Frank Iero On L.S. Dunes, And His Thirst For Music

"If there’s a road, I need to be on that road..."

“When you’re told ‘oh, that one thing that you’ve done for the past 20-something years – yeah, you can’t do that anymore’… You start to freak out,” guitarist Frank Iero begins to explain. “When I got a text from Tucker saying that he wanted to start a project, that was all I needed to hear.”

The tone is light, but the true weight of Frank’s words is evident. Pieced together during the tormented limbo of the pandemic, post-hardcore ‘supergroup’ L.S. Dunes was born out of pure necessity above all else – a desperate endeavour for solace when everything that was familiar had been stripped away. Immediately, the group’s tagline of ‘love songs for lost souls’ burns in the back of our minds; this project serves as a guiding beacon to not only its listeners, but, at it’s core, its purpose was to help a pack of adrift musicians re-discover who they once were. 

While the circumstances were undeniably bleak, the juggernaut of talent that L.S. Dunes managed to round up is quite astounding. Hearing Frank casually discuss the album’s creative process, you can’t help but marvel at what it must have felt like being in those writing rooms. This is nobody’s first rodeo; with Frank’s My Chemical Romance past, vocalist Anthony Green of Circa Survive, guitarist Travis Stever of Coheed and Cambria and a pair of Thursday’s best, bassist Tim Payne and drummer Tucker Rule, L.S. Dunes is an unbeatable pack of core emo powerhouses. It’s a line-up taken straight off of an incredibly, incredibly satisfying Warped Tour poster to say the very least.

And, while Frank admits that he often “doesn’t know how to say no” to a new project (we’re looking at you, Frank Iero and the [insert animal, vegetable or mineral]), L.S. Dunes is clearly a different breed to anything he has been involved in previously. “This was just super organic, you know. It started in a way you’d start up your high school band…  but everybody has also done this before – everybody’s been around this block, everyone’s been in different projects,” he tells us. “And, because we didn’t know if we were ever gonna release anything, there were no expectations. Nobody felt self-conscious or nervous about bringing stuff to the table.”

“I didn’t know if this was actually going to turn into anything… and then I heard Anthony sing on it,” Frank takes a moment to reflect. “We all said, you know, if we could get a singer, it would be Anthony… and when he started to demo on the first couple of tracks, it was like… okay, this is something.”

The sound L.S. Dunes have managed to capture is truly in a league of its own. Somewhat of a Frankensteinian patchwork of elements from all of their respective projects, new album ‘Past Lives’ is a rich, masterfully layered burst of post-hardcore delight. Every listen allows the depth and artistry to unravel, forcing you to tune into another element at play, hyper-focus on the hectic riff or meaty bassline. “Truthfully, this is just what came out,” Frank oh so humbly insists. “Tucker will usually be first to jump in, with a backbeat – a backbone, really. And then we all just started adding as we went on.”

The group serves as the first side-project Frank has decided not to sing on – not only because it’s a nightmare “thinking of things to say inbetween songs”, but also due to a wrist injury reminding him just how important playing guitar truly is to him. “With my wrist, I really needed to just focus on the playing…” he begins to tell us, before bringing his scarred hand into view. “I had two surgeries, the last just around this time last year, and I recorded ‘Past Lives’ in the December. I had surgery, and three weeks later I was in the studio recording… but I didn’t even really know if I was ever actually going to be able to play guitar again until I got into that studio. And I think I still had stitches in when I was recording.”

As a musician, being stripped of your ability to play is like losing a part of yourself – like a sixth sense has been stripped away, a core component missing. “I couldn’t move the wrist at all, you know?” Frank goes on, “Playing guitar was… it was hard. I had to change how I moved my arm to just get a kind of strumming pattern going, so I could hear a melody and try to write stuff.” He moves his arm like a puppet on a string – stiff, stilted and quite foreign to see on a man so typically fluent and confident with his instrument. “It’s a daunting process, but if you take it incrementally, it’s able to be done.” 

He pauses. “Also, for me… there’s no other way. If there is a road, I don’t care how hard it is, or how arduous it’s going to be. If there’s a road, I need to be on that road. I have to play.”

If one considers Frank’s past, it’s immediately clear how true these words are. From his early days of being in bands, getting a scorpion tattoo branded just too high on his neck to ever be concealed by a stuffy, office-worthy suit and tie, Frank chose his path in life long before finding any form of tangible success. “I felt like if I had a backup plan, I wouldn’t go all in,” Frank explains. “It’s not gonna work for everybody, but that was the mindset I needed.” 

“When I went into that last surgery, I told the doctor – and this is going to sound super dark. But all I can be is honest,” Frank pauses again. “I said to the doctor, ‘listen, like, you’ve gotta tell me now… if you’re not the guy for this, then send me somewhere else. It’s totally cool if you’re not the guy for this, but I need to know. Because if it’s not you, if you do this surgery and you honestly feel like I won’t be able to play afterwards, just leave me on the table. There’s no sense in waking me up. Because, honestly, if I can’t play, I’m done.” 

“So that was the deal that we had. And I know it’s a hard stance to have – but honestly, I mean, that’s it for me. If I can’t play, I can’t be the husband, the dad, person I want to be. It’s a part of who I am, you know, and there’s, there’s no going back now.”

With no alternate life plan to hand, the true significance of L.S. Dunes’ ‘Past Lives’ feels all the more poignant. Not only was the project built in the height of pandemic hysteria, but it also served as a way of pushing Frank in particular to rebuild the skills he knew he had to fight for. Tracks like ‘It Takes Time’, penned by Anthony Green about Frank’s injury, become even more bittersweet – a bruised spew of pain reflecting on the entire ordeal, as well as serving as a howl of support. 

Yet Frank continues to feel optimistic about things, despite everything. Even if it’s just writing a new track, “the universe will always show you the right path,” he says. “You just gotta be in tune with it, and open to accept information. It sounds so silly… but it’s true, man. Even if that’s just wanting another song on the 11th hour of a session, and then it ends up being one of the greatest songs on the record. If you want something in this world, put it out there, just say it. If you verbalize it into the universe, it has a way of working out.”

And it definitely seems to be working out, if the shows are anything to go off of. Even their first show at Riot Fest was a stellar turnout – even if their set was at 1pm. “It was the best first show I’ve ever had with any band. It was really unbelievable,” Frank tells us. “There were wayyy to many people there at one o’clock watching our band – that literally never happens.” And, with a sold out UK tour coming in January, it truly seems like the collective have struck a chord in fan’s souls already.

It goes without saying that not all those who wander are lost – in cases like this, sometimes you just have to wander to find yourself again. Be that a palette cleansing new project to help with some writer’s block, or to rediscover your purpose in life, sometimes a little exploration and experimentation is key. “Every band is special – you can’t recreate that with any other group of people. And we’ve done everything we can to make this band as different, as unique as we could. And it’s exciting… this feels like something really special.”

‘Past Lives’ is out now.

Words: Emily Swingle
Photo Credit: Luke Dickey

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