Dean Wareham: “Playing together is easy. Keeping the band is difficult”

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New York, February 28, 2005. Luna’s show at Bowery Ballroom, the last one, after fourteen years together. At the end of the show, Dean Wareham, Britta Phillips, Lee Wall and Sean Eden say goodbye to the audience. Words and handshakes are exchanged. Someone offers a bouquet of flowers. Is Sean who receives it. A poster in the crowd reads: “We’ll say a prayer and tell you that we’ll miss you. Thank you, Luna”. The phrase comes from the song “23 Minutes in Brussels”, one of Dean’s favorite (as he will say in this interview), from Penthouse (1994). A few months ago, Luna announced their reunion for a series of dates in Spain, one show in Los Angeles and another one in Portugal, at Casa da Música, Porto, April 26th. The last show in Portugal was in 2003. Twelve years later, it’s nice to have them back.

How does it feel to be back?

It feels almost too soon. Ten years since we last played, it has gone by very, very quickly. It’s exciting too. We’ve had the college jam session a couple of months ago, three of us live in Los Angeles now, Britta [bassist] and I live here, the drummer, Lee, lives here, and Sean came out from New York. It’s an odd feeling to play songs you haven’t played for ten years. It’s strangely emotional, it’s like you are traveling backwards in time, like you are visiting an old house you used to live in. Anyway I think it’s going to be fun. We all like each other, we all get along well, and we all get along well because we haven’t been in a band. Being in a band for years it puts pressure on your friendships, it’s difficult. Anyone who has ever been for more than five years would tell you the same thing. So being away from that was probably good for us all. I feel like there’s no pressure, there’s nothing for us to fight about, we are just doing the shows for fun and to make some money too, hopefully. We don’t have to promote a new record or ask about why we are not getting played on the radio. Not of that matters. It’s just for the sheer fun of playing music.

What made you want to play together again?

I got an email from this promotor in Spain. It’s always Spain. He send me an email saying he had heard a rumor that Luna is reforming, and that he can get us a lot of shows in Spain. We’ve talked about it and I presented the offer to everyone and everyone wanted to do it. We are playing a lot of shows in Spain and one in Portugal. Fifteen shows in sixteen days. And one in Los Angeles too. We just thought we should have a smallish show somewhere before we get to this festival in Gijón. It sold out in seventeen minutes. It was just a kind of crazy, but it’s a small club though. Well, is a bit different. I think that, ten years ago, was there Facebook ten years ago? I don’t even know. I don’t think there was Facebook. Things are different.

You said in an interview that you decided to play together again and do some shows last summer. Have you ever talked about it before?

No. We didn’t talk about it. The fact is that 10 years, that’s a nice round number, I suppose, so makes you think about it. We also have a label here that is going to reissue the first five Luna albums on vinyl, later in the year. So seems like a good time to be shown. But anyway, it’s not going to take over our lives again, I wouldn’t want it to take all of my life again and be my whole life – we’ve done that – just to play some shows this year. Do things that are fun. We are not going to get in a bus and tour all over the United States of America.

Have you been rehearsing in the last months?

Well, we have been rehearsing, I mean practicing along to the records. Lee has a drum kit set up in his living room. He’s practicing. But we haven’t all practiced together. Sean is coming here in a couple of weeks, to rehearse for one week, and probably is going back again right before the tour. Some of these songs I’ve been playing anyway and others are songs that we’ve played four hundred times. I think it will come back quickly. By the time we get to Porto it will be good.

Ten years is a very long time. Has the relationship between the members changed in any way? Is Sean still that guy who tells jokes and fun stories?

Well, like I said, we haven’t been in a band, we haven’t been making records. The relationships probably got easier and better. And I’m hoping it stays that way. I don’t know. Who knows what will happen? We hear bands that get back together. New Order got back together. Actually I think that they got back together at least for a while till they decided they all hate Peter Hook. They can’t stand him. I don’t know. I guess I will find out when we get in the band. Hopefully, we have all grown up a little and probably being more respectful with each other. In Luna we were just traveling around insulting each other all the time, in a playful way. It probably gets tiresome, so we will try not to do that. When you have some time away from the band, you calm down and remember that you all liked each other to begin with, why you were friends in the first place. When a band is your whole life you spend so much time with people all the time, all the year around, all you see is the flaws in each other.

Was that the reason for the band’s breakup?

