Luna Gets Sunny On 'Romantica'

Listeners shouldn't be fooled by "Lovedust," the sunny opener to Luna's new studio set, "Romantica": The album isn't all so bright, notes frontman Dean Wareham. "There's some sad songs on there -- the

Listeners shouldn't be fooled by "Lovedust," the sunny opener to Luna's new studio set, "Romantica": The album isn't all so bright, notes frontman Dean Wareham. "There's some sad songs on there -- they'll make you cry," he insists, half seriously.

While that certainly may be true, what makes "Romantica" (due April 23 via Jetset) perhaps the act's best studio set since 1995's "Penthouse" are such wonderfully bright tracks as "Lovedust" and "Black Postcards," the latter of which actually began as Wareham's (ultimately failed) attempt at writing music for a Volvo commercial.

Though indie-rock purists have given him some flack for having his work featured in commercials, Wareham -- ex-frontman of the now-defunct and revered alt-rock act Galaxie 500 -- says such opportunities can prove enormously valuable for an acclaimed but under-the-radar artist like himself.

"There was a Galaxie 500 instrumental piece used in an Acura ad last year or the year before, and it totally saved me, financially," he says. "In times when you're wondering where you're possibly gonna get your next bit of money from and something like that drops out of the sky, it's very nice."

With a devoted but not terribly large following, the Manhattan-based members of Luna have needed to be financially savvy in many ways since leaving Elektra a few years back. One such successful maneuver was the band's signing of a one-off, profit-sharing deal with New York indie label Arena Rock for the release of its 2001 live set, simply titled "Live." "That helped save us, too," Wareham says. "We actually got royalties for that album!"

While pondering its next label move, the band recorded "Romantica" -- the title of which Wareham took from a subway ad for a Spanish-language radio station -- with the financial help of its New York-based manager, David Whitehead.

"It's certainly my favorite since 'Penthouse,'" Wareham says of the project. "I don't know why some records turn out better than others -- it's just the pixie dust, I guess. If you knew why one record turned out better than the others, they would all come out the best."

In addition to a new label in Jetset, Luna also recently picked up a new bass player. In March 1999, Britta Phillips replaced Wareham's ex-Galaxie 500 bandmate, Justin Harwood, who left the group to be with his wife and raise a family in New Zealand.

"She's kind of made playing live more fun again," Wareham says of the bassist, who some might remember from the Justine Bateman movie "Satisfaction." "It's stressful to have someone leave, but sometimes it can be healthier for the band to have a little turnover. Justin was pretty stressed out at the end there. And he wasn't really enjoying it, and that rubs off on other people -- when you're going out on the road and someone isn't happy. Instead of being like, 'Oh, here we are back playing the Fillmore in San Francisco again for the fourth time; it's just the same and isn't it boring?' [Britta] is like, 'Hey, wow, there's, like, 1,200 people out there. This is really cool.'"

Additional reporting by Brian Garrity in New York.

Excerpted from the April 20, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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