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Members include Dean Wareham (born on August 1, 1963, in New Zealand), vocals; Stanley Demeski (left group 1997), drums; Sean Eden (born in Canada), guitar; Lara Gray (joined 2002), keyboards; Justin Harwood (born in New Zealand, left group 2000), bass; Britta Phillips (born on June 11, 1963, in MI; joined group, 2000), bass; Lee Wall (joined group, 1997), drums. Addresses: Record company---Jetset Records, PO Box 20519, New York, NY 10009, phone: (212) 625-0202, website: http://www.jetsetrecords.com. Website---Luna Official Website: http://www.fuzzywuzzy.com.
Luna has suffered over much of its career from comparisons to other bands, initially to founding member Dean Wareham's previous group, Galaxie 500, but more regularly to the Velvet Underground. Yet far from being shamelessly derivative of legendary avant-noise relics, New York City-based Luna instead appropriates the detached musical mood set by the Velvets and expands on it through a variety of modern devices. Luna has even managed to attract a former member, Sterling Morrison, as a guest musician on one of their releases, and Morrison's famed colleague, singer Lou Reed, liked Luna's sound so much he chose them as an opening act for one of his concert tours.
Luna was formed in the wake of the break-up of Galaxie 500, a much- vaunted but little-heard indie rock band whose ethereal songs often lacked any discernible thread of rhythmic consistency. Rob Sheffield, writing for the Spin Alternative Record Guide, called their music "breezy and content-free even at its most stately," with some songs "luxuriating in melodies and textures for the sake of sweet sonic sensationalism." Wareham, a New Zealand native, had fronted Galaxie 500 through three releases during the late 1980s to little success, yet still received mail from devastated fans when the group disbanded. A chance meeting between he and fellow New Zealander Justin Harwood, the former bass player for the Chills, was the genesis. Before the Chills, "I used to play bass in several bands back home," Harwood admitted in a 1992 interview with Everett True of Melody Maker. "Wedding bands, bar bands, bands with 'Pineapple' in their name." Like Galaxie 500, the Chills made several records but achieved little success.
The final initial member of Luna would be drummer and New Jersey resident Stanley Demeski, a veteran of the Feelies. Like Galaxie 500, the Feelies were another vaunted eighties group that evoked comparisons to the Velvet Underground. With the three members, Luna coalesced in 1992 in New York, but then discovered there was already a singer in the area using that name; legal reasons forced them into putting a "2" in superscript after their name for a time. The numeral was silent, but served as a rebuke to legal restrictions, as in "we're Luna too," Wareham told Melody Maker's True.
Luna's debut was released the same year on Elektra Records. The band titled it Lunapark after an amusement park located near Coney Island, and enlisted Fred Maher to produce it. Maher had previously produced the hit album Girlfriend for Matthew Sweet in 1991. Together the band and Maher mined the ethereal mood of Wareham's Galaxie 500 and added more of a cohesive rhythm thread inside the new songs. "Wareham came up with the last thing anybody expected," wrote Sheffield in the Spin book: "discrete songs with a brisk beat and a surprising new sense of humor." Upon its release, Wareham admitted to Guitar Player's Mike Mettler "this is the slickest-sounding record I've done, but it's really warm and crisp---and it doesn't feel processed. Hey, I like it." Charles Aaron of the Village Voice described as "lucid, hypnotic pop-rock." Later, Voice colleague RJ Smith termed Lunapark "resentful and crunchy, a set of panoptic views of boho guilt."
When it came time to tour in support of the record, Luna was forced to hire a fourth member as second guitarist, which they did through an ad in the Village Voice. Canadian Sean Eden signed on, and things clicked so well he became a full-fledged member. In 1993 they released the EP Slide, and for their next effort they were able to recruit former Velvet Underground guitarist Sterling Morrison to sit in on the track for their third record, 1994's Bewitched. Critics continued to laud Wareham's songwriting talents as demonstrated in the arch, meandering lyrics, but Bewitched would be their least successful record.
Nevertheless, the Village Voice's Aaron asserted its "words isolate fractional moments that go on forever, and the music even more so." More comparisons to the Velvet Underground sound were inevitable, but Steve Simels of Stereo Review explained the relationship in more specific terms, asserting that Luna's "angelic harmonies, chiming guitars, and delicate, almost folkish songs" are reminiscent of the albums the Velvet Underground did after dark visionary John Cale left the group. Musician's Roy Trakin echoed this sentiment in his review of Bewitched: "The emphasis here is on melodies, always an underrated aspect of the Velvets' legacy," Trakin wrote.
Luna's live performances have been as lauded as their mastery of dream-world evocations through studio technology, and they've even played as support for a brief reunion tour the Velvet Underground embarked upon. "Wareham is one of the most casually virtuosic guitarists around," noted Rolling Stone's David Sprague, in a review of a live Luna show, further asserting they've "staked out a strip of terrain bordered by the Velvet Underground's intense desolation and Television's studied indifference."
