Home / Music & Arts / Dinosaur Jr.’s Lou Barlow recalls NYC's influence on the band

Dinosaur Jr.’s Lou Barlow recalls NYC's influence on the band

If you’re in Williamsburg and you feel the ground rumble in a few days, don’t panic — it’s because Dinosaur Jr. have come roaring into town.

The legendary trio are set to shroud Brooklyn Bowl in a mighty wall of sound for back-to-back nights Monday and Tuesday, when the western Massachusetts natives will perform songs from their decades-spanning discography.

That the Big Apple is getting a double dose of the noisy rockers isn’t surprising — New York is the adopted hometown of frontman J Mascis, and where the band spent a lot of time in their early days. Bassist and vocalist Lou Barlow said for him, Mascis and drummer Murph, the city was an indispensable resource.

“We’d load up our family station wagon, bomb down the FDR and park in front of CB’s and hope it didn’t get broken into,” Barlow recalled. “Three hours down, three hours back. We’d do it all in a day, kind of these breathless races down to the city to play these really exciting, f—-d up shows.”

New York is also where Dinosaur Jr., while signed to city imprint Homestead Records with label mates and friends Sonic Youth, recorded Side A of their enduring sophomore record, 1987’s “You’re Living All Over Me.” The band recently played the album in full for a few special tour dates.

Barlow said he felt the band really coalesced around “You’re Living All Over Me,” as it drew from a lot of music they were passionate about at the time. Take Husker Du, Black Sabbath and REM and add a healthy dose of distortion.

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J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. performs at Coachella in Indio, Calif., in this 2013 file photo.

(Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)

“For how turbulent and antagonistic our early days were, that was a period when we kind of came together,” Barlow said. “I would say it was almost like a good vibe in the band for a few months around the recording … as objective as I can be, I really think it’s a good record.”

Barlow said he thinks people are still into the album for exactly that reason: “If you’re lucky, you can have those kind of moments when you’re original and it does feel really fresh, and for whatever reason it continues to feel fresh.”

Brooklyn won’t hear “You’re Living All Over Me” in full, because for this tour the band is trying something new — letting fans vote online for the songs they want to hear.

Barlow, who was absent for Dinosaur Jr.’s middle period after getting kicked out of the band, hasn’t quite wrapped his head around this idea. He said the songs they play live are usually up to Mascis’ discretion.

“I’m only really acquainted with the records that I’ve played on … the songs are not easily fudged. At least for me, they’re fairly intricate and require practice,” Barlow said. “We don’t like to wing it.”

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Murph of Dinosaur Jr. onstage during Coachella in this 2013 file photo.

(Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)

He can likely rest easy, though, as their sets have treaded familiar territory during the first couple tour stops.

Anxiety around performing can be a struggle for Barlow, who is also a member of lo-fi indie band Sebadoh and plays solo acoustic folk on his own. But it’s not an issue when he’s playing with Dinosaur Jr.

“Being on stage, it’s that feeling of being exposed, and Dino is just like a f—–g fortress of sound, so I don’t really feel vulnerable,” he said.

And his relationship with Mascis, often painted as troubled, is in good shape, too.

“It’s not like we ever fought. It was all sort of this strange, very passive aggressive, behind-your-back kind of stuff,” he said. “We really have a nice vibe as a band right now. Things are good. I don’t know if they’ve ever been better, actually.”

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