Any manner you have a look at it, 2022 has been MUNA’s finest ever yr. In June, the LA alt-pop trio dropped their self-produced, self-titled third album, a nonstop bopathon. It grew to become their first to crack the UK albums chart, and its lead single ‘Silk Chiffon’, a spangly romantic banger that includes their new label boss Phoebe Bridgers, has racked up 34 million Spotify streams – greater than every other MUNA tune, together with 2017’s galvanising LGBTQ anthem ‘I Know A Place’. They usually’ve simply wrapped a UK tour, which featured their largest ever headline present at London’s iconic Roundhouse a fortnight in the past. The whole lot goes their manner.
“To see the songs have an even bigger viewers after we’re enjoying rooms of this dimension, it’s what we’ve dreamed about,” says guitarist Josette Maskin, reflecting on the reveals. “I believe we’d like a second to gather ourselves now, so we will recentre and work out, like, ‘What’s MUNA’s subsequent goal?’”
Really, a few of MUNA’s subsequent targets are already lined up. Subsequent yr brings two super-high-profile assist slots: first with Lorde in Australia in March, then with Taylor Swift’s feverishly-anticipated ‘The Eras Tour’ within the US in July. Maskin says the sheer scale of the dates hit her when she went to an Arsenal match just lately in London, and realised the membership’s 60,000-capacity floor, Emirates Stadium, was barely smaller than the big venues they’ll be enjoying with Swift. “It’s gonna be actually enjoyable and we really feel actually honoured to be a part of that group of artists that [Taylor] desires to take out on tour,” provides singer Katie Gavin. They be a part of an astonishing supporting solid, which incorporates Bridgers, Paramore, Haim, Beabadoobee and Woman in Purple.
NME first meets MUNA in London, then catches up with the band as they full the tour in Birmingham every week later. On each events, they’re heat, considerate and humorous, as anybody who’s paid consideration to their stage patter will know. Like all one of the best bands, MUNA are a gang that you simply wish to be a part of – a proudly LGBTQ gang: all three members are queer and guitarist Naomi McPherson is non-binary. Judging from these conversations – the place Gavin, Maskin and McPherson contribute equally and bounce off each other fairly effortlessly – that is positively a band the place everybody’s voice is heard.
They’re additionally a band that prioritises self-care. ‘What I Need’, a euphoric celebration of post-pandemic partying from their newest album, options the immediately iconic lyric: “I wanna dance in the midst of a homosexual bar!” However, in line with the trio, this isn’t actually an possibility once they’re on the highway: “Wherever we’re is the homosexual bar, man,” deadpans McPherson. “Katie’s truly enjoying quite a lot of Solitaire today,” interjects Maskin, “or I’m crocheting and Naomi’s being the TV boss. And we chill, in order that’s the homosexual bar.”
“That’s probably the most stereotypically like, lesbian factor about our band – to maintain ourselves,” Gavin provides. “I’m positive ‘What I Need’ is deceptive as a tune. Individuals are like, ‘You need to come out and social gathering after the present!’ It’s like, no honey, we’re being grandmas.” McPherson says the band love partying with fellow members of the LGBTQ group, nevertheless it has to attend till after a tour “in any other case we run the chance of getting very drained”.
“We really feel honoured to be a part of that group of artists that Taylor Swift desires to take out on tour” – Katie Gavin
The truth is, throughout our second interview, all three band members apologise for being “exhausted” and fewer articulate than regular. The plan for the subsequent few months is to place their ft up and regroup. “We’ve been fairly nonstop for a really very long time now,” says Gavin, “so it is going to be good to have a while to show inward and never have our focus be simply on work. And I believe that’s additionally actually needed for figuring out no matter truly comes subsequent for MUNA.” This isn’t a band that makes snap selections: “We at all times wish to be actually self-directed and intentional with no matter comes subsequent,” provides Gavin.
They’ve actually earned their relaxation after a fruitful few months through which they’ve additionally recorded covers of Britney Spears’ ‘Typically’ – for the soundtrack to hit LGBTQ film Hearth Island – and Taylor Swift’s ‘August’. The latter seems on ‘Dwell At Electrical Girl’, a five-track EP they dropped final month. Essentially the most heartwarming factor about MUNA’s stellar yr is the very fact it appears – not less than to outsiders – like a correct, against-the-odds comeback. After being dropped by their label in the course of the pandemic, one thing which may have brought about much less purposeful and close-knit items to implode, MUNA have bounced again and levelled up.
