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Last fall, Jonathan Galkin showed up to work in the West Village when he spotted an old friend in the lobby: Luke Jenner, the singer-guitarist-songwriter of the Rapture.
Jenner and Galkin—who runs DFA Records along with LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy and label assistant and DJ Justin Miller—went back a decade. The Rapture was DFA's first signing, first success, and first defection: Money squabbles pushed the band from DFA to Universal. The two sides stayed cordial, but when Galkin invited Jenner upstairs, where they sat surrounded by framed copies of DFA's 12-inches—including the Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers," the 2002 record that put both sides of the table on the map—they had their first real conversation in seven years.
"We ended up having this amazing heart-to-heart," Galkin says. "We apologized to each other for bad blood and anything that happened when were too young, and too naïve, and too inexperienced."
A lot had occurred. DFA had been releasing consistently great 12-inches and had launched LCD Soundsystem from hometown DJ concern to Madison Square Garden. But Tim Goldsworthy, Murphy's longtime co-producer (as the DFA), had left the U.S. without telling Galkin and Murphy. The two of them found out he was gone when someone asked why Galkin hadn't attended Goldsworthy's going-away party the night before. Neither had been aware of it.
The Rapture had issued Pieces of the People We Love in 2006 and were now without a contract, figuring their way around a system utterly transformed from their DFA days. Jenner had lost his mother to suicide in 2006 and quit the band briefly in 2008. After he returned, bassist Mattie Safer left for good. A year later, Jenner became a Catholic. A lot of turmoil, but the Rapture were always writing, and they had an abundance of strong new material.
"I just went in one day [and said], 'Look, I'm really sorry. Falling out over money is just retarded,'" Jenner says. After a long, healing chat, Galkin's cards were on the table. All of Jenner's were, too, except one:
"Oh, by the way, we have a new album."
"No big deal," laughs Galkin. "He wouldn't play any music." Soon after, Jenner, multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Andruzzi, and drummer Vito Roccoforte returned and played Galkin the tracks they'd put together with Philippe Zdar of Cassius, who'd produced the last Phoenix album. Galkin was apprehensive at first: "My fear, of course, was, 'What if they play me this record, and it's fucking terrible?'"
He needn't have worried. DFA signed the Rapture again. The new album is called In the Grace of Your Love. It's a homecoming, appropriate for an album whose themes are healing, rebirth, forgiveness, and eternal returns. Or as Andruzzi puts it, simply, "It's our soul record."
Luke Jenner was born in San Diego in 1975. His parents were bohemians: "My dad was kind of the 'cool professor.' He would be like, 'Check this band out—this is what all my students listen to.' My mom listened to '80s college radio all day long. Pop radio was a curiosity to me. I liked some of the songs, but even at the time, it seemed really bland to me."
The cultural upsides masked a darker day-to-day reality. "My dad was this older brother character who was turning me onto stuff, then [would] disappear into the background," Jenner says. "That seemed normal to me until I got older." Meanwhile, his mother battled severe mental illness. "I remember one time in high school going to visit her in a mental institution, the nurse telling me, 'Your mom is on so much drugs, she's not even going to know who you are,'" he says. "My dad just told me, 'If it gets weird, just leave.' So I did. My home wasn't a safe place to be. I spent a lot of time at Vito's house. Vito was my family."
Jenner and Roccoforte had been best friends from age nine. Roccoforte had a more stable family life as well as the groceries Jenner's parents often neglected to buy. When Roccoforte moved to San Francisco for college in the mid-'90s, Jenner followed him. Together, they'd go through Bo Diddley's "Road Runner" (learned from the Backbeat soundtrack) "until we could play together," Jenner says.
The duo formed the Rapture with a revolving door of bassists. (Safer joined in 2000.) "We hit a ceiling fast in San Francisco," Jenner recalls. "Anyone we wanted to like our band liked our band after three shows. A lot of people asked us if we moved to New York to become famous," Jenner says. "No, we moved to Seattle to get famous." They were quickly disillusioned. "You would have thought the Murder City Devils were the biggest band in the world," Roccoforte remembers.
Meanwhile, Jenner was reading Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain's Please Kill Me and decided: "If anything like this even remotely exists in New York, I'm going there. It's not like you're going to have the dudes from Pearl Jam say you can't bowl with them. New York was completely not happening. I think that's why I liked it."