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Interviewed by
Ben Coley
Wednesday 9th September, 2015 3:24PM

In 1991, shortly after the breakup of his influential group Galaxie 500, Wellington-born musician Dean Wareham formed New York dream-pop band Luna along with drummer Stanley Demeski (The Feelies) and bassist Justin Harwood (The Chills). Over 14 years the band released seven albums which were critically praised yet remained firmly underground, and eventually the constant touring and lineup changes took its toll on the group and Luna disbanded in 2005.

Wareham then went to work on solo albums, movie scores and released his fantastic memoir Black Postcards. Then back in April, after ten years apart, the Luna reformed for a one-off tour of Spain, with a line-up featuring Wareham’s wife Britta Phillips alongside Sean Eden and Lee Wall. After enjoying the experience of being back together, they decided to hit the road for some more shows and will be gracing New Zealand shores for the first time ever with two dates this month. UnderTheRadar called up Wareham to see how the Luna shows have been going, what excites him about playing live and the possibility of moving back to New Zealand.... ..

UTR: Hey Dean, how are you?

DW: Yeah, I'm good thanks.

I want to start off by talking about the Luna reunion. How did it come together?

It all began after we got an offer from a Spanish promoter who sent me an email saying he had heard a rumour that Luna might be reforming. I replied saying it wasn't true, but it could be!. He ended up offering us a festival spot and a bunch of dates. We did 15 shows in 16 days, which was a lot, however it's Spain, so we ate well and and had a good time. It was fun, more fun than the final Luna tour 10 years ago when the band was breaking up.

Nice, and from there you have just added more dates?

Yeah, well we have added a Wellington show to go along with the Auckland show which I am happy about. We also have a US tour coming up in October. Unfortunately, we have to rush back for that after the New Zealand shows. I'd love to stay longer.

You also have a UK tour coming up very soon...

That's right, we are playing five shows over there. We are even playing a show in Tel Aviv.

Israel?! tell me more...

There is a promoter who has been trying to bring me over to play a show for a long time. I was supposed to go last year. We had the show lined up, but all hell broke loose with the assault on the Gaza Strip and all the airports were closed. We waited till the last minute before we cancelled, but it just seemed a crazy time to go.

With the shows you have been playing, have you noticed a new younger fanbase at all?

It's a mix of older and younger people. Sometimes there are 18 and 19 year olds at the shows whose parents forced them to listen to Luna as kids. Certainly there were good crowds in Spain, even in little towns that we would go to. We would often think maybe no one will show up tonight, but people always did. I don't know what to expect in New Zealand because we have never played. We went to Australia once in 1998 and flew through Auckland on the way back and still couldn't get a gig, which just seemed kinda insane.

What excites you about touring and playing live now?

I get a good amount of pleasure out of playing some of these songs live, especially after 10 years away from it. I think after the cycle of making records and touring year-after-year there were songs that I was sick of playing, but now it's really fun to play a song like 'Friendly Advice'. It's a song that I have done hundreds of times, but I now feel like we are playing it well. It's exciting and different every night. We stretch it out and allow ourselves to jam a little bit. We also change the setlist every show.

Has reforming inspired you to write any new Luna material?

It hasn't really, no. I think the reason we are all getting along so well is that there is no new record to promote and nothing to argue about. I feel that there are enough Luna albums in the world.

Speaking of Luna albums, Brooklyn-based record label Captured Tracks is just about to release a boxset of the first five Luna albums. That's pretty great. Did they organise that?

The guy who runs the label saw us play in Princeton, New Jersey, in about 1993 and it made a big impression on him. We are one of his favourite bands and now he is running this label. I am surprised it is happening. It's a complicated deal because those albums are mostly owned by the Warner Music group. So it is a long tricky negotiation, but it looks like it will work out. They are an excellent label and are doing all kinds of great reissues like the Flying Nun stuff and bands like The Monochrome Set and Nick Nicely. They do a great job and are building a miniature empire haha.

You still have quite a strong connection with New Zealand and in particularly Wellington. Are you looking forward to being back?

I am. My parents just moved back to Wellington after 43 years away from New Zealand. Thirty seven of those years were spent in New York. They just up and moved back, which was rather shocking. My brother lives in Auckland and I have lots of aunties and uncles who live there too.

Could you ever see yourself coming back to live here?

I don't know. I live in Los Angeles now, which is a lot closer to travel to New Zealand than from New York, so it will make it easier to visit. We'll see. Certainly Wellington looks like a much more liveable city than it did in the 1980s when I would spend every American summer there. Back then it felt like there was nothing to do and nowhere to go drink after 10pm. It seems very different now.

How is LA? I know you do a lot of movie scores, but I see you have also been doing some acting?

Well there is one director, Noah Baumbach [Frances Ha, The Squid and The Whale], who keeps giving me cameos in his films. It's fun, I just go in for a couple of days and the words are all written for me. I would be happy to do more, but the acting life is even more desperate than being a musician.

Finally, what can we expect from your New Zealand shows?

We will play a range of our catalogue. More songs from Bewitched (1994) and Penthouse (1995). Luna are a really good live band. In Auckland our original bassist Justin Howard will be joining us on stage. I am not sure if he will come down to Wellington but I am looking forward to it.

Here's a clip of Luna performing 'Bewitched' live in Barcelona circa 2005... 

Luna are playing on Saturday 19th September at The Tuning Fork in Auckland, and then on Tuesday 22nd September at Moon in Wellington. Head over here for more information.


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