Still, there's telling the story, and then there's selling the story — for example, an early press release described Drug Rug, much to their chagrin, as a "magical love duo." Even for Cronin and Allen, though, the line between bandmates and boyfriend/girlfriend is often vague, and sometimes nonexistent.
"It's hard to separate band time with boyfriend/girlfriend time," says Allen, as we sit at their kitchen table, listening to the light rain pattering outside. "Once a month, we're like, 'I'm not going to do this anymore.' "
Music may be a complex force in their relationship now, but originally, three years ago, it was what brought Allen and Cronin together, when they met while working at the Middle East. The two exchanged demos, and made plans to hang out and play together as a way of breaking the ice. Simultaneously, they began dating and writing Drug Rug material together, and eventually recruited a fluxing cast of occasional bandmates, including Tulsa frontman Carter Tanton (who recorded their first album in his basement in Allston), and former Lot Six–ers Julian Cassanetti and Dan Burke.
Drug Rug recently finished recording their second album at Old Soul Studios, in the Catskills. But even three years and two albums in, the ease of the band's ironically buoyant pop songs about darker topics (like death) doesn't necessarily reflect an effortless songwriting process.
"It doesn't come totally naturally to us," says Cronin. "It's a collaborative effort. Lately, what we've been doing is Tommy or I will write a complete demo," and the other will edit or experiment with the song. The upside to all that effort is that the two are always improving upon their collaborative process.
"There are a lot of vocals on this [upcoming] record," says Cronin. "We've learned to sing with each other a lot better."
Dean and Britta
It's easier to get two people to agree than four.
That's the perk of having a bandmate who's also your significant other, says onetime Bostonian Dean Wareham, on the phone from his Manhattan apartment. He's on a break from co-composing music, with wife Britta Phillips, for an upcoming release of Andy Warhol film shorts. Wareham's list of titles is ever-increasing these days: former member of the influential late-'80s/early-'90s Boston dream-pop band Galaxie 500, and the post-Galaxie, equally dreamy NYC band Luna; film composer (he and Phillips wrote music for the film The Squid and the Whale, among others); recently published memoirist (his book, Black Postcards, came out last March); and now one half of the musical duo Dean and Britta (who played at the Paradise this month).
After years of band arguments, complex breakups, tiresome tours, and friendships ruined, Wareham says working with Phillips is a positive change. The two met when founding Luna bassist Justin Harwood left the group in 2000, and a guitar tech/mutual friend suggested Phillips audition for the band. At the time, Phillips was familiar with Luna, but says with a quiet laugh, "I hadn't really listened to their songs before." She crammed for the audition by learning 10 songs from the Luna catalogue in less than two days.