By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
When Luna takes the stage at Sons of Hermann Hall on Saturday, it will be the last time the band plays Dallas. After 14 years, the sleepy-eyed indie rock favorite is breaking up. But for front man Dean Wareham, this conclusion is hardly the stuff that tearjerkers are made of.
"Well, I haven't broken down and cried yet," he deadpans. "I don't know," he continues, more sincerely. "Generally, my feelings are good. On the other hand, sometimes I'm onstage and I get a twinge of sadness, like, I'm playing some song I've played a hundred times before, and I hear a lyric and it hits me like new again. Or I look out at the crowd, and it occurs to me that I'm playing this city or that city for the last time."
Wareham sighs, something he does often, a kind of emotional punctuation for his shuffling monotone. It's not just his vocal cadence that would be familiar to a longtime Luna fan, though the rhythms of his speech recall the subdued style he's virtually trademarked over the band's seven albums. No, in Wareham's voice--soft and gravelly and low, breaking only now and then for some revelation of feeling, like a sigh--you can hear the mood of Luna itself: the way the band threads a subtle vein of melancholy through limpid songs. Luna was never a band that came out guns-blazing, but if you listened closely and long enough, you could hear shotgun blasts in the distance.
And so it seems only fitting that, of all bands, Luna's end would be a quiet one. This is a far cry from the demise of Wareham's last band, the influential and rarely heard Galaxie 500. When Galaxie 500 broke up in 1991, after helping to invent the hazy softcore and shoegazing subgenres of indie rock, it was the loudest noise the band ever made. There was bitterness, to put it simply. Wareham, who initiated the split, wasted no time mourning his old band. Within months, he'd teamed with former Chills bassist Justin Harwood and ex-Feelies drummer Stanley Demeski to form the erstwhile indie supergroup Luna 2, as it was then known, and record debut album Lunapark. Demeski departed Luna in 1995, and five years later Harwood followed suit. Despite the lineup changes, however, Luna's musical modus operandi has remained consistent: Every two years or so, the band has released an album of woozy, murmuring and melodic Velvets-esque dream pop, each one distinct from the last, but each one reliably Lunar. Rendezvous, the very last Luna album, is no different.
"I knew this would be the last one," Wareham says, "but it wasn't something we discussed. There was no big conversation, like, 'This is it. Let's go out with a bang.' I guess there was this part of me that felt like, with breaking up a band, you don't really know you're breaking up until it's already happened. It's like dating someone," Wareham continues. "You're together for years and years, and there are times you think about getting out and you don't, and then finally, one day, you do. You're done. What's made this particular breakup easier than some," he adds, "is that I think we all kind of sensed it coming."
Wareham is quick to point out that the end of Luna doesn't mean the end of making music for him. He and Luna bassist Phillips released their own album, the critically lauded L'Avventura, in 2002, and they're already collaborating on a follow-up. And then there's the odd musical job that might come along--a solo record, perhaps, maybe some film scoring, special guest status on projects made by some of Wareham's many musical friends.
"I can't take any time off," says Wareham, back in deadpan mode. "I have to earn a living. That's the rotten thing about being in a band--no vacations." On the other hand, Wareham has been pursuing an acting career, in typically ever-so-quiet fashion. And he is quick to note that, well, he's getting older and "rock bands are for kids."
"I always think it's kind of funny seeing people like, oh, Bon Jovi doing some sexy photo shoot," Wareham says with a little snicker. "I mean, I understand it. If you're Jon Bon Jovi, you'd better keep rocking, because you're basically the chairman of the multimillion-dollar corporation known as your band. But the way I see it, it's better to be Franz Ferdinand. That's much more exciting for everyone."
Wareham isn't quite the jaded old fogey he makes himself out to be, however. Rather, the alert Luna fan will recognize, once again, the wearied resignation that lies just above the surface of the die-hard romantic. And, not surprisingly, it's music that wakes up Wareham's moonstruck side.
"The thing that was really satisfying about making this record," he says, speaking of Rendezvous, "is that it brought us back to who we are as a band. The producer decided he wanted to capture the sense of how we sound live, and so he miked the room, and we just played." Wareham drifts off in recollection. "It was nice, going back and working in a way that was set up for spontaneity."
He sighs again, and there's another pregnant pause. "I was saying before that being in a band is a lot like dating someone," he says finally, "but it's really an apt metaphor when it comes to the music, because music is a lot like love. The best of it happens by chance, by happenstance, by accident--there has to be some magic in the room. It ought to surprise you. And for me, the great thing about doing this tour--the last one--is that the fact that it's the last has either changed the energy of the shows or keyed me into the energy that was always there. All I know is, for me, the band has a new energy. The audiences have a new energy. It feels...special." But then he puts his heart away and returns to wry Wareham form. "You could say that breaking up has been good for business."