Ella Joy Meir of Iris Lune Talks Multicultural Pop and Melding Heritage With Music

Hannah Cohen
Iris Lune

Ella Joy Meir, an Israeli-born queer woman, is a force to be reckoned with. The leader of the Brooklyn art-pop outfit Iris Lune, she’s been everywhere from Tel Aviv to Boston, having finally settled down in New York with her wife, spawning the band’s first self-titled EP in 2016.

Their latest work, Lost in Chatter, is a soaring and ethereal collection of songs each built from their own miniature tales, with a clear mashup of both Eastern and Western musical influences infused into each. From the Alice in Wonderland-inspired “Lost in Chatter” to “Son,” based on the story of Icarus, Lost in Chatter is a microcosm of swirling, authentic stories both new and old, with a tinge of electro-pop to tie everything together.  

We had a chance to speak with Meir ahead of the EP’s release. Check out our interview below.

What were some of the inspirations that moved you to put together Lost in Chatter as a whole?

Lost in Chatter is the culmination of a collaborative process, of the four of us creating together. This was a departure from the way we worked on our first EP, which was mostly spearheaded by Asher and I. This time, the songs really represent what happens when a group of people who love each other work together on something that they’re all passionate about.

“Sewing Skylines to Shores,” as you previously mentioned, was inspired by the story of Virginia Woolf’s suicide. Do any of the other songs on the Lost in Chatter EP feature interesting origin stories such as this one?

“Lost in Chatter” was inspired by the last chapter of Alice in Wonderland. I love the book, and to me there’s something so fragile and precious about the moment when Alice wakes up from her sleep. This moment of awakening is the basis for Lost in Chatter. This song is about being lost in all the noise around you, not being able to tell what is actually happening and what is in our imagination.

“Paper Mache” comes from a very personal place. This song deals with fighting your inner monsters, but also with accepting your quirkiness and being forgiving towards yourself. It’s that beautifully delicate line that I find myself zigzagging through all the time. Wanting to change but also loving yourself for who you are and accepting that you’re just a person, trying to be the best version of yourself, trying to navigate life and everything it brings you. At the end of the day, no matter who we wake up next to or who we spend our day with, we’re stuck with ourselves. So we might as well love ourselves.

How can multicultural queer artists incorporate important parts of their identity, in your opinion, so that their creations are less homogeneous mixes of their contemporaries’ music and more their own works?

I think it all comes down to what inspires and drives you. Many times we’re motivated by trying to fit in instead of simply ‘being’ and letting our various colors shine through. If something is genuinely authentic to who you are, use it, enhance it, let it live. The world would be boring otherwise.

How does your heritage color your creative process, and are there aspects of your culture that you’d like to include more of in future projects?

I think that this happens in a number of ways. First, there’s the vocal colors and inflections that I mentioned before, as well as some harmonic ideas that are inspired by traditional Israeli folk music. And then there’s a whole other aspect -- being an immigrant and feeling like I both belong in the U.S.A., and am alien to it at the same time. That feeling, and the ways in which I and my immigrant friends have carved out a home and an identity for ourselves since moving here, have come through in my music and in my life in a number of ways.

I also co-direct an artist collective in Brooklyn, Salomé ArtHaus, with my wife and one of our best friends. The aim of the collective is to bring people together by inviting them to share the things they’re most passionate about, to learn and to create art together. Having a strong community is something that I bring from home. Israel is the kind of place where everyone acts like your aunt or uncle, and I think I really missed having that feeling of closeness here.

What kind of challenges come attached to combining contemporary pop and Israeli folk music and ensuring that you remain authentic to your true self?

To be honest, I never found this too challenging. It’s only when I start questioning myself that it feels less authentic. I think that my singing is the part that’s mostly influenced by Israeli folk music, and that comes out in little vocal inflections.. At one time it was a challenge to let these colors through, because they’re not “traditionally” pop. But as Iris Lune grew and matured it became clear that this part of me was a core part of the band’s sound.

As a queer woman, who are some of the artists you look up to the most in the pop music world?

Bjork and St. Vincent are big influences on me. They’re both incredibly talented women, strong and magical, who evolve from album to album but always remain true to themselves. They’re not afraid to explore new areas, and always think of the entire picture. I also admire the fact that they’ve become more and more political and outspoken with their lyrics and as public figures. It’s so important to have women like them in the music industry.

What are some important bits of advice you’d share with younger artists in the LGBTQ community looking to get their start in music?

I think that the most important thing is to always be true to yourself and to look for the support you need from people around you. Everyone has their own story and baggage, some are lucky to have supportive families, some have to run away in order to just be themselves.

But the truth is that you’re not alone. There are so many people just like you, trying to figure it out and navigate between the parts of their lives, trying to connect the dots. Community is an incredible thing, use it. Everybody needs advice, and friendship. The LGBTQIA community is specifically a very warm one, but there are many other ways of looking for connections.

Catch Iris Lune's album release show at Baby's All Right in Brooklyn, NY with MMEADOWS & Lip Talk on Dec. 6.