Dean & Britta

Dean & Britta

Q: Who is your biggest inspiration? 

Britta: It depends on what I'm listening to at the moment. God. It's hard to answer that. Is that what I love? or what I aspire to? A lot of things inspire me: instrumental scores by John Barry & Ennio Morricone, and then on the other side of the spectrum, The Velvet Underground as well as super pop stuff like ABBA. I can never pick just one thing.

Dean: I thought you were going to say, “Dean Wareham.” That’s a joke.

Q: Dean, what about you? 

Dean: Well, there are inspirations in different fields. There are characters I admire in politics: Robespierre, Victor Serge, Alexander Cockburn, Leon Trotsky. A couple years ago we visited the Casa Trotsky in Mexico City, it is inspiring, his house is preserved just as it was the day he was assassinated. But in music. Maybe Lee Hazlewood. He's the fantastic songwriter, singer, pioneering rock and roll producer who I feel never quite got his due in the way that Phil Spector did, but he was one of the people who invented rock and roll production. Lou Reed of course that's another one, he excelled as a writer, guitarist and as a singer. And for both Hazlewood and Reed, it’s not about the notes they can hit, the genius is in their phrasing and attitude. 

Britta: My dad was a big inspiration because he was a musician, and I'm not sure that I would have, living in rural Pennsylvania, imagined myself moving to New York and pursuing music if it hadn't been for him. He was a piano player. He played jazz; he started playing jazz trombone in the ‘60s, then switched to piano. He played Broadway shows in the '70s and was Liza Minnelli's music director. Then he toured with Philip Glass. So he did a lot of things. But he lived in New York City. So that was my way out of PA.

Q: Who are the greatest influences on your music? Britta, you first.

Britta: Oh, God, me again? All right, if I'm talking about my music, yes, I would say, as a singer, Dusty Springfield was a huge influence. I already mentioned ABBA, The VU and Morricone. Who else... Dean. My favorite DJ, Dean. 

Dean: I mentioned a couple already, but thinking of bands that made me want to start playing music, one was The Clash. Joe Strummer was another person I could identify as a hero, I suppose, even though my music doesn't say anything remotely like that, but that is what made me want to start a band. The Feelies,-- band from New Jersey, probably the greatest band from New Jersey. You can hear that in my sound, I'm sure. but that's another band that made me want to play.

Q: What’s your favorite Clash album? 

Dean: I'm gonna say Sandinista!, because it's a triple album. That first record [The Clash, 1997] it's kind of just got a few good songs on it. But I don't think it's a great album. The second album [Give ‘Em Enough Rope, 1978] is definitely not a great album. So, I think it's got to be either London Calling or Sandinista!, when they're really expanding beyond punk and doing something completely different. Also, Sandinista! is interesting, because I feel like in a way The Clash by that point were a New York band; they were in New York City making that record. Same with the Rolling Stones, for a period in the late 70s they were a New York band. And you can hear it in those albums. 

Q: When are you happiest? 

Britta: When am I happiest? 

Dean: You can’t say “on drugs.” Your mom might read it.

Britta: Listening to music. Listening to music, with Dean, on ecstasy. 

Dean: You can’t say that!

Britta: Okay. Well, then just listening to music with you. Or playing you something that I've just recorded that no-one else has heard. And then you liking it. Yeah. And, playing live, too. All those things. It all involves music. And Dean.

Q: Do you like playing live? 

Britta: I do. Yeah. I love it.

Q: Dean, when are you happiest? 

Dean: I like that moment when we get off the stage.

Britta: [Laughing]

Dean: Is that sick? [Laughs] I also enjoy when you're in the studio and working on a song and somebody adds something to it — it might be me or might be someone else — and all of a sudden, the song goes from being one thing to being something else, and that’s exciting. That's the fun part of making records. It's not all fun; sometimes it's torture, sometimes just you get stuck or whatever, but I like those moments in the studio. And when else am I happy? In the late spring or summer here, grilling and eating outside. 

