By: Shayla Lee
It’s the simple things in life that bring me joy. An almond chai latte with coconut whip. Beating traffic. FaceTiming my cats. A cohesive aesthetic.
When I think of a cohesive aesthetic, I think of Luna Shadows. Whether you listen to her music, watch her music videos, or low-key (fine, high-key) creep her Instagram, you know what I’m talking about when I say it’s easy to identify her work as her own, regardless of what platform you are on. We chatted with Luna about her EP Youth, the challenges she has faced being a woman in the music industry, and how it feels having a cat named after her.
FEMME RIOT: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Where did you grow up? What inspired you to become a musician?
Luna Shadows: I grew up in New York City and moved to LA. I’ve wanted to be a singer for as long as I remember. I have a diary in my room that dates back to age 6, and I wrote in it that I wanted to be a singer, pianist, musician, and mermaid. 3/4 … not bad. Not perfect either. Still time. Earliest inspiration would be “The Little Mermaid” – which explains both answers.
How would you describe your music in three words?
Light and dark.
Where do you draw inspiration for your music? Do you have any musical influences?
Inspiration is everywhere – I’m writing a song as I fill out these interview questions actually. Can’t tell if it’s good or not though. This particular song I’m working on started as a bunch of random bits of conversations with friends that I was secretly writing down in my iPhone notepad – as in, just random expressions or things that I thought were catchy or clever to me.
Do you have a favourite lyric that you have written?
The first line of “Youth” really came from the heart: “I wish that I could reach out, steal all your feelings” – it came from this place of wanting to reach out and affect someone who was about as emotionally responsive as a brick wall. There’s a line in Amanda Palmer’s “The Killing Type” where she says: “I wanna stick my fist into your mouth and twist your arctic heart, yes I would kill to make you feel.” I think my line shares the same sentiment.
If you look at the comments on your music videos on youtube, you’ll find a million comments praising your music videos and calling you an ‘aesthetic queen’. Your music videos are beautifully made and they actually remind me of the American Horror Story intros (my favourite show!). Do you have your music videos planned out in your head as you write your songs or do the ideas come to you afterwards?
Last time I checked there was also a YouTube comment where someone told me they named their cat after me, which was also a huge honor. But thank you! That’s a great question. Often my musical ideas come to me simultaneously with visual ideas. I have a little team of friends that help me realize them and expand them. But yes, I see images or visual concepts most of the time as I write the songs – they come together, at the same time. That’s very intentional on my part, and so I’m glad it’s obvious to listeners. I consider Luna Shadows to be an audio visual project in equal parts, not just a musical endeavor.
You recently released your EP titled ‘Youth’ in October. What was the creation process of this EP like?
This EP was recorded in my home studio in Echo Park with my friends Thom & Brad. We co-produce the tracks together, then I go off and record/edit my vocals, finalize the sessions, and off they go. Brad and I also make the art together. For the cover of “Youth,” I took the photos, sent them to Brad with a general color scheme, and he brought it to it’s final form. We made a blue vinyl together (lunashadows.co) which I’m pretty proud of.
With the songwriting, the lyrics & melodies are all me and from obscure places. “Cheerleader” chorus came to me in a dream and “Youth” I wrote independently from start to finish in my bedroom on the computer. A fun story about “Youth” is that originally it had a different chorus. A bad chorus. And then one day I realized that the pre-chorus was the chorus, it just needed to be repeated 4x. And suddenly, it was a chorus.
A standout on the EP is ‘Thorns’. I also love the music video! I particularly love the lyrics: “You loved it broken – Who are you to mourn”. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind this song?
Thank you! The song is sort of about the ephemeral nature of everything and anything. I have a hard time appreciating or celebrating things when I know that they’ll inevitably end. If you think long enough about the outcome of anything you care about, you’ll probably start to feel sad. This is going to be the most emo thing I’ve ever said but I’m basically just too fragile for this world. One interpretation is that I am singing to myself in the chorus on those lines you mentioned. “Waves” is like that too – I think most people don’t realize that a lot of my lyrics are conversations with myself. Although, most of them have multiple meanings because I love word play. There are Easter eggs in there for sure. I’ll never tell.
If you think long enough about the outcome of anything you care about, you’ll probably start to feel sad.
One of my other favourites on the EP is ‘Cheerleader’. In an interview you explained that “society rarely equates femininity, softness, and vulnerability with power, influence, and achievement” and that this song was meant to challenge this. Can you tell us more about this song and about the short film ‘Cheerleader’?
Glad you like that one! “Cheerleader” was a really fun one to write because I got to go off in a character – it’s definitely dripping with sarcasm. It goes to both extremes – it’s self-deprecating in the verses and self-affirming in the choruses. It both pokes at the concept of the “supporting role” and also shows reverence for it – women are often seen as support to the male protagonist, and I like to think that many male protagonists wouldn’t have made the history books had it not been for the queens whispering in the ears of kings.
I directed the short film “Cheerleader” alongside my friend Thomas Trail – it’s meant to convey these same ideas as the song. Strength in vulnerability. Things seen as traditionally “soft” or “weak” taking strong action through detailed preparation and flawless execution.
Going off of the previous question, have you faced any adversity being a woman in the music industry? Do you have any tips for other female’s experiencing adversity in their lives?
I think the most obvious and prevalent challenge is the constant second-guessing from those in positions of power in the industry. But that’s OK, because I’ve been very motivated by those who doubted me. They fueled the fire. I’m likely where I am so far because of their doubt and how it made me move. The music industry definitely made me grow a backbone. So my advice to anyone looking to pursue music, if I’m qualified to give any, would be to work tirelessly on your craft so that there’s no room for anyone to doubt you. Including you.
I’ve been very motivated by those who doubted me. They fueled the fire.
What can we expect from you in the future? Hopefully we will see you in Vancouver soon!
I don’t have a flux capacitor and have never been to the future so I can’t say with any absolute certainty, but my guess is that you can expect a larger body of work and a tour in 2018. I visited Vancouver for the first time last year, and it was super clean and everyone was nice so I’m happy to come play if I’m invited.
What 3 songs are you currently listening to?
“Demi Moore” by Phoebe Bridgers, “Skinny Legs” by Elohim, and “A Still Heart” by The Naked & Famous. Honestly Phoebe’s whole album. She’s gotta be my favorite songwriter for the last few years. I met her a few years ago and told her I was a closet Phoebe Bridgers fan desperately trying to play it cool. But if you want more than 3 songs, I have a Spotify playlist called “Luna Lately” that I regularly update: bit.ly/lunalately
If you’re on the hunt for new music or aesthetic inspiration, you can follow Luna on Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and Spotify. All of the photographs in this article were taken by Sam San Ronan and were provided by Luna.