I don’t know, I think I was just sick of it, it seems that it was more complicated to keep the band together. After twelve years in a band and seven studio albums I just felt it’s enough and it’s time to do something different in life. But now we are going back and doing it again. It’s a cliché, I suppose, rock and roll bands getting back together, like we have to experience every cliché, like all the other bands do.

Do you remember the last Luna show in Portugal in 2003? What memories do you have?

Yes, I remember the show. I have some videos on my computer. A very short piece of us. I remember the Cat Power show, that’s the thing I remember most about that weekend. The festival was set at several different locations. I think we had fun, I remember that. I’ve been back, I’ve played at Lisbon a year ago in Sabotage, a solo album. But I also played at Casa da Música, maybe two or three years ago, when I was doing a set of all Galaxie 500 songs. Augusto [Augusto Gómez Lima/Mouca Records] is promoting our show. In our first trip to Porto he was the one who showed us around, he took us for a drive, he drove us to Vigo as well and he took us to a restaurant. We stayed in touch from then on.

Luna’s last show, at Bowery Ballroom, was very emotive, as we can see in the documentary. Ten years later how do you remember it?

I remember when the night was over I’m being glad that the night was over. It’s just a lot of pressure, it was weird and it was emotional. And I remember the moment like walking out of the club and thinking “ok, thank God. It’s all over”. When you announced that the band is breaking up then you have to talk about it for months and months and it’s like this countdown happening. So when all is over it was like “thank God”. What else can I remember about it? It was snowing, there was a snow storm in New York. And it was a Monday night. Bowery Ballroom is still there. We probably will play there again. It’s a nice place.

Luna achieved, as people used to say, a “modest success”. Do you resent it after all these years?

If I resent it? No. People always ask me if we are angry of not being huge rock stars. I don’t think I went into music dreaming of being a big rock star. I know I didn’t because when I started being in bands in 1987, you looked at what was on the radio and TV and it was Huey Lewis and the News or Bon Jovi. It wasn’t something I dreamt about. A lot of my favorite artists were not rock stars. A band like Television, they were never really rock stars but obviously important in the history of rock and roll. The way bands became huge is they have hits on the radio. I looked to what Luna was doing in the 1990’s and I looked to what was on the radio and it was like, no, we weren’t going to have hits on the radio. And I think my voice is kind of… I don’t know, and the lyrics… I just don’t think that was going to happen. I’m grateful that I’m able to make a living playing music. I don’t have any other jobs.

Is Moon Palace still your personal favorite Luna song?

I’m listening to a lot of them now. Different songs are great in different ways. I love the guitar solo that Tom Verlaine plays in that, I do like it. But there’s others I like, “Friendly Advice” too and “23 Minutes in Brussels”, Penthouse songs. I think my two favorite albums are probably Penthouse and Rendezvous, which was the last record before we breakup. At the time I didn’t like it so much, I think it was difficult to make and the band was pulling apart anyway. I think the longer the bands get together, the records get more and more difficult, and not just for Luna but for lots of bands. First one you do it quickly and then it just takes longer and longer. That one was not entirely pleasant to make. Sometimes you can’t tell if something is good or not, because you are in the studio listening to it all the time, every day. Then you need like a year away from it and then you come back and listen to it again. At that point I decided I really like Rendezvous. Sounds like Luna playing live, which mostly it is, actually. I like that one. I think all bands go up and down with the records, with the quality of them. Even my favorite bands, not all their records are good.

Are there any particular songs you’re excited to play again?

“Friendly Advice”, I would say. We came over with a list with about 30 songs. “Tracy I Love You”, I like that song. It’s going to sound really good. The last times I’ve been on tour recently, I do some of these songs but it was always like teaching them to new people. It feels different. I think it’s going to be really comfortable to play in Luna. That’s the cool thing about a band. It’s just easy. Playing is easy, playing together is easy. Keeping the band is difficult.

Máquina de Escrever, 27-02-2015

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3 Comments

  1. Dean looks more relaxed playing these days and sounds more relaxed in interviews. I think time away from the band and accompanying pressures has helped him a lot, being married to the wonderful Britta has helped a lot. Being close to his son, maturities good for all of us I think. He and I and Britta are all about the same age and we seem to be in similar places: relaxed, not desperate for work, money or the unattainable.

    I’m sure writing the autobiography got some angst out of the system as well! It’s a great read, in case any of you have not picked it up.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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