GALAXIE 500 / LUNA / DEAN & BRITTA
Photo: Luz Gallardo
I first corresponded with Dean when I had my first clothing label and shop in SF. It was the early days of le internets and often times bands websites were being managed by people in the band. Such was the case with Luna’s site, fuzzywuzzy.com (still a great URL in my opinion). I reached out and offered some sartorial support for some records and tix, to which he agreed, and have kinda just kept bugging him from time to time to stay in touch.
POBS: I didn't know about your label (Double Feature Records) and dig the name. I think the first time we emailed we joked about Bobby Peru, the character played by Willem Dafoe in the movie version of Wild At Heart, and the Luna song. Have movies always been of interest to you?
DW: Ever since I saw my first one — Chitty Chitty Bang Bang — in 1968 at the age of five. It scared me just a bit. I made my son watch it when he was old enough and the child catcher frightened him too.
POBS: When did you start the label? What was the impetus?
DW: I started it around 2007, to sign a couple bands that no one else was interested in — Cheval Sombre, and the Sand Pebbles. This was probably a terrible time to start a label, right when physical sales were nosediving across the board. But these days it’s the most sensible way for me to release a record, it’s more profitable on a per-sale basis. It is a lot of work, especially when you’re prepping a new release.
POBS: The press release for the new album, “Dean Wareham vs. Cheval Sombre”, mentions you sending Chris (Cheval Sombre) a youtube clip of Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson singing “My Rifle, My Pony & Me” (in the film Rio Bravo). I know a bunch of the songs are from old westerns, but felt like the entire album had a film score feel to it and not one that competed with those old films. Was that something you guys intended? Not just western songs, but western songs that felt cinematic in a different way?
DW: Well my intent was to do a western album. Not country or alt-country. So we steered clear of country tropes and sounds, and made it more electric and at times were thinking more of Joy Division than Sons of the Pioneers.
POBS: You and Britta (Phillips) moved to Los Angeles recently after having been in New York for years. Was it a difficult adjustment? How is the music scene / working musician community there?
DW: It was pretty easy. We work from home on artists’ schedules so we avoid the dreaded commute to work. Yes, LA can be annoying, but even Fran Lebowitz admits that LA has gotten better and New York has gotten worse. In Echo Park, where we live, there are a lot of musicians, some are friends, people have moved here from New York but also from San Francisco because it’s more affordable here. The music scene in LA is better than ever; there are lots of great new venues (especially on the East Side) and a lot of good bands based here. But yeah there are things I miss about NYC, like walking, even riding the subway, just the energy of the place.
POBS: Cool - why don’t we do a quick NY vs. LA list and then I can let you get on with your day. Here we go:
01. Best local bar
NY — When last I lived there, I was around the corner from Weather Up, a nice cocktail place in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.
LA — Honestly I don’t go out drinking here.
02. Best museum
NY I’m partial to the Met because you can get in cheap if you know the right trick.
LA Museum of Jurassic Technology.
03. Favorite food joint
NY I’m gonna pick a couple of food shops i miss: Russ & Daughters (Jewish), and Raffeto’s (Italian)— on opposite ends of Houston St.
LA Guisado’s Tacos.
04. Favorite movie theater
NY New York has Film Forum and Metrograph, real revival houses.
LA is a terrible city for revival and art-house cinema; nothing screens in the daytime.
05. Favorite neighborhood
NY — we lived last in Prospect Heights, loved it there, but a lot of high rise buildings have now gone up, so I don’t know.
LA — Echo Park.
06. Things that are better in.....
NY — Italian food, revival houses, shopping.
LA — weather, Mexican food, farmers’ markets.
A resident of New York City for most of his life, Dean Wareham now lives in Echo Park, Los Angeles with his wife Britta Phillips. Since his debut in 1988 with Galaxie 500’s Today album, he has recorded 18 albums, as Galaxie 500, as Luna (who are playing shows again after a ten-year hiatus), as Dean & Britta and as himself. His memoir Black Postcards is a Penguin paperback, and he and Britta have scored films by Andy Warhol and Noah Baumbach.
Following his debut, Cheval Sombre has gone on to release numerous singles and EPs, some of which are now collectors items. His second album, 2012’s Mad Love featured musical contributions from Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser of MGMT.
Dean Wareham Vs. Cheval Sombre is available on Double Feature Records and can be purchased at deanwareham.com