Let’s recap the story up to now: Gavin, Maskin and McPherson met as college students on the College of Southern California in 2013. The 2 guitarists had beforehand performed in ska and prog-rock bands, however singer Gavin steered them in a special path. “Katie simply mentioned, ‘I’m pop, cope with it,’ and walked away. It was very humorous,” Maskin later recalled. The next yr, they self-released a four-track EP, ‘Extra Good’, then landed a serious label cope with RCA Information. In 2016, they started attracting consideration with sensible singles together with ‘I Know A Place’, a heady celebration of the secure area supplied by LGBTQ venues, then dropped their debut album ‘About U’ in February 2017.
Throughout this period, MUNA’s melodic, emotionally literate and life-affirming music was typically branded ‘dark-pop’ – maybe a bit of reductive, however not at all deceptive. One of many standout tracks from their debut album was ‘Crying On The Lavatory Flooring’, a shocking sadbanger that options the lyrics: “And the medicine don’t work and I don’t know why / However whenever you damage me, I am going greater, greater, greater, greater.” When NME mentions the very fact it was later coated by British pop idol Will Younger, who clearly linked with its sentiments, Gavin deadpans: “Properly, that sucks [for him]… However we ship him our love!”
‘About U’ was a cult hit quite than a mainstream one, nevertheless it constructed sufficient buzz to land MUNA a coveted assist slot on Harry Kinds’ 2017 tour. Two years later, they returned with ‘Saves The World’, a wonderful second album on which they sharpened their pop hooks and Gavin honed her reward for writing hyper-specific lyrics. “You’re gonna lower off your hair with uninteresting scissors from the desk in your dorm room,” she sings on the album’s wistful closing monitor ‘It’s Gonna Be Okay, Child’. Darkish-pop was nonetheless the order of the day, however the album additionally had humour: its deliriously catchy lead single ‘Quantity One Fan’ framed a well timed message of self-love in oh-so-2019 web terminology: “Oh my God, like, I’m your primary fan / So iconic, like huge, like stan!”
Although MUNA have been rising musically and persevering with to develop their fanbase, they have been unceremoniously dropped by RCA in 2020 for “not making sufficient cash”. It should have felt brutal on the time, however in the end proved to be a blessing in disguise. Quickly afterwards, they have been picked up by Saddest Manufacturing unit Information, Bridgers’ imprint of revered indie label Useless Oceans, additionally dwelling to bed room pop artist Claud. Right now, McPherson says it’s “simpler in sure methods” to be impartial, however stops wanting bashing the foremost label system.
“We wish to be actually intentional with no matter comes subsequent” – Katie Gavin
“It’s onerous to match,” they are saying, “as a result of we’ve had such anomalous experiences at each labels, to be trustworthy. At our outdated label, nobody was creatively stifling us or telling us what sort of music we must always make. And our departure from that label wasn’t actually even contentious.”
Now MUNA are signed to Saddest Manufacturing unit, they’ve a “lot of inventive freedom” as soon as once more. McPherson believes there’s a technique through which being on an indie has made a distinction, however they’re cautious to make their level tactfully.
“You’re extra prone to discover individuals who you align with when it comes to style,” they are saying. “You’re possibly much less prone to discover these individuals in a extra, like, giant company construction. That’s to not say these [major label] individuals don’t care about artwork, however they only won’t have the identical style.”
One such like-minded ally is Bridgers, who performed an necessary function in shaping their third album. “I imply, she’s our A&R particular person,” Gavin says. “We might ship her songs and she or he would normally say which of them she was enthusiastic about.” Bridgers picked the gleaming midtempo ‘Something However Me’ as a single though the band have been “divided” about whether or not it ought to even make the album. “And to be trustworthy, that’s one of many songs that our followers resonate probably the most with,” says Gavin.
At one level within the recording course of, Gavin requested Bridgers why she hadn’t given them any “vital suggestions”, however Bridgers replied: “Properly, if I had vital suggestions, I’d have given you it, however I simply didn’t.”
“It’s humorous,” Gavin continues, “as a result of I do assume you may inform that we come from a serious label background, as a result of we nearly are like, ‘The place’s the unhealthy ideas?’ We’re hyper-critical and have this need for issues to be pretty much as good as they are often.”
