After 5-year break, The Juan MacLean is back on tour and coming to Philly

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Nancy Whang and Juan MacLean.

Nancy Whang didn't want to be in someone else's band anymore. The dance-music stalwart, whose main gigs are in LCD Soundsystem and The Juan MacLean, has lent her vocals to other DFA Records artists - Holy Ghost!, S-t Robot and DJ duo Classixx, to name a few. But she had never really found her own place in the creative scope of these projects.

"I felt like my own person, but I wasn't a part of their project either. I was a featured artist," Whang said over the phone recently from Brooklyn, where The Juan MacLean was doing a six-show residency to kick off a tour that will bring them here tomorrow.

It's their first tour in five years, and Philly's on the schedule due in large part to the efforts of David "Dave P." Pianka, head DJ honcho of the Making Time music collective.

When LCD Soundsystem called it quits, in early 2011, Whang saw that as an opportunity to bear allegiance to one artist: herself.

It'd been two years since she'd toured with The Juan MacLean; that year, the band's touring drummer, Jerry Fuchs, had died after falling down an elevator shaft.

Now, Whang wanted to try the solo-artist route.

Easier said than done.

"I was just not doing anything," she revealed of her post-LCD process. "I was sitting around worrying about it but not creating anything."

All the while, Juan MacLean, the other half of the duo that bears his name, was slowly working on new music. He'd send Whang bits and pieces of things, she'd work on them and they'd expand on that.

They released a few 12-inch singles this way, but Whang still wasn't doing any solo recording. In 2013, she decided it was all-in or not in at all, so they went into the studio.

They explored different avenues of how to mix Whang's vocals with MacLean's atmospheric instrumentation. It was a collaborative effort, through and through, and the process exposed a band where Whang was a member - not just a featured player.

The result, "In A Dream" was released on DFA Records in September 2014.

"I think before, the previous records that Juan and I made together [were], 'This is Juan's world and I'm just visiting,' " Whang recalled. "But with this record, I felt more comfortable shaping it with my influence."

"I never feel like I gave Nancy a bit of music and she sang something over it," MacLean said, sharing Whang's sentiment in another morning-after-a-show phone call recently. "It's a very collaborative thing."

Not cookie-cutter pop but a more accessible take on dance music, "In A Dream" puts Whang's vocals in the forefront. Still grounded by waves of synths and drum machines, the Juan MacLean crafted a record unbound by traditional sonic elements or aural time-stamps that would signify the disco boom or grunge era - though there's traces of it all.

 

For a time, just having the record out was enough. Whang was dead set on not touring. MacLean didn't think it was going to happen either.

The catalyst for the resurgence of a live Juan MacLean experience - featuring MacLean, Whang and touring band mates playing all the instruments, with no laptop in sight - came from Pianka.

He begged the pair - then recounted the tale on Facebook - to breathe new life into a Juan MacLean that existed as a touring entity. "Well . . . my coercion worked and my dreams have come true," the Facebook post reads.

"All joking aside," MacLean shared, "I had a long conversation with Dave P. at a Holy Ghost! show one night [in 2014], where he really did persuade me to have a serious look at playing live again. Nancy was there that night, and I immediately went to her, and was like, 'Maybe we should really think about doing it again.' "

Now the pair is taking the sprawling, anthemic numbers on "In a Dream" to stages nationwide, including Voyeur Nightclub, where Making Time is hosting the event.

The transition back to the stage has not only been smooth and organic but also a "now or never" experience, according to MacLean. "I'm not going to be in another band in my lifetime, most likely," he said. "Did I really play the last live show I'm ever going to play in my life in 2009?"

 


Making Time with The Juan MacLean, Voyeur Nightclub, 1221 St. James St., 9 p.m. tomorrow, 21-plus, $10-$15, makingtimeisrad.com.