The current trend of UK indie bands doing one-off singles with the likes of Deceptive, Fierce Panda etc, is something which has been going on for a while in the USA. Often labels get their 3 minutes of fame as established stars 'donate' a track. Mike Hirbarger told us, amongst other things, about Sonic Bubblegum's close encounter with one Lou Barlow.

How did you get Lou Barlow to record for you?


Back in 1986, I started a fanzine and the first issue contained an interview with Dinosaur. Lou was pretty shy and quiet. Murph did most of the talking. Jay and Lou seemed baffled by the fact that I wanted to interview them and started interviewing me.

Also, a few years later, I was attempting to put together a video fanzine. I videotaped several Sebadoh shows and sent the footage to Eric and he edited them with other live footage into a VHS cassette movie.


Concurrently, I started a band and I met some other bands that I felt should have singles out and I decided to start a label. The next time I saw Lou I asked him if he wanted to do a single. He said something like "yeah, that'd be okay, but not just yet."

Then they started to get a lot of attention and then Sub Pop came in. The next time I ran into him he was working furiously on _Bubble and Scrape_. In my mind, I gave up the idea of



working with him as it seemed like he was getting too big, too quick.

Half a year later Lou called me up and asked me if I wanted to do a project with him. I immediately said 'yes'. Then he said, "it won't be Sebadoh, it's a side project of mine." Anyhow, the project was called Belt Buckle and featured Lou Barlow, Bob Fay, and Eric Matthews. At the time of course, I didn't know that Bob would join Sebadoh and that Eric would go on to Cardinal and a solo career. Listening to the tape for the first time was really satisfying - as Eric described it, weird in a good way. It was like Sebadoh timewarped back to the late 60's.

Why is it so simple to get famous people on one-off - at least compared to the UK, where it's only just starting to happen? Are we too keen to sign up to binding contracts in return for big bucks?

I think a lot of bands think that their songs are precious and worth a lot of money. Sometimes they are. The beauty of it is, you can always write more.

I think it costs more to record in the UK ? This would make it more difficult to give away tracks. It's also relatively cheap and easy to put out records here. There are quite a few plants that produce 45's and the knowledge on how to put out records has been widely publicized within the indie rock community here in the U.S.

Also, I think bands have seen that the Sebadoh methodology of giving a couple of songs to just about everyone who asks has worked. Sebadoh



has successfully widened their fan base by letting fans put out 7"s for them. It has also spurred the collector interest in their material because a lot of these micro-labels are poorly distributed, thus making the records difficult to get.

Any other megastars?

I released an Archers double 7" which was split with the Treepeople. Each band covers the other and there is also an original - the Treepeople cover "Web in Front".

Also, what have you released recently?

My most recent releases are two 7"s, one from the Wrens...

THE Wrens?


The very same. Peel loves them. Like the Pixies on crack.

The others were from Stuntman (ex-Treepeople) and a new album from Dis-. I have also released albums from Tulips, Tugboat Annie and Green Magnet School within the last year.


In the not too distant future we have plans to release 7"s from Hum, U.S. Maple, Silkworm and the Mountain Goats, as well as full-lengths from Analogue and the Tulips.


Sonic Bubblegum recordings can be obtained through Cargo.

Reprinted from bigwig 1996