March 19, 2012
Pop Culture! Dean and Britta
The Cool Couple from Luna Pair Indie Pop with Warhol Screen Tests
By Nancy Staab
The edgy (and married) indie darlings from dreamy, 90’s alt band Luna find musical inspiration in Andy Warhol’s ghostly film portraits of Dennis Hopper, Edie Sedgwick and other Factory habitués. And Dean dishes with LuxeCrush about his favorite Warhol pieces, what he learned from Harvard, and what it was like opening for Velvet Underground.
High Museum of Art presents Dean and Britta “13 Most Beautiful…Songs for Andy Warhol”—original pop music composed and performed live by Dean and Britta along side the projections of 13 of Warhol’s mesmerizing Screen Tests, that directly inspired the music. The mod-cool concert will take place at Symphony Hall, Saturday, March 31, 8PM. Warhol regularly filmed the silent, motionless, slow-motion faces of visitors to his Factory in the mid-60’s from Salvador Dali, Edie Sedgwick, Lou Reed and Dennis Hopper to 60’s German model/singer Nico. The result is mesmerizing portraits of icons and everyday people captured in celluloid.
Save your ticket stub because Dean & Britta’s music and film performance will be followed by a Culture Shock Party on the piazza of Woodruff Arts Center with a DJ, cocktails and late-night viewing of the “Fourteen Modern Masters: Picasso to Warhol” exhibit.
Luxe Crush got an exclusive interview with Dean Wareham of Dean & Britta about his favorite Warhol artworks, his Harvard diploma, marriage to bandmate Britta, his tell-all rocker-on the-road memoir Black Postcards, and touring with Velvet Underground.
So Dean, I read that you graduated from Harvard with a major in Social Studies. Can you throw out something you learned there that has served you well in life or in music industry?
DEAN: Well I read a lot of Adam Smith and Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud and I’m glad I did. I think more kids should read Das Kapital. But my late-night DJ shift at WHRB was equally important.
What was the significance of the name Galaxie 500 for your first band?
DEAN: I was in this other band in New York City, who shall remain nameless, and one day the bassist pulled up in a beautiful old car and that was a Galaxie 500 and I soon quit their band but I took the name of their car.
Then you went on to form Luna, described as a dream pop/indie band. What kind of music did you aim to put out with that group?
DEAN: You don’t quite know what your “aim” is but you get together with friends and start playing and see what happens. I did know I wanted to have a quartet instead of a trio.
Do you remember your first impression when bandmate Britta (now wife) joined your group?
DEAN: I don’t remember so well, but Britta remembers thinking I was mean at her first audition. Maybe I was just pretending to be mean.
Finally tell me about the type of music the two of you put out together as Dean & Britta.
DEAN: Some of it is for crying and some of it is for dancing.
Any key musical heroes or influences for either of you?
DEAN: Phil Spector, Nina Simone, Scott Walker, Lee Hazlewood, Dusty Springfield, Madonna, Sonic Boom. . . there are many more.
What was it like touring with the reformed Velvet Underground in the ‘90s and how did that come about?
DEAN: Lou Reed happened to hear the first Luna album and promptly invited us to be the opening band. Frankly, I just couldn’t believe that we were traveling round Europe and getting to watch them from the side of the stage every night.
How did this “13 Most Beautiful…” project, pairing your music with Andy Warhol stills, come about? I love the interdisciplinary film/music idea!
DEAN: We were approached by Ben Harrison at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; he described the hundreds of films that the Museum had access to (Warhol made 472 Screen Tests) and asked could we pick thirteen of them and create soundtracks to perform live on stage.
What is your favorite Warhol art work, moment or saying? And did either of you ever get to meet Andy?
DEAN: Neither of us ever met Andy. But I love watching him answering interview questions. Where most artists are trained to give long-winded theoretical explanations of why they paint a particular way, he would just say “because it’s easy.” Warhol never ceases to amaze me. We are used to seeing the same famous images again and again (Marilyn, Coke Bottles, soup cans, etc.), but there is so much more, from his early drawings for department stores to his late paintings, paintings for children, TV shows, films. He had a way of turning things upside down.
You two have a great look and I know you composed music for the indie film “The Squid and the Whale” even before this Warhol film project. Do fashion and film inspire your music as well? If so, do you have any style or film icons?
DEAN: My favorite period for clothes is the early to mid-sixties before the emergence of flower power and hippies -- the great clothes you see on the Rolling Stones or on Francoise Hardy or Anna Karina or the Beach Boys. And yes film inspires us; film and music together can be so powerful, and that’s what this Screen Test show [“13 Most Beautiful…Songs for Andy Warhol”] is about.
This show is inspired by artist Andy Warhol, so who are some of your other favorite artists?
DEAN: Favorite artists: I have many -- Ed Ruscha, Stephen Shore, Brice Marden, David Shrigley, Paul Klee, Josef Albers, Gerhard Richter, Karen Kilimnik . . .
How do you guys work and compose music together and any secrets to balancing work vs. domestic life as a working couple?
DEAN: We have different musical skills, so we find each other useful when creating music and we trust each other’s judgment.
Dean, you wrote a book “Black Postcards” about your life in music, described as “bewitching.” Any take-away message from your book?
DEAN: That it’s hard to keep a rock and roll band together. That being in a band takes its toll on your home life. But my book is an easy and fun read; you can plow through it in about 3 hours and then you’ll know more than you need to about me and maybe will know something about the history of indie rock too.
Favorite city in the world and why, for each of you?
DEAN: I happen to like New York.
BRITTA: Berlin -- a growing city that seems artist-friendly.
What’s next in the pipeline for you two artistically?
DEAN: we are both making solo albums, but each of us will be very involved with the other’s album. I do hope to have mine finished by the end of the year.
“13 Most Beautiful...Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests” by Dean and Britta, Saturday, March 31, 8PM, Atlanta Symphony Hall, $15/person, $10 for members. Save ticket stub for admission to Culture Shock after party on the Piazza of High Museum with DJ, cocktails and late-night viewing of “Picasso to Warhol” exhibit. www.high.org