Being hyper-critical has evidently paid off as a result of MUNA’s newest album is their most hooky and musically assorted but. Gavin says she’s notably happy with the best way followers have embraced ‘Type Of Woman’, a country-pop ballad on which she grapples together with her personal evolution as each a musician and an individual. “I’m not some form of minor trope who’s by no means gonna change – that’s so spinoff,” she sings tenderly.
“On [Phoebe Bridgers’ label] Saddest Manufacturing unit, now we have quite a lot of inventive freedom” – Naomi McPherson
“That tune is a bit of bit about my historical past of actually, actually unhappy songwriting and in some methods, self-reproachful songwriting,” Gavin says. “I’m expressing a need to be kinder to myself and to expertise candy elements of life that I haven’t skilled earlier than. That was a brand new factor to place into tune – it felt like this very harmless, susceptible factor.” Gavin thought ‘Type Of Woman’ would possibly obtain a extra muted response within the UK, the place nation music has a smaller viewers, however she needn’t have fearful: “The viewers actually put quite a lot of feeling into that tune on this tour,” she says. “You possibly can really feel it within the room after we play it stay.”
“Feeling” is an apt phrase as a result of for a lot of followers, MUNA isn’t only a band, however a group as nicely. One tweeted halfway via their UK tour that it’s “loopy” that the band wrote ‘I Know A Place’ about an “imaginary place they hoped would in the future exist”, then went on to create that superbly unifying place at their reveals.
“We don’t really feel essentially like a band which might be appeared as much as for particular attributes that we’d have as people,” McPherson says. “It does really feel like extra of a collective expertise, which supplies what we do which means and brings a form of religious peace to, like, attempting to be a musician within the public eye. Which may really feel form of conflicting at instances”.
Because of this, they absolutely embrace their energy as LGBTQ individuals with a platform. “I’m out and I really feel secure being out as a result of the three of us are a bit of military for each other. I don’t really feel afraid to be myself,” McPherson mentioned in 2016. “That makes me proud to be queer. That’s the entire level of why we do that. We wish a secure haven.” MUNA gigs have actually turn out to be that secure haven, and in March they’ll carry out at Sydney WorldPride 2023, one of many yr’s largest LGBTQ occasions.
One of many band’s primary goals now could be to eviscerate the “unhappy homosexual particular person” trope that’s nonetheless perpetuated by some parts of society. With songs like ‘Silk Chiffon’, a shimmering love tune on which Gavin swoons over a woman who’s “so comfortable like silk chiffon“, they wish to substitute this pernicious message with one which’s extra uplifting.
“There may be quite a lot of pleasure in being queer” – Josette Maskin
“I’ve noticed that generally homophobia and transphobia will be form of couched on this thought of concern for younger individuals – for his or her wellbeing,” Gavin says. “And [couched in] saying, ‘Properly, it’s not that I don’t assist you. I’m simply fearful that you simply gained’t have life or I’m fearful that in the event you transition, you’ll remorse it.’” Gavin factors out that in actuality, that is merely a manner of creating homophobia and transphobia seem to return from a “caring” place. It’s a manner of delegitimising the queer expertise by equating it with loneliness and a way of wrestle.
“I believe we perceive that it’s necessary for us as queer adults who did make a selection to return out or make a option to transition – like, Naomi’s non-binary and socially been within the means of transitioning – simply to signify the truth that we’re very comfortable that we did that,” Gavin continues. “We’re comfortable we bought an opportunity to stay the best way we wish to stay, and it doesn’t make our lives tougher.” Certainly, whereas raving in regards to the newest season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK – particularly, a extremely political runway look worn by standout contestant Cheddar Attractive – Maskin says plainly: “There may be quite a lot of pleasure in being queer.”
And so, as they method their 10-year anniversary in 2023, MUNA know precisely what they stand for as a band. As Gavin notes, they’ve been delivering a quasi-manifesto on the finish of each present. “We are saying MUNA is right here for the joyful queer revolution,” she explains. “And MUNA is just not right here for the policing of girls’s our bodies, trans our bodies, [or] the policing of individuals of color. Or the policing of any marginalised group. And we imagine in individuals taking moments of freedom and love the place they’ll discover it. After which we are saying, ‘We’re gonna play ‘Silk Chiffon’, all people scream it with us.’”
And naturally, all people does scream it with them – loud and proud, which could be very a lot the MUNA manner.
MUNA’s self-titled album is out now on Saddest Manufacturing unit