L.S. Dunes
by Interviews

In 2022 L.S. Dunes, made up of Frank Iero, Travis Stever, Anthony Green, Tim Payne, and Tucker Rule, introduced themselves to the world on their outstanding debut album Past Lives. Recently, the band headed into the desert to record a couple of new tracks at the legendary Rancho De La Luna studio in Joshua Tree, California. Filmmakers Nick and Pat Demarais joined them in the studio to document the recording process and their documentary Limitless Sky will be released in several parts on YouTube in the coming weeks. The first song from this session, “Benadryl Subreddit” was released last week along with a music video that answers the question, “What if Anthony Green was an ice cream man?”. L.S. Dunes will be putting out their 7-inch featuring "Benadryl Subreddit" and "Old Wounds" on September 1 via Fantasy Records and will be touring North America starting in July, including dates on the Sad Summer touring festival.

Punknews editor Em Moore caught up with guitarist Frank Iero over Zoom to talk about recording new songs, getting out of your comfort zone, the importance of creativity, the magic of monster movies, and so much more. Read the interview below!

You recorded two new L.S. Dunes songs - “Benadryl Subreddit” and “Old Wounds” - at Rancho De La Luna in Joshua Tree, California. How did you decide where to record?

I think that the first thing that came into frame for us was where we wanted to record. It had been something that Tucker and I had talked about a lot for a long time. It was always a studio that held such mystique. We loved some of the albums and projects that came out of there and we'd seen the documentaries online. I think our paths had maybe crossed here and there with Dave, who owns it, but never in a working environment. We were able to give him a call and be like, “Hey, this is the time frame when we’re gonna be free. Do you happen to have an opening?” It just so happened that Rancho was free and were like, “Oh my god, that’s amazing!” Someone at our label had mentioned that Alex Newport was also building a studio out in Joshua Tree and if we wanted this could be a one-stop shop for us if we also wanted to work with Alex. Alex has been on my radar for a while too, he’s someone I had wanted to work with for years. So we gave him a call and he happened to be free the same weekend. It felt like lightning was striking at that moment. [laughs] Sometimes the Universe tells you, “This is what you should be doing” and sometimes the Universe tells you, “That’s not happening”. This was one of those instances where I felt like the stars were aligning and it happened to work out. Then we started to write. For me, it was like, “What do I imagine this setting sounding like? What do I wanna play in this setting?” That’s how “Benadryl Subreddit” came about.

The desert vibes.

Yeah! The desert at night I feel like is fast-moving and semi-dangerous and colder than you would think it would be. [laughs]

And full of scorpions.

[laughs] Of course, yes. That goes without saying.

You are also releasing a documentary about your time recording at the studio called Limitless Sky. How did that come about?

Since it was a place we wanted to record at and be a part of for so long it was one of those things where we were like, “We need to capture this memory in case it never happens again”. We were introduced to Pat and Nick Demarais who are amazing artists and filmmakers. They’re super, super talented. We saw some of their reels and stuff like that and ended up hitting it off perfectly when they got there. So much so that we ended up doing the video for “Benadryl” with them as well. [laughs] I feel like that kind of thing is you either love the documentarians and film crew who are with you or you hate them and never want to do it again. This was one of those times where we were like, “Oh man, we really like having them around”. They were seen when they needed to be seen and not seen when they don’t need to be seen and they capture great stuff. I feel like they did such a wonderful job encapsulating the experience.

Part one of the documentary is actually out now and I’m so excited for people to see it because it’s just so beautiful. I feel like somehow they made us seem interesting, which is weird. [laughs] I feel like if you love music and you love the process then it’s a great documentary for you. If you don’t really give a shit about that and you just want to see something beautiful and be a fly on the wall for something and hear a bit of a story, it works in that way too. It came out way better than I ever thought it was going to be honest because I’m a little trepidatious about that kind of stuff like, “Do people really want to see behind that curtain?” People will say yes but sometimes they don’t. Like, “I thought this was fun but it’s really boring”. [laughs] You have to make it interesting without manufacturing drama or anything like that and I think they did a really great job.

It’s so good when it is what it is and you’re not trying to make stuff happen.

