L.S. Dunes were a lifeline during the pandemic for five best friends, no ego included
When L.S. Dunes released their frenetic debut single "Permanent Rebellion" this past August, they set the internet ablaze, resulting in an online frenzy, and for good reason. In the midst of the surprise drop, L.S. Dunes’ star-studded scene lineup was revealed to feature Anthony Green (Circa Survive, Saosin), Frank Iero (My Chemical Romance), Travis Stever (Coheed and Cambria) and Tucker Rule and Tim Payne (Thursday). If that wasn’t enough, they threw in the announcement of their debut LP, Past Lives — a staggering collection of progressive-rock and post-hardcore songs that capture a radiating sense of punk urgency. If you were a rabid consumer of post-hardcore, emo and punk music throughout the last 20 years, chances are each member of L.S. Dunes’ own respective projects affected you in one way or another, and for the five influential figures to come together to form a supergroup is certainly a treat in every sense of the word. And for L.S. Dunes, the feeling is mutual.
Formed during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, L.S. Dunes were an opportunity more than anything to defy creative and professional stagnation imposed by acts of nature out of their control, showing that anything is possible through strength in numbers. “We’re all very big champions and fans of one another,” Rule says over Zoom from his New Jersey home, reflecting on the genesis of his new band he formed with his close friends and collaborators. “Everyone who is in this project is our personal favorite at each instrument. The times were heavy with COVID and lockdowns, but when Anthony came in and laid down the first set of vocals, we knew this was going to be the shit.” With the touring industry on hold, all five of the self-proclaimed “lifers” or “road dogs” knew they had to lean into one thing they knew best: creating groundbreaking music. “We were faced with losing our jobs, but we said, 'Fuck it, let’s create another job,'” Rule exclaims.
Having extra time at home during the pandemic was pivotal for the five members to grow as musicians and friends, all while pushing their creative skills to new heights and breaking free from any imposed artistic limitations. “I saw this as an opportunity to experiment and do different stuff with my voice,” Green says with a grin on his face. “I wasn’t thinking about anything other than fun. I didn’t know how much I needed [L.S. Dunes].” For Green, music has always been a form of “therapy,” and this time around, he used the writing process for Past Lives as a means to “process things he was going through in his life,” channeled through the vehicle of “melodies, lyrics and poetry."
”[This band] was a place of solace for me and, in some ways, a gift. I’ve been wanting a band that sounds like this for such a long time,” Green explains. Iero felt similarly. “L.S. Dunes is unlike any band I’ve ever been in before. [With the pandemic], life stopped, and you had a bunch of people who really only knew how to do one thing, and then you’re told you can’t even do it anymore. Depression sinks in, and you get scared and wonder what the future is going to hold,” he adds. L.S. Dunes were a lifeline for the band that came with no ego.
While piecing the music together for Past Lives remotely, there was somewhat of a healthy competition, or an impulse if you will, for each member to bring their A-game and leave their unique mark on each track. It's clear that the members of L.S. Dunes wanted to impress each other constantly and be the best friends possible to lean on both musically and personally, with Iero saying, “No one in this band is a slouch. They're all accomplished musicians, so it really pushed you to want to do more. There were no rules other than to push yourself out of your comfort zone."
During the early writing process, Green was dealing with self-esteem issues and the all-too-familiar impostor syndrome from the effect of the pandemic on his career, something he knew he would need to shake to make this record. Thankfully, the process of building L.S. Dunes from the ground up left him with a healthier mindset and a sense of rejuvenation.
“I was having a tough time seeing through the trees. I went down this horribly self-destructive mentality where I thought I sucked, was never good and what I did never mattered. These are all real things that people go through, but Tucker, Travis, Frank and Tim helped me realize what was important, “ Green says. “It’s not about being the biggest band in the world; it’s about having people that care about you — that in and of itself is more than a lot of people can ask for in this world. To build something tangible with these people was such a joyous experience.”
Once principal songwriting for the record was completed, the band enlisted esteemed producer Will Yip (Turnstile, Turnover) to help fully realize their vision and put their joint labor of love to tape. “Will Yip is this generation’s Rick Rubin,” Green says. “He’s never trying to make a song that is going to be a hit — he’s just trying to find what will make you happy as an artist." However, this wasn't without its fair share of hiccups, specifically for Iero, who was in the midst of a difficult medical situation. “I fell off a ladder at the end of the summer and was scheduled to record in September, so we had to put my studio time off until December,” Iero says when looking back at this hectic time period.
“I was three weeks past my last surgery when I broke my wrist, so I still had some stitches in my hand when recording the record. I literally didn’t know if I was ever going to play guitar again,” he stresses. While Iero had his fair share of fears going into the recording process, he chose to instead treat the studio sessions as a “test” to see if he could still play, and miraculously, he passed with flying colors. “For me, it was a do-or-die moment [to make this record],” Iero says. Rule summarizes this period by saying, “We captured and controlled the chaos and bottled it into this whole insane process.” Knowing what it took to create Past Lives only adds further weight to the album as a whole and will forever be immortalized as a tale of perseverance, friendship and survival.
After the record was completed, the band, who had only practiced together twice in the same room, agreed to jump on for a mid-day performance slot at this past September’s Riot Fest in Chicago — a daunting experience for any performer but especially for a highly anticipated first show. “Tucker really thought no one was going to watch us, and I was like, 'I would love it if nobody was there!' [Laughs.] I was really nervous about how my body was going to move to the songs," Green says of his preshow jitters. “Every day leading up to the show, I would put my headphones on and listen to the set and creatively visualize the show happening by imagining me seeing how it would play out. Thankfully, when I finally got onstage, my body moved exactly in the way that it is comfortable.”
Iero had even more on his plate, as his other band My Chemical Romance were headlining the festival later that night, and pulling double duty wasn't how he envisioned L.S. Dunes' debut live show. “This was not the position you would want to be in. For your first show to be a throw and go outside at a festival, it’s like, 'Oh man, if I could set up a nightmare scenario, then there it is.' However, it sounded great, it felt great and there were way more people than I ever thought there would be. It was the perfect storm," Iero says with relief.
With Past Lives officially out in the world, one thing's for certain: This isn't a one-and-done deal for the band. “I want to stress this as much as possible: This is not a supergroup or a side project,” Rule says. "This is our full-time thing. We have our own bands and will continue to do them, but we love this, too. The only reason this band is a supergroup is that we’re all super-buds.” Green expands on this, saying he wants to write “a hundred more records and tour more.” He even went as far as to reveal that the band have already begun work on what will become their next record. “I truly feel that this [record] is the best thing I can do at this point in my life, and I have never gotten sick of it every time I listen to it,“ Iero says with sincerity. “I love the people in this band and the songs that we made. This is something that I want to do as much as I can full time.”