When you’re yearning for a breath of fresh air, let MUNA’s irresistibly dance-worthy melodies and powerfully inclusive lyrics usher you into a safe space free from the “alternative facts” and noxious headlines clogging our news feeds.
Two weeks after releasing their debut album, About U, on February 3, MUNA brought their Lay Down Your Weapons tour north of the border to the intimate Drake Hotel in Toronto, Ontario. It was a happy Family Day indeed for the friendly audience that packed the sold-out basement stage on February 20.
The Los Angeles three-piece’s pop anthems are simultaneously grounding and uplifting, exploring darker themes through the seemingly incompatible upbeat riffs and hooks of pop music. Their live performance was sweetly evocative, alternating between warm-hearted banter and a tight mix of ballads and energetic dance tunes.
The day after their Toronto show, I spoke with vocalist Katie Gavin about their performance, About U, and what’s next for MUNA. Learn more about MUNA’s support of the LGBTQ community, how they felt about their recent performance on Jimmy Kimmel, how you can get involved with MUNA’s zine, and much more – read my interview below.
Steph: What a great show on February 20. How did it compare to other shows you played in Toronto?
Katie: It was our first MUNA show. We’ve played three times in Toronto, but other times we were opening for Miike Snow and Grouplove, so this was the first time in Toronto we’ve seen our people and it was more like a MUNA headline show in that the energy was very cute and comforting and fun.
Take a look: Nicole de Khors shot some close-up and colorful photos of MUNA and Lo Moon at their February 20 show at the Drake Hotel. Check them out.
Steph: Your Drake Hotel show in Toronto was definitely a lot of fun. What was it like touring with Lo Moon?
Katie: It’s been great. They’re really good musicians, and after the first show with them, I knew I was going to enjoy it because it’s really nice to hear their music and work with them. I just really like their music and I find it to be very calming and meditative, and it’s a pleasure to hear them every night as we’re getting ready to play. And they’re also good people.
Check this out! Alex Ven interviewed Matt Lowell from Lo Moon to discuss their upcoming album and more. See the interview here!
Steph: You just a released a video for “I Know A Place” on February 3, same day you released the album About U. The song sends a really strong message about finding a safe space, whatever form that takes for you personally, to let down your guard and just be yourself as you are. I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about your inspiration for that song?
Katie: We wrote that song originally for the Pride celebration in 2015. It was right after the Supreme Court decision in America that made gay marriage legal and we were in a really hopeful state of mind, but at the same time I was thinking about how there were a lot of members of the LGBT community, particularly trans women of colour, who were still and are still to this day, facing a very real risk of violence because of their identities. And so I was thinking about what a modern day LGBTQ anthem would look like and sound like, and I thought that it would be important for it to have more language about actual safety and not having to be afraid that anyone is going to try to harm you because of who you are. That’s where the lyrics came from. It took on a heavier meaning after the Orlando shooting, which was around the time of Pride last year. We released it shortly after that prior to the album.
Watch the video for “I Know A Place”:
Steph: MUNA has always been outspoken about your support of marginalized groups, and I’m wondering if you feel an even greater responsibility given your spotlight and your accessibility to younger audiences to speak out against injustices, especially in today’s political climate?
Katie: That’s a good question. I would like to think that we feel the same amount of responsibility and the same amount of duty, whether it’s for a group of our five friends who were the original fans of the band, or if it’s for thousands of people who have come into knowledge about this band. I feel like it’s just as urgent, regardless of the actual quantity of people that you’re serving, but I also do think that, in this time, we’ve certainly had conversations as a band where we find that it’s more important for us now than ever for us to be explicit about where we stand. Not that there are sides, necessarily, to be standing on, but we believe in love and peace and safety for everybody.
Steph: I saw your performance on Jimmy Kimmel. It got fairly political, with the lyrics your added to “I Know A Place”, and the choice of backdrop. Was it different performing for a national TV audience than you may have expected? How did that experience compare to somewhere like the Drake Hotel?
Katie: We actually had a conversation before we went on at Kimmel. We said we really wanted to have that persona and feel for us like any other performance. We made an attempt to almost push it out of our minds. It’s a funny thing that’s possible because of technology that we can be in a room of a couple hundred people and have it actually be a performance that’s being broadcast to millions. We definitely made an effort to just perform to the people who were in the room and feel the energy that was already in the room, and trust that that would, or at least hope that that would transcend the room and be part of the broadcast itself. I’m really proud of how we did. We watched that performance and we felt like we were actually present, and it felt like just another show, which was kind of awesome.
Watch MUNA perform “Crying on the Bathroom Floor” on Jimmy Kimmel:
Steph: You mentioned your zine last night. I haven’t seen much about it online, so can you tell me a bit more about your zine, what’s in it, and how people can get involved with it?
Katie: I think we need to post about it again. That’s one of the problems with being on the road is that we’re not as good at keeping up on the internet. Basically, we have been collecting submissions since we released the album for a zine that I think is going to also be called About U. A big part of our manifesto as a band is that we don’t want to put ourselves on a higher plane creatively than those who listen to our music and are attracted to it, so we want to encourage other people to share their own stories, be their own loudspeaker, and make their own art really. We wanted to put out an open call and say “you can create a poem, or a drawing, or a photograph or whatever medium you want to choose”. It can be about something that’s related to the band, or it could be about something that you made on your own, and just put all these pieces in communication with each other so that our band can see what other people look like and use it as a means to connect with one another, and also use it as a means to share their work. We thought it would be cool to use as a platform. It’s been dope so far but we definitely need to remind people more that they can submit to us when we come to them.
Steph: It’s a really cool idea. It’s nice to see artists branching out beyond just music into a more visual space.
Katie: When we started as a band, it was definitely some of that ethos. Naomi, who is the main producer of all of our music, is also our graphic designer. She designs all the artwork for what we do, and designs the merchandise. We all take on different roles and say “I can learn how to do this”, and we do film photography on the road, and it’s something we enjoy and something that we want to encourage.
Want to submit your work to MUNA’s zine? Submit your writing, artwork, or creative pieces on Facebook.
Steph: There are only four stops left on your current tour. What’s next for MUNA after you get home?
Katie: We are going to go to Joshua Tree for a week and write music, which I’m so excited about. We’re gonna jam. After that we get go to the UK at the end of the month, and we’re going to play another show with Lo Moon in London. We’ve played in London a few times. I think it’s the main place we’ve played internationally, and we love the whole community there. They’ve been so supportive of us from the very beginning.
MUNA Upcoming Concert Dates:
MAR 04 2017 – Don’t Sit Down: A Benefit Standing with Planned Parenthood – LA – Join Facebook Event
MAR 28 2017 – Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen – London, P5
JUN 03 2017 – The Governors Ball Music Festival – Brooklyn, NY – Join Facebook Event