I feel like we’re in this world right now where everybody is trying to manufacture content and that can be a bit daunting and make you feel really weird. But when it happens naturally and you capture this lightning in a bottle, that’s the best-case scenario. It just so happens that everyone in this band really likes hanging out with each other so there’s a lot of that on camera. We have a group Zoom call every week with Brigitte, our manager, to go over what’s happening or things that we need to do, and half the call is her going like, “Alright, alright! Can you stop laughing and joking around for a minute? I have to get to this one thing”. We can’t, it’s really fun. I like being in this band a lot.

You’ve mentioned how L.S. Dunes has an energy to it that’s different from anything you’ve ever worked on or bands you’ve been in. How would you describe this energy?

I guess the best way to describe it is creative energy. I’m not trying to discount other bands that I’ve been in but this is by far the most creative band. With other projects and with other bands you’ll tend to run into this thing like, “Alright, that’s cool but let’s table that and we’ll come back to it. We’ll see. I don’t know if that’s the right vibe or if that’s the song we want to work on right now”. Sometimes that works for other bands. For our band, everything gets chased and everything gets worked on. It’s one of those things where everybody loves playing so much. I love the craft of coming in and writing a song with people and seeing where it goes. You can’t be great all the time but you can make something. Sometimes that’ll lead you to something great and sometimes that leads you to a lesson. I just love playing and everybody in this band loves playing. I think the life force that runs through this band is creativity and we’re always making something new, whether that’s recording a demo or writing a new riff or going over old stuff or reimagining old stuff. It doesn’t stop. I love doing that so much and sometimes I feel like I tire out other bands that I’ve been in by doing that but this band doesn’t ever get tired. It’s like the Puppy Bowl! [laughs] It’s kinda like that but with a lot less shit on the floor.

I’m glad there’s less shit on the floor. I’d be concerned if there was more. [laughs]

Me too. [laughs]

For the first album, Past Lives, you recorded remotely but you recorded these two songs in person. What was it like to go from recording separately to recording in person?

It was great! There are some studios you go into and it’s almost like a hospital. It’s very sterile and everything has a place. Rancho is like if you took a studio and kinda exploded it in a house. The control is here, there’s amps and guitars everywhere, Dave’s cooking for you and you’re tracking, someone’s coming out of the house, and Chunk the dog is jumping up on your lap. It’s very much a family vibe and you feel like you’re a part of that family. I think it’s one of those situations where you go in and you fucking love it or you fucking hate it. It’s like sensory overload. So with that, it was perfect for us because we don’t give a fuck. [laughs] We’re just there to have fun and make something cool. I think if you’re in that vibe without the outside stressors of, “It’s gotta be perfect! It’s gotta be great” it works really well. It’s never going to be perfect but it can be great if you relax a little bit and have fun and that’s really what it was for us. It was awesome. It was really nice to all be in the same room. It was hard for us to focus and not just be fucking around 27/4. It was like, “We actually have work we have to do!” [laughs] Not just to play with the dog and touch every guitar in the room. If I had to describe my heaven, that would probably be it. [laughs]

Bring Chunk on tour.

I don’t know if Dave would be cool with that. I have quite a few of my own that if they wanted to come, that would be sick. He’s just the perfect size, he fits into a bunk nicely. [laughs]

That’s how you decide what dog to adopt.

Yes! I did bring a chihuahua on tour once and she had a good time. She’s still alive. She’s almost 15, it’s crazy. I think that’s because of tour. I think the longevity gets in there. [laughs]

Do you have a preference between recording remotely or recording in person?

I was with Will Yip the other day and I told him that Past Lives is probably my favourite sounding record that I’ve ever done in any band as far as sonics are concerned. I didn’t just say this to make him feel good because I really, truly mean this. Listening all the way through I think he did a fantastic job. It’s my favourite sounding record and that was a remote record. I didn’t know going in if I was going to have such a good time doing that because it felt weird. Getting to record with this band with everybody in the same room was great. That’s what I’m used to so I enjoy that as well. I gotta say there was a lot less stress doing it remotely though. Each have their benefits and it just depends. There’s so many factors that go into making a record or any kind of recording. It depends on who’s in the room at the time, what amp you’re using, if it’s on the fritz, what about the power - is it clean? There’s so many factors involved. We could do another remote record and it could sound like shit, I have no idea.

