Luna Shadows Premieres 'Hallelujah California' Video & Talks Becoming Her Own Producer: Exclusive
"The way some people feel like they were born in the wrong body, I feel like I was born in the wrong part of the country," explains New York native Luna Shadows, whose love affair with Los Angeles has given birth to some of the most refreshingly soulful and haunting indie pop to come out this year.
Her first music video for "Hallelujah California," the final track off her Summertime EP released in July, premieres Friday (Sept. 9) exclusively on Billboard.
Sitting on the edge of a dark-blue-velvet couch in a red tennis skirt, black and white striped T-shirt with child-like eyes peering through Cleopatra-esque eyeliner, she almost looks like an anime character -- except there's absolutely nothing two-dimensional about her. Luna's extensive background ranges from classical piano, jazz composition and vocal training to musical theater to production. When her desire to be in full control of her musical output became greater than her technical ability, she hunkered down and learned to produce.
"I always wanted to make alternative pop music but there was a lack in my production skills. It took me a long time to get from writing songs on piano and acoustic guitar and not knowing how to articulate my ideas production-wise to finding two sick producers who believed in me to becoming their equal," she says. The two co-producers she's referring to are Brad Hale of NowNow and Thom Power of The Naked and Famous who both worked on the Summertime EP.
Prior to linking up with the two of them in 2014, Luna made the excruciating decision to toss an entire record because the final product didn't sound as good as the demos, so she sent herself back to the drawing board. "It was right after that I met Thom and Brad who wouldn't have paid attention to me if they hadn't heard that stuff. From that they could see what I was trying to do and took me from there to here. I cried for months because I thought those were the best songs I had but as soon as we started working I realized I'd made the right decision."
With her production chops up to par and some great songs in the can, Luna set about rolling out her project, teaming up with the likes of L.A. experimental marketing gurus Ride or Cry, who directed the "Hallelujah California" video. Pooling the resources of friends and fellow artists from the Echo Park area Luna and Ride or Cry call home, they successfully pulled off a rather elaborate video on a comically low budget. "I moved here with a west-side fantasy like everyone else, beach and palm trees, and all that's great, but what's really amazing is living around so many creative people. The east-side reality was able to compete with my west-side fantasy because the community of artists is so special," she explains.
The east side certainly rallied around Luna for this video with donations to the cause coming in the form of strange locations, a projector, lights, a smoke machine and several other peculiar props to create this Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali inspired work. "You ever read Harry Potter? There's a place at Hogwarts called the Room of Requirement where everything you need just magically shows up. That's what making this video was like."
With the debut of her live show in New York and L.A. with a full band last month, the release of the "Hallelujah California" video and her consistently stunning social media imagery, Luna Shadows appears to be moving towards a full on audio-visual project. And she's definitely an iceberg, what's visible now is barely indicative of what's to come. Inevitably the conversation turns to gender, even though both of us would rather pretend it's not a factor in 2016, when I ask her why she doesn't post very many photos of herself.
"In some ways I feel undermined by the way I look, like my darker ideas and sounds don't come across because I look like a bit of a Disney princess. I didn't want to be on the front page of what I was doing musically, and it's not because I wanted to appear mysterious. As a performer I'm good at being extroverted but I'm actually much more introverted. How I portray myself is in line with how I see myself." Her response begs a question I really didn't want to ask but have to.
"Does being a woman undermine your credibility as a creator?"
She takes a deep breath before answering. "We just passed a million streams on one of my songs on Spotify and I've never posted a selfie. I feel like there are cheap ways to get attention on the internet and I've tried to be as thoughtful and authentic as possible in how I represent myself. I produce and engineer pop vocals, not a lot of girls do that. I had a guy the other day at a rehearsal space try to teach me how to use a volume fader, it's frustrating. I'm also soft-spoken and I feel like as women we're conditioned to apologize and not speak up. That was a hard thing to learn, and sometimes I feel like I'm being direct but its taken as me being a bitch.
Most people hear a pop song and think there's probably 6 writers on it, it's probably auto-tuned. To me being a modern pop act means being in control of my vision which means being involved in every little aspect of the music and brand."
Luna Shadows' Summertime EP is available on iTunes now.