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L.S. Dunes and the lightning still striking

“The thing that’s always helped me is music, so that’s what I’ve got to give,” Travis Stever states. If you know him from his work as the lead guitarist and co-founder of rock icons Coheed and Cambria, then that’s likely assumed knowledge at this point. But that’s not what Stever is here to talk about – instead, he’s sitting down with BLUNT to talk us through the formation of his newest project, L.S. Dunes. He continues: “I think that’s what everybody in L.S. Dunes and every other band we’re a part of, that’s what we have to give to people.” 

Indeed, his post-hardcore and rock-icon peers in L.S. Dunes have spent most of their lives pursuing that mission, with the group comprising Circa Survive and Saosin frontman Anthony Green, My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero, and Thursday bassist and drummer Tim Payne and Tucker Rule. If you peer closer into the messaging of the band, you’ll see a summary of their new album Past Lives in one line: “Love songs for lost souls.” To Stever, that applies to both providing listeners with solace, but also the artists within the collective themselves.

“We’re finding what we seek through the music, but it’s an endless search, you know? Or to me, it’s kind of like, every song is maybe a clue as to where I need to go to find – it’s cliché – but to find that soul, you know? Hopefully, the people that are listening that would be considered the ‘lost souls’ find that each song’s a clue to where they can find their home or they can find comfort.”

As Stever extrapolates, the making of Past Lives has been as much a personal journey as it has been about creating the full-length offering as something that can be passed on to others. Revered by fans and now leading the charge in forging another Holy Grail LP in emo, frontman Anthony Green has detailed his struggles throughout the pandemic both on this record and on his solo effort that was out earlier this year, Boom, Done. Single ‘2022’ made an appearance on both, a heartbreaking ponderance of making it past 2021 (“If I can’t make it ’til 2022/Least we’ll see how much I can take”). The band approached the lyrics and each other’s mental health struggles with sensitivity, culminating in the making of this album, as much as it’s earned the supergroup title, being considered a therapeutic experience.

“A lot of it was during the pandemic, and I think each individual had their own feelings that related to a lot of what Anthony was writing,” Stever notes. “I think it seeps through the melodies, and I have guitar on the record that like, maybe it was a riff that I sent that was based more on anxiety and frustration, and it poured out into that. Sometimes that could mean that I was trying to fight it with writing something that was more whimsical, making myself think of something more positive, if that makes sense. That was, for me, therapy through melody, you know?”

If you’re aware of the historical projects of the members of L.S. Dunes, it would be natural to ask why this one was different for Stever and the gang. Albeit a gift for alternative music fans the world over, riding through gritty highs and lows and produced by godfather of the scene Will Yip, the question remains – if they were able to benefit from the healing qualities of music before now, then why would these artists end up in a separate band, seeking the same thing through slightly different means? For Stever, the formation was uniquely cathartic.

“It’s something that we all needed at that time, but it went beyond that and became this real band that’s just as important as any of the other bands that we’re in.“

“Whereas in other worlds, I don’t want to speak for anybody else, but there might be a set thing where you have to make sure that you’re playing to a song that’s already there. And not to say it’s confining, or there are boundaries, but…there are. In this case, it was just throwing paint at the wall and egging each other on to do what felt right in the moment. And if it didn’t become the song that we wanted, we could abandon that and move on to another. That’s kind of what the cool thing was – there was no expectation in that sense. We had already agreed that the spark was there, there was no denying it from the second, third song in. We were just hooked. So even if there are some duds and we work on it and we have a verse and a chorus, but we abandon it and move onto the next one, things just keep getting created.”

By using the present tense, Stever alludes to the fact that Past Lives is unlikely to be a one-off release from a band formed by members that could be forgiven for leaving it on the side of the highway considering their heavy commitments. Started during the pandemic and therefore over emails and texting, physically not being together isn’t posing a hindrance to L.S. Dunes continuing to collaborate, which means that, in this case, this isn’t the only lightning strike set to hit.

“It’s almost like this thing where we come home and somebody is always still texting and emailing music and we’re all starting to work on it,” he says. “It’s this endless cycle and that’s not gonna stop…I would imagine tomorrow I’ll probably cut some guitars at one point and send them back for something Tim just worked on. Frank’s got a pretty heavy schedule being out with My Chem right now, but the minute he has time,” he continues. “My point is, Frank will probably get home and then I’ll be over with Coheed in Europe and I’ll probably start to see all these riffs he’s sending because it’s just the minute we have time, we want to still keep writing in L.S. Dunes, because it’s got this whole other side to it.”

With My Chemical Romance venturing out to Australia this coming March, and L.S. Dunes planning to hit up the UK opening the door to the outfit touring internationally, it makes sense to be curious as to whether or not we may see them make moves in Australia. Stever confirms that he hopes to bring a show here, and “the more people show a positive response, the more likely it is.” With plans hopefully forming on the horizon, and the band continuing to put pen to paper to work towards what’s next, the magic that is L.S. Dunes is certainly not going to fade away now. A quick glance at snippets from their live shows sees them congregating in sweaty rooms to an atmosphere entirely new from anything they’ve ever created before, with not a shred made up from nostalgia for what they’ve done in the past but instead excitement for what’s to come from the present.

Stever concludes: “It’s the light at the end of the dark. That’s what it is. It’s truly the light at the end of the dark tunnel, around here at least. You know, another side to it, not just being born out of the pandemic. It’s something that we all needed at that time, but it went beyond that and became this real band that’s just as important as any of the other bands that we’re in.“

Past Lives is out now via Fantasy Records.