Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo Finds New Musical Ground With The Dust

Lee Ranaldo considered The Dust to be a band when he recorded his 2012 album, "Between the Times and the Tide." So it was no real stretch to give it a moniker and full credit for his latest effort, "Last Night on Earth."

"The Dust is pretty much the guys I've been working with since the previous record came along," the guitarist tells Billboard about the ensemble that includes his Sonic Youth bandmate Steve Shelley, Alan Licht and Tim Luntzel. "I just finally found a name for the band and finally felt like it deserved to have a name. This record grew out of having written and toured behind the last one and having sort of felt the band solidify around me. Being thrust into the role of bandleader and primary singer with a different arrangement of musicians, it took a bit of time to get it off the ground and get it to be something in terms of a live band, and a comfortable band. For this record we worked so much together in the studio on the songs, much more than the way ('Between the Times and the Tide') was done. This was more of a band record. I've gotten very comfortable with these guys, and they were very instrumental to the way the songs were arranged and came about."

Ranaldo feels that comfort level can be heard throughout "Last Night on Earth" and particularly in the expansive arrangements of the album's nine songs, nearly all of which weigh in at seven minutes or longer, with "The Rising Tide" over nine minutes and the album closing "Blackt Out" at nearly 12. "We definitely went for it and recorded a lot of music," says Ranaldo, who's selling a disc featuring outtakes and demos from the sessions at stops on his current North American tour. "We set up as through we were tracking a record right from the beginning. The idea was to catch things when they really sparked. It was a wonderfully leisurely way to be able to get something like this, just make the record as you go and get performances that have a comfortable kind of aspect to them. That worked for Sonic Youth, and I think it worked well for this band, too."

Ranaldo and The Dust currently have dates booked until Nov. 11, with more touring expected in the new year. But he's not quite ready to call The Dust a going concern yet. "This whole thing has been putting one foot in front of the other and seeing how it goes," he explains. "I didn't intend to make one solo record, much less two. It's really a matter of seeing how it goes. My expectation for the next good while is we're going to be out playing shows, and hopefully I'll continue to write some new songs and make another (album), although what form that takes we'll have to see. But I'm having a great time playing with these guys."

Sonic Youth's hiatus, meanwhile, remains open-ended. "Everybody seems quite energized by what they're doing at the moment," Ranaldo says. "None of us are discussing any band-related future activity with each other. I don't think any of us feel like it's necessarily over and done for good, but it's a good time to just let it sleep, and I'm happy to have the time to put into what I'm doing with (The Dust) right now."