1. What have you been doing for the past 14 years since The Sebadoh came out?
After the anticlimactic impact of The Sebadoh, I headed out on a tour to promote my other major label fiasco: One Part Lullaby by the Folk Implosion. My partner in that band quit within days of the record being released but I went on without him, playing solo. It was–much like my experience with The Sebadoh–humbling.
In 2001, I formed the New Folk Implosion in order to fulfill my contractual obligations to Interscope records, I needn’t have bothered because they dropped me almost immediately upon hearing the recordings the band was making. We (the New Folk Implosion) found another label who also hated the record but released it anyway. The record was cleverly titled The New Folk Implosion.
We played to empty halls all over the world in 2002-2003.
After that, I was asked if it would be possible for an incarnation of Sebadoh to play a Domino Records 10th anniversary show. Jake & I decided to play it safe & cheap & play as a semi-acoustic duo. It went really well!
By 2004 we’d done three tours this way & my faith had been restored. I released my first ‘proper’ solo record in 2005 called Emoh. It was a not-quite-as-lo-fi-as-all-my-other-solo-stuff acoustic-based record.
As I began to tour in support of that record I was asked to rejoin Dinosaur Jr. for a round of reunion shows starting in mid 2005. The reunion is now in it’s 8th year.
In 2007, after the reissue of the first Sebadoh record The Freed Man & then Bubble & Scrape we reformed the original, fully electrified line-up, re-enlisting Eric Gaffney & toured the US & Europe. Around this time I finished my 2nd ‘proper’ solo record Goodnight Unknown I toured with a band & discovered that not many people want me to do solo records.
Then, when the reissue of Bakesale appeared Jake & I decided it was best to replace Eric Gaffney with a drummer more interested in representing the songs from that record. We enlisted Jake’s longtime collaborator & Fiery Furnaces’ bandmate Bob D’amico & traveled extensively through 2011.
I continued to split my time with Dinosaur Jr. & we finished our 3rd post-reunion LP in early 2012. Shortly after the Dinosaur Jr. sessions for I Bet On Sky concluded, I convened with Jake & Bob in my practice space in Glendale, CA & we recorded 20 new songs. In July 2012 we self-released 5 of these songs as the Secret EP & toured in support of it in the fall of 2012. We finished the remaining 15 songs in early 2013, 13 of which comprise the new LP: Defend Yourself. The 2 remaining songs will appear somewhere, some time, in some form…
2. How did you decide that now was the time to make the next Sebadoh record?
The touring in support of the Bakesale reissue went very well. We had good chemistry as a 3 piece, Bob & Jake had been playing together for years & along with my 20 year history with Jake, D’Amico’s contribution to the lineup was just a good fit. A new record had always been something we knew we would get around to doing & the pieces finally seemed to fall in place. My experience with the Dinosaur Jr. post-reunion albums had shown that it was best to just get on with it, drop any fears of not surpassing the band’s earlier work & just make some new songs to play live & share with the people who still care about us.
3. How has your recording/mixing process changed since The Sebadoh? Just in broad strokes.
Defend Yourself was recorded in a practice space. The Sebadoh was recorded in an expensive LA studio. Defend Yourself was recorded by Jake. The Sebadoh was recorded by a producer & an engineer who got paid.
In other words we did Defend Yourself the only way it could have been done, on the cheap &–outside of the mixing of my 6 songs with Wally Gagel–all by ourselves.
Other than that our process is the same, we bring songs we have written individually , in various stages of completion & finish them together. My songs, in general, are more sketchy than Jake’s when I bring them to the band, I look to Bob & Jake to write their own parts & I structure the songs according to what seems to work.
4. Are you excited about anything in particular?
I was excited to work with Wally Gagel on the final mixes for my songs, he was my writing partner/producer during the heyday of the Folk Implosion. He & I hadn’t worked together for awhile & I liked what he did with Jake’s recordings. He also saved my ass by being available when I really needed him.
I’m relieved that we were able to find the time to make a new LP happen & surprised at how well it seems to hang together conceptually. I’m also pleased that we kept to ourselves during the recording & didn’t have much, if any, outside intervention. That, to my mind, makes it a true Sebadoh record & aligns the style of Defend Yourself with our early releases.
I used more 4 string guitar on this record than any record since Bakesale. Also, we tuned lower & I reverted back to the downstroke strumming style that I used early on. I made a conscious effort to do what felt the most natural as opposed to trying to streamline the sound as I did with some of the songs on The Sebadoh & Harmacy.