MUNA Talks Trump, Tour and Debut Album: 'I Think We All Feel Very Inspired Right Now'
MUNA is going to have a very busy 2017. Consisting of Katie Gavin (lead vocals), Naomi McPherson (guitar/synth-vocals) and Josette Maskin (lead guitar/vocals), the self-proclaimed queer girl group is a band on a mission to make music with a purpose, and hope to continue using their voices to add to the conversation politically and socially.
Aside from making tunes, the band has been consistently vocal in the support of a number of causes, but especially the LGBTQ community. In January, the girls of MUNA joined HRC's Equality Rocks Campaign, which aims to spark a conversation about "love, fairness and equality around the globe."
With the Feb. 3 release of their debut album About U just days away, the pop-rockers spoke to Billboard about the creative process that went into creating their new music, their first headlining tour, and how women in music can push the boundaries and use their platform to draw attention to important issues facing our society.
What’s the meaning behind the album title About U?
Josett: It’s taken from a line from the last album. I think that’s kind of been our way of naming in the past, just to take lyrics that’s in the song for the title. We realized that title works on different levels for us, because [when] we think of our music and the purpose of us as a band, we want to see it as kind of a service. The whole point of what we do is to try to help other people in some way, because it’s for them.
Also, another level of it is “you,” as a word -- the second person is always what we use writing a song because we like to keep things gender-neutral, so that the narrative can expand beyond one dimension of what love should look like.
How was the creative process different from Loudspeaker to About U? What did you learn between then and now?
Naomi: I feel like at the end of the day it’s just an expansion on the EP. I feel like we’ve grown and I feel like I’ve gotten better. I think as a band we figured out different ways it’s possible for us to write songs together, but at the end of the day we’re still the same band.
Three can be a hard number. How do you guys handle disagreements amongst yourselves?
Josette- We cry a lot. I think we all have different individual relationships with each person in the band. But also as a unit I think we have a pretty cohesive dynamic. We all third-wheel each other’s friendships, and then together we are a tricycle.
Katie, I know you rocked a “Fuck Trump” shirt at Lollapalooza last year. How are you feeling following the election?
Katie: We’ve been going through a whole range of emotions and trying to listen, to learn from other people who are also going through it. I felt emboldened after the Women’s March because I saw a lot of people who previously in my life didn’t think were activists, and I saw them come together and get inspired by the cause. I hope more people will hold themselves accountable for fact and truth -- if you can call anything truth.
We’re scared, and we think fear in a strange way is keeping us alive right now. Because we had moments in the past we’ve seemed like crazy people, because we were preaching to our families about hate and bigotry, and now we’re living in a country where it’s been uncovered, and people are starting to have this dialogue that we’ve been having for a very long time. So in a way I feel very alive right now, but at the same time, just real fear.
How do you think women in music can continue to support causes like the Women’s March?
Naomi: I think it’s imperative that we all hold each other and ourselves accountable for what we say, how we behave, and making sure to keep it intersectional. As long as people are continuing to learn from each other, to listen, and keep an open mind I think we’re in sort of a good place.
You girls aren’t afraid to address difficult issues. For example, Loudspeaker speaks to issues of abusive relationships. For you, why is it important to be vocal about these kinds of topics in your music?
Naomi: I’m really interested in anything that works a little bit against the grain. I think that in our society we’re getting messages everyday about what is good to share, and what is good to post about, and talk about, and make public for other people. And within those messages is also what’s not good to share.
I mean, Evan Rachel Wood wrote this very beautiful letter about her own experience after being raped, and she talked about how she had a moment of hesitation where she wanted to be vague about what happened to her, but then she went home that night and thought about it and where that was coming from, and then that’s where the letter came from. It’s very internalized, and we think things that aren’t natural to us, but society puts it on us to not talk about certain things. So I like to find those things and write a whole song about it if I can.
What do you hope fans take away from About U?
Katie: I think Naomi’s the one who responded to the message, but we got a message today from somebody who was talking about how they were going through a really hard time, and an unhealthy pattern they were caught in because of who they loved. I think that we’re young, and a lot of it is about self-discovery and self-love, but it’s also about the obsessive kind of love that happens to us when we’re young. So I think it speaks to that world, and I hope that what we’ve done gives people a reflection to where they can see their own situation, and feel maybe strongly enough to move forward from it.
How did it feel to have your late night debut on Jimmy Fallon?
Naomi: It’s definitely surreal to be there at 30 Rock. Like, here we are walking down the hallway. Here’s Questlove! But everything [there] is surreal, so we try to stay grounded, so that we can remain who we are. I think people change when they get sucked up. But we’re grateful it happened on that show. I wish I remembered it more. We all kind of blacked out. [Laughs.]
Katie: We joke a lot in the middle of tour about how we have these expectations of when we’re gonna feel the most fulfilled as a band. I think a lot of people imagine that would happen when you have your late-night TV debut. But it’s just as likely to happen there as it is to happen in random middle-America [gig] when there are people in the front row screaming that they love you. You never really know when the moments that feel purposeful are gonna happen.
Speaking of touring, I know you're going to hit the road again soon. What can people expect from your live show?
Naomi: Hopefully a really good time! We kind try to get up on stage every show that we play and give it as much as we physically can. So it’s an active kind of performance, with a lot of dancing and a lot of jumping, and I would like to have the experience where everyone feels like they’re a part of MUNA. We just want to feel connected to everyone in the audience. The crazy thing your question is bringing up for me that I just realized is, we don’t know what to expect because we’ve never done a headline tour before.
Josette: I think that’s what’s going to blow my mind the most, if everybody knows a song that I love playing. That will make me go crazy.
Besides putting out new music, what else do you hope to accomplish in 2017?
Josette: I hope we can hit the ground running with creating new music. I think we all feel very inspired right now. So that’s a big hope for us -- just educating ourselves with people, and staying focused on what we want to do with this opportunity.