Music News

Sebadoh Boy

It's been hailed as Sebadoh's defining moment and "a meeting place for indie universes."

But not to the bastard controlling the purse strings at Homestead Records. For his money, 1991's III, a collision of sensitive indie-folk balladry, weird psychedelic experimentation, a goofy-ass cover of some God-forsaken Johnny Mathis ballad, and vast quantities of weed, sounded more like a miserable failure.

As Sebadoh front man Lou Barlow recalls with a laugh, "They told us right away, 'Well, look, it can't come out on vinyl because no one's gonna buy it anyway. And don't use very many colors in the artwork.' There was really no sense that the record would maybe be kind of successful. Which it was."

Released 17 years ago, III is now rightly considered an indie-rock classic. And last year's reissue on Domino Records inspired a reunion of the Sebadoh lineup responsible for not just III but all their early classics. Jason Loewenstein and Barlow never stopped, but Eric Gaffney hadn't been involved since 1993's Bubble and Scrape.

"He'd kind of just quit whenever he felt like it," Barlow recalls with a laugh. "And finally, we were just like 'Okay, we've done that enough.' The last thing he wanted to do was to receive his share of whatever recording advance we'd get and he'd record all the songs by himself and then not tour with us. And we said no. Maybe that's why he quit. We wouldn't allow him to actually quit the band while staying in the band."

But things are better now, both in this band and in Barlow's other seminal indie-rock act, Dinosaur Jr.

Famously canned for what bandmate J. Mascis would label "excessive social ineptitude," Barlow is now back in the fold, even writing a couple of songs for the upcoming Dinosaur album.

"To go back to both of those things," he says, "it has a way of putting a positive spin on what could have just been something of a scar. And that's kind of important as you get older and start totaling up your successes and failures."

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Ed Masley