And seeing my son, that’s another one, that’s pretty great. My son is twenty-four, now.

Britta: He’s the best.

Q: Whom do you admire, living or deceased?

Britta: The Squad. And Greta Gerwig! She's so smart and funny and talented and down to earth. It's been a thrill to witness her rise and conquer the world. 

Dean: I admire Noam Chomsky. That’s another one. Who else is living? Our friend Pete Kember, aka Sonic Boom, of Spacemen 3. He just made a great record with Panda Bear, he's had a great late career turn, musically has really reinvented himself. It's very hard to do that in your in your fifties, to continue to make music that pushes boundaries or that's just good, period. But some people are able to do it. Rise to the challenge. He's always said “I would rather make one or two good records rather than make ten that I don't like. 

Q: Describe the experience of being partners, both professionally and in life.

Britta: The experience of being partners. Wow. Well, I have something to compare this with because I was married before (we both were) and I was in a band with my ex-husband. And it was a nightmare. But with Dean it's easy because we're not competing with each other. We're very supportive of each other. And our talents complement each other. We have different talents. Yeah, I feel very lucky.

Dean: Yeah. Things are going pretty well. How long have we been together now, about 24 years, right? 

Britta: Yeah, it kind of went by like that. Doesn’t feel like 24 years.

Dean: We’re in a good place. Pretty much done it without therapy.

Britta: Totally without therapy.

Dean: It’s amazing, that. And, musically, we score films together. But I couldn't do that on my own. Britta could do it on her own, but I couldn't do it on my own. But we do…

Britta: …Better together. 

Dean: Yeah. We come up with things. Britta is much better with engineering and mixing and arranging than I am and has a lot more patience than I do.

Britta: And I'm better with details. But you are really great with the big picture. You know, because I can go down a rabbit hole, and Dean will pull me out and help me focus on the important stuff. Yeah. Complementary. Yeah, it works.

Dean: So, on the road, everyone gets cranky now once in a while, I would say that's less of a problem than it used to be, anyway.

Q: What’s the most rewarding thing about making music together? 

Britta: I think for me, it's being able to share that with someone I love, you know, making music with someone I love. I grew up singing with my mom and my sister. I didn't live with my dad; he was more of an influence from afar. But I've always had that desire to fuse love and music. And in fact, I stayed in a bad marriage because I wanted them to go together even when they didn't. So, it’s rewarding just to share that, the experience itself, of making music. 

I think we've pretty much been into what we're making at the time, but sometimes it's ten years later, and you're listening to it, and it's like, wow, we did that? That's cool. You have even more appreciation and perspective and even understanding of what the songs are about, ten years after you've written them, sometimes.

Dean. Yeah. It’s not the millions of dollars that we make. 

Q: The 2006 Luna documentary Tell me Do You Miss Me, portrayed a band that had tired of touring and perhaps each other, yet 18 years later, with a tour and an EP, it would seem the band is strong as ever. What changed your trajectory?

Dean: Yeah – we’ve been doing this reunion tour and it’s been going on for a long time, now. 

Britta: But have we been touring as much as since we got back together? 

Dean: Not as much, no. And it's not our entire lives. So there’s just not as much pressure. Everybody does something else. We're not on a treadmill now. It felt towards the end of that first period [of Luna], we were on a treadmill of recording and touring. As in, we’ll tour and then as soon as we’re done the tour, we need to make a record quickly so we can get paid, so we can go tour again. And that sort of happens to bands when you're signed to a multi record deal. It's always that pressure. And at the time, in 2004, 2005, when the band was splitting up, the record business, the business of selling records, was collapsing in on itself. That didn't help. Ten years after the band broke up and we started playing again, it was just so fun. Just fun to see each other again. And yeah, fun to play. And, I agree the band sounds as good as ever, or better than ever. 

