Reunited Luna returns to the penthouse

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Near the end of the band’s show at Saint Andrew’s Hall in February 2005, Luna played “Time to Quit,” a song from its 1992 debut album “Lunapark.”

Just a few days later, the indie rock band made good on that promise, hanging up its guitars after a dozen years and seven albums together.

“It just seemed like it was tense in the band,” says lead singer Dean Wareham, on the phone last week from New York. He says during that last year or so, the band’s energy was low, and while things never got physical, everyone was “kind of annoyed” with each other. “There was some drama,” he says.

A decade later, the drama has dissipated, a bit of nostalgia has set in, and Luna is back together on a reunion tour. The band played its first shows in a decade in April, lured back by an offer from a Spanish promoter, and is currently on the road on a 20-date North American tour that brings the band back to Saint Andrew’s Hall on Thursday.

For Wareham, it’s good to have Luna back — as a luxury vs. a necessity.

“I wouldn’t want it to become my entire life again, which is what Luna was for 12 years,” says Wareham, 52, a familiar world-weariness in his voice. “Now, each of us is doing something else as well, and that takes some of the pressure off — the pressure of us all earning a living just from Luna, which was difficult.”

Wareham formed the group in the early ’90s in the wake of his late ’80s space rock outfit Galaxie 500. Luna took elements of Galaxie 500’s swirling sonics and sweetened them up with a pop sheen. The band carved out a loyal following among the college radio crowd at a time when bands were able to do such a thing.

“It’s gotta be pretty tough for a band now to get to seven albums, just because you’d ask, ‘Who’s paying to make those albums?’ ” says Wareham, noting 1997’s “Pup Tent” — produced by Joshua Tree engineer Pat McCarthy — cost around $100,000 to make and three-and-a-half months to record.

“Mind you, with Luna, it was unlikely we’d make seven albums too,” he says. “The conventional wisdom was, if you were on a major label, they’ll give you one or two records and if you didn’t have a gold record, they’ll drop you.”

Luna didn’t get its gold record, but their albums — including 1994’s “Bewitched” and 1995’s “Penthouse” — did well enough that the band stayed on Elektra Records for five albums. The group’s final two studio sets, 2002’s “Romantica” and 2004’s “Rendezvous,” were released independently.

By that point, the familiarity of the band cycle — make an album, tour it, repeat — had taken its toll on Luna’s members, and the blossoming romance between Wareham and bassist Britta Phillips also added to tensions within the group. (Wareham and Phillips married in 2007, and have made three albums together as Dean & Britta.)

But the band members — guitarist Sean Eden and drummer Lee Wall round out the foursome — stayed in contact and on good terms over the years. Wareham, who was born in New Zealand but lived most of his life in New York, now lives in Los Angeles with Phillips, with whom he scored this year’s “Mistress America.”

Luna’s recording days are over — “I don’t think there’s any reason” to record another album, he says — but he does foresee a semi-active future for the group.

“I think we’ll continue to play some shows,” says Wareham, who released a solo album in 2014. “I kind of look at the band like Television, what they do. They play about six shows a year or something, if someone makes them an interesting offer, they go do that.”

Setlists on the current tour are being culled from a list of 35 songs, with about five being played at every show and the rest switching up from night to night.

The first couple of reunion shows were like getting transported back in time, Wareham says, but now the band is back in the rhythm of playing shows together.

“I guess that’s what’s nice about playing with Luna,” he adds. “It feels like a band, a band that’s been playing live for a long time.”


with Diane Coffee

7 p.m. Thursday

Saint Andrew’s Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit

Tickets: $20 or (313) 961-6358