Everyone with two ears and a soul loves Dinosaur Jr.‘s ‘Where You Been,’ but few love it as much as singer Garrett Klahn (Texas Is the Reason) and guitarist Sergie Loobkoff (Samiam).
Earlier this year, in honor of the album’s 20th anniversary, the former Solea bandmates decided to record their own front-to-back version. The original plan was to set up in a bedroom with some mics and acoustic guitars, but once Siren Records caught wind of the project, Thrice bassist Ed Breckenridge and drummer/producer Roger Camero volunteered to join Loobkoff in backing a Who’s Who of punk vocalists, among them Klahn, Jason Beebout (Samiam), Karl Larsson (Last Days of April), Blair Sheehan (Knapsack, the Jealous Sound) and Dave Warsop (Suedehead, Beat Union). The result was Felled Trees’ ‘Where We Been,’ an all-star Dino deep dive out today (Oct. 15).
To celebrate the release, Loobkoff agreed to take Diffuser.fm track by track and talk about how Felled Trees approached the music. He also discussed why the words — and the righteous guitar solos — of Dino main man J Mascis have stuck with him all these years. Scroll down to read his thoughts, and check out Felled Trees’ Facebook page for more info.
I think everyone can relate to a song about lost love. Specifically, this is a song about thinking of someone that left you, what’s the term …”pining?” My brother told me this whole album was written about J’s junior high crush or girlfriend, Uma Thurman. If that is true, she would have been pretty much everywhere when this album was written, because of ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Kill Bill.’ Great inspiration for a perfect album. I don’t know if most people ever had to learn a two minute guitar solo before, but is not all that easy. I didn’t do this note-for-note, but I didn’t want to change the super memorable parts. When you see dinosaur live, J doesn’t try this … he just jams. Some people prefer than creative spontaneity. My thought was that when J. free forms, people listen. If I “spaced jammed,” people would roll their eyes. So I kept it semi-faithful throughout this album. Karl is the first guy to sing a song on this record…despite the fact that he was way off in Stockholm! I have loved Last Days of April for 10 years, since Solea (my band with Garrett) played with them in Amsterdam. Getting him to do this was really huge for me.
So I also did the artwork for the record. Among the corrections I got back was the misspelling of this song, which for 20 years I erroneously believed to be ‘Start Chompin’.’ I was super disappointed. I love the groove to this song, and I wish I could play it as smooth and effortlessly as J, but what you hear is what you get. When I first picked up a guitar as a teenager, I found I had next to no rhythm. A real white guy to the core. Things have gotten a little better, but well … uh, yeah. Originally, it didn’t really occur to me to ask Jason to sing on this project. I knew he loved Dinosaur as much as I did, and I knew he would be great at it, but I guess I had my doubts that he would be interested in doing something with me outside of Samiam. He found out about the project while we were on tour in Germany and it was a little silly. The two of us were doing an interview and the guy asked, “So, Sergie, what is this thing I read about on Facebook about the Dinosaur Jr. cover record?” Jason looked at me and added, “You are doing what?” Ha. It was great that instead of needling me about this stupid idea of mine, he said he wanted in.
‘What Else Is New’
Yes, this is a great song all the way through. Yet, I feel like the outro is the kicker. On the original, there is that great tympani drum business. Roger did a great job with his toms all the same, and I think our version, with the reverb-y feedback and Garrett’s voice is neat, too. We would have loved to work with whatever resources Warner Bros plunked into Dinosaur, but we made due with next to no budget. Of course I miss playing music with Garrett, and although no one really paid any attention to Solea, I totally hear that band in this song. It warms my little heart.
‘On the Way’
Because the vocals are fairly passive, this song doesn’t come off as what it really is: a raging punk song. Musically, it’s fast and aggressive as anything I’ve played on. Roger got sweaty. The timing of Jealous Sound’s hiatus and Knapsack’s reunion shows couldn’t have been better. Blair moved back to L.A. around the time that J Sound started back up, but besides their shows, I rarely saw him. Once Knapsack began practicing, he, Eddie and I started “bro-ing” out massively. I never heard him sing like this before, but the performance is very recognizable as being “the guy from Jealous Sound or Knapsack.”
‘Not the Same’
This song is a standout from the rest because it’s so mellow. Of all the singers, Davey was the only guy that I wasn’t super familiar with, so I was a little apprehensive about him. His band Suedehead is basically British soul music, and I didn’t realize he was such a Dino fan. But he did such a great job, maybe my favorite of our renditions. I also love the fact that we did the music differently than the others. I played a clean electric guitar and Eddie played an acoustic right next to each other in the control room. Through out the song, you hear chairs creak, doors close and Toki (Steve’s dog) barking. It was super quick and unthought out.
Here was another one of those songs with two-plus-minute solos. When I first sat down with it on my couch, I was like, “There are, like, eight minutes of solos on this record. How am I going to find the time to memorize all of these notes and bends and stuff?” I ended up chopping them into little sections on my computer and then transferring to my Playstation to learn in bits. It took a while, but it was fun. Garrett did a sweet job singing. He sounds really urgent, and you can tell he loves this song. I love all his little changes, he made it his own … but he decided to leave one “oooohhhh, oooohhh” that I always miss. Still he rocked it.
I remember the very first time I heard this on CD. When ‘Drawerings’ started, I thought the player was on repeat because the main riff is so similar to that of ‘Get Me.’ Of course it goes in a total independent path once the singing started. I always wondered why they put such similar songs next to each other. I guess it was sort of an acknowledgment that there are only so many chords and what’s important is not which you use (or repeat) but what you do with them. The middle part came was really “heavy” for an “indie rock”-type record; it’s almost like “stoner rock” or something. I was definitely worried we’d wimp it out or something, but I think, thanks to thick bass and drums, it’s pretty muscular.
Eddie’s bass is such a great part of what we recorded. Before we started playing with drums, he would come to my house, I would cook a shrimp salad (before he went vegan) and we’d work out the songs. I repeatedly was astounded by the lines he came up with but he would always laugh and say, “I’m just doing what is on the record.” Mike Johnson isn’t really the celebrated bassist of Dinosaur Jr., of course — Lou is — but his parts are so awesome. Thanks to J’s super loud guitars they get buried. We made a special effort to not have that happen, and I think it’s to Roger’s credit that it was recorded in such a way that you can hear everything, not just guitars and vocals on top.
I remember years ago Garrett sending me an link to this song. Not like he discovered something I didn’t know about — he knew I loved this record — but to point out how great it was. Back when people listened to CDs, often you would put it on and before it got to track nine, you would have gotten out of the car or left the room or lost interest in the record. Typically, I think, you listened to the first five songs way more that the last five, purely out of circumstance. Anyway, this is such a sweet song and it had to be put somewhere so they put it ninth, ha. Jason did a swell job singing.
‘I Ain’t Sayin’
‘I Ain’t Sayin’ might be the simplest song on the record: two parts that repeat a couple of times and then fades out. Shows that music doesn’t need to be complex to be great. I wonder how J decides when to do a crazy minutes-long solo and when to do a very short, simple lick? He is so awesome at both. When we rehearsed this, I started to play ‘Feel the Pain’ from a later record one day and was surprised to hear Roger and Eddie pop in and play along as if we planned it. it was really a great “rehearsal moment.” So when we did the real recording, we decided to add a snippet of that along with a snippet of ‘Plans’ from the ‘Farm’ album. They are sort of tacked on to the end of each side of the LP as we knew that vinyl was going to be the focus of this release.
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