Music

Listen Up: MUNA Has a Lot to Say

With the release of their sophomore album 'Saves The World,' the indie trio looks to do exactly what their record proclaims, infusing socially conscious tracks with deeply personal lyrics that aim to open eyes and widen perceptions.
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The Los Angeles-based trio met in college at the University of Southern California.

Photography by Sami Drasin

Fashion by Jardine Hammond

With flash floods, power outages, and polarizing political rhetoric plaguing 2019, it’s hard not to feel like the world is ending. Luckily, indie trio MUNA has the solution, wrapped in a package of feminist girl-pop. Their latest album, Saves The World, is the perfect antidote to existential fear, promoting self-love, independence, and the resilience to get back out there and keep dancing. Comprising songwriter and vocalist Katie Gavin as well as guitarists Josette Maskin and Naomi McPherson, MUNA began as a USC jam session in 2013 that eventually led to their debut album, About U, in 2017. Their sophomore effort emerged from a “dark cave” of personal inspiration and heartbreak, but Gavin hopes the record gives listeners the power to focus on themselves and their community (and yes, the world). 

“In a lot of ways this record is about making this really, really essential shift as a human to saying like, ‘I’m not gonna let somebody else control the story of my life, and I’m not gonna wait around for people who don’t love me,’” Gavin notes. “I’m just going to start doing it myself. I’m going to try to start doing what I can.”

 

The name Saves The World may call to mind superheroes or grand public relief efforts, but McPherson assures that the name actually refers to their own very personal reactions to today’s political and social climate, as well as the internal reflection they drew upon. 

“I think a lot of people’s natural reaction—or [that of] some people, me especially—was to turn inward and kind of try to investigate a sort of spirituality,” McPherson said. “And to try and heal yourself, not necessarily anything dogmatic or religious, but just trying to see if it’s possible to believe in something higher than yourself, whatever you want to call that. That was a lot of the experience of making this record.” 

 

All three members of MUNA self-describe as queer, but resist boxing themselves into a subcategory. The band abstains from using gendered pronouns in their lyrics to keep as inclusive an audience as possible. One of the songs on the new album, “Hands Off,” deals with boundaries, bodily autonomy, and resistance, but Gavin claims that the idea came from unusual origins. 

“I have a lot of hobbies as a result of getting off-cycle,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I was 100 percent ready to write a song. I didn’t feel inspired. I just started doing a bunch of other things. One of those things was rollerblading. There was one day when I woke up, I was reading the news—I’m in hell—I went roller-skating, and there was a guy who went to high-five me, which is kind of a common occurrence on the trail. So I went to high-five him, and he like, grabbed my arm and tried to fling me around him. I was able to get away, but my adrenaline is always really high when I’m blading, and my dopamine is going, and I’m usually listening to like, some funky tunes, and I immediately started writing that song ‘Hands Off’ on my way home. I was just like, 'Fuck you! No!'” 

 

For Gavin, her inspiration often derives from seemingly small moments that betray a larger truth. “On a lot of levels, ‘Hands Off’ does seek to talk about the choices about what we can do with our bodies,” she explained. “Hands off like, trans bodies are allowed to exist. Hands off, like, all these things. For me in the moment, it was literally like, 'Get your hands off me because I’m trying to rollerblade and I’m not trying to be scared.' It’s those little everyday things that you deal with. And I think a lot of songs are just pulling at those little buds and exposing a massive root.” 

Having worked together since college, Maskin, McPherson, and Gavin have all seen each other’s creative and personal highs and lows. Maskin believes that their underlying friendship has made them more successful as musicians, noting that their “committed relationship” to each other keeps them motivated and accountable. 

 

“We've seen the light in each other when sometimes the other can't see it in themselves.” —Josette Maskin

“I think the reason why we’ve made it work for so long is just because we are in a committed relationship, the three of us,” Maskin said. “Not necessarily romantic, but in terms of us being life partners and creative partners, we’ve all grown significantly with each other. Also, just the three of us are really good friends, and we have a good fucking time hanging out with each other. We’ve seen the light in each other when sometimes the other can’t see it in themselves.” 

Forget about saving the world. MUNA might end up running it. 

 

Credits

Makeup Jen Fiamengo

Hair Nancilee Santos

Photo Assistant Zach Coco

Location Lightbox Studios, Los Angeles

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