Lou Barlow is one of the most influential and inspiring figures in American underground rock music. A co-founder of the ever-vital Dinosaur Jr., Barlow went on to front the raw and powerful Sebadoh and its various offshoots, as well as the Folk Implosion, all of which led many to view him as a pioneer of no-frills, lo-fi recording and gritty, emotive, honest, punk rock songwriting. After some solo work, collaborating with others, and reuniting with Dinosaur Jr., Barlow began working with Jason Loewenstein and Bob D’Amico again and, if they ever really left, Sebadoh is now back with Defend Yourself, an excellent album out on Joyful Noise and their first in 14 years. The band’s upcoming tour includes November stops at Montreal’s Il Motore on Nov. 5, London’s Call the Office on Nov. 6, Hamilton’s Casbah on Nov. 7, and Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern on Nov. 8. During our chat, Lou and I talked about seeing the Replacements and Iggy and the Stooges at Riot Fest recently, zombie bands, whether or not he’s actually a “pioneer,” the evolution of underground music, the joys of social media, the end of marriage, songwriting as a mnemonic device, Defend Yourself, why bands should do almost everything themselves, and more.
Related links: sebadoh.com joyfulnoiserecordings.com vishkhanna.com
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Over the weekend, CFRU’s Peter Bradley kinda surprised the shit out of a bunch of people in Guelph, Ontario by successfully inviting New York’s the Fiery Furnaces to play a secret house show in his attic. After a Saturday night performance in Toronto (and just a couple of days before their new ‘Fiery Furnaces-cover-Fiery Furnaces’ EP, Take Me Round Again was released), Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger, drummer Bob D’Amico, and (Sebadoh) bassist Jason Lowenstein played Guelph at 1:00 PM en route to their Sunday night gig in London and they were really terrific, singing new songs, and utilizing the house Wurlitzer, as well as various pots, pans, and maybe a suitcase for percussion.
Bradley documented the whole thing for his Friday morning radio show, including an impromptu Q&A with the 30 or so people on-hand. I chimed in with a question about the buzz surrounding the recent (and supposed) Fiery Furnaces/Radiohead “feud.” Here’s how the discussion went:
Vish: I keep reading about this feud with Radiohead?
Matthew Friedberger: I’m sure Radiohead is very concerned about it (audience laughs).
V: I hear they’re really concerned. Do you wanna comment on this; it came up again this week.
MF: Uh…yeah, um. It’s just kinda nonsense. In a long interview, I was saying, ‘Can you be negative about other bands? And which bands would you pick to be negative about where it wouldn’t hurt their feelings or influence them?’ And I said, ‘Well, Radiohead would be one. No one would care. It wouldn’t affect them if you said Radiohead sucked.’ And then I went on to say how you might say Radiohead suck (audience laughs). And I actually don’t like Radiohead. Personally, just between you and me. I mean I don’t have any regard for them, positive or negative. Which, I guess is negative.
V: You’re not indifferent but?…
MF: I am indifferent but I suppose that’s really negative. I don’t have any time for them. There’s a lot of music. So, I said that but, of course, that was quoted as an individual story—just me saying those things. And it’s not that I didn’t say them—I did. But once it got quoted, I didn’t wanna say ‘Oh I’m sorry; I was misquoted. It’s all a misunderstanding.’ That’s no fun. You have to say, ‘Radiohead; yes they do stink (audience laughs)!’ But it’s an interesting issue because I think, if you’re in a rock band and you do get interviewed, unlike a politician you can’t be concerned with saying something that might be misquoted. You should welcome being misquoted. You can’t be concerned with trying to control the context or censor yourself or stay on message in such a way that anything you say can’t be embarrassing, unflattering, and inflammatory. You should say things and people can make it their own. Just like when you make a record, people use it how ever they like. That should extend to all practices in your rock-related activities.
V: Have they responded in any way? Is it actually a feud or just things you’ve said?
Eleanor Friedberger: No, it’s not a feud
As the Q&A, went on, Bradley asked about Matthew’s “retraction” amid the Harry Partch/Harry Patch confusion that was part of this whole Radiohead debacle. Eventually Matthew outlined a plan he claimed he proposed to FF’s publicist, where a press release would be distributed stating that he was entering rehab and that his comments stemmed from his state of mind. “Oh, you’ve blown it now,” Eleanor responded to this faux revelation, but Matthew playfully continued on with the anecdote.
It was all somewhat interesting and you can hear this part of the exchange right here.