician, but because there is a unique and almost anti-show-business approach, it empowered me to trust my basic creative instincts without much concern for what a normal musician might aspire to, like technical expertise.

Talk about the latest Sebadoh album, “Defend Yourself.” What do you like most about it?

I think it fits perfectly alongside our other recordings. It’s a continuation of our multi-songwriter dynamic and, as usual, we are addressing periods of transition in our lives and grappling with the complexities of long-term relationships. I’m not sure many listeners really want that kind of push and pull or examination, but it has characterized every Sebadoh release and I like it.

What was the intent going into the studio? Was there a plan or was the process pretty organic?

We didn’t go into a studio, per se. It was recorded in our practice spaces and, except for the final mixes of my tunes, which were done by myself and my Folk Implosion collaborator, Wally Gagel, the record was engineered, performed and recorded by the three of us only. So it was about as organic as it could be and without any outside pressure. Our last two records were expensive and subject to record label scrutiny. We avoided all of that with “Defend Yourself.”

How far back in the Sebadoh catalog do you go in your live shows?

Depending on the show we can go all the way back.

What do those songs and albums mean to you now?

The early records are sprawling messes, which, at the time, seemed the best value for the listener. We assumed we were playing for people that shared our sensibilities. In general, though, people want concise statements, so the records are all failures, in that sense.

There are certain songs that seem to stand up over time, and we play them. I wrote “Healthy Sick,” from our first LP, when I was 19. I’ll happily play it till I’m 91 because it always feels good and truthful.

Will anything ever happen with Folk Implosion and some of those great songs?

Thanks for asking, but no. I’d happily do reissues and would love to properly re-create the songs live, but there is no demand for it. I’ll play the songs solo acoustic till the day I die, though. I’m the Folk Implosion’s biggest fan.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.


Sebadoh performs Monday night at the RecordBar, 1020 Westport Road. Middle Twin opens at 10 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available at the club or via