L.S. Dunes: “These experiences are a once-in-a-lifetime thing… Every second is brand new”

L.S. Dunes are having a whale of a time playing away from their main bands. On their UK tour earlier this year, we got in the van with them to see first-hand how they’re just a bunch of mates kicking out the jams…

L.S. Dunes: “These experiences are a once-in-a-lifetime thing… Every second is brand new”
Emily Carter
Paul Harries

Tucker Rule has an unusual bodily comparison to make when asked to describe an L.S. Dunes show. It is, says the drummer, “like a yawn”.

We’re not gonna lie: that doesn’t sound especially exciting, given we’re sat in front of the best new supergroup on the planet right now…

“It’s very infectious, you know what I mean?” Tucker elaborates. “When I yawn, you’re gonna yawn. The energy is infectious, and we’re all having the best time onstage − and it shows! And people catch that vibe. When you’re up there just having a good time and you don’t even know why, there’s no way that someone in the audience won’t also be having a good time. You’re gonna see a bunch of dudes up there that are literally having a ball.”

Reclining next to him in a dressing room at Camden’s Electric Ballroom, two of Tucker’s bandmates − guitarist Frank Iero and bassist Tim Payne − burst out laughing at the initially-alarming description. But they don’t even need to outwardly agree, because the joy that radiates from L.S. Dunes (completed by Anthony Green and guitarist Travis Stever) is indeed contagious. They smile, and you naturally do the same.

“Any time we’re together, it’s just the best,” agrees Frank. “Honestly, my favourite thing to do is just hang out with these fools! People have to knock on the door and tell us to stop laughing so loud, that’s really how it goes.”

It’s the second night of the band’s first-ever UK headline tour in support of excellent 2022 debut album Past Lives, and having “been around the block” a few times before, grins Frank, this stint on the road already feels unique for these five emo and post-hardcore superstars.

“These experiences are like a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” he enthuses while tucking into a pre-show sandwich. “As people, we can take that kind of stuff for granted, and that’s something that we really shouldn’t do. Because every second is brand new. So with these shows, it does feel different. It’s really fun, and it’s invigorating, and it bolsters that creative spirit. And I think it also adds to the camaraderie in the band.”

And a real, proper band is exactly how the five members of L.S. Dunes are treating this.

“I think people just assumed that this was a side-project, a one-off thing,” Frank shrugs of Dunes’ surprise formation in lockdown. “And we never said that. It’s very much a priority when we can do it. And we’ve got other projects that are also priorities, but I have three kids and I don’t love one more than the other. Sometimes one has soccer practice, and this one has dance recital, you know? You just make time, and you love them all.”

As well as their on and offstage enthusiasm, this is completely evident in L.S. Dunes’ busy tour schedule. While the band could take things easy and simply ride on the coattails of their other massive groups (My Chemical Romance, Circa Survive, Thursday, Coheed And Cambria), they’re out there doing signings, meeting fans and generally putting all the necessary work in to promote this music that has quickly become so special to its creators.

“We all come from other bands and we’ve been doing this for a long time, but we also know that we do have to treat this like a new band,” Tucker stresses. “You don’t want to rely on our other bands or our past at all. We treat this like a new band, and we’re grateful for every experience that we have. And if people want to come and see us and take a photo, then we have to do it because this is brand-new for us, too.”

“Absolutely,” nods Tim. “We’re lucky enough to be making music that’s resonating and having an impact with people in a way that, when you see it happening, you’re really taken aback by it. Seeing what music has done for us, and what it’s doing for us now, and what it’s doing for other people… any time you can have a way to interact with people on a deeper level – when you can really personalise it – that really cements, ‘This is why we do this.’

“Even today when we were meeting a bunch of people, there’s no pretence,” he continues, referencing a sold-out signing session at Rough Trade Soho. “People aren’t coming in with any expectation of what’s cool or what I’m supposed to do. We’re lucky enough to have made a record where it was really just making music for the sake of making music, and everyone that we’ve met so far seems to be in it for the same reason. There’s just a connection there that’s really amazing.”

“I feel like this record deserves that work,” adds Frank. “I love the record so much, and I feel very fortunate that multiple times in my career I’ve felt: ‘This might be the best thing I’ve ever done.’ And I feel very fortunate to be in another band where people have a very strong personal connection to it. That’s not something you can manufacture or prepare for. It just either happens or it doesn’t, and it seems like it’s happening. And that’s fantastic.”

