Lovers' rock

By CAITLIN E. CURRAN  |  December 12, 2008

Two years later, the Submarines have released their second album, Honeysuckle Weeks, toured recently with Aimee Mann, and are one of the most recent bands to be tapped with Apple's magic career-boosting wand — their song "You, Me and the Bourgeoisie" is in iPhone 3G commercials.

"It's weird to say this, but I think it [meaning their time apart] was totally necessary," says Dragonetti. "I couldn't imagine our lives without it."

Not that they're experiencing some type of idealistic, storybook happy ending now. Dragonetti says that the marriage-to-band situation feels like having two all-consuming relationships — life in the band, and life outside of it — and they're inseparable.

"It's a learning process," he says. "We have to push ourselves to work together. But any relationship" — even the non-band kind — "is going to be hard work."

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Mean Creek
It creates stability for the band. I guess if you had a bad relationship, it wouldn't work.

These are the thoughts Aurore Ounjian, lead singer of the Boston-based foursome Mean Creek (who'll play the Middle East Upstairs this Saturday, and Great Scott in February), muses aloud as we sip coffee and tea with her boyfriend, Chris Keene, at a back table at 1369 Coffeehouse in Central Square on a recent Tuesday night.

Ounjian and Keene were high-school classmates in Watertown ("I'd go see his shitty punk bands play," recalls Ounjian. "I was into that at the time."), and then platonic roommates in a noisy apartment in Allston for a year, post–high school, where they both got into folk music. "When [the landlord] kicked us out of the apartment," recalls Ounjian, "we started playing music together — and started dating."

They billed themselves as Chris and Aurore in their early days as a band — a time when they riskily embarked on a tour (which included a stop at South by Southwest) in only a four-door sedan. But two years ago they rechristened themselves as Mean Creek, wrote new songs, and sought additional band members.

For a while, their rhythm section rotated — "It felt like we were dating potential band members," says Ounjian — though within the past few months they've made official band members of close friends Erik Wormwood and Mikey Holland. Ounjian and Keene say working with good friends lessens the complications that come with dating bandmates. "We connect musically, and it's easy," says Ounjian. "That's a hard thing to find."

"Obviously, sometimes you can't shut your feelings off," says Keene. "If we're having a problem, we try not to bring the band into it, but we're all best friends, and everyone [in the band] understands." In that sense, the music (and friendships) can be therapeutic. When any Mean Creek member comes to practice feeling unhappy about something, he says, "More than half the time we leave feeling a little bit better."

Ounjian and Keene's adept boy-girl harmonies carefully steer Mean Creek's roots-rock-meets-folk music, with subtle similarities to the Pixies and Electric Version–era New Pornographers in tow. The Boston Music Awards views them slightly differently — the band was nominated this year for Outstanding Americana Act of 2008 (they lost). Being labeled "Americana," much like being labeled a "couple band," is not something Keene and Ounjian are totally enthusiastic about. But they understand that sometimes pigeonholing comes with the band package.

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