I think that they both have their place and I think especially in a band like this where everybody has such crazy schedules. Everybody is so busy doing things and I love that! When you’re in such a creative band like this and you’re out doing other creative things, you’re bringing that creativity back and forth. It’s like a conduit, it just keeps going and going and going. It makes me inspired. I wouldn’t change it even though it can get frustrating.

How would you describe your songwriting process?

Varied. [laughs] It’s funny, I feel like you’ll get asked that question a lot because people wanna know what the formula is when you write a song and there is none, really. There’s a demo that we just finished where Tucker recorded a drumbeat and I ended up getting inspired by that and I wrote a song to that. There’s no wrong way and there’s no right way. It could start with one person sending a riff through. “Benadryl” started with a guitar riff that I sent through and that verse-chorus thing, that big chunk. The b-section came a little bit later. But once you get inspired, you send that over. If Tucker is home he can put something together really quick and send it your way. We still write pretty much all remotely. I’m at rehearsal right now. So today when we have breaks, I’m sure we’re going to jam on stuff and something will come out. That’s happened before but that’s more rare because we’re never around each other, unfortunately.

You’ve mentioned that doing things that scare you and that get you out of your comfort zone is very important to you musically and otherwise. What helps you get out of your comfort zone?

That’s easy, I’m always uncomfortable. [laughs] Sometimes a song will come through and it’s like, “Alright, I know I can do this. This works. It’s something I’ve done before”. Sometimes a song will tell you where you wanna go. I think the hard part is trying to forget about that like, “This is the easy way. Throw that out and see where you can go if you had to do something different”. There’s different exercises that I like to use where you try to take an instrument like a guitar and be like, “How would I play this if I never played it before? What if I wanted to play it as if it were a percussion instrument? What if I wanted to try to make a new song out of it?” That helps sometimes.

Sometimes if I have writer’s block and I want to write a song I’ll be like, “I have to write a song but it has to have two chords for a verse and it has to have six chords for a chorus. How do I solve that puzzle?” If I put myself in a box and I start to figure out ways to problem solve, that can help me crack through. It’s like trying to stand on one foot, it leaves you uneasy and you don’t know how to solve that problem just yet but it gets your brain working. I love doing shit like that. There’s a recording process I want to try where you get three or four friends and you go into a room and record in a very specific way for a weekend. That kind of stuff to me is scary and uncomfortable but at the same time is so inspiring. You can’t get mad at what comes out of it because you’re putting these constraints around it like fighting a kangaroo with one arm tied behind your back. That’s crazy! Why would you do that? But at the same time why the fuck not!? Just do that.

There’s a way!

There’s always a way! I never want to hear the word ‘no’ when it comes to creativity, it pisses me off. If I have an idea don’t tell me ‘no’ right off the bat without trying it or figuring it out first. Let’s try to figure it out! At the end it of it, it might be impossible but at least we’ve exhausted every possibility. Then you’ve already been creative and you’ve figured something else out so there might be something new to jump to.

What would you say to somebody who’s having trouble getting out of their comfort zone?

You’re not trying hard enough! [laughs] I think in a creative mind, it’s not that hard to get out of that zone. I’ve been on this earth for quite a while and I’ve done a lot of things but there’s still so many things that I haven’t done or tried or exhausted. When you feel like you’ve done it all or you know everything, that’s probably when the learning process should really start. There’s so much out there! So much to learn and so much to try. You don’t know everything no matter what.

My friend Ray Toro was in town and he came to my house the other day and we were hanging out and talking about different picking techniques. Normally I’ll hold it this way where’s there very little of the pick still sticking out but if you’re trying to get your picking quicker if you turn it on its side and only use this part of your knuckle. It forces your wrist into this really unnatural, very strange position. He’s learning “Cliffs of Dover”. That’s something that he’s always wanted to try and he’s been working on it for months to really try to play it properly like the way a jazz musician would play it. No hammer-ons, no slides, just picking every note and trying to up the BPMs at which you can pick. He’s one of the greatest players that I’ve ever met and that I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with. He’s an incredible, incredible player and he was like, “I think I want to take some lessons soon” and I was like, “That’s so cool!” There’s such a wealth of knowledge out there. If you want to become enlightened in your craft and you really love your craft there’s so much more you can do. There’s so much out there, man.

