The best bands are the ones that operate like gangs, the ones who formed to kick back at the world and act as a kind of orphanage for similarly displaced youths. Said bands don’t care about anything as much as they care about being that band. Music becomes the unifier, a language that can be joyful and sorrowful at once, and always cathartic. The pure authenticity of the band is in their refusal to pander to rules and expectations. It’s their way or the highway. MUNA are that band.
MUNA came together like a ride-or-die clique would form in a cult classic teen movie. If three's a crowd, MUNA are the one you wanna hang with. Imagine the opening scene. It takes place at USC in LA, sophomore year. Katie Gavin, a newly arrived transfer student from NYU, is walking out of an African Diaspora class where she’s just met a cute girl with a twice-pierced nose called Naomi McPherson who she wants all her friends to meet…
Naomi explains, “We were walking out of class and I asked Katie what she studied and she tells me she’s a music major, and I say, ‘That’s cool, I play guitar’. And she says, ‘Oh you play guitar? you can be in my band.’” Katie, the mastermind and captain of MUNA, laughs, rubbing her hands. “I was scheming. We became friends organically.” Josette Maskin, the third wheel of this initial meet-cute came across Katie separately in a music class.
In their hook-laden songs, MUNA may come across as broodily as the soundtrack to ‘Donnie Darko’, all Joy Division lyrical moroseness and Tears For Fears chiming melodies, but IRL they possess the college humour of ‘Beavis & Butthead’ and the bitching aloofness of ’The Craft’ via the charm of pretty much every great ‘90s girl band.
Katie, for one, began life as a violinist, who then became an Andrew Bird fan, realised she wanted to play her violin sideways, and taught herself guitar, production, beat-making and songwriting after numerous bad experiences with older male producers. Naomi has the strongest musical pedigree, born into a family of professional musicians, and beginning life on classical guitar, then moving to electric via a love for hip-hop and Joni Mitchell. Josette, on the other hand, has tried it all, from learning to play metal at the age of 11 to starting a ska band called Great Ape (“because we thought it was cool to name a band after a type of weed”) to finally forming a prog rock band called Blue Thunder.
Via memorable headscarves, premature life crises, and three individual obsessions with making music, MUNA arrived at their self-described “dark pop” of 2016 and a debut EP in ‘Loudspeaker’, which they take full credit for. They write and produce everything themselves simply because they can. “We don’t need anybody to help us,” says Katie, matter-of-factly. “Katie is proficient in everything,” says Josette. Besides containing four catchy slices of MUNA melodic fire, intended to lay the groundwork for a future album, the title is aptly named. It represents the trio’s intention to wield their musical platform and voice their innermost anxieties, truths and impressions of the human race, while having the time of their - and your - lives. While the label “queer pop” may have followed them around somewhat on early blogs after they put out five “very experimental” songs two summers ago, it isn’t the thing they want to define them. Bolstered by their inner gang confidence, they’re fearless when it comes to just being MUNA: individualist, intelligent and sidesplittingly funny.
The EP was followed by their debut album, About U released in February 2017 to great critical acclaim. Pitchfork said, “Singer Katie Gavin and guitarists Naomi McPherson and Josette Maskin sound deliciously accessible, but beyond the surface they ambush your heart with urgent ideas.” V Magazine stated, “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.” NYLON noted, “catchy pop with a big soul that somehow sounds simultaneously delicate and strong”. LA Times also praised, “Muna is brazen in its ambitions”.
It has been a busy year full of TV appearances (The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live!) and touring. In addition to many festival appearances (Lollapalooza, Governor’s Ball, Outside Lands, Osheaga, Firefly, Austin City Limits, Lost Lake) they sold out their own North American headline tour and supported the likes of Chairlift, Grouplove, and Bleachers and finished off the year supporting Harry Styles on his first solo tour in North America and Europe.
MUNA are finally back in LA and focused on the next album.
Make sure to tune in to ALT 98.7 every Sunday at 9pm in December to hear @tobitalks play music from MUNA on her #CloseToHome show.