Britta: Yeah. And, it's really fun to play with a band that has played together for so long. And I think has gotten better with age. Because we maybe don't play as loud, we listen to each other more.

Dean: That’s true. And there is something about a band that's been playing a long time, even if they take long, long, long periods of time off. I don't know if you ever saw The Clean, that band from New Zealand. That's a good example, I think, of a band that is just greater than the sum of its parts. And even though they didn't play very often, when they did you could just tell that they knew the songs inside out from having played them for years and years. And it was very exciting to witness them play together. Sadly that won’t happen again as we lost Hamish Kilgour in 2023.

Q: It’s difficult to imagine a more quintessentially New York City band than Luna. Talk about moving from one coast to another. How has it affected your music and your creative process? 

Dean: We came out ten years ago, because my ex-wife moved out here with my son, and I didn’t want to live on the opposite side of the country. 

Britta: We only planned on being here for those four years until he graduated from high school. And we were seduced. [Laughs.]

Dean: In terms of creativity, Los Angeles does present challenges that way. Maybe it's just an excuse, but the weather is so damn nice. And I feel like that can be a bit of a bit of a problem. If you want to write, a rainy day is good for it. We don't get enough of that. The seasons are good for writing. When we came out here, I didn't write a song for almost seven years. We did film scores. Anyway, I think I’m over that, now. 

Q: What do you enjoy the most and the least about living in Los Angeles? 

Britta: I love where we live, this spot. I really love it. We're surrounded by trees. So, it doesn't feel like we're in a city. But we're not remote. And the least, well, I guess driving. That's the only thing I think I miss about New York, walking on the sidewalk. And running into people like that.

Dean: Yeah, people's number one complaint about life out here is the traffic. But we don't generally have to go anywhere on the morning or the late afternoon. So, it's not really an issue for us. Except when friends are in town, and they're always somewhere on the west side. Santa Monica, for example, and they’ll say just come out. I’m like, do you understand how far away that is? [Laughs.]

Q: Describe your personal style in five words or fewer. 

Dean: That is a really tough question. I think you’re gonna have to email me that question, and I can come up with the five words. Wait, Britta just did it. 

Britta: I just said [Dean’s style is] messy preppy. Because your hair is kind of wild, but you dress a little preppy. Punk preppy? 

Dean: But again, if I think back to bands I loved as a teenager, which is when we form a lot of these opinions about music and fashion, I really dug the look of The Clash, when I was younger. But then I moved on. I liked the look of Talking Heads or the Feelies because they just sort of looked sort of, nerdy, preppy, cool. Also I love the mid-60s fashion exemplified by the Rolling Stones, Franćoise Hardy, the Velvets and others. Before all the hippy stuff comes in in 1967 or so. Britta, what about you? 

Britta: Oh, boy. Hmmm. Okay, it’s coming, it’s on the tip of my brain, just trying to whittle it down. Funky, sexy, bohemian... gamine, beatnik ...

Q: How has your personal style changed over the years? 

Britta: Less sexy. Well, actually, I take that back because I wore a very short dress on New Year's Eve. I wore a lot of short skirts in the early days of Luna, and now I'm bringing them back again. Might as well.

Dean: We like nice clothes. We do. Is that shallow of us? I don't know. They don't have to be fancy or expensive. But we're not on this earth long and it's nice to surround yourself with objects that are beautifully designed, if you can. And that goes for clothes too.

Britta: We like a little retro vintage in there, too.

Dean: Yes, and that’s better to try not to buy super disposable things, and as we get older just have less items of clothing but have them be that you that you really like.

Britta: Yeah, I don't want to go to H&M anymore because it feels like it’s all made out of plastic.

Dean: It’s true. Nice fabric is the difference between a shirt you pick up at A.P.C. or vintage, and the cheap thing.

Q: But fashion seems to want to turn itself over really frequently. 