Sometimes people get lost and overlook all the possibilities.

Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies with that kind of stuff. We really say, “It has to be this way because this is what I do” and it’s like, “No, man, no. You gotta open your mind a little bit”.

The poppies from the cover of Past Lives play critical roles in your videos for “Benadryl Subreddit” and “Grey Veins”. How would you describe the power of the poppies?

As a power source, an energy source. It can be used in good ways and in bad ways, a lot like anything. If you think of something as positive as love, that concept and that feeling can be really good if done and if used in a good way but it can also be negative if used in a bad way. That line between love and hate is so fine. The poppies are representative of the members of the band. They’re representative of the creativity and the energy and power behind our creativity and our minds.

Both of the videos also contain a lot of Easter eggs. In the “Grey Veins” video, you have the “Ghost of You” combat helmet in there. Which Easter egg are you the most proud of?

[laughs] That video was really fun to make. It took a very long time. We made the city and a very talented young lady named Kelly Harris made the costumes. Coming up with the concept and the different vignettes that we could film to make this world feel believable was quite the undertaking. We filmed it in this old VFW hall and you would never know because it’s all in miniature. We were moving the little Lego pieces with string and trying to get them to seem like they were moving on their own. My Good Eye did such an amazing job. Me and Tucker were there for fucking 36 hours straight just moving shit and building shit. It was really, really awesome. It was really, really fun to make.

As far as Easter eggs, there’s so many! There’s the keytar from “Medicine Square Garden” which is the final summoning of the rock ‘n’ roll power that comes down and destroys Blobby. There’s a couple of my son’s toys that made it into the world of the Lego people. My dog tags that my wife and I made when we first started dating are in there. The “Ghost of You” helmet is in there. It’s one of those things where it started from this crazy idea of, “I wanna make a Japanese monster movie”. I’ve always wanted to do it and I’ve pitched that idea probably 30 times. [laughs] This was the first time where I was told, “Yeah, you can make that”. So it was pretty awesome.

You’ve mentioned that monster movies were a big part of you and your dad bonding when you were younger. What did it mean to you to have your kids involved in the video?

It’s awesome! I think they’re getting to the age now where they’re more interested in that stuff. Back in the day, I made a video with them for “Best Friends Forever” which was a song my daughters wrote and they were in the video. It was more like, “Hey, listen, I’m going to make a video for the song that we did” and they were like, “Ok” and I was like, “You’re going to be in it!” and they were like, “Ok”. [laughs] I don’t know if they were conscious of what was happening. This was more like they knew. In the video for “Benadryl” my daughter Cherry and my son Miles were in it. Lily is very studious so she told me, “Dude, I can’t not go to school that day. I have a test coming up. I have two Spanish tests coming up and I can’t miss it” so I was like, “Alright, I get it”. She turned me down but Cherry and Miles were more than happy to skip school to be in the video and eat ice cream all day. [laughs] I think Lily got 108 in four of her classes, in every class she’s in she has A+s. She got her sense of humour and her stomach from me and she gets all her smarts and good looks from her mom.

What do you feel like the connection between music and monster movies is?

For me, it’s just the two things that I grew up loving so much and both of the things that I connected with my dad about. I think early on if you were to ask me, “What do you wanna be when you grow up?” the first answer was always, “I wanna be in a band”. Then people would be like, “You probably won’t succeed in that, you need a real job. What else do you wanna do?” and I would say, “I wanna make monster movies!” That’s what I was always interested in. On the weekends, I would go hang out with my dad and we would bee-line it to Palmer Video and he would let me rent whatever I wanted so we’d have a stack of monster movies. Then I would go see his band play and watch monster movies all night. That’s how we spent our weekends. If we didn’t go to rent the movies then we would go to the library and get books on the movies. I actually have one of those now. There was a series of books that told the story of Frankenstein or any of the old Universal Monsters and had stills from the actual film in it. Books about monsters, movies about monsters, and then I’d go see his band play. It was rad! That’s how I grew up. I had little to no interest or aspirations for anything else. Maybe skateboarding later on but I broke my ankles doing that and I realized that wasn’t for me. [laughs] I couldn’t play guitar if I broke my wrists so I put that to the side, I would just mall grab, I think.

