The veteran alt-rock band Dinosaur Jr. made a splash on the Billboard 200 last month with its first release on Jagjaguwar, "Farm." At No. 29, the album's debut marks the peak position in the band's 25-year career and signals the beginning of a fruitful relationship with the indie label.
Instead of using tools like Twitter to market "Farm," Jagjaguwar focused on press. "We wanted to present the album as a classic," Jagjaguwar partner Chris Swanson says. "For us, the goal was to do smaller-market touring until the album came out, and then hit the larger markets while trying to get the album in stores."
To accomplish this, Jagjaguwar packaged a bonus disc of new material and covers with the first 20,000 copies of "Farm," which helped retail stores stock the album. Dinosaur Jr. also played a run of U.S. dates this spring and performed the album's scorching opener, "Pieces," on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" June 25, two days after the album's release. It has since sold 27,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
With its fuzzed-out guitar riffs and melodic choruses, "Farm" has earned critical acclaim and strong word-of-mouth calling it a return to the trio's glory days. The group's comeback, however, didn't come easy. After releasing three guitar-heavy albums on SST Records and amassing a dedicated following in the late '80s, tension between guitarist J. Mascis and bassist Lou Barlow eventually led to the latter's 1989 departure.
Dinosaur Jr. soldiered on, signing to Sire Records in 1990. Mascis and drummer Murph, along with a revolving door of collaborators, released two albums on Sire before Murph also left the band. Mascis released two more albums before retiring the band in 1997.
After slowly reconnecting, and then having their first three albums reissued on Merge in 2005, Mascis, Barlow and Murph reunited for a handful of shows in 2006. Dinosaur Jr. released "Beyond"-the first album featuring the band's original lineup since 1988's "Bug"-in 2007 on Fat Possum Records.
The album's rich textures surprised rock fans who had written off the band. But Mascis had never lost sight of the trio's natural chemistry. "It was easier writing songs with all of the members in mind," he says. "We could just stay with what we know and make the sound we've always made."
For "Farm," the band holed up in East Hampton, Mass., last winter and recorded for four months. During that period, the trio was contacted by Jagjaguwar, whose roster (Bon Iver, Ladyhawk) compelled the band to sign a multi-album deal in February.
The act will begin a European tour Aug. 19 before returning stateside for a fall trek in October. While Dinosaur Jr. plans to keep recording with Jagjaguwar, the band is focused on making the most of its road stints.
"We'll have some other things in the works, but we're not looking too far ahead," Mascis says. "We're just gearing up to survive this tour."