L.S. DUNES may be a band of familiar faces, but don’t go calling them a ‘supergroup’ – there’s much more to them than that.
Words: Alexander Bradley.
There are some new kids on the scene. They’re in their 40s. They’ve been around the block a few times with Circa Survive, Thursday, Coheed & Cambria and My Chemical Romance, too. But this isn’t a supergroup. “This is a bunch of super friends,” drummer Tucker Rule offers instead.
No, this isn’t some vanity project or some one-off special. This is L.S. Dunes; they’re a new band just starting out.
If you didn’t know the names Tucker Rule (drums), Travis Steven (guitar), Tim Payne (bass), Frank Iero (guitar) or Anthony Green (vocals) already, then you’d be forgiven for mistaking this outfit for a rag-tag bunch of teens just cutting their teeth. With their blistering debut ‘Past Lives’, L.S. Dunes are confrontational, loud and urgent with the do-or-die energy of a group taking their one shot at the big time.
“There are very minimal pedals,” Tucker explains. “There is no crazy trickery. It’s just turn on the amps, sit behind the drum kit, grab the microphone and go.”
It’s all very simple, back-to-basics stuff from the band, and that approach certainly helped them capture a youthful essence to their sound. Continuing, he adds, “It’s that sense of immediacy which I think is very special about this band. A lot of the stuff that is on this record is our first best guess for each instrument. Your gut instinct. I think that’s really important to capture that immediacy because that’s the immediacy you capture when you’re young, when you’re first writing music.”
The philosophy of L.S. Dunes, the urgency, the anger, the feeling they’re playing with real stakes all comes down to their inception. Let’s start at the beginning.
Cast your mind back to the lockdowns if you haven’t completely blocked them out. Things were pretty bleak. While some of us made banana bread, Tucker Rule chose instead to buy some recording gear and check in on his friends.
“We thought our industry was dead,” he recalls. “We thought we were never going to come back, and we were going to have to do something different. Music was over, but we decided to start a band,” he laughs, considering the absurdity of it all.
The band came together pretty quickly and was full with “no-brainers”, in Tucker’s words. Having just played with Frank Iero on his Future Violents project, Tucker knew they wrote well together, so that just made sense. Tim and Tucker have played together for 20-something years with Thursday, while Travis is “a good friend from back in the day, and I love the way he plays guitar,” he gushes.
With the core of the band in place, albeit scattered and locked down, the ideas came thick and fast, and L.S. Dunes started to become something of a lifeline during those endless days of lockdown.
“Music has always looked after me in some way, shape or form, so it’s ironic that in a global pandemic, it was the thing that saved me again,” Tucker admits.
Their writing process lent itself to the joke that “L.S.” stands for “low stress” with no idea off the table as the Cloud and Dropbox started to swell with riffs and clips.
“It was the reason some of us would wake up in the morning. Someone would write a riff in the middle of the night, and I would wake up, and I would get that email like ‘So-and-so sent you this in your Dropbox’, and I would get so excited,” Tucker remembers. As a new parent at the time, the drummer would strategically plan his daughter’s naps around writing his drum parts before returning to his parenting duties.
“Every single day, we would be looking forward to a new piece of music or a new riff or a new drumbeat or something. It literally became like a drug. We were all so excited to work on something and build this momentum within each other. No one knew about it. No one. So the excitement between the five of us was like giddy little kids.”
But for guitarist Frank Iero, there were some doubts that it would all be smooth sailing. “To be honest, I was worried. You don’t know what to expect when you start a band like this.”
Frank, after all, is no stranger to working with different musicians as part of the countless number of bands he has lent his talents over the years. Stepping up with L.S., he found himself once again starting afresh.
“It’s a relationship with multiple people, and sometimes navigating that can be tricky. Other times it can be surprisingly easy. It depends on the people involved. I found this experience to be surprisingly easy. I mean, it’s possible that maybe means that I’m the prick and people constantly bent to meet my needs… but I hope that’s not the case,” he teases. “Then again, I think the record came out fantastic, so if that was the necessary evil as much as it would upset me for that to be true, I’d have to say, at the end of the day, it was worth it.”
So with five or six tracks almost there, Tucker sent them over to Anthony Green without context or info or who else was involved in the project.
“Anthony was always going to be the singer in this band whether he wanted to or not. We kind of designed it that way and wrote around him in mind,” Tucker reveals.
This is where Anthony Green comes in. “During the pandemic, I was losing my mind, and the only thing that was really keeping me sane was making music. When this project came along, it was just as much of a lifesaver for me as it seems to have been for everyone else,” the singer concedes.
With a couple of blank slates to choose from, the first song Anthony sent back has become the second track on the album, ‘Antibodies’. The track is a slick and taut journey back into the chaos of the pandemic, but, for the rest of L.S. Dunes, it signified the moment they knew this could become a real band when they were free again to do so.
Up until that point, the goal had never been to make an album. The goal was to scratch an itch, keep busy and try to survive a pandemic. They kept it simple and played to their individual strengths; the album is covered in their own distinctive fingerprints in that way. And, with Anthony’s vocals in place, the five of them were in danger of starting a real band.
