Dinosaur Jr is not ready to go extinct just yet. In fact, the veteran indie rock band is still going strong, and attracting new fans.
The Massachusetts alternative rockers are currently on a tour through the United States and Europe in support of their newly released album, Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not, and according to the band’s drummer Emmett Jefferson Murphy, who goes by Murph, a lot of fans following the tour are a solid mix of their old fans and younger faces.
“It’s not just a nostalgia trip. We’re getting a lot of new listeners,” he noted during a recent phone interview from New York.
Murph attributed the new generation of fans to how accessible music is now, with pretty much everything on Youtube, or just a download away.
“Kids are curious. They hear about Nirvana, that Seattle sound from the late 1980s and 1990s ... but WE are still around!” he said. “We’re like a time capsule, our shows still the same and that’s exciting for kids now.”
Admitting that he also indulges in some nostalgia from time to time, and that there are a handful of bands he tries to catch when he can, including fellow surviving 1980s grunge acts Soundgarden and Pixie. “I saw them in the 90’s and they were great then and they’re still great now,” he said.
In fact, the history of Dinosaur Jr. mirrors that of Pixie’s: both are alt-rock bands from Massachusetts that disbanded in the 1990s following tensions between their lead guitarist and bassist (Dinosaur Jr’s J. Mascis vs Lou Barlow, and Pixie’s Black Francis vs Kim Deal), then came back together in the noughties to surprising success.
Formed in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1984, Dinosaur Jr went through two successful periods with the original line up of Murph, Mascis and Barlow.
The trio put out three albums together – Dinosaur (1985), You’re Living All Over Me (1987), and Bug (1988) – on major label Sire, and then reshuffled members when Barlow left in 1989, followed by Murph in 1993. After a couple of albums on his own (1994’s Without A Sound and 1997’s Hand It Over), Mascis retired the Dinosaur Jr name in favour of going solo.
For Dinosaur Jr, it was the less than amicable split between Mascis and Barlow that really put a dent in the band. However, like broken bones, bands do mend, though not in the same way. The old lineup eventually patched things up and returned on indie label Jagjaguwar for their three latest albums Farm (2009), I Bet On Sky (2012) and Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not (2016).
“We didn’t plan it, it just happened,” Murph said, adding that for the first few years back, it felt more like a reunion band. Now, however, he said that Dinosaur Jr finally feels like a proper full-time band again.
Murph noticeably perked up as the conversation moved on from the band’s history to its newest album. He said the production quality and lyrics were better, with more vocal harmonies and a more “radio friendly” approach. However, he was quick to add that being radio friendly didn’t mean selling out their grunge sound, assuring us that the new record would still be as loud as their fans had come to expect.
Asked about balancing new and old songs on the tour, Murph claimed that merging the old and new songs on the setlist has been quite effortless, thanks to Mascis’ direction. “I’m just amazed that the old and new work together. It’s quite rare for a band to be able to perform both,” he said.
He added that they are extremely lucky to still be playing and putting out good music. “A lot of bands aren’t the same. They put out new material, but they’ve lost their edge. We’ve got chemistry. Our chemistry is always going to be there, we can always draw upon that,” he said.