Since forming at the height of the global pandemic, things have moved fairly fast for L.S. Dunes. Having recently released their critically-acclaimed debut album Past Lives in November 2022, the quintet recently embarked on a European tour. The Midlands Rocks spoke to bassist Tim Payne and guitarist Travis Stever just prior to their gig at Birmingham’s O2 venue.
You’re currently blazing a trail across the UK. How has it been?
Tim: So far, it’s been absolutely amazing. It’s our first time over here, we’ve played a handful of shows in the U.S., we wanted to come over here and the reception has been great, so we’re having a ton of fun.
And every date in the U.K. has sold out.
Travis: Yes. There are a few tickets available for the mainland Europe shows, but we’re super excited for those.
How do you survive on tour. What kind of media do you bring along?
Travis: I’ve been buying a lot of records, I’m re-reading One flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, which is the perfect book to take on tour. Maybe it’s the fact that we’re all in this crazy situation together! [laughs]
The word “supergroup” is often used in conjunction with L.S. Dunes. How do you feel about that? To me it implies dinosaur groups like Led Zeppelin.
Tim: We never used that word amongst ourselves, it’s something that just happened and it is tough to get away from, I guess.
Travis: It’s a welcoming mat for trolling, that’s what I think. [laughs] We never called the band that, the media called it that. We play music together because we want to. We’ve all known each other for years and it worked out. Rarely does it work out when everybody plays together and it clicks, so this band was purely put together out of the love of playing music together. If someone comes along and doesn’t think it’s not that “super”, well, we didn’t call it that. The media did, but it seems like it is coming from a genuinely nice place when people call it that.
What’s the musical glue holding you together? Is there one band you all rock out to on the bus?
Tim: ‘s some overlapping tastes, but I think that the biggest thing that holds us together musically is not trying to be anything specific. You come from a band after 20 years and you inherently have a history where you fall into a routine and write for your own band and I think with this band we were individually able to just write music and play instruments from the perspective of who we are now as people and not try to fit in to any one thing. I think all of us being on the same page with that made us all connected artistically and mentally.
Travis: Past Lives in particular is, I like to say, paint on the wall. Tim could start the canvas by sending over a bassline, which he’s done numerous times and everyone’s writing guitars to that. Or it could be a riff that one of us sends around, or Tucker [Rule] playing a drum part and everybody is throwing paint at the canvas. We’re not thinking ‘This better be like a Fugazi or a Soundgarden song!’, we throw around a band name sometimes ‘Hey, think about this type of song’, but rarely is it ‘We want to sound like that’.
The whole band originate from the North Eastern tip of the States. I wonder how did that environment shape your sound?
Tim: For me, I was in New Jersey so we’d always have bands coming through that we could go to see, whether in Philly or New York, or we’ could make a trip down to D.C. or Boston, and everything was in 5 or 6 hours, so if a band was coming through we could take a trip and check them out. So for me, being exposed to so many different kinds of bands who would be touring allowed me to look at music with a much wider lens.
Travis: Absolutely, I grew up in the same area, I’m like 15 to 20 minutes from Tim, and we’re really close to Manhattan, so we have that melting pot, there’s all sorts of stuff going on there musically and Tim’s right, I’d take a trip to Boston to the Middle East and I’d go to Manhattan all the time. The way Tim just described it made me realise how lucky we’ve been, we’ve been able to see all different sorts of bands and in New York, what’s now PNC, I saw Blind Melon opening, Soundgarden, Neil Young, Booker T and the MG’s. That was amazing. I was 14. All those bands mean the world to me in different ways.
L.S. Dunes was formed in the middle of the pandemic. Did that whole experience inform the band at all?
Tim: I don’t think it did anything but make us realise just how much music means to us in terms of creating. The only thing we had was music. I was sitting in my house day after day, so it made me pick up my bass and learn Pro Tools, or whatever. Once we’d found each other the overabundance of time allowed us to focus and it never would have happened otherwise.
A track like ‘Bombsquad’ is overtly political and new ground for you outside of your parent bands.
Travis: That’s more a question for Anthony [Green, vocalist] being the lyricist, but each of us is speaking through our instruments. Tim is like the engineer and arranger of a lot of the things we do and Anthony is coming in on top of that and when you ask about the anger, there’s certain things he can do with melodies and vocals and when he’s singing ‘Bombsquad’, I can hear that.
Some of the songs we already written before Anthony joined. Did you have to tweak them at all to fit his style?
Tim: No, we had started the band, originally just the four of us without Anthony, and we all decided we were going to throw an idea into the mix and 24 hours later we had a full song. So once things started moving, we knew we were going to need a singer sooner rather than later and Anthony was always the guy we had in the back of our head, so we had tucker send him the songs we already had, we didn’t tell him anything about the band, and he just laid the vocals down on two songs and it was obvious, he was the perfect fit. It’s amazing when you see it happen like that. [snaps fingers]
It sounds like you were self-sufficient with this album. What was it like not having a third party to tell you when a song was finished?
Tim: Well, we tried not to overthink anything. In a weird way the songs just kind of presented themselves, there were various ways that the songs came together, but our main mantra was don’t overthink things, don’t get too critical and make sure we were pushing each other to be as creative as possible.
Travis: We had the producer Will [Yip] and he’s worked with Anthony a lot. First off, he was able to get the sounds we wanted and secondly, he had a great chemistry with Anthony and after they’d recorded at the end of the day, we’d get to hear things at the end of the day and be like ‘holy shit!’.
Anthony is an impressive vocalist with a huge range, so that must have opened up new musical avenues for you?
Travis: But I think it opens up more for the future. Like Tim said, a lot of stuff was in place and we didn’t overthink it. Now we’ve gelled and created this album that we’re so proud of, we’re now thinking what if Anthony put forward a melody before there’s a lead…
Tim: Anytime you start a relationship with anybody, there’s a time when you are feeling each other out, so now we’re playing these songs live you get a feel to how everyone works together. So, like Travis said, moving forward there’s a lot of things we want to keep in mind.
How do the members of your other bands feel about you doing this project?
Travis: Everybody in the other bands is super supportive. There’s a lot to juggle because our other bands are equally important, those are our first kids, but we’re trying to make it so we can do everything.
Finally, how far do you think you can take L.S. Dunes?
Tim: As far as it can go. We never really stopped writing so we’re doing this, we’re going to wrap these shows up. We’re looking forward to more shows and more new music. Whatever we can do, whenever we can do it.