AS ALMOST ANY Luna fan can attest, Dean Wareham is a freak. It's why his frizzy guitar group has amassed the same kind of cult following typically enjoyed by John Waters and Teletubbies. But right now, the crafty singer-guitarist is about as far from weirdness as he can get: He's the father of a four-month-old boy. "I have a lot of early mornings," Wareham says, calling from his home in Manhattan. "Lately I can't even stay up until the end of a baseball game, but that's all right."
Crocodile, Thursday, November 11
The man who sings of urban drinking binges and other honorable fancies has had quite a tumultuous year—and fatherhood was just the beginning. Just as Luna was preparing to release its new album, The Days of Our Nights, the band was abruptly dropped from its seven-year home, Elektra. A minor firestorm surrounded the aborted album, Luna's first since 1997's oddly melodic Pup Tent. Fans wondered why Days had disappeared from the label's release schedule, and rumors circulated about Luna's new whereabouts.
Wareham remains undaunted by the incident. "Long before [Elektra] dropped us—or refused to put the record out—it was getting worse," he says. "They told us to quit touring after Pup Tent came out. I still don't understand why. We went to our lawyer's office and asked him to get us off the label. He told us to make the new record and see what they'd do. It was so annoying; it screwed up our summers and everything, all our plans."
Confused, Luna—Wareham, second guitarist Sean Eden, bassist Justin Harwood, and drummer Lee Wall—went into the studio with producer and former Grant Lee Buffalo bassist, Paul Kimble (who also produced the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack). Despite the uncertainty of the band's future, the recording shows no battle scars; it's still vintage, delicious Wareham weirdness. The guitars sound like meowing kittens ("Superfreaky Memories"), moving upward toward a hazy plateau of bliss with each pinging note. A delicate cover of Guns N' Roses "Sweet Child o' Mine" should, if there were justice in the world, blow Sheryl Crow's version back to the Vegas strip.
Wareham's warm, strange voice is clearer throughout Days, and the lyrics are still top-shelf bizarreness ("Flies the size of cigarette packs," he sings in "Four Thousand Days"). This is perhaps the most notable change from the ultradistorted Pup Tent; the vocals and percussion usher in each bit of nostalgic composition, crisp and proud in the mix. Credit the producer's musical past. "Paul was good with the vocals, because of his having been in a band," Wareham says. "He's stood on the other side of the microphone and knows how unpleasant it is to sing something 40 times. Pat McCarthy [producer of Pup Tent] was extremely talented, but he was torturous in the studio—retakes all the time."
After the split with Elektra, Luna signed with obscure Jericho Records, which is apparently funded by an Internet multimillionaire/music aficionado. Huh? "We're much better off—even financially—on Jericho," explains Wareham. "We get to start from scratch."
FORTUNATELY, THIS MEANS Luna is back on the road, where the group's followers can finally consume some good old-fashioned stoner rock. And, naturally, this means they'll have to field some requests from the inevitable Galaxie 500 fanatic, unable to let Wareham's first band die. Still, Wareham is humble (or ignorant, considering the multitude of Galaxie 500 Web sites) about his beginnings. "Pretty much people come to see Luna," he says. "If we do a Galaxie 500 song, it's not like there's this roar of recognition, unless we're in Japan. Luna is more popular than Galaxie ever was during its time."
Still, Luna's diehards can be uncontrollable. Wareham tells the story of an unnerving European tour: "We had this one crazy guy in the crowd while we were filming a show in Sweden; he was drunk, and by the end of the night he was crying. He came up to us and said, [he mimics a Swedish accent] 'I want Sean to kiss me while Dean fucks me in the ass.' Long pause, we stand there. Then he says, 'Just kidding, ha ha ha!' Very amusing."
Meanwhile Wareham, who's done his fair share of writing for the band's Web site, fuzzywuzzy.com, just wants to get Days into a live setting after a long hiatus. He toys with the idea of doing one of his hilarious tour diaries from the road, but admits that's about all he uses the Internet for. Well, that and trying to replace lost instruments on eBay. The site where someone just tried to sell a baby online? "Hey, now there's an idea," responds the new dad, his morbid humor back in effect. "But don't expect me to buy a minivan."