You gotta have priorities.

Yeah! That’s the thing. If you’re a handsome actor then you can’t get hit in the face. If you’re a musician like I am, a clumsy musician, then you can’t skate and play.

L.S. Dunes will be playing on the Sad Summer touring festival and will be playing headlining shows in the US and Canada starting in July. What are you looking forward to the most about these shows?

Oh man, if you think about it, this is kind of our first US headline tour after Sad Summer. We’ve done limited runs on the East Coast and the West Coast but this is the first time we’re actually getting to do a full loop. I’m looking forward to playing the record and playing new songs. I’m looking forward to playing with Pinkshift and Teen Mortgage and PONY. I’m just looking forward to hanging out with my friends and making music. Honestly, that’s what it’s all about for me.

The band recently put a Pride-themed poppy T-shirt up for pre-order with all of the proceeds going towards The Trevor Project. What does this organization mean to you?

I think they’re a great organization. I think they’re helping kids and they have their priorities straight. It’s always hard when picking charities and making sure they’re vetted and are doing the right thing. The Pride shirt is something I don’t want to take full credit for because that was really a passion project from Tucker. He kept saying, “I really wanna do this for Pride” and I thought it was a great idea. The design came out fantastic and if you can make something cool and help people then it’s a win-win. I’m really happy it all came together.

What are you listening to now?

I like that Sweet Pill record that just came out a lot. There’s a grindcore band from New Jersey called Come Mierda which is basically “eat shit” in Spanish who I think are fucking great. The new Gel record is fantastic! I like that band a lot. Militarie Gun has put out a new great record. The new MSPAINT is great too. I really like Teen Mortgage and I’m digging the new stuff by Pinkshift. There’s a band from Texas called Glare that I think is really, really cool. I’m always looking for new stuff!

I think sometimes we fall into this ditch of only listening to the same shit that we listened to when we were teenagers and I know a lot of people do that. I think it’s cool. There’s a comforting thing about that. I’ll never turn off a Nirvana record or a Smashing Pumpkins record and Bouncing Souls and Black Flag will always be on. But it’s nice to hear newer bands and to see what else is coming down the pipe. I really do enjoy finding new artists. I think it’s inspiring and there’s so much cool music out there.

Gotta keep up with it.

Much to my wife’s chagrin about my record collection. It keeps growing. [laughs] There’s a lot of really cool, really interesting underground newer black metal that’s going on that’s fucking amazing. I think Vide is amazing, Spectral Wound is doing great stuff. Sun’s Journey Through The Night is fantastic. There’s so many great bands. Lamp Of Murmuur is unreal.

Are you still involved in the punk scene in New Jersey?

I don’t know if I’m involved, no one’s coming to me like I’m on the board of anything. [laughs]I was actually doing a session on Sunday otherwise I would’ve been at the Emperor show in Brooklyn. I love going to shows. It’s hard sometimes when you tour as much as I do and when you’re in the studio and stuff like that, sometimes on your night off you just want to chill. t’s funny because when you’re on tour the first things you look around for are music stores, record shops, and shows in town if you have a night off. I’m always down to see something. I think the older I get I’m more at the bigger shows as opposed to the VFW halls and things of that nature. I’ve been lucky enough to catch bands like Incendiary at festivals that we’re playing which is awesome. I feel very fortunate to be able to catch bands like that but I’m always a big proponent of if you like a band you have to see them in their natural habitat and go see the show. I wish I was able to catch Drug Church the last time they were around here but schedules are fucked. Their new single is great.

What does the future hold for L.S. Dunes?

I have no idea! [laughs] It definitely holds new recordings and new music. It’s just a matter of finding time to do it and I can’t wait because I fucking love being in this band. It’s so much fun. It’s one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. I’ll do this until the day I die. It’s so much fun.