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July 31, 2013 at 12:31 PM
Sebadoh back on the road, with a legacy
Throughout the 1990s, East Coast lo-fi firebrands Sebadoh proved formidable rock ’n’ roll could be made with just a couple guitars, good friends, great ideas and a working four-track.
Singer-guitarist Lou Barlow and songwriting foil Jason Loewenstein were never household names — most who’ve heard of Barlow know him as the bassist for punk-rock legends Dinosaur Jr. — yet Seattle always reserved a special place for Sebadoh.
Sub Pop Records recognized the band’s spunk and sincerity early on, releasing five of its LPs, while Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain famously wore its T-shirt in promo photos for 1991’s “Nevermind.”
These unsung indie heroes play Barboza Saturday, supporting “Defend Yourself,” their first full-length in 14 years.
Looking back on the halcyon ’90s, Loewenstein recalls “real camaraderie between bands. We came from punk rock, and were punk still, but had pop sensibilities too.”
By 1999, however, “people didn’t want to hear guitar music so much … and we were tired out.”
After issuing “The Sebadoh” to universal shrugs, the group went on hiatus. In the interim, the long-dormant Dinosaur Jr. re-emerged as a full-time concern, while Loewenstein went solo for 2002’s barn-burning “At Sixes and Sevens” and started a mobile recording business.
Of Barlow, says Loewenstein, “we’re brothers, but during the break, we mostly left each other alone” — until a 2011 tour for Sub Pop’s reissue of 1994’s pivotal “Bakesale” reignited the spark between the songwriting duo.
Two years later, Sebadoh — like Dinosaur Jr. — is releasing new records, playing shows and enjoying creative rebirth.
“It’s heartwarming that people are still coming out,” says Loewenstein, “so we feel a responsibility to put more material out for the fans who’ve been loyal to us this long.”
With last year’s warm-up “Secret” EP, and now “Defend Yourself,” they’ve accomplished that. True to form, both recordings are self-produced, and songs like Barlow’s ebullient “Keep the Boy Alive” (listen) and Loewenstein’s bummed-out “Beat” slot right in next to “Bakesale” and 1991’s endearingly rough “III.”
Loewenstein admits that returning to a changed musical landscape has required some adjustments for a band that has always embraced its underdog status.
“The ’90s made it easy for bands who were willing to be active to make a little money,” he explains. “Now, there aren’t many record deals out there — that was how you’d get gigs — so it’s a lot more work. I feel lucky we have the legacy we do to give us the momentum to get back on the road … and I’m very glad we still have the energy.”
7 p.m. Saturday at Barboza, 925 E. Pike St., Seattle; $15 (206-709-9467 or thebarboza.com/).
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