Lou Barlow talks the talk

By MATT PARISH  |  March 24, 2011

And there were the bands that I really grew up on — Young Marble Giants, Gang of Four, all these post-punk bands from England that made lo-fi records and went between being very scratchy and noisy and also having very acoustic qualities to them.

Along with that, a reputation as a sort of über-college rock songwriter seemed to emerge for you, despite the total lack of college attendance in the band. It's hard for me to tell people, "No." Nobody in Sebadoh went to college. We were all townies. But the thing is, I wear glasses — I look like I went to college. And if you say "Massachusetts" and "Connecticut," everybody in the rest of the country thinks "blue bloods." You know, they think there's a lot of money there and you definitely went to college and your parents are rich. They don't have any experience with what most of Massachusetts and Connecticut are — a collection of dying mill towns and these industrial cities that have lost all their jobs. They just associate it with the Ivy League and Boston. My wife is from Waterbury, Connecticut — you tell people that and they're like [impressed gasp], "Oh, Waterbury!" and you have to be like, "No — she's from fuckin' Waterbury, Connecticut." It's just people's perceptions. There's not a lot you can do about it, I can't waste time protesting it too much.

But at the same time, the band seemed so into pulling these sort of contrarian pranks on people — expectations like that must have been fun to mess with. Early on, I don't know, it seemed funner and more — I just liked to make really angry songs, I guess. Now I'm not into that. But also, I'm not really a contrarian. I'm really just all about the music and making it accessible. Even the things I've done that seem inaccessible, to me in some way when I was making them and recording them, I felt like I was reaching out. I'm not really that into playing games, you know, when it comes to songs. The whole root of what I do, where I really come from, is closer to country music than it is, you know, math rock or something. It's closer to that than any kind of smart-guy music. I'm not real clever. I understand why maybe it seemed like they were trying to be clever, but I can't say that was my goal. I just wanted to be as simple as possible.

Are you working on new music right now? In fact, I just got a new studio setup and yesterday was the first day I got all the mics working at once, so I recorded a song. If Dinosaur makes another record, I realized that if I write for Dinosaur, I have to tell J. and Murph everything — they don't collaborate very well. So if I enter that situation I have to have everything formed out. So I've just got a bunch of ideas and see where they go and where they find a home. It's not really contrived. People say, "How do you know Sebadoh songs from Dinosaur songs?" I don't know.

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