L.S. was a saviour for those involved but none more so than Anthony, who got the call to join the band just as the world threatened to swallow him whole. “Writing lyrics like the ones for ‘Sleep Cult’ or ‘2022’ came very naturally around this group of people; it was very easy for me to bear myself completely with them. It’s a very safe space.”
Starting at the bottom, the opener ‘2022’ finds the singer just trying to survive. It’s a theme that repeats throughout the album and loops back in the unnerving 50s-inspired doo-wop finale ‘Sleep Cult’ where the singer soothes, “Sorry that I wish that I was dead”.
“I’ll never forget when Anthony first sent that demo over,” Frank adds, looking back at ‘2022’. “Thematically, it was so heavy, and the music was so fragile that I really wasn’t sure what we could add that would respect the original intent and take it to another level without distraction. It needed to be delicate yet powerful, beautiful but dirty. Tucker played this drum beat that spoke to me immediately, and somehow I just knew what to do.
“My guitar parts are one take, the first time I ever played the song all the way through, improvising and dancing around the vocal. I had every intention of re-recording with [producer] Will Yip when the time came, but after listening to the demo, I knew that performance with all of its beautiful flaws was the correct approach.”
It a song that has stuck with Tucker, too. “I just think you have to be really strong to talk about these things. L.S. Dunes is such a bright spot in his life right now, and I think all of us needed this. We didn’t realise how much we needed this. Music has saved his life over and over again, and I’m just grateful to be a part of such a cathartic thing for him and for us,” he opens up.
“The subject matter is hard, and it is intense when I’m thinking about my friend. But, at the same time, I’m grateful I’m able to hear about it with him right next to me.”
With things starting to return to normal, the band headed to the studio to put some gloss on what tracks they had. This only lead to the creative juices following even harder. In the two days of pre-production ahead of recording, they rattled off the last-minute additions, which ended up as the album closer and the lead single ‘Permanent Rebellion’. The blistering track is another addition to Frank’s hot streak of coming in with a game-changing idea at the eleventh hour. Instantly and unanimously, the band agreed it would be their first foot forward when it came around to finally revealing themselves to the world.
But then Frank fell off a ladder. Typical. He broke his wrist pretty badly, and his scheduled recording for September was pushed back until the end of the year after undergoing surgery. However, by the end of 2021, ‘Past Lives’ was done, and no one even knew who L.S. Dunes were. So they waited. And waited.
They joined the Riot Fest line-up in May. Got cryptic in June with the odd silhouetted photo here and there. Imagine slowly twisting the gas tap on.
Started a five-day countdown in late August. Lighting a long fuse. Then bam! ‘Permanent Rebellion’ exploded, and L.S. Dunes burst into life.
As the dust settled on the first track, they needed to play an actual show. Between them, they’ve played live a million times, so no sweat, right? Casual debut on a September afternoon in Chicago? A nice little early afternoon set?
According to Anthony, it was “equal parts terrifying as it was freeing,” while Frank poses that the combination of only a handful of rehearsals and a setlist full of songs no one has ever heard was “a panic attack just waiting to happen.”
Tucker was equally as nervous going in. “I think we were all shitting ourselves a little because we only had two rehearsals prior to that, so we were literally going by the seat of our pants and trusting our years of experience doing this and professionalism individually to remember the songs and play as a unit,” he adds.
Unscathed and out the other side just 30 minutes later, Frank says that show might just be one of his favourites. “Honestly, it was the best first show I have ever had in any band I have ever been in, by a mile! I didn’t feel anything other than excitement and a cathartic elation getting to finally unleash these songs on people. It was like a release valve, we had been holding on to these songs for so long, but at the same time, we had only played them together a handful of times. So it felt dangerous and freeing. I loved every second of it.”
Soon the internet filled with jerky videos and low-quality audio clips of L.S. Dunes tearing it up and coming out triumphant at Riot Fest. After that show, L.S. Dunes became the real deal.
With the odd show here, new track there and the promise of tours to come, L.S. Dunes have quickly become one of the hottest new bands around. The ‘Lost Souls’ – the L.S. die-hards – have been making artwork, carving pumpkins and getting tattoos all before the album drops.
The response has been overwhelming, and Tucker is both humbled and aware of the extra level of expectation that’s come with that. “Low-stress” Dunes might just be under a little more pressure now. Talking about kids with tattoos, he comments, “It shows a level of trust that I’m not sure we are worthy of, but, I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, I think this record will back it up.”
So, that’s the story of your new favourite post-hardcore band and how they went from just trying to survive the end of the world to starting a new one for themselves. ‘Past Lives’ is their crowning glory. It celebrates each member of the band for who they are as individuals but shows that, as a collective whole, they are something truly special.
Remember the name L.S Dunes. These kids have a bright future ahead.
Taken from the December 2022 / January 2023 issue of Upset. L.S. Dunes’ album ‘Past Lives’ is out now.