“This feels like when you were in high school and you started your very first band,” beams Frank Iero. For more than 20 years, Frank has been the signature screamer and rhythm guitarist in My Chemical Romance, but right now he’s got a new musical baby he can’t take his mind off. “I’m pretty sure that we’re all at home drawing the logo on our folders,” he says, brimming with excitement for his new band, L.S. Dunes.
Initially formed as a lockdown project with his friends, L.S. Dunes quickly became a revival of passion and a creative lifeline for those involved. Each bandmember was raised in the mid-00s US alternative scene – Frank’s fellow guitarist Travis Stever plays in Coheed And Cambria, vocalist Anthony Green earned acclaim with Circa Survive, and bassist Tim Payne and drummer Tucker Rule were founding members of emo legends Thursday.
They’ve known each other for more than two decades and had occasionally collaborated in the past, but when they began exchanging “scraps of ideas” during the pandemic, they soon realised they had something special on their hands. “This became a main thing for us the minute we started sending each other music,” says Travis. “We were like, ‘OK, this is what we were missing in life.’”
The band’s debut album, Past Lives, is scrappy, low-fi and angsty, embodying the overenthusiastic energy of teens jamming in their high-school garage. The five members of L.S. Dunes are used to amping up the drama of their music, and their first two singles, 2022 and Permanent Rebellion, have it in spades. On the latter, vocalist Anthony Green sings, ‘Tongue-tied, in distress / Buried in your favourite dress,’ before erupting into a cathartic hardcore chorus. Lyrically, the song is reminiscent of early My Chemical Romance, while the flood of feeling harks back to Thursday’s live presence.
Mostly, the album is stripped back and raw. Songs such as Grey Veins and Past Lives sound like contemporary rock anthems, fuzzily building to euphoric choruses. “There’s all these dynamics in L.S. Dunes where all the bandmembers are trying things that they haven’t tried in other bands we’re in,” explains Travis. These tracks are a far cry from the progression and technicality of Travis’s original band, Coheed And Cambria, but what both projects share is an ear for bringing out unconventional melodies.
These unconventional melodies are where their “honorary sixth member” comes in. On Past Lives, L.S. Dunes employ the help of long-time Anthony Green producer and 21st-century punk legend, Will Yip (Turnstile, Quicksand, Code Orange). Throughout, Will flexes his unique ability to turn the strange into picture-perfect alt rock. “He put his spin on it. Flipped a verse here and really moulded it into something,” explains Tucker.
“I don’t think this record could have been made with anybody else or any other way,” Frank adds. “I’ve been chasing a record to sound this way for a very long time.”
When Hammer speak to Frank, Travis and Tucker, L.S. Dunes have only played one show as a band. But in the same way the music-making process gives back to their creative minds, playing live has fired up a sense of exhilaration the members haven’t felt in years. “It felt really good being in a scenario where I could feel some danger,” says Travis. “I could feel some insecurity about what I was playing and a little stage fright.”
“I’ve noticed this a lot and it’s a thing we’ve tried to remedy with My Chem,” adds Frank. “When you’re on tour and you have a set of 12 songs you’re playing each night. It’s the best you’ll ever be with those 12 songs, but the worst you’ll ever be as a musician, because you’re not moving those creative muscles.”
That’s not to say that the members don’t love their old bands. They do. But lightning seems to have struck them once again. Like a yoga retreat for jaded musicians, L.S. Dunes has given back more than anyone could have expected, especially amid times of enormous uncertainty and emotional drain.
“L.S. Dunes has been a gift since minute one. Not only reconnecting with all these guys that I’ve been friends with forever, but meeting each other’s kids. We’re in each other’s lives now and we have something that lasts forever,” says Tucker. “It’s given so much life to each and every person in this band. I can’t even explain how great that feels.”
And what of L.S. Dunes’ future? Well, the members don’t just see it as a side-project but a fully fledged band, regardless of how popular it is. They’re more than prepared to keep this going alongside their other titan projects and world touring commitments because, to them, this is too life-affirming not to. They’re punk lifers, and they want to feel this way forever.
Past Lives is out now