Los Angeles dark pop trio MUNA are ready for their close-up. After a monster of a mainstream breakthrough following the release of its debut LP, About U, via RCA Records in 2017, the fast-rising act — comprised of Katie Gavin, Naomi McPherson and Josette Maskin — courted a massive global following on the heels of breakout EP, Loudspeaker, and indie-pop standouts like the title track, “So Special” and “Winterbreak.” The last earned a high-profile remix from Dutch producer/DJ Tiesto, which has garnered over 41 million spins on Spotify alone.
Since then, the group has dazzled late-night audiences on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, rocked a sold out headlining tour as well as support slots on dates with Miike Snow, Grouplove, Bleachers and Harry Styles. The former One Direction star’s co-sign of the trio, who all identify as queer and avoid using gender-based pronouns in their lyrics, was a major coup for the then-rising group, and helped introduced them to a whole new audience ahead of its own major label debut. “It would have meant a lot to me when I was, say, 12, to know of someone in a band and think they were cool and know they were out,” McPherson said previously. “I am out and I feel safe being out because the three of us are a little army for one another. I don’t feel afraid to be myself. That makes me proud to be queer.”
The group announced their highly anticipated sophomore LP, Saves The World, due Sept. 6 via RCA Records, earlier this summer, led by first single “Number One Fan.” “…happy we’re back?” they penned on Instagram. “Dropping bops during pride? Like, can you believe?” Written and co-produced by the band alongside Mike Crossey (1975, Wolf Alice), the self-love anthem is a reminder to cherish the skin your in at every turn, and included an experimental visual helmed by director Isaac Schneider (Mac Demarco, Toro Y Moi, Joey Bada$$).
“Number One Fan” is about “recognizing the negative voices in your head” and learning to talk back to them. “It’s a joyful and surprising experience to recognize that, just as we can all be our own biggest haters, we can also decide to be our own biggest fans,” the band shared in a statement. “We can choose to believe in ourselves, to take notice of all the little admirable things we do, to applaud every inch of progress and comfort ourselves through every pitfall.”
Learning to love yourself is an “incredibly liberating process,” they explain. “In this culture, we are almost taught to look to other people to fill up some void in ourselves. What happens when we accept that we are already whole? We become our own icons. We become unstoppable and un-buyable. We save the world. No, just kidding, sorry we got caught up in the moment. But maybe!”
To fete their next era, MUNA crafted a Summer of Pride playlist for Billboard that showcases artists that embrace internal harmony and self-love above all else. “We made a playlist of tracks by artists—both queer and not—that fill us with joy and make us want to dance,” they tell Billboard. “Nothing is better for building authentic communities that live beyond the exchange of products than losing yourself with loved ones and strangers on the dance floor.”
Give the playlist — which includes tracks from Charli XCX and Christine and the Queens, The Blow, Dorian Electra, Janelle Monae and more — a spin below.
Each June, Pride festivities give queer identifying artists the opportunity for self-reflection and to relish in unity, but the celebration has also brought up many “incredibly difficult questions,” they explain. “Our economic system has ensured many notable manipulations of Pride that differ greatly from the ethos of its inception. We try really hard to honor the fact that amazing strides have been made and that we are incredibly lucky to be able to feel empowered as queer individuals. At the same time, the corporatization of pride is deeply unsettling.”
To put it simply, Pride — for the band — is something that should be “aspirational” as a year-round effort, not tied specifically to one month or another. “It is the attempt to work towards a freedom that we do not yet have. Dancing is a way to attempt to embody that freedom, even if it is ephemeral. Truly great music gives permission for everyone to exist as they are. It takes people from the physical realm to a transcendent one.”
Next up, the trio will head out on its headlining Saves The World tour in support of its sophomore LP. The trek will kick off at Wonder Ballroom in Potland, Oregon (Sept. 16) before making stops at Lodge Room in Los Angeles (Sept. 26), Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, N.Y. (Oct. 10), and more.
Saves The World is available for pre-order here.