For an artist whose studio record, Penthouse (1995), was described by Rolling Stone as one of the “essential albums of the Nineties,” Dean Wareham’s voice—a hybrid of New Zealand lilt and New York nasal—evinced nothing but down-to-earth, sincere approachability. After a ten-year hiatus, Wareham, 51, frontman of the indie group Luna, announced on Twitter that the band would return to the road in 2015. Luna have made seven studio albums and were formed in 1992 after the breakup of Galaxie 500, an alternative rock trio led by Wareham whose album, Today, was called “the guitar record of 1988” by Sonic Youth founder Thurston Moore. Along with Wareham, Luna includes bassist Britta Phillips (married to Wareham since 2006), drummer Lee Wall and guitarist Sean Eden.
Before the concert on April 23rd at Barcelona’s Sala Bikini, Dean Wareham weighed in over Skype on the current tour, work and home. Following are excerpts.
Luna hasn’t toured together for around a decade. Why now? Any credence to the rumour that the idea to go on tour came at a BBQ where the band members had jammed together for the first time in many years?
We didn’t jam at that barbecue; we just socialised, but perhaps it holds some key. I’m not sure there’s one answer. A Spanish journalist actually said, “These reunions are always about the money, right?” The money isn’t going to change our lives; we are being paid, but we’re playing clubs, not stadiums. It’s not like we’re going to get rich off this. It just seemed like if we are going to play shows again maybe this is a good time to do it: 10-year anniversary. Beyond that, I got contacted by this label in Brooklyn called Caption Tracks who wanted to do a box set of the first five Luna albums on vinyl, because they’re impossible to find on vinyl.
For someone, unfamiliar with Luna’s music, how would you describe its sound?
Lunificient [laughs]. No, that’s not good. You can’t that translate into Spanish or English well. You know the category of music that we’re put into is ‘dream pop’, but that term never existed until towards the end [of Luna]. Maybe ‘atmospheric’?
Do you like the term ‘dream pop’?
It’s OK. In the Nineties, people would say, “You guys are alternative rock.” I’d say, “That’s horrible. What does that even mean?” Because we just didn’t feel like we had anything in common with most of the bands that got played on alternative radio, which was mostly grunge, I guess.
This tour of Spain is being promoted by Barcelona-based promoter Houston Party Music. When you had the initial idea to tour again, did you envision playing overseas?
This tour was going to be a week and now it’s ballooned to 15 shows in 16 days. If someone asked us to do that in the States and they’d said [higher pitched voice], “We’ll go to Columbus and Buffalo and Sacramento,” we would just say no. But all the cities that get offered to us—Cadiz or Majorca or Granada—are nice. It’s exotic for us. I guess we’re more popular in Spain than we are most places in Europe.
Do you know how that came to be?
I think Spain just really kind of opened up in a big way in the early Nineties to independent rock music and, I think, that probably the country was a little late to it, coming out of the Franco years. I am not sure. I know other bands that are, like, “We’re popular in Eastern Europe, so we’ll go there.” For us it’s Spain.
In an interview with you, Rolling Stone published a photo of you and Britta in Barcelona at the Sala Apolo during a Dean & Britta performance. Did you know at that time you would play Barcelona in again?
No, I did not know that. And I haven’t seen that photo either, so it must have been Spanish Rolling Stone.
Luna have played Barcelona before. How have you been received by the audiences here?
Yeah! So last time was at the Apolo 2, right? Luna played the Bikini years ago a couple of times. [Pauses contemplatively]. A long time ago. I really like both of those clubs.
I understand that you will play some select US gigs in the near future. When can fans anticipate seeing you in America? Will these be festival dates or Luna-only dates?
Yup. We’re going to wait till the fall, when the vinyl box set is released, to help them sell some vinyl [laughs]. We thought that would be good. We might do a festival over the summer, but mainly we’ll just do our club shows like back in the day.
Spanning more than a decade, Luna has made seven studio albums. Can audiences of the current tour expect to hear songs from all or most of those records?
