Dayton native Lou Barlow re-launches Sebadoh, plays Columbus
By Leo DeLuca
Photo: Sebadoh will perform in Columbus on Nov. 14; [l to r] Bob D’Amico, Jason Lowenstein and Lou Barlow
Dayton-born Lou Barlow – founding member of Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr. – plays Thursday, Nov. 14 at The Basement in Columbus, Ohio. Lou will be supporting Sebadoh’s new album Defend Yourself – the independent rock band’s first record in 14 years.
The Barlow family has a long history in the Dayton area. “My great-grandfather, whom I was named after, was actually mayor of Dayton in the ’50s,” said Barlow. “Both sides of my family are from Dayton. We still have hundreds of family members in the area. To give you an idea, my Dad and Mom are both from families of like six or seven kids. My Dad was pretty much the only family member to move away from Dayton back in the day.”
Lou’s father moved the Barlows from Dayton to Michigan for a job in the auto industry. After the subsequent collapse of the auto industry, the family then relocated to Massachusetts, where Lou started the hardcore punk band Deep Wound with Joseph “J” Mascis.
In the mid ’80s, Mascis and Barlow formed Dinosaur – later renamed Dinosaur Jr. – a band that saw substantial commercial success. Dinosaur Jr. charted in the both the U.S. and U.K., aired on MTV, had Nirvana open for them before Nirvana was huge, and influenced bands the world over.
Though Barlow founded Dinosaur Jr., he left the band in the late ’80s and went on to form Sebadoh. Alongside Dayton legends Guided By Voices (GBV), Sebadoh are hailed as pioneers of independent rock’s lo-fi movement. Short for “low fidelity,” lo-fi recordings are commonly marked by tape hiss, hum, distortion, background noise and more. Though technically incorrect, these recordings are often embraced by listeners, due to the authenticity and urgency that frequently accompanies them.
“Both Bob Pollard (GBV front-man) and I were born at Good Samaritan hospital here in Dayton,” Barlow said. “I had one really good hang with Pollard and it came up that we were both born at the same hospital. We were like, ‘Holy shit.’”
Both Guided By Voices and Sebadoh also have ties to formidable independent record label Matador Records. GBV saw a huge lift in their career after signing with Matador, and former Homestead Records Manager Gerard Cosloy – who now co-owns Matador – released Sebadoh’s first cassettes.
“Eric Gaffney and I were making these cassettes,” Barlow recalled. “We were based in western Massachusetts where Gerard was briefly the manager of Deep Wound. He got a hold of the cassettes we were making and did a really cool review in his old fanzine, ‘Conflict.’ He then moved to New York and offered to put out our record on Homestead.”
After Cosloy left Homestead for Matador, Ken Katkin succeeded him. “Ken lives in Cincinnati and runs a pretty great radio show called ‘Trash Flow Radio,’” Barlow explained. “Ken latched on to our album Sebadoh III and really helped us out a lot.”
Beyond being Dayton-born and aided by Katkin, Lou’s ties to the Midwest continue to this day. Indianapolis-based record label Joyful Noise released Sebadoh’s Defend Yourself on Sept. 17, with distribution handled by Bloomington-based entity SC Distribution.
“Karl from Joyful Noise contacted me because, at the time, they were reissuing Dinosaur Jr. cassette box sets,” Barlow said. “He had heard that when You’re Living All Over Me (an early Dinosaur Jr. record) was released, I had dubbed a bunch of cassettes to accompany that record. Those cassettes were given away in like one or two record stores in the Boston area when people bought You’re Living All Over Me. Karl heard about that and thought it would be cool if we reissued that first Sebadoh cassette with like one in every 10 of the box sets. Then he asked me to do a flexi disc and everything kind of went from there.”
Though Defend Yourself is Sebadoh’s first record in 14 years, Lou has been far from idle. Barlow has released solo material, albums under the moniker Sentridoh and reunited with the founding members of Dinosaur Jr. The latter band has released three critically acclaimed records since reforming in 2007.
Barlow spoke on his affinity for former Dayton bands Brainiac and Enon as well. “I love that first Enon record. It’s amazing,” said Barlow. “I also saw Brainiac play once and I was like, ‘Jesus!’ It was unbelievable how good they were.”
Lou Barlow is excited to return to his birth state for a show with Sebadoh. According to Barlow, “The band will play a mix of both old and new songs.” Do head over to Columbus to see one of the Gem City’s most widely revered sons.
Sebadoh will perform on Thursday, Nov. 14 at The Basement, 391 Neil Ave. in Columbus. Opening the evening will be Octa#grape and Cliffs. Tickets are $12, $14 DOS. Admission is open to all ages. For more information, please visit sebadoh.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Leo DeLuca at LeoDeluca@DaytonCityPaper.com.