Meet MUNA: L.A.'s Rocking Ladies Breaking the Mainstream Mold

Meet MUNA: L.A.'s Rocking Ladies Breaking the Mainstream Mold

This California three-piece is bringing a refreshing perspective to pop

This California three-piece is bringing a refreshing perspective to pop

Photography: Megan Cullen

Text: Ian David Monroe

Transcribing an interview with MUNA is not easy work. The three ladies, Katie Gavin, Naomi McPherson, and Josette Maskin, share many sentiments, finish each other sentences, and generally talk the way best friends do. “Gal-pal syndrome is a real thing,” jokes Gavin. It’s easy to see how their relationship and music making “just clicked” during their studies at University of Southern California, only a few years ago.

Naomi McPherson, Katie Gavin, Josette (Jojo) Maskin

Now, as fresh graduates, the self-described “baby band” is ready to take on the masses. This year, they released their first EP, The Loudspeaker, four tracks with a soft ‘80s rock bent. In a landscape of watered-down EDM, the collection of songs comes as a welcome sonic refresh, a back to basics, if you will. Their contemplative narratives are so succinctly written and infused with just the right melodies to draw big crowds. At the end of this month, as a strong highlight to a summer spent touring, MUNA is set to hit the stage at Chicago’s Lollapalooza Festival. The performance will also come as a nice career milestone for Chicago-raised Galvin.

The trio’s music is frequently defined as queer pop, though none of the lyrics come with gender specific pronouns. That’s not out of coyness, but complexity. The ladies all define themselves as queer, a broader, less nuanced term that better describes their varying sexualities. Their first music video, for track “Winterbreak,” lyrically follows a toxic relationship, but surprisingly doesn’t actually see a significant other. “That was completely intentional,” Gavin says, clarifying, “My type of queer identity—that would be really confusing for me to decide like what person to put representationally in the video, casting someone. I just wouldn’t know because my experience is so across the board”

While MUNA doesn’t fit so neatly into boxes, they’ve accepted the mainstream appeal of their sound, and the sometimes-superficial understandings that come with it. “So many people hear [our song “Loudspeaker”] and say, ‘Oh this is a fun song about having a good time and dancing.’ Like look, if that’s what you want it to be about then great. Honestly, it's about going through some type of experience as a woman, or being female-identified, and experiencing sexual abuse and coming to a decision that you’re going to talk about it. It doesn’t matter to you what the other person’s consequences are and you’re also not going to accept somebody blaming you. You don’t have anything to be ashamed of, so you should scream about it to whomever you want,” says the track’s writer, Gavin.

There’s something a little punk about the band’s approach—and that has nothing to do with Gavin’s partially shaved head, or that their first show together was at an all women’s festival called Fem Fest. On their shared Twitter account, MUNA frequently, passionately, talk without script about gender, political, and social issues. When asked about musicians cancelling tour stops in states with horrid anti-LGBT laws, and how they would respond, Gavin says, “It’s a really sticky situation, politically, I guess. There’s this band PWR BTTM—I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of them but they’re great—they would, at any venue they played at, change the bathrooms to gender neutral bathrooms, and so we have to go to North Carolina, probably do that, and if we got arrested it would just be really cool.”

While pop music artists have historically shied away from such topics, in hopes of maintaining a broad commercial audience, MUNA speaks out with cander. They know the rules, and now they’re ready to break them. On the very world they’re entering, Gavin says, “I think that we’re trying to make it a little more radical.”

Follow MUNA on Twitter, purchase Loudspeaker EP here

Credits: Producer Hannah Huffman Makeup Silver Bramham at Art Department Hair Sami Knight Photographer Megan Cullen at Art Mix Creative

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