Sergie Loobkoff is hands down one of my all-time favorite guitarists. He may not be a notefucker like Joe Satriani or Eddie Van Halen, but he always delivers the perfect combination of melodic, melancholy, warm and fuzzy. With his signature sound, Loobkoff has added something special to every single project he has been a part of. Whether you are talking about Samiam or Knapsack, the criminally underrated Solea, the unfortunately all too short-lived Racquet Club, the Dinosaur Jr tribute that was Felled Trees or his most recent band Ways Away, Loobkoff’s contributions always help lift the music to the next level.
Originally, I wanted to rank my favorite Loobkoff albums myself, but that turned out to be a challenge. I mean, how do you pick Racquet Club’s self-titled album over Solea’s ‘Finally We Are Nowhere’? And how do Samiam’s ‘You Are Freaking Me Out’ and Knapsack’s ‘This Conversation Is Ending Starting Right Now’ figure in? Not to mention Ways Away’s excellent sophomore album, ‘’. It would have only led to a pretty crowded top 3. Luckily, Loobkoff was kind enough to step in and do the ranking himself.
(photo credit: Austin Rhodes)
Sergie: First of all, I don't listen to my various bands unless I'm relearning songs for a tour or evaluating mixes. I disappoint people when I say I don't really spend much time listening to bands that sound like Samiam either. I don't often feel in the mood for loud guitars and drums. I'm looking at my Spotify for this list and on my 'recents' I see Hall & Oats, Gordon Lightfoot, Duster, Thurston Moore and Bill Withers. What I listen to and the music I play are quite different but music is music so...
10. Sweet Baby "It's a Girl!" (Ruby Records, 1989)
Sergie: This was my first album. I did play drums on it but this record made this list almost as if I wasn't a part of it. A. it was over 30 years ago B. I was always a terrible drummer. C. I didn't have anything to do with how good it was, I was just along for the ride. We never got any fans and aren't remembered, but the singer and guitar player where so talented. Like OpIv's 'Energy' this was an album of that place and time that had spirit and no bad songs. I was a freshman at UC Berkeley and they were grad students...so they were pretty condesending and not particularly nice to me....which got worse when I quit...but I have to hand it to them: they made a hell of a batch of songs. My friend Rich, who drew the cover of Green Days' Dookie ' was the bass player (fun fact).
09. Racquet Club "S/T" (Rise Records, 2017)
Sergie: I think, much like Ways Away, starting a band in your 40s is a terrible idea....but this short lived band put out a record that I am really proud of. The four of us really were a unit and although the songs were mainly Blair's ideas, I think I put in enough writing to feel like I contributed in a significant way. Going to Brasil with Hot Water Music was really special too.
08. Samiam "Stowaway" (Pure Noise Records, 2023)
Sergie: I hate people that say that their latest record is their best...and I'm not saying that about 'Stowaway' but it is a marvel that in the midst of a pandemic, years of procastination/disinterest/writers block, Jason hit this one out of the park. I think it sounds pretty good and songs like 'Monterrey Canyon', 'Crystallized', 'Natural Disaster' and '..Hustler' are - to me - up to the highest standards we have set for our band.
07. Knapsack "This Conversation Is Ending Starting Right Now" (Alias Records, 1998)
Sergie: Knapsack (and Racquet Club) will always be first and foremost Blair's vision. But, as with the Racquet Club album, I think I added something to the songs and songwriting that is different than his other work. Maybe not better, but I feel there is a little magic in a Shehan/Loobkoff composition. When this came out no one gave a shit, not that it is a huge deal now, it's not...but our 2013-2016 reunion was really special playing these songs to some big crowds.
06. Solea "Finally We Are Nowhere" (Arctic Rodeo Recordings & Bad News Records, 2008)
Sergie: I did this band with my pal Garrett from the time Samiam sort of stopped being a serious band until around 2006. We went to Europe 3 times and Japan 3 times as well, but apart from some coastal tours, we never really got going in our home country. In fact, the 2 albums were on German and Japanese labels but were imports in the US. Nevertheless, I thought we did a bunch of good 'work'. Garrett and I have been friends for years but besides that, not unlike with Samiam or Ways Away, my music and his melodies really go well together. Most people would probably pick the debut over this LP...but the first one was produced a little too poppy, this one has more grit and feels better to me.
05. Felled Trees "Where You Been" (Sound The Siren Records, 2013)
Sergie: Hardly anybody has ever heard this. My buds Ed (from Thrice/Knapsack) and Roger (NoMotiv/warriors) spent a few months learning and recording this cover LP of Dinosaur Jr.. We had such a great time and those two are so talented, especially Roger as he not only nailed drums but recorded the whole thing. Initially we wanted Jon Bunch from Sense Field to sing on it...but he totally flaked on us, so we got a bunch of friends to contribute a pair of songs each. I think it is neat that the singer of Samiam, Knapsack and Solea are all on there. It was quite a task for me to learn....so many guitar solos...but I am very proud of this.
04. Samiam "You Are Freaking Me Out" (Burning Heart Records & Ignition Records, 1997)
Sergie: This isn't my favorite sounding record, which is weird because we got Steven Haigler to produce because of the awesomeness of his Quicksand 'Slip' production. It's not bad but a little glossy and less powerful than I hoped. I also think it is uneven in songwritting...the first half is 'hit' (sic) laden and second half is a little blah... But those leading album tracks are some of the best we've ever done.
03. Ways Away "S/T" / "Torch Songs" / Untitled 3rd record (Other People Records, 2020 / 2022 / ????)
Sergie: I never expected to start a new band in my old age, it just happend. I also never thought I would find a singer as good as Jason (Samiam), Garrett (Solea) or Blair (Knapsack/Racquet Club) but I fell into it. Jesse is tremendously talented. I feel like I'm writting music that is worthwhile and being in a band with these other guys is unlike any previous band I have been in....I feel open to say my ideas without arguments and compromise. Plus in the age of Pro Tools, we managed to record some of the best sounding music I've been apart of cheaply. And now that we have seperated from a label, we own all our masters and are recieving royalties without middlemen, it is great. We are in the middle of recording our third album and are really excited.
02. Samiam "Clumsy" (Atlantic Records, 1994)
Sergie: Signing to Atlantic was exciting: we did big tours, played some TV and really experienced some amazing things. This is definately the best sound quality of any recording I've done as it was recorded on 2" tape in a fancy studio and produced by Lou Giordano. We finally learned how to make a real song thanks to Lou. In fact, he taught us a lot about what we were doing. He was great. People often ask leading questions about 'our shitty experience on majors'....expecting horror tales of comporate meddling. But the opposite is true: they bought me a house and had zero input in making the record. Of course, when they abruptly dropped us it wasn't fun. But, unlike some of the rip off indie labels I've done business with, they were upfront about things and did honest accounting.
01. Samiam "Astray" (Hopeless Records & Burning Heart Records, 2000)
Sergie: I think this is most people's favorite album. It was made in the beginning of the end of the band being 'professional', a byproduct of getting signed to Atlantic. When we started we had zero expectations and treated our band as a hobby, then Green Day got huge and we sort of lost our way for 6 years and treated the band more like a "business'....still for fun, but with goals in mind. After Astray's touring cycle, James quit and we went back to being haphazard and part time for the last 22 years. The sound quality on this record is decent and the songs are strong from beginning to end. At least in my opinion.