Any method you have a look at it, 2022 has been MUNA’s finest ever 12 months. 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 track, together with 2017’s galvanising LGBTQ anthem ‘I Know A Place’. They usually’ve simply wrapped a UK tour, which featured their greatest ever headline present at London’s iconic Roundhouse a fortnight in the past. The whole lot goes their method.
“To see the songs have a much bigger viewers after we’re taking part in rooms of this measurement, it’s what we’ve dreamed about,” says guitarist Josette Maskin, reflecting on the reveals. “I feel we’d like a second to gather ourselves now, so we will recentre and work out, like, ‘What’s MUNA’s subsequent goal?’”
Truly, a few of MUNA’s subsequent targets are already lined up. Subsequent 12 months 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 lately in London, and realised the membership’s 60,000-capacity floor, Emirates Stadium, was barely smaller than the large venues they’ll be taking part in 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 part of an astonishing supporting forged, 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 per 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 the very best bands, MUNA are a gang that you just need 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 course of a homosexual bar!” However, in accordance with the trio, this isn’t actually an choice after they’re on the street: “Wherever we’re is the homosexual bar, man,” deadpans McPherson. “Katie’s truly taking part in a whole lot of Solitaire lately,” 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 track. Persons are like, ‘You need to come out and get together 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, but it surely 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
In actual fact, 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 toes up and regroup. “We’ve been fairly nonstop for a really very long time now,” says Gavin, “so will probably be good to have a while to show inward and never have our focus be simply on work. And I feel that’s additionally actually crucial for figuring out no matter truly comes subsequent for MUNA.” This isn’t a band that makes snap choices: “We all the time need 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 during 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. Probably the most heartwarming factor about MUNA’s stellar 12 months is the very fact it appears – no less than to outsiders – like a correct, against-the-odds comeback. After being dropped by their label throughout the pandemic, one thing which may have induced 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 distinct route. “Katie simply stated, ‘I’m pop, cope with it,’ and walked away. It was very humorous,” Maskin later recalled. The next 12 months, they self-released a four-track EP, ‘Extra Excellent’, then landed a serious label cope with RCA Information. In 2016, they started attracting consideration with good singles together with ‘I Know A Place’, a heady celebration of the protected 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 reductive, however under no circumstances deceptive. One of many standout tracks from their debut album was ‘Crying On The Rest room Ground’, a surprising sadbanger that options the lyrics: “And the medication don’t work and I don’t know why / However while you damage me, I am going larger, larger, larger, larger.” When NME mentions the very fact it was later coated by British pop idol Will Younger, who clearly linked with its sentiments, Gavin deadpans: “Nicely, that sucks [for him]… However we ship him our love!”
‘About U’ was a cult hit slightly than a mainstream one, but it surely 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 superb second album on which they sharpened their pop hooks and Gavin honed her present for writing hyper-specific lyrics. “You’re gonna lower off your hair with boring scissors from the desk in your dorm room,” she sings on the album’s wistful closing observe ‘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 increase their fanbase, they have been unceremoniously dropped by RCA in 2020 for “not making sufficient cash”. It will need to 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 house to bed room pop artist Claud. Immediately, McPherson says it’s “simpler in sure methods” to be unbiased, however stops in need of bashing the most important label system.
“We need to be actually intentional with no matter comes subsequent” – Katie Gavin
“It’s exhausting to check,” 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 should 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 artistic freedom” as soon as once more. McPherson believes there’s a method during which being on an indie has made a distinction, however they’re cautious to make their level tactfully.
“You’re extra more likely to discover individuals who you align with by way of style,” they are saying. “You’re perhaps much less more likely to discover these folks in a extra, like, massive company construction. That’s to not say these [major label] folks don’t care about artwork, however they simply may not 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 individual,” Gavin says. “We’d 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 although 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 “important suggestions”, however Bridgers replied: “Nicely, if I had important suggestions, I might have given you it, however I simply didn’t.”
“It’s humorous,” Gavin continues, “as a result of I do suppose you’ll be able to inform that we come from a serious label background, as a result of we virtually are like, ‘The place’s the unhealthy ideas?’ We’re hyper-critical and have this need for issues to be nearly 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 diverse but. Gavin says she’s notably happy with the way in which followers have embraced ‘Sort Of Woman’, a country-pop ballad on which she grapples along with her personal evolution as each a musician and an individual. “I’m not some type of minor trope who’s by no means gonna change – that’s so by-product,” she sings tenderly.
“On [Phoebe Bridgers’ label] Saddest Manufacturing unit, we have now a whole lot of artistic freedom” – Naomi McPherson
“That track is a bit 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 track – it felt like this very harmless, weak factor.” Gavin thought ‘Sort 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 apprehensive: “The viewers actually put a whole lot of feeling into that track on this tour,” she says. “You’ll be able to 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 effectively. One tweeted halfway by their UK tour that it’s “loopy” that the band wrote ‘I Know A Place’ about an “imaginary place they hoped would at some point exist”, then went on to create that fantastically unifying place at their reveals.
“We don’t really feel essentially like a band which might be seemed 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 provides what we do which means and brings a form of religious peace to, like, attempting to be a musician within the public eye. Which might really feel type of conflicting at occasions”.
Because of this, they totally embrace their energy as LGBTQ folks with a platform. “I’m out and I really feel protected being out as a result of the three of us are a bit military for each other. I don’t really feel afraid to be myself,” McPherson stated in 2016. “That makes me proud to be queer. That’s the entire level of why we do that. We wish a protected haven.” MUNA gigs have actually grow to be that protected haven, and in March they’ll carry out at Sydney WorldPride 2023, one of many 12 months’s greatest LGBTQ occasions.
One of many band’s principal goals now’s to eviscerate the “unhappy homosexual individual” trope that’s nonetheless perpetuated by some parts of society. With songs like ‘Silk Chiffon’, a shimmering love track on which Gavin swoons over a woman who’s “so comfortable like silk chiffon“, they need to change this pernicious message with one which’s extra uplifting.
“There’s a whole lot of pleasure in being queer” – Josette Maskin
“I’ve noticed that typically homophobia and transphobia may be type of couched on this thought of concern for younger folks – for his or her wellbeing,” Gavin says. “And [couched in] saying, ‘Nicely, it’s not that I don’t assist you. I’m simply apprehensive that you just received’t have an excellent life or I’m apprehensive that should you transition, you’ll remorse it.’” Gavin factors out that in actuality, that is merely a method of constructing homophobia and transphobia seem to return from a “caring” place. It’s a method of delegitimising the queer expertise by equating it with loneliness and a way of battle.
“I feel we perceive that it’s necessary for us as queer adults who did make a alternative to return out or make a option to transition – like, Naomi’s non-binary and socially been within the strategy of transitioning – simply to signify the truth that we’re very joyful that we did that,” Gavin continues. “We’re joyful we bought an opportunity to stay the way in which we need to stay, and it doesn’t make our lives more durable.” Certainly, whereas raving concerning the newest season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK – specifically, a extremely political runway look worn by standout contestant Cheddar Beautiful – Maskin says plainly: “There’s a whole 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 isn’t right here for the policing of ladies’s our bodies, trans our bodies, [or] the policing of individuals of color. Or the policing of any marginalised group. And we imagine in folks taking moments of freedom and love the place they’ll discover it. After which we are saying, ‘We’re gonna play ‘Silk Chiffon’, everyone scream it with us.’”
And naturally, everyone does scream it with them – loud and proud, which may be very a lot the MUNA method.
MUNA’s self-titled album is out now on Saddest Manufacturing unit