Eric Gaffney of seminal indie-rock band Sebadoh
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When it comes to indie-rock bands, they don’t get much more influential than Sebadoh. Along with Pavement and Guided By Voices, the Massachusetts band helped spearhead a lo-fi movement that still has plenty of followers today. After Eric Gaffney left the group during the recording of 1994’s Bakesale, Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein continued on through 1999’s The Sebadoh, but things have been spotty for the band since. However, there’s been a recent surge of activity: Last year saw the re-release of 1991’s seminal III, a reissue of 1989’s The Freed Man is due later this year, and the original trio has reunited for a tour (making this the second original-trio reunion for Barlow, who plays bass in Dinosaur Jr.). The A.V. Club recently spoke with Gaffney about reuniting, reissuing, and recording.
The A.V. Club: When did the idea for the reunion come up?
Eric Gaffney: When we started talking about reissuing III and actually working on it. Those guys went on their own tour during that time. I think I told them I could have done that, but they went out in a rental car with a boom box and some mini-amps or something like that. But I was still in Fields Of Gaffney at the time—I think we were both on the road a couple of weeks apart. It wasn’t until late last fall that we decided we were going to do this. We practiced in L.A. for a week before Thanksgiving, for the first time since ’92 or ’93.
AVC: How did that go?
EG: It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. They were a lot louder than I expected or remembered, but the space was pretty small. Despite the hearing damage, I thought we sounded pretty good. We worked on relearning songs that we already knew, for the most part, and a few others added in: some of Jason’s songs I didn’t know, and a few of mine that I threw in, Fields Of Gaffney material.
AVC: So the setlist will consist of a wide range of material.
EG: Yeah. From III, Bubble And Scrape, The Freed Man, Weed Forestin’, a few songs from Bakesale, a few songs from the later albums that I still don’t know all that well. And stuff off the merch CD, stuff off Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock.
AVC: Lou Barlow once said that what tore you two apart was that as Sebadoh was getting more popular, more attention was being paid to his songs.
EG: I think we recorded more of Lou’s songs. [Laughs.] He wrote more songs. Everybody knows that about Lou, that he writes a lot of songs. Whether you like the songs is another story, but it’s just something he does. Sebadoh was a band I started as a vehicle for my own songwriting, and then within a year we had all started to sing and play. It’s a pretty special group; we can switch instruments onstage, have two distinctly different lineups, all play guitar, all sing, but also have our roles. There is a real art to what we do, because it’s not as easy as it might appear.
AVC: In the III reissue liner notes, Jason implies that you and Lou were fighting all the time.
EG: [Laughs.] His liner notes were funny. They fought, too, though! Sure, we didn’t always get along, that’s definitely true, and we didn’t always want to be in a group together. We didn’t always like each other’s songs, or how each other mixed, or album art. But Jason and Lou used to fight on the road, too. Sometimes a lot worse than what I could even put up with.
AVC: Why did you leave the band?
EG: I didn’t really feel like touring, or even doing the next record. I kind of wanted to record solo. Toward the end I wasn’t all that happy with the music anymore—maybe I was kind of tired, a little jaded. I pretty much was also relegated to drumming at the end. When we were a support act, especially in ’92, for Pavement or Sonic Youth or The Wedding Present or whoever we were opening for, we’d play shorter sets—so I’d just play drums, because there’s just not enough time for everybody to do their thing.
AVC: Did the success of the Dinosaur Jr. reunion convince you guys you could do this? Lou had a pretty bad relationship with J Mascis for a long time, and they were able to make it work.
EG: Like, “If they can do that, anything can happen,” or whatever. Yeah. I kind of figured it probably would happen, as far as us doing some sort of reunion, or getting these unreleased records out. I don’t know what happened to our audience, but I guess we’ll see. Some of our fans are older, married with children, and they have more money now: “Sure, we can afford to go see your reunion tour.” Somehow or other, we still have new fans—yesterday I got a message from a 12-year-old through MySpace saying that he wanted us to sign a record at a particular show.
AVC: Are you guys open to the possibility of making a new record?
EG: I’ve mentioned that to those guys. We could pretty much put any songs that we have rights to, whether they’ve been released or not, and just sort of learn them and record them. Like do four or five or six or seven songs each, and put together a record. But it’s time-consuming and expensive, and we’re not there yet. It’s probably a good idea for us to be back on the road and playing together and see how that goes and what that turns into, if there’s any interest. If Domino asks us, “Guys, we’d really love to do a new record”—unheard stuff, not reissues, not rehashed, something all new—I would do it. I think we all would. But it’s a matter of finding time to do it, and getting ideas together. We really didn’t do enough records when I was in the group, and the stuff that we did was obscure.