NEW YORK — Everybody’s doing duets — Jay-Z and Beyoncé, Jack and Meg White, J.Lo and her hip-hop partner of the month. But while those big names work the bumps-and-grinds or raw drum beats, no one’s doing it quite like Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips. On their album “L’Avventura,” his gravel-and-whiskey voice plays against her sex-kitten sighs to produce he said/she said songs for shoegazing lovers and wounded romantics. Think Serge Gainsbourg’s breathy Birkin-Bardot era — though Wareham dismisses the comparison.
“People keep saying the record sounds like French pop, even though there’s no French on it,” Wareham says. “Gainsbourg liked his women to sing like little girls and Britta doesn’t sound like a little girl — she sounds more like Dusty Springfield.”
Comparisons aside, the musicians appreciate the change of pace, both being full-time members of Luna, darling of the underground music scene. “It’s so therapeutic in terms of being happy — being challenged but not so overly challenged that you’re a wreck,” says Phillips. “We’re having to get used to playing quiet sets, at a mellower energy.” Many of the songs on the album are covers, paying homage to the Doors and Sixties-era songwriter-activist Buffy Sainte-Marie as well as Madonna, whose “I Deserve It” gets a slow-mo spin from Wareham.
Having anchored Galaxie 500 in the late Eighties before founding Luna, Wareham is a bit of an indie intellectual. Phillips, meanwhile, joined Luna on bass a few years ago after fronting several bands, performing as the voice of Jem on the Saturday morning cartoon “Jem and the Holograms,” and appearing as a drugged-out guitarist in the forgettable flick “Satisfaction.” She and Wareham, who are a couple offstage, too, play the Village Underground tonight.
Wareham and Phillips kicked off their duo tour in Los Angeles last week, just in time to catch the world premiere of “Piggie” at the L.A. Film Fest. Written and directed by Alison Bagnall, who co-wrote “Buffalo ’66,” the movie stars Wareham as an ex-junkie credit card thief, alongside John C. Reilly and Robert John Burke. “It was grueling,” he says of the shoot. “People kept asking, ‘Were you pampered?’ I was like, ‘No. I got up at five in the morning and the director tried to make me miserable. She thought I’d act better if I was miserable.’”
For now, Wareham is sticking with music, planning to record with Luna in the fall and to tour with Phillips, keyboardist Lara Gray and drummer Ani Cordero in the meantime. “It’s an all-girl band plus me right now, which is very different from what it’s usually like in Luna,” he says. “You have to behave better when women are around.”