Yes! At least one song from each record. Probably more from Bewitched (1994) and Penthouse (1995). I really enjoy doing songs from the last record we did (Rendezvous, 2004). It’s one of my favourite Luna albums, so we’re going to play a bunch from that record, too.
Are you playing and writing any new material as Luna?
No. I feel like there are enough Luna albums in the world. Maybe we’ll record a show somewhere or do a couple of new covers, but I don’t want to get back into that. I always feel like when bands reform, I don’t want to rush out and buy their new stuff, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.
For this tour, do you have a regular set list or do you rotate songs in and out?
We rotate. We’ve got about 32 songs that we’ll be playing and on any given night we’ll probably play 17 or 18 songs. We will change it up to keep ourselves interested. I think many bigger bands play the exact same set every night to make sure things run smoothly. We’re not going to do that.
You recently released a solo record as well. It was produced by Jim James of My Morning Jacket. How was working with him?
He had a good sense of how to pull apart a song and put it back together—and he did a lot of that. We would go in and he might say, “Why don’t you start with the chorus, instead of with the verse. For a lot of those songs, he really pushed us (it was me and Britta and our drummer Anthony). He pushed us to do something completely different from what we had in mind: sort of quiet, acoustic things turned into to bigger rock songs. We recorded most of the record [Dean Wareham, 2014] in his studio at his house in Louisville [Kentucky].
You’ve done successful film scores and the films—perhaps most notably Noah Baumbach’s The Squid & the Whale—they are featured in were well-received. Are you involved in any film scoring at the moment?
We [with Britta] just did a film score for Noah Baumbach for his movie called “Mistress America,” which comes out in the fall. We worked really hard on that. We went to the Sundance Film Festival for the screening. Going to the screening at Sundance was almost like playing a show, ´cause there was a lot of music and the music was loud. I had a cameo in that film. I’m a pediatrician in it. Actually, Noah has a new film out now called “While We’re Young,” starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, and I have a cameo in that one too!
Are you in the medical profession in that one as well?
[Laughs]. Well, yes! I play a shaman. Have you ever taken ayahuasca?
Neither have I. In this film, I portray this shaman who is the one who sort of pours the medicine out of people and guides them on their spiritual journey. People who take it take very seriously. It is not a drug; it’s a medicine, so, yes, I am in the medical profession in that one too [laughs].
What music have you been listening to lately?
There’s this singer from Los Angeles called Jessica Pratt. I really like her record. Cate Le Bon [no relation to Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran]. She’s Welsh but lives in LA. I really liked her album last year. Foxoygen. They’re good you might like them. They’re kind of Sixties.
You were born in New Zealand but your family moved to New York in the late Seventies, right? Where do you consider home?
I’ve spent most of my life in New York City. We [Britta and I] might go back there. I don’t know. People come to LA; they don’t leave. New York is getting so expensive. If I fly into Wellington, New Zealand, that feels like home in a primal way. There’s just something about it that gets me, but I’m not sure I want live there—and I get the same feeling going to New York: “This feels like home.”
At this point in your career, could you simply ride off into the sunset supported by your previous records, DVDs, film scores, tours, etc.?
Supported by the income from them? Unfortunately, it looks like I’ve got to keep working for [laughs] around the next 30 or 40 years. I consider myself lucky, being able to earn a living playing music and doing film scores—this and that. I haven’t had a day-job, but I think I make less than a school teacher.
Do you really make less than a teacher?
Well, I think so—I mean, less than a tenured public school teacher. Some of them can make, like, a hundred grand a year. The flipside of that is that it’s not a full-time job and Luna wasn’t either.
Ok. Last question: For when is the Galaxie 500 Spanish reunion tour planned and how many times will you encore with the G500 song “King of Spain?”
[Laughs]. Maybe that’s a good one for us to learn. Lee, our drummer, keeps saying we should learn to play some Galaxie 500 songs. There’s not going to be a Galaxie 500 reunion, but I did do a tour  where I did a set of Galaxie 500 material with a trio. That was as close as I’m going to get to it.