April 3, 2007

III cheers for Sebadoh as influential trio hits road

Sebadoh’s original lineup is touring for the first time in more than a decade.The acclaim has come like a deluge, to the surprise of few and the relief of many. When the British label Domino Records re-released Sebadoh’s masterwork, III, speculation kicked into high gear on whether Jason Loewenstein, Eric Gaffney and Lou Barlow would hit the road again.“It’s been a long time coming. We had quite a while to think about it,” Gaffney said by phone and on tour from Clear Lake, Iowa, population 8,100-something, and a musical touchstone in its own right. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson Jr. died in a plane crash outside the town on Feb. 3, 1959.“The tour just sort of fit into the whole picture,” Gaffney continued.Judging by the reaction, the picture looks pretty good.Sebadoh’s appearance at San Francisco’s Noisepop Festival resulted in a sellout, and the trio has been rocking for no less than an hour and a half to two hours almost every night, burning through 25-30 songs of its influential and timeless catalog.All this joy adds to the healthy superlatives lavished once more on III. The album has been updated with extensive liner notes, old demo recordings and unreleased material. Fickle rock critics are swooning again over what they call Sebadoh’s crowning achievement and one of the most influential rock albums of the last 20 years.“It means a lot to me,” Gaffney said of III. “It was an important record for all of us.”Sebadoh is roundly celebrated for its mastery of the lo-fi aesthetic, but Gaffney said the label doesn’t apply to the band, and if it did, it was for the wrong reasons. “We didn’t have the money to record in the studios early on,” he said. “You can spend a lot more time on a recording that you’re not paying somebody by the hour for. We would work on a recording for five minutes, or for hours or days or weeks. That was an advantage that we had.“There was never any intention of sounding lo-fi,” he added. “It was the time period and what we could afford, and record labels didn’t give us real money to record with. We worked within the means of what we had.”Their inspiration has reached far and wide, as Second Story Man’s Jeremy Irvin attests. SSM got to know Loewenstein pretty well after he mixed a song the group was submitting to a Louisville Is For Lovers compilation. Loewenstein asked SSM to open for them during a short East Coast tour in 2004, fulfilling one of Irvin’s and the rest of the group’s wildest dreams.“One night, I was out at the mall and picked up (1992’s) Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock,” Irvin said. “After the first song, I was like, ‘Whoa. What is this?’ The album went in so many directions. It wasn’t ultra-polished; it sounded like something that was attainable.”Though III is the critical darling, Irvin said Bakesale is the album he leans on. “It flows the best, and I think a lot of that has to do with time. You get a record, and it comes along at the right time in your life.”For its fans, the timing couldn’t be any better. A Sebadoh show is about the rock, and that’s exactly what the group will give its fans in a straightforward, unassuming manner befitting the demeanor of frontman Barlow.“He’s subtle,” Irvin said. “You almost get the feeling that he doesn’t really know how much of an impact he has had on people.”Tickets are $12, and are still available for Friday’s show at Headliners. You can buy them at ear X-tacy, 1534 Bardstown Road, or online at www.ticketweb.com. The Bent Moustache opens.“They let their music do the talking,” Irvin said. “That’s something I respect.”Contact the writer at mherron@leoweekly.com