A Chat With: Luna Li
Toronto's dreamy rock princess Luna Li performed in Montreal during Slut Island Festival's opening night back in July. We went to sit in a park near by to chat about her latest single (at the time) Star Stuff, new music on the way and everything about being women in music!
Your first single as Luna Li is Star Stuff, why don’t you talk to me a little about it?
Sure! Before Star Stuff I had a lot more mellow songs and I thought our set could use something a little more upbeat. I always record as I write, so I started with a fun, energetic drum beat and went from there, adding parts one by one. The "we're all made of star stuff” part is actually from a quote by Carl Sagan about how when the universe was created, everything formed out of the material that stars are made of, so we’re really all made of star dust. When I was first writing the song it was birthed out of a negative experience that I had, but then as I was writing it, it became more about how everyone’s not so different, everyone’s beautiful and made out of star stuff.
And the video, your band helped making it?
Yes! My band is so amazing! My drummer Braden owns a studio called Marquee Sound and is a producer, so I recorded Star Stuff with him; he produced, engineered and mixed it. My bassist Hallie directed the video and had the whole vision of the glitter and the dancing. And then Charise, my guitarist and synth player, choreographed the dance. Braden’s family is also all in film and they all helped so much.
Do you have any artists that inspire you in your work?
Yeah lots! I really love Tame Impala, Melody’s Echo Chamber, Shannon and the Clams, Solange; recently I’ve been into Mild High Club and Sales. I'm usually most inspired by female artists!
When you write your songs, do you write the lyrics first or the instrumentals?
Recently I’ve been doing instrumentals first and then the lyrics are informed by the mood and energy of the instrumental. I try to change up the process as much as I can though, so that it feels fresh every time. I love to write poetry as well, so sometimes that comes first and then I craft it into lyrics. I also like to record as I write because arranging songs and coming up with different parts once I have the basics done is one of my favourite elements of songwriting.
Is there any plans to release more music as Luna Li?
We are releasing a 4-song EP called Opal Angel next month on October 10th. We're doing a release show as well at the Smiling Buddha on that date!
At first, I had my heart set on writing a full album because I love the LP format as a full piece of art. We decided to release an EP first because the stuff I’ve been writing recently has been a little more dreamy with more synths and chill sounds - it's a new and different sound than the the songs I recorded last summer with Braden, so it made sense to separate them. We’re going to release the EP first and then record a full album after that, which I'm so excited for!
And you have a video for Opal Angel?
Yes, I shot it in New York with a filmmaker named Holly Pruner and a wonderful crew of women. She initially reached out to me to ask if I’d be able to create a score for her short film, so I composed that for her, and in return she did a music video for me - it was a pretty cool trade! It's really fun for me to write for film because it allows me to explore writing in different genres and use my classical background to my advantage!
The Opal Angel video was released in August and is out now on our YouTube channel, and the single is available on Bandcamp as well as all streaming services.
As a female front lead band, and there’s others in Fried Records, how do you feel being in that community where there’s support and other female artists?
It's really great! There are so many shows that get put on in Toronto whose bills have no diversity at all, which can be really sad and discouraging. Its great to have a platform like Fried Records who really value safe spaces, and make an effort to put on diverse shows. It's become a really great community, and when we set up our own shows I absolutely love having the freedom to choose amazing femme bands who are kicking ass!
And how do you find the Toronto scene compared to playing in Montreal?
I haven’t been to too many shows in Montreal, but from what I have experienced with the shows we've played is that there usually seems to be a conscious effort to showcase diverse artists, so that's been great! The only thing that I haven't seen yet in Montreal that we do have in Toronto is an all ages scene. There are a lot of youth who like to come out to shows in Toronto, so Fried Records has always made an effort to put on shows that are inclusive to all ages. For all ages shows, I find it especially important to have the representation of diversity onstage to inspire the youth who maybe normally wouldn't see people onstage who looked like them.
Do you have any words of advice for young girls who want to start their own music or art?
I'd say to try and get GarageBand if you have the means, and figure out how to record yourself! I love to record my own demos, and so many cool ideas can come out of an afternoon spent recording.
Try and go to as many shows as you can, especially with women showcased - in high school it was so cool and inspiring for me to go out and watch strong female bands performing! Even watching videos online like KEXP sessions and Tiny Desk concerts, if you aren't always able to get out to shows, is great to expose yourself to different kinds of musicians and performers.
This is such a vague question but what are your thoughts on women in music and maybe more in Canada?
It's so hard when so much of the industry is being controlled by white men. In younger and more DIY communities, there seems to be an awareness about cultivating diverse bills; I think that’s definitely been improving in recent years. It's hard in certain aspects because it all starts at a young age when girls aren’t always encouraged to go out for things like production, music business, or playing guitar; or other minorities who have faced institutionalized oppression may not have the means to pay for and bring their kids to music lessons every week.
It can be hard to even deal with small assumptions that people make - people will assume that I don’t know about gear, that I’m just the singer, and that I don’t play any instruments or have any other knowledge about music. Small things like that can be super annoying and I constantly feel the need to prove myself.
I think as everybody gains more knowledge about equality, privilege, and oppression, things will slowly improve and hopefully the next generation will have more females, LGBTQ+ and POC working in the industry.
I think our generation, we’re starting to change things
I feel so lucky living in Toronto, one of the most diverse cities in the world, and I work in wonderful communities that have an awareness about these issues, and try to make change. And now that we have the internet, people can spread awareness not only within their communities but around the world. Things are definitely changing, slowly but surely!
More about Luna Li: http://www.lunali.ca/