Sean Eden – Drums
Dean Wareham – Vocals/Guitar
Britta Phillips – Bass/Backup Vocals
Lee Wall – Drums
Fate can work for you or against you, if you even believe in fate at all. In the case of two members of Luna, a band known for bittersweet pop, fuzzed out guitars, and dark tales of quirky love, fate worked in their favor. Sean Eden, the guitarist and occasional songwriter for Luna, was a college sophomore at North Carolina School of Arts together at the same time as Lee Wall, Luna’s drummer, was attending the high school portion. As Sean recalls, “I was there for acting… like a damn fool. Lee was there for music. But since he was in high school, we didn’t really know each other.” They came together again when Sean was re-introduced to Lee through a mutual friend. It was then that they recognized each other, “and that was more than ten years ago now.” They remained friends and in 1996, Sean brought Lee in to replace Luna’s original drummer, Stanley Demeski.
Luna will appear this week at the Fox on Tuesday, September 24 and the Bluebird on Wednesday, the 25th, with the other two members, including bassist Britta Phillips, and the lead vocalist, guitarist, and founding member of the band, Dean Wareham, who launched Luna in 1992 after the break up of Galaxie 500.
The group will have plenty of material to perform considering they had not one, but two releases for 2002. Romantica was released earlier this year. Close Cover Before Striking, a seven song E.P., will come out in October. This is quite a feat for bands to have two releases in one year, but as Sean explains, “It’s an interesting, sort of eclectic bunch of songs that we liked but we really didn’t get finished in time for the [Romantica] record.”
It’s typical that bands have more than two to three times the number of songs needed to create a new CD, so the rest of the tunes typically gets shelved until the next release or never at all. In this case, the songs on Close Cover Before Striking are not any less captivating or stimulating, but more like a sequel to the original Romantica, even keeping with a visual theme of an object of fire. Romantica‘s cover art features an air-brushed lighter and Close Cover carries the theme through to the title and the entire CD packaging, which resembles a book of matches.
Cool packaging aside, Sean continues to elaborate on their methods for creating songs as he enters a café to order his morning Cup-O-Joe, “I’ll just have a large coffee,” he says to the cashier, who I envision having a slight sneer at someone who actually orders something so simple. What, no half caff/decaf with a twist of lime?
The songwriting process for finishing tracks on Close Cover also led them to simplistic tactics, but Sean states it wasn’t a conscious thing. With a slight chuckle, he looks back at how this also worked on Romantica, “I wrote the music and the chorus for a song “Rememories,” but the chorus…all it says is ‘It’s been a long, long, long.’ So that’s not really much of a lyric.” Or is it? Leaving it open ended like that not only catches one’s attention, as they wait for the sentence to finish, but it causes the listener to finish it on their own and make it apply to any situation they may be in at a given time. So why try to push the idea into something predictable? Sean agrees, “It’s so true. Dean had done all the lyrics for the verses, and I kept trying to finish the sentence but it all sounded stupid. So we thought we would leave it like that ’cause it sounded kinda weird and wide open.”
Another example of leaving well enough alone was the instrumental, “Drunken Whistler”, also written by Sean, full of simmering drum beats that carry you through to lazy wisps of rhythm guitar, swaying and melding into the lead riff, which tells a story left open to interpretation. “That was something that was on the table as part of [Romantica]. Dean and I were trying to come up with things to sing over it. But neither of us came up with anything we thought was that cool,” he says. When the opportunity arose through the release of the E.P., “I was still really into it, ” so he saw it was a way to get it included as an instrumental, which is not a song style that’s typical of Luna’s material.
“Depending on how the tune works, sometimes Dean will put the vocals on last because he won’t really know what he’s going to sing,” says Sean, who inspires the process by bringing instrumentation, lyric, and vocal ideas to the songwriting table to be kicked around by Dean and impact the formation of a given song. “He writes the majority of the lyrics, but sometimes their hard to come up with.”
Whether Dean works on his own or is inspired by others in the band, it would be difficult for most songwriters to take the English language and make it work for them the way Dean does. These eclectic, spacey themes and nuances are one of the unique elements that has drawn fans to Luna’s music. There is almost a lighthearted, childlike view of the world and what surrounds him, an abstract kaleidoscope full of colorful facets only limited by his vast imagination.
“Astronaut,” the closest song on the E.P. to emulate the shiny energy of Romantica, tells the lover, “I wanna plug you in. I wanna get you things. Send you a pentagram. Feed you Diazepam…I’m not the Jack of Diamonds. I’m not the six of spades. I don’t know what you thought. I’m not your astronaut”. “Teenage Lighting” is a languorous, country-esque look at young love with a swig of moonshine, complete with sultry slide guitar, “Rest your head upon my pillow, put my hand inside your pant. You can have it if you want it, if you’d like to take a chance. I can hypnotize a pancake. I can levitate the Pope. I can make your teacher crazy, cause it’s all within my scope.”
Not all the tracks on Close Cover were dependent on Dean’s lyrical flair. They’ve plucked a few tunes from the song vault of days gone by and from those artists they’ve admired, including The Rolling Stones’ “Waiting on a Friend,” and Kraftwerk’s “Neon Lights.”
Coming off as a more subdued and darker version of Romantica, the essence of Close Cover Before Striking is a contrast to their hometown streets of New York, with closer ties to the dusty highways they’ll travel and the things they’ll observe during their van rides from Columbia, Missouri to Lawrence, Kansas, to Denver and Boulder – blue skies with cascading clouds, shanty towns each with their own quirky stories of love and life, and wide open roads full of promise.
For the tour in the in the future, Britta Phillips on bass will be adding more of her angelic vocal harmonies to backup Dean’s honey drenched serenade (think Guy Chadwick from House of Love), and occasionally taking center stage. Sean explains, “Dean has a side solo project, but it’s going to be covers and stuff. I think she sings a couple of her own songs on that record. On the next record coming out she’ll be on it more. ” But that’s not all folks, “We also have a keyboard player on tour, Laura Meyeratken. She handles all the layering effects and spacey tweaks you hear on a lot on Romantica and our other stuff. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Tuesday, September 24 – The Fox Theatre (Boulder)
Wednesday, September 25 – The Bluebird (Denver)