To most fans of indie music, Sebadoh are not only rock gods, but they are torch carrying saviors of the genre. With that notion, comes a near automatic attribution that the band represents all things indie, such as small venue shows, a lack of music videos, and of course, aging formats such as vinyl and cassettes.
Sebadoh’s co-frontman however made a surprising status update on Facebook the other day when he published a picture of people burning Beatles records circa 1966, with the statement, “I am thinking of starting a group “Musicians against vinyl” Romanticizing medieval formats = jackass! I am sure it will be a very small group.”
The post got immediate responses from his large pool of Facebook friends. The first comment is probably the best — “vinyl blows & beatles suck!!!”, but the thread eventually opened up into a simple, yet interesting debate over the validity of vinyl and its resurgence over the past six years or so.
While several people tried to deter Loewenstein’s stand over the course of the post, he remained unmoving on his position, every once in a while chiming in with, ” I am right, thats all. /thread” and “Fact.” Loewenstein shut down another commenter, who tried to explain that analogue is the only format that carries real frequencies, with a simple, “Wrong again.” He also poked fun at bands that only release their material on vinyl, saying, “I am going to start a website and I want everyone to see it, but it will not be available on line, just printed / mailed. Good idea or no?”
Loewenstein’s stance is an interesting one in that most indie rockers like himself adore vinyl and hold it up as the dominant format. Steve Albini for instance hated digital formats and had titled one Big Black compilation CD, “The Rich Man’s Eight Track Tape,” as a jab at the convenience of digital over the quality of analogue.
Loewenstein later clarified his statement saying, “Ok guys… I like vinyl, but as a musician I wouldnt want to put something out ONLY on vinyl (limits distribution) and I think that with quality equipment, 24 bit (& higher) digital recordings are technologically superior. That DOES NOT have ANYTHING to do with “clean or dirty recordings” I like dirty digital!” The thread continued but he pretty much signed off after that.
He is right actually. A gritty or “dirty” sound can be accomplished through digital, it’s just matter of knowing how to use your equipment. For instance, the Wu-Tang Clan are one of the most street-sounding hip-hop groups around, their records often having hard, crackled beats and rough vocals, yet they have been pioneers in digital recording since “36 Chambers.”
As far as I know, all of Sebadoh’s work has been recorded on analogue but the last time they put out a record was “The Sebadoh,” and that was in 1999. When I spoke to Jason Loewestein after a Sebadoh show last year, he hinted at the possibility of recording new material with Lou Barlow and Bob D’Amico. Whether or not they can put the “dirty digital” sound to the test, we’ll have to wait and see.