Sprague was referring to legendary late-seventies New York scenesters Television, fronted by Tom Verlaine, and once again, the very acts that Luna pays homage would return the admiration: Verlaine played guitar for two songs, "23 Minutes in Brussels" and "Moon Palace," on Penthouse, the group's 1995 release. Stereolab vocalist Laetitia Sadier sings a duet with Wareham in "Bonnie and Clyde." The track is a cover of a song originally done by Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg, sung entirely in French. "The recording is pristine," enthused Dev Sherlock of Musician, "a warm, natural-sounding envelope." According to Luna's official biography, Rolling Stone chose Penthouse as one of the 150 best albums of the nineties.
Two years after Penthouse, original founding member and drummer Demeski quit the group; he was replaced by friend Lee Wall, who joined Luna to record their next album Pup Tent. Released in 1997, Pup Tent was recorded at seven different studios. In the winter of 1998, Luna recorded what was to be their fifth studio album, The Days Of Our Nights. When they were finished and turned the tapes into Elektra, the label refused to put it out. The album and band sat in limbo for nearly a year (it was released in Europe by Beggars Banquet) until Luna said goodbye to Elektra and signed to independent label Jericho in the United States. In 1999, The Days Of Our Nights was finally released in American and it went to number one on the college charts.
While on tour for The Days Of Our Nights, Luna recorded two sets including on in December of 1999 at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. and another in July of 2000 at New York's Knitting Factory. The band culled the live performances together for their first live release titled Luna Live, released by Jericho in 2001. These tours were done without bassist Harwood who departed the group in the winter of 1999 to be with his family in New Zealand. He was replaced by Britta Phillips.
Luna returned to the studio in 2001 with new member Phillips to work on their next album. Remixed by Flaming Lips collaborator Dave Fridmann, Romantica was released by a new indie label, Jetset Records, in the spring of 2002. The sound of the band had changed a bit with Phillips's influence and vocals but Wareham's voice and lyrics were still the highlight as Billboard noted: "[Wareham's] gentle, understated delivery is powerfully seductive and his lyrics remain smartly original." CMJ's Chris Larry also championed the album saying, "Romantica wraps you up in a comfortable cocoon of dream pop, psychedelic swirls and witty lyricism." Also released in 2002 was the loose collection Close Cover Before Striking. With various covers of songs by the Rolling Stones and Kraftwerk, Close Cover Before Striking was mostly a showcase for leftover material from the Romantica recording sessions.
Wareham was keeping himself quite busy that year, finding time to record a duets album with Phillips called L'Avventura. This side project made some Luna fans wonder if Wareham would soon make a departure from his main band. When the band released their seventh album Rendezvous in 2004, it wasn't too much of a shock when shortly afterward, Wareham announced that Luna would soon disband. After a winter tour to promote Rendezvous, Luna said goodbye to their fans. He didn't want to call it a break up so much as a disbandment as Wareham said in an interview with Pitchfork, "You start a band often with your friends when you're young, and to think that you're going to be able to maintain a close friendship, and also be in business together, and travel together--the whole thing is just a tall order."
by Carol Brennan and Shannon McCarthy
Group formed as Luna2, 1992; became "Luna" with the release of Slide, 1993; signed to Elektra Records, released Lunapark, 1992; released Bewitched, 1994; signed to Jericho, released The Days of Our Nights, 1999; released first live album, Luna Live, 2001; signed to Jetset Records, released Romantica, 2002; released final album Rendezvous and disbanded, 2004.
- Selected discography
- Lunapark Elektra, 1992.
- Slide (EP), Elektra, 1993.
- Bewitched Elektra, 1994.
- Penthouse Elektra, 1995.
- Puptent Elektra, 1997.
- The Days of Our Nights Jericho, 1999.
- Luna Live Jericho, 2001.
- Romantica Jetset, 2002.
- Close Cover Before Striking (EP), Jetset, 2002.
- Rendezvous Jetset, 2004.
- Weisbard, Eric, with Craig Marks, editors, Spin Alternative Record Guide, Vintage Books, 1995, pp. 83, 162.
- Billboard, March 12, 1994, p. 52D; April 20, 2002.
- Guitar Player, January 1993, p. 13.
- Melody Maker, September 26, 1992, p. 37.
- Musician, April 1994, pp. 90-91; October 1995, p. 81.
- Rolling Stone, February 22, 1996, p. 64.
- Stereo Review, November 1992, p. 118.
- Village Voice, September 22, 1992, p. 84; June 1, 1993, p. 68; April 26, 1994, p. 74; November 14, 1995, p. 82.
- "Exclusive!: Dean Wareham Speaks on Luna's Breakup," Pitchfork Media, http://www.pitchforkimedia.com/news/04-10/15.shtml (July 6, 2005).
- Luna Official Biography, http://fuzzywuzzy.com/docs/bio/history.html (July 6, 2005).
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