MUNA are Pioneering a New Identity in Pop Music

MUNA are Pioneering a New Identity in Pop Music

For its November issue, V honors the change-makers driving pop culture forward. Next up is Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson, aka MUNA, who are breaking the mold of pop music by just being themselves.

For its November issue, V honors the change-makers driving pop culture forward. Next up is Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson, aka MUNA, who are breaking the mold of pop music by just being themselves.

Photography: Inez & Vinoodh

Styling: Jay Massacret

Text: Ian David Monroe

“I've really embraced the label of being queer because I feel like it says fuck you to all of the bullshit that labels bring,” says Josette Maskin, one-third of the LA-based pop band MUNA. She’s joined by vocalist Katie Gavin and Naomi McPherson; all three identify as queer.

“I am out and I feel safe being out because the three of us are a little army for one another. I don't feel afraid to be myself. That makes me proud to be queer,” says McPherson, adding, “That's the whole point of why we do this. We want a safe haven.”

Frankly, a band like MUNA, signed to RCA Records, couldn’t have existed 10 years ago, at least not in the mainstream. Instead, they’d have been pushed to the fringes. The “Fuck Trump” shirts they wore on stage at Lollapalooza and frequent social justice-focused tweets would, surely, be deemed too rebellious to ever be pop friendly. Fortunately for them, and for us, it’s a new world.

JOSETTE WEARS TOP CALVIN KLEIN COLLECTION CHOKER GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI DESIGN KATIE WEARS COAT CALVIN KLEIN COLLECTION T-SHIRT, JEWELRY, CHOKER VINTAGE NAOMI WEARS COAT IRO T-SHIRT HER OWN SKIRT VERA WANG

This year, they released a sound self-written, self-produced EP, The Loudspeaker EP. The album title track is an empowering anthem about not feeling so powerful, and to some an ode to victims of abuse, though it’s never explicitly stated. On the ambiguity, Gavin, the group’s lyricist, says, “Take what you need.”

MUNA’s music often combines the uplifting dance-inducing melodies of pop music with the darker subject matters that the genre has historically avoided. By doing it all themselves, the three are able to fully infuse their message and emotions into their music, creating a consistent cathartic experience with every performance.

“I can say that I am a different person now after having the opportunity to jump around on a stage for nights in a row and scream, ‘this is not my fault,’” says Gavin about “Loudspeaker.” “That's such a healing thing for me and I want other people to be able to do it with me, ideally every night, every single night.”

Today, the three announce their forthcoming album, About U, expected in early February. The title is a lyric lifted from one of the LP’s songs, a track about all-consuming, obsessive love. The accompanying artwork, like all of the band’s graphics, was created by McPherson, and sees a closely cropped photo of Gavin—McPherson’s hand on her face, thumb in mouth, reaching from outside the frame. There’s a closeness and tenderness there that permeates the tracks, too. About U is an album that could only be born of total trust, and had to be completely their own. “We think it's really important that when it's released that we can tell our fans that we made it on our own. We want them to know that they can make it on their own,” says Gavin.

As queer women in music, Gavin, Maskin, and McPherson, understandably, have a hard time letting outside collaborators in. “It's such a closed circle and we don't want to let anyone in unless we know that they respect us as producers and artists. Again, as women, I feel like it's something people may be undermining you or second guessing your choices without even having a reason to do it.”

On how the group maintains such a symbiotic relationship, as “pieces of a whole,” Gavin says, “We fight all the time. We bicker like married people. I think that's why it works. When we're upset, we can't help but talk about it. That's why we cry all the time; that's why we do fight. But that's because it's a healthy relationship. We talk about everything.”

Pre-order about u before its official release on February 3 here

Credits: MAKEUP JEANINE LOBELL (TIM HOWARD MANAGEMENT)  HAIR CHRISTIAAN  MANICURE DEBORAH LIPPMANN (THE MAGNET AGENCY)  EXECUTIVE PRODUCER STEPHANIE BARGAS (VLM PRODUCTIONS)  PRODUCTION COORDINATOR EVA HARTE (VLM PRODUCTIONS)  STUDIO PRODUCER TUCKER BIRBILIS (VLM PRODUCTIONS)  STUDIO MANAGER MARC KROOP (VLM STUDIO)  DIGITAL TECHNICIAN BRIAN ANDERSON (VLM STUDIO)  LIGHTING DIRECTOR JODOKUS DRIESSEN (VLM STUDIO)  PHOTO ASSISTANT JOE HUME  STYLIST ASSISTANTS OLIVIA KOZLOWSKI, SEAN NGUYEN, SOPHIA TORRES-ULRICH, TALLIA BELLA PEPE  MAKEUP ASSISTANT JESSICA ROSS  HAIR ASSISTANT TAKU SUGAWARA  MANICURE ASSISTANTS STEPHANIE ARIA AND RIWAKO KOBAYASHI  RETOUCHING STEREOHORSE  LOCATION PIER 59 STUDIOS  CATERING DISHFUL

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