Never in my life did I think I'd see a Jawbreaker reunion, but the seminal pop-punk/emo band re-formed for Chicago's Riot Fest last year and reportedly have new music on the way. Hell, even a few years ago I was pretty sure I'd never have a chance to see Descendents, and they'll be in Albuquerque this fall. Pixies got back together some years ago (no more Kim Deal, though), The Bruce Lee Band plays now and again—there's something in the air forcing bands I loved as a teenager to get back together, and it is glorious.
Enter Luna, one of those enduringly popular indie bands that all your favorite bands love; an alterna-rock outfit that rose to relative prominence throughout the '90s and early aughts only to call it quits in 2005. They're back, though, with a covers album (A Sentimental Education) and an instrumental EP (A Place of Greater Safety) and no shortage of touring dates across the US. Holy shit.
So whaddya do when an influential band reforms, re-evaluates and releases new music? You call their damn frontman up, that's what. SFR spoke with Luna's Dean Wareham ahead of the band's upcoming show at the Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing Co.
A lot of bands—some of which many never thought we'd ever get to see—are getting back together. What's up with that?
I wasn't planning on it, but I guess I didn't rule it out. When the band broke up the first time, I was like, 'Well, if I miss it, we can always revisit it.' But yes, it's true, a lot of bands get back together—maybe especially now in this era where it's harder and harder to sell a back catalog, I feel like that used to be enough. We did a deluxe box [set], a lot more touring. Streaming … [is] not nothing, if you own your masters you can make money off of them. But it's not good enough. Downloads for iTunes was more profitable. The streaming services are screwing the songwriters.
I keep reading that vinyl is doing great, though. Like, bigger than ever.
I doubt it's bigger than ever, but it's bigger than it's been since the '90s, and it's still not huge. We sell the same amount of CDs as we do vinyl. The demand for vinyl has become so hot. Yes, it's good, but it's a niche market. Even the major labels get into the Record Store Day thing.
Doesn't that kind of defeat the purpose?
Ha! Yeah. It kind of does.
OK, so you said 'if you missed it.' Did you miss it?
It kind of came up on 10 years, and … there are things I miss about Luna. What's nice about a band that's been playing for a long, long, long time—it's just kind of effortless. It's a lot easier for us to play live than make a new record. Some of these songs we've been playing for so long. And you can tell when you see a band, you can tell when they're a real band. Bands get back together, you never thought you'd see them. Everyone [in Luna] is in a better mood about it than we were in 2004. Everyone appreciates it more and is happy to be onstage. And we're playing better than ever.
Is that, like, a maturity thing? A having-fun-again thing?
I feel like when we got back together, we went back and studied the recordings a little more closely. We change the setlist night to night. There are some songs we always play, but with the size of clubs we're playing, we can always do that. I can see why bands in stadiums or bands running computers—where it's really complicated and a lot of people using backing tracks—why they wouldn't. But we're allowed to screw up. We don't—very often. Sometimes I start to feel old-fashioned. I feel old-fashioned, when clubs ask us for our stage plot and it's like, ours is not that complicated.
Does it feel like a relationship backslide?
What are your crowds looking like these days?
We sell a lot more XL and double-XL T-shirts. We defintely have people who are younger, not with their parents, but who grew up with Luna in the house and were only 10 when the band broke up. It's a good chapter. We did an album of covers and an EP of instrumentals, two things we'd never done before, and that was fun and easy in the studio.
Is it harder to write songs without lyrics?
It's way easier. Lyrics are hard. I think it's always pretty easy to get a song to a certain point, but then to actually finish it, that's the hard work. We did have to try and make sure these pieces were melodic, and I think they are.
And how do you choose the covers?
I have a list and I think they might be a fun one to try. You hear something you really like and you think, 'I can rip it off or do a cover!' And sometimes I do both. If we're going to do Bowie, there are enough versions of 'Heroes' out there. It's fun to pick songs nobody's ever heard. If we're going to do Rolling Stones, we're doing 'Waiting on a Friend.'
Does the comeback mean you're at the 'do whatever you want' point, and is that exciting or daunting?
I think we can do what we want. With what happened to the record industry, like in the '90s, we were, in a way, on a treadmill. We were getting paid, which was good, we had a multi-record deal, we were touring, and it was like, 'You need to get back in the studio.' Now it's kind of slowed-down. We make a record when it makes sense. I guess if I look on the schedule this year, we've got a little bit of touring. We manage, though. Somehow we get by.
Is there ever a question you always wish someone would ask you in an interview but you never get asked?
I guess not. I've had people get really mad at me. One guy got really mad. He was from Dallas—this was years ago—and I was talking to him about the interview process, and I said sometimes, with interviews, the interviewer can make you look like an idiot if they want; they edit these things later. He thought I was talking about him. He took offense.