Britta: Yes, it’s kind of like that same treadmill capitalism affecting art, right. So, you’re just having to churn over stuff, so people have to buy more. 

Q: What is your greatest ambition? 

Britta: Well. I think as a person it’s to make the best use of the rest of my life as a human. Love more. Better. More love. Enjoy life. I want to make another album, but I don't know if that's my greatest ambition. Enjoy life more, spend less time on a computer and my iPhone.

Dean: Alright, I'm gonna hold you to that.

There's an English writer I really like, Geoff Dyer, he lives out here in Los Angeles, now. His last book was called The Last Days of Roger Federer and Other Endings, which is only a little bit about the last days of Roger Federer. The theme of the book is artists in their late periods. And how do you know, how do you figure out when to stop? He’s very self-deprecating, Geoff. He says in the book, well maybe this could be my last book, he’s not sure how many he has left in him. So, one does start to think about it, you know. I think I should just be happy with what I’ve done. I was really pleased with the last solo record I made. I finished that record — with enormous help from Britta, I might add, and from Jason Quever who produced it. I always depend on the people around me. But the moment you're done, you put it out, and maybe it gets really nice attention and great reviews, and that’s all very nice. And then a voice in your head says now you have to go do it again

It would be childish of us to say we want to be huge stars, and fill stadiums. I feel like that ship has sailed. And frankly, that was never my ambition going into music. I feel like I kind of backed into it. I mean, I did it — I started a band. But if you'd have asked me when I was 25 years old, starting out Galaxie 500, do you think you’ll be doing this 35 years later, I would have said hell, no. Just make a single or an album or something. I was not someone who wanted to be famous.

Britta: Yes, so, my greatest ambition is to continue making the music I’m excited about.

Q: What is your greatest fear? 

Britta: I don’t know. I don’t want to say death. That’s just too much. 

Dean: What about ill health? 

Britta: I was going to say that, yes. That’s the thing. It really is. My life has been the same for so long and so now as we’re on the edge of getting older, old age or whatever, it’s the unknown. The unknown about the end of life. 

Dean: Have you seen or read The Road by Cormac McCarthy? So, that’s my greatest fear. For the sake of my son, other younger people, I want things to work out for life on Earth. Soon enough it won’t be our problem, I guess. 

Q: What is the song “Fuzzy Wuzzy” about?  

Dean: [Laughs] Well, it's mixed. It's mixed. Sometimes when you're writing a song, you're just trying to finish a song. You're grabbing lyrics from all over the place. ‘Maybe tonight will be the night I can see your fuzzy wuzzy’ is a line from the Don DeLillo novel Ratner's Star.  The rest of the song, it’s really just word salad. I actually was struggling to write some lyrics, and also reading a book about French surrealists, and how they enjoyed fashion writing. So, I flipped open a fashion magazine, and I read about “sexy long sweater dresses, chocolate knee-high leather boots” so those lines were pulled out of a magazine, because you do find some good, florid descriptions in fashion writing. You do. One guy wrote to me, he said he and his girlfriend were convinced that the song is about the female orgasm. So maybe they’re right, and I don't even know. 

Q: I always figured it was about Britta. 

Britta: It’s pre-me.

Dean: I always feel that, obviously, with [lyrics and] music, you get to cheat, it’s not the same as poetry. It doesn't have to be as good. Because you've got the music to help generate emotion. And music’s a very, very powerful way to do that.

Q: How do you like your Clade jackets. 

Britta: They’re beautiful. 

Dean: We love the smell of them, the cut, the feel of the leather. It’s just classic. I had another leather jacket that I used to think was pretty nice, and then I got this one, now that old one is going to be retired.

Britta: Yes, you know, another word to add to the style question is ‘classic.’ We're not only classic as far as clothes we like, but we definitely have that classic element. And this jacket reminds me of what Warhol wore in the 60s. And it's just sleek, super cool. It's almost like silk, you know, the way it sort of riffles.