Lou Barlow is best known as the bassist of Dinosaur Jr.—but his solo work is gaining more attention.
He’ll be playing solo at the Desert Stars Festival at Pappy and Harriet’s on Friday, Sept. 25, following up on the Sept. 4 release of his new solo album, Brace the Wave.
“I recorded it in six days,” Barlow said about the new album during a recent telephone interview. “… My life is moving along, and it’s sort of a reflection of what’s going on.”
Barlow was fired from Dinosaur Jr. in the late 1980s, but returned in 2005 when frontman J Mascis reunited the band. During those intervening years, Barlow remained busy with Sebadoh and the Folk Implosion.
Before Dinosaur Jr. formed, both Mascis and Barlow were part of a group called Deep Wound.
“It was a hardcore punk band, and we just naturally got a bit older, and our tastes became a little more sophisticated, so we both evolved to Dinosaur Jr.,” he explained.
While Sebadoh is still active, the Folk Implosion is not. The Folk Implosion is remembered most for its contributions to the Kids soundtrack in 1995, including the song “Natural One,” which reached No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“The last record I did with Folk Implosion was in 2004, and I don’t imagine I’ll ever do that again,” Barlow said. “… Folk Implosion was gradually becoming a solo project for me.”
I asked him what makes Brace the Wave stand out from his previous solo albums, Emoh (2005) and Goodnight Unknown (2009).
“I think this one is more basic than those records,” he said. “I don’t really have any guest musicians on this record. It’s just me, and it’s a little less polished than the other records, and it’s a little more raw overall.”
Barlow said he’ll stay busy for the rest of the year.
“The next thing I have on the line is Dinosaur Jr. and recording another record with them in the fall. I’m also doing shows with Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr., and my solo stuff,” he explained. “It’s playing a lot of different shows at once. It’s not really difficult for me; it’s more difficult for the people I work with, which can make it difficult for me, too, I guess. It’s almost like every band I have is a side project. It’s hard for me to determine what the main focus is, and it can be frustrating for people who work with me.”
Barlow was touring with Dinosaur Jr. when I spoke to him.
“At the last show I played, two days ago, we had a guest vocalist, John Brannon from Negative Approach,” Barlow said. “He’s really influential, and Negative Approach is one of J Mascis’ favorite bands. He came up and sang a song with us, and it was pretty awesome.”
Barlow said festivals such as Desert Stars fascinate him.
“They’re a real challenge,” he said. “If I play festivals with Sebadoh, it’s difficult, because it’s more of a club-sized band, and to get out there on a bigger-sized stage, it’s hard to pull it off if you’re not gearing your music to a festival vibe. With a band like Dinosaur Jr., it’s a lot easier, because we have big amplifiers, and it’s more of a rock band.
“I haven’t played very many festivals as a solo act, so I can’t really make any generalizations there.”
The Desert Stars Festival starts at 1 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Sept. 25 and 26, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $55 for a one-day pass, or $85 for a weekend pass. For passes or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.