LOU BARLOW Splitting his personality.
Where the hell did Lou Barlow go? It's been three years since we've heard a peep out of Sebadoh or Folk Implosion, but the mastermind of both bands reports that he's been keeping himself busy with the usual: recording songs at home, dealing with music industry hassles, battling depression, starring in a movie with Frances McDormand and Christian Bale

Ummm, what was that last one again?

"Yep, it's called Laurel Canyon," Barlow chuckles. "I'd never acted, and I'm not comfortable with it--either you got it or you don't, and I don't."

But that didn't dissuade the famously low-key indierock icon and his new Folk Implosion bandmates--Russ Pollard and Imaad Wasif--from taking an offer they simply couldn't refuse.

"Initially, they wanted me to submit music for it but I didn't want to, so they were like, 'Why don't you come down and try out for the part?'" he explains. "I didn't want to do that either, but we were all going broke, so me, Imaad, and Russ were like, okay, we'll go down there 'cause it's not gonna happen. So we go and it's this big deal--all these tall actor-slash-producer-slash-whatevers wearing jewelry lined up in the hallway trying out for these parts--and they fucking hired us! We're in it as a band, we had speaking parts, and one of the primary characters in the movie is our lead singer."

The bizarreness doesn't end there.

"They were like, 'You gotta be English, like a Coldplay/Radiohead thing,' so we had to be coached in the accents. The thing is, we could talk in bogus English accents all day, like Spinal Tap or whatever, but then you get in a roomful of 50 people and it was like, 'I can't do this at all!'"

Of course, Barlow pulled it off, as we'll see in theaters next spring. But anyone familiar with his work knows that self-doubt has plagued the 36-year-old songwriter over his entire career. Still, he's managed to amass a sprawling and beautifully affecting collection of songs, going all the way back to his early days with Dinosaur Jr. in the mid- to late-'80s. And he's drawing from that extensive catalog on his current solo acoustic tour--the first such jaunt he's made in ages.

But things have been especially difficult of late. Though the '90s were kind to him--with a loyal and steadily rising fanbase, loads of indie cred, and even a couple of radio hits--the new millennium has so far been full of uncertainty.

"Basically, I just lost people," Lou explains. "John Davis quit Folk Implosion, and Sebadoh kinda just fuckin' fizzled out. I mean, we probably will get back together again at some point, but everything had gotten so big and then it all just faded. We could literally not afford to get together anymore [bandmate Jason Loewenstein lives in Kentucky], and we didn't have another record in our contract with Sub Pop, so everything stopped and I was left hanging for like two years."

Barlow wallowed for 24 long months, drinking way more whiskey than he admits he probably should have, but as they say, despair breeds the best art. Always writing and recording songs on his four-track, he finally pulled himself out of his rut late last year with a whole new batch of tracks, which he offered first for free via his website (

www.loobiecore.com) and then, earlier this year, on the album Free Sentridoh Songs from Loobiecore.

"Shit gets done somehow," he says. "I question it to the point of paralysis, doubt absolutely everything that I do constantly, all the time, and completely go into deep states of depression about it, fucking poison myself, and somehow things come together and through all of that I'm able to keep it together."

With his gloomiest days hopefully behind him, Barlow says that once the solo tour is over, he'll finish the Folk Implosion album the reconfigured trio has been working on all summer--an experience that's made the future brighten up a bit.

"Imaad and Russ have been a pretty crucial part of my revival," he declares. "They're like 26, 27, and totally alive. It's cool cause when I was that age it was the best time of my life. So I suck off of them like a vampire."