Imagine your typical, million-selling, state-of-the-art alternative-rock hero singing the following lines:
You're always loaded, your life has imploded,
Nine weeks of hell man, but I'm feeling swell.
In my dreams I slash your tires,
And in my dreams I set these fires.
Kurt Cobain of Nirvana would probably give it a chesty snarl of disgust. Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog would howl it with wrathful accusation, using all his capacious lung power. Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder might venture something darkly melodramatic and full of theatrical portent. Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Mike Patton of Faith No More would give it their best Chuck D. imitation and yell the rhymes disdainfully in a stomping, choppy rapper's cadence.
But Dean Wareham, the fellow who actually wrote and sang those lines for his new band, Luna 2 delivers these eminently scream-able sentiments in a soft, almost sleepy voice, permitting himself no blistering put-down, but only a severely muted sense of reproach.
Those familiar with Wareham's old band, Galaxie 500, wouldn't be surprised. While not making a great deal of noise on its albums, Galaxie managed to make some noise on the independent rock scene over the course of three albums full of lethargic tempos and late-night, melancholy moods.
Wareham junked Galaxie 500 about 18 months ago and wound up founding Luna 2, which plays tonight at the Coach House and Saturday night at Bogart's, with the headlining Screaming Trees. The pace on the band's debut album, "Lunapark," remains mainly deliberate and shot through with echoes of the quieter, gentler side of one of Wareham's key influences, the Velvet Underground. But, with a rhythm section drawn from two other highly regarded alternative-rock bands, the Chills and the Feelies, Luna 2 is able to pick up the pace and occasionally bring a sense of energetic surge to Wareham's songs.
In a recent phone interview from his apartment in lower Manhattan, Wareham said he left Galaxie 500 in the spring of 1991, a few days after the band had finished a tour as opening act for the Cocteau Twins.
"It was just not a lot of fun anymore," said Wareham, whose mild voice retains a trace of an accent from his native New Zealand, although at 29 he has now spent more than half his life living in New York and Boston, where Galaxie 500 got its start. Wareham said that in Galaxie 500 he was often outvoted on band policy by bassist Naomi Yang and drummer Damon Krukowski, who were a couple. After leaving, Wareham made demo recordings that landed him a deal with Elektra Records -- his first major-label contract after Galaxie's three releases on the now-defunct independent label, Rough Trade.
There was "some pressure" from Elektra to record as a solo artist, Wareham said, "but I find bands more interesting than singer-songwriters. A band with shared sensibilities is more exciting. We're still evolving."
Wareham first recruited Justin Harwood, a fellow New Zealander who had played with the Chills, another band known for delicacy rather than rambunctiousness. When Wareham heard that the Feelies, a college-rock fixture steeped in Velvet Underground influence, had broken up, he invited the New Jersey band's drummer, Stanley Demeski, into the group he intended to call simply Luna.
"We had to change (the name) for legal protection," which led to the addition of the superscript numeral 2. "This woman in the New York area who sings under the name Luna wrote a letter to my lawyer," alleging trademark infringement, Wareham said. "She wants money from us. I would give her a little bit of money if she would go away."
The "Lunapark" album chronicles deeper annoyances than that. Its main thematic current finds Wareham assessing a relationship that has fallen apart. Mostly, he expresses his regrets and bitterness in the softly indicting tone heard on "Slash Your Tires," which has begun to get video play on MTV's alternative-rock specialty show, "120 Minutes."
"It's a standard (approach) for rock songwriters -- no matter what happens, you turn it into a love song, a relationship song," Wareham said by way of explaining that the songs don't directly recount what's been happening in his own life. In fact, he said, he and his girlfriend have been together about six years, and "we get along fine."
"Obviously, my having split with Galaxie 500 had something to do with it," he said of the album's recurring relationship-in-collapse theme. "It's not like I consciously sat down to write about that, but whatever's in the back of your head sort of creeps out on the paper."
Wareham and the other Galaxie members had gone to high school together in New York City. They all moved on to studies at Harvard, where they eventually formed a band that began with few expectations, but gained enough notice to contend for a major-label contract. Wareham says that Yang and Krukowski, who have continued recording together as a duo (but not under the Galaxie 500 name), were upset that he pulled out as the band's prospects were rising.
"We don't really speak. They were really mad at me when I quit, which is silly. I didn't lie or cheat or steal, or do anything horrible except get tired of it. They felt betrayed, I guess."
In Luna 2, Wareham says, he has been able to make some of the changes he wanted to implement in Galaxie 500 -- notably, augmenting the three core band members with a fourth player, another guitarist who enables Luna 2 to approach on stage the textured guitar sound that defines its album. "That was a big frustration I had in Galaxie 500. The music depended on a many-layered sound, and we couldn't do that live. I always wanted to be in a four-piece band." Wareham said that Luna 2 recruited its second guitarist, Sean Eden, through a musician-wanted ad.
After starting with a few shows in England, Luna 2 is touring the United States for the first time, playing dates with Screaming Trees, whose aggressive, psychedelic style could hardly be more different.
"They're my favorite Seattle band. They're not a metal band. They're very melodic, and I've always liked them," said Wareham, who shared gigs with Screaming Trees during his Galaxie 500 days. "It's working out pretty well. No one's throwing anything at us."
Stepping up to a major label has raised expectations that Wareham says he never had to face before.
"There's just a lot more pressure and general all-around stress from being on a major label. My goal is to be allowed to keep making records, I guess. But in order to do that, at some point you have to start selling in the hundreds of thousands. It's not a goal of mine to sell a gold record (500,000 copies), but to stay on a major label, that's a reality. I wouldn't know what to do to sit down and do something that's (deliberately designed) to sell. I don't know what I can do other than make the record, and go out and tour and work hard."