A Homecoming For Luna — And Its Devoted Following
I was 12 years old when my older brother came home from college with a couple of Luna CDs, and they became my first favorite band. Ever since, Luna's bittersweet tunes have become the soundtrack for all of our reunions. Recently, the band announced its own reunion — including performing shows again and releasing a box set of vinyl reissues. For most people, that won't mean too much; the '90s rock group has long been, as Rolling Stone magazine put it, "the best band you've never heard of." But for me, it felt like another homecoming.
I recently met up with the group as its members got ready for a show at the Starline in Oakland, Calif. Lead singer Dean Wareham and guitarist Sean Eden seem like they haven't missed a beat. Wareham, for example, notices that Eden is wearing the same velvet jacket he wore at the band's farewell shows, 11 years ago.
"So he brought out his lucky jacket," Wareham says. "And it still fits him; that's the good news."
They are a little more silver, but still hip. Many of the fans, though, have graduated to extra-large band shirts. But when the music starts, it's like no time has passed at all.
Most fans at the show look like they fell in love with Luna, or even Dean Wareham's earlier band Galaxie 500, in the 1990s. Back then, grunge was big, and this type of music quietly stood off to the side, on college radio stations.
That's where I first got to talk with Wareham — at my college station, Brown Student And Community Radio. It was my first interview ever, and I wanted to know what everyone else wanted to know in the winter of 2004: Why was Luna breaking up?
"Oh, well, I have so many reasons I could come up with," Wareham said in that interview. "I have a reason for every day of the year. I guess the simple answer is because that is what bands do: They break up."
I play the old interview back for him the day after the show; he says it made him squirm.
"When you break up with someone, you start to build a case in your head," Wareham says. "And you kind of convince yourself that the whole thing is driving you crazy, and I guess it was at the time."
Luna was a big enough deal that a film, called Tell Me Do You Miss Me, documented the breakup. In it, Eden and Wareham act like brothers who know how to push each other's buttons.
"You're a little lonely, everybody's being a smart-ass to everybody else, just like, goddammit," Eden says in the film. Wareham expresses a similar feeling: "I cannot pretend that it is fun to sit in a van for eight hours a day, telling the same stupid jokes," he says.
By the last album, the frustration of being together was starting to bleed into the music. So why get back together? For one thing, Wareham says, they're all in their 50s now.
"You understand why bands hire therapists," he says. "Instead, we took 10 years off and worked through it ourselves. And now, I like to say, we're better at speaking our minds and not letting things fester."
My brother and I didn't get to go to a Luna show together this time; we live on opposite sides of the country, and he has two young kids. But we still love the band. When I asked my brother why, he said for him, it's because the music brings up powerful feelings of nostalgia. It's a word Wareham has been considering, too.
"The word nostalgia confuses me," he says. "I've been thinking about that. This book I was reading, the author broke it down into the Greek: 'nostalgia,' meaning the pain of returning home. It's both exciting and it's slightly painful, too, and so it's pleasure and sadness. And that's kind of what we try to do with the music, too."
To me, the music always felt like a homecoming. This time, it's theirs.
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