The convo is already off to a bumpy start with one Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr., phoning in from his Los Angeles residence at 10:30 am PST. Lou sounds as if he's either just woken up or, even worse, has been cranking out 15-minute appointed interviews with the media all morning through their New York City publicist to promote the new Dino Jr. album Farm (June 23 on Jagjaguwar Records), the follow-up to the well-received 2005 reunion record Beyond. Their loud-as-fuck brand of "earbleed country music" will invade small-town clubs during a month-long East Coast tour that begins in Milford, Connecticut before cramming the Marshall stacks into Club Hell here on April 2 (note the early start — doors at 6 pm). J Mascis, Lou, and Murph just played a pair of packed shows at SXSW but stuck to the classics, including post-Lou favorites like "The Wagon" and "Feel the Pain." I don't get much out of Barlow when inquiring about the Austin gigs
HIGH VOLTAGE: Murph, J, and Lou.
"We didn't pull out any new stuff, we did it just to show support for our new label."
I know enough to stay away from the highly-documented folklore about the band's ugly breakup in 1989 (J eventually added bassist Mike Johnson in 1991) or ask how two grown men get along 27 years after forming their first band, Deep Wound. But the first awkward exchange doesn't take long when I inquire if Barlow had visited Rhode Island since a solo gig at the Living Room in 2005 (Mascis played drums with Witch at AS220 last month)
"We played Providence on the last reunion tour."
"No you didn't."
"Yes we did" (teetering on annoyed).
When I inform him that I flew to San Diego to see the Beyond kickoff show at the Casbah, he cracked, "Wow, well, I guess you'd know better than I would."
I can't tell if Barlow is being smarmy through his mellow tone, which recalled a similar exchange at the Casbah when Lou butchered "Feel the Pain." When a fan yelled "That's okay, thanks for playing it," he calmly replied with a wry smile, "Thanks for your money."
When I inform Barlow that Club Hell was once Club Babyhead and maybe even smaller than the Casbah, and ask if they'll be lugging the usual dozen or so Marshall amps on this cozy-club tour, he pauses mid-sentence.
"Wait, what? Wow.
"Oh yeah, we're bringing all the gear, the usual set-up," he said with a chuckle. "Bring your earplugs."
I receive succinct answers about standard stuff like the new album title ("I don't know, I flew to J's house in Amherst, we recorded, and when I got back home someone told me it was called Farm") and if the band felt any pressure this time around ("Not really, we just do our thing, it's pretty mellow"), or if Mascis's recent family man status (he had a son in 2007) would shorten their worldwide touring schedule this time ("No, we'll be all over the place again"). I then asked what Mascis and Barlow think of the media, which still uses the word "grunge" when describing their brand of fuzzy love songs. Barlow let loose.