Shortly before they flew out for this UK tour, L.S. Dunes were in rehearsals. The band were supposed to be practicing their 11-song setlist (which features everything from Past Lives – all the recorded material they have so far), but they couldn’t resist getting started on more new stuff.

“Right before we flew out, immediately it was like, ‘Let’s not practice, let’s write a song!’” chuckles Frank.

“We wrote a new song in a four-hour span when we should have been rehearsing,” Tucker adds.

“It was like, ‘Well, I guess these shows are gonna be what they are because we had to write this fuckin’ song…’” continues Tim.

“It’s really good, though!” winks Frank.

This is all part of the fun of L.S. Dunes. When inspiration strikes, they eagerly go along for the ride. But what if another member is busy on one of their other projects? No bother, they’ll keep chipping away anyway, and no egos will be hurt. Simply: they just love working on this band in whatever form they can.

“We chase everything, which is really, really fun,” grins Frank. “And I feel like that’s how you find the great stuff − even if you’re chasing a riff that’s like, ‘Eh, that’s not that great of a riff…’ you’ll get there, because it’s not going to stay the same from inception to fruition. This is really just about the craft of songwriting and musicianship, and that’s what intrigues and inspires me.”

“We never really stopped writing music,” adds Tim. “We recorded and then we got ready for shows, but it’s always just been, ‘Oh hey, I’ve got this idea!’ We’re always working on things and talking about music and art. Once we can really dedicate our time and focus to that and get in the studio, we’ll do it.”

And while their tantalising live show is on the shorter end of things for now − given the limited material they have released − the band emphasise that fans are absolutely still getting their money’s worth.

“When you sit back and think, ‘This is every single finished song that we have,’ then it doesn’t feel like we’re short-changing anyone,” Tucker says. “This is literally all of the material that we have, that we can present at the moment. And it’s a rollercoaster − last night I came offstage with tears in my eyes, no lie. It’s a ride, whether you’re in the band or not.”

“You definitely feel spent after that,” nods Frank. “It’s an emotional ride, and some of these songs are really heavy – not so much in the music, although yes there are some heavy riffs, but I mean the subject matter. It’s a lot to take in.”

Even so, for Frank it’s not enough.

“I wish we had more songs!” he groans. “There’s things that we have in our back pockets, but as we all know, in this day and age, as soon as you play a song in front of anybody then it’s released. That’s just the way it is. So I get really leery about doing that when we’re not finalised on a song.

“I always think about how, for better or for worse, there’s old Radiohead songs that I remember me and Mikey [Way] freaking out about when they would come out – they’d play these songs and never release them, and we’d be like, ‘Oh my God, I love that song.’ And then they’d finally release this song after a while, and it was different. And I was kinda like, ‘(Sigh) I like the old one.’ You know what I mean? So that feeling of not showing somebody your work until you’re done with it has always stayed true with me. I don’t mind a couple of things surviving out there, but I want to know that I’m done with it before I show it to people.”

So more new music is unquestionably on the way, then. But what about shows? If they could do what they wanted, what would a dream L.S. Dunes gig look like?

“Oh man… jeez! I would like to fill the stage with flowers,” says Frank. “That would be awesome.”

“That would be better than having live scorpions!” jokes Tucker, referencing the logo on the back cover of Past Lives.

“For me, it would really just be more,” Frank adds, a touch more seriously. “If schedules weren’t an issue, we would just be on tour for a month, two months, whatever, just going to every city.”

For now, of course, they’re doing what they can. As they start to prepare themselves for their 8pm stage time (for the guitarist that means actual stretching and warming up, whereas everyone else continues to keep things relatively relaxed, as is the Dunes way), Frank, Tim and Tucker look around at each other and seemingly can’t believe their luck.

“There’s an energy about this band that’s just different than anything else I’ve done,” Frank says. “And it’s not better or worse, it’s just different. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of pressure on us when we play. Somehow, some way, it’s just genuinely more fun than anything else! I don’t know why. My Chem is really fun too, but it’s a different kind of fun, and there is a pressure when My Chem takes the stage. Any pressure with this is just internal, and wanting to play really well.”

“This is a full-time gig, but we definitely call it ‘Low Stress Dunes’,” Tucker grins. “And we try to keep it that way. This is a place where it’s safe and fun.

“We’re in the honeymoon phase,” he adds, “and I think that the honeymoon phase will stay.”

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