After almost eighteen months off the road, getting back into the swing of touring life was never going to be the easiest of tasks. For MUNA - who are currently in the midst of a hefty US tour alongside Phoebe Bridgers - it’s mostly been about overcoming the lack of sleep.
“We’re in Boston and we’re coming off a string of crazy shows,” half-yawns the band’s Katie Gavin. “We were just in New York and we did a day where we did our Governor’s Ball set in the afternoon and then we played a show at 1am. And we’re a couple of old queers who like to go to bed at around 9pm, so…!”
Disrupted bedtime routines aside, life back on the road has been - as Katie aptly puts it - an “affirming” experience all round. “It’s been like, ‘Oh yeah, this is what I do!’” she laughs. “It’s not that I forgot, but I feel like I just didn’t think about [playing live] much during the pandemic because it would’ve been hard. You just didn’t know when you could do it again. Even when we booked this tour, it was like, ‘Is it really gonna be able to happen?’ You don’t really wanna get your hopes up too much.
“But it’s been so affirming; we just love to do this so much. And we said this last night at the show, but we’re really grateful to everyone taking the extra safety precautions, [those who’ve] gotten vaccinated and are wearing their masks so that we can do it.”
As for many artists - and the general population - 2021 has been a rollercoaster for the LA trio. While the majority of the pandemic was incredibly tough for the band (“Yeah, there have been many days where we have just cried,” guitarist Josette Maskin says, “and many days where we were like, ‘I don’t know if we can keep going’, but we managed to”), this year also marked the start of a new chapter for them: they became the second artists to sign to Phoebe’s new label, Saddest Factory Records.
“I think that it just worked out in terms of timing in a way that felt like it was very meant to be,” explains Katie of how the relationship came to fruition. “In the pandemic, we got dropped by our last label - we were signed to a major - and we were having that important time where we were like, ‘What are we? Why do we do this? Why do we wanna keep going?’ At the same time, [Phoebe] made it clear that she wanted to work with us and it just made a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons. We respect her a lot and thought it would be cool to have her be our boss, so we signed and it’s been pretty fucking great so far!”
“I think the other thing that we find really affirming is to work with someone who is also of a marginalised gender,” adds Josette, of working with not just a peer but someone of the LGBTQ+ community. “I think that makes this experience really validating. To have someone that understands us in that way and isn’t going to pressure us in any way; we just feel very understood and supported and we couldn’t really be happier.”
“[I’m] at a point in life where I’m choosing to have fun and experience some levity and have that queer joy represented in music.”
— Katie Gavin
For their first foray with Saddest Factory, the band have just released effervescent pop gem ‘Silk Chiffon’: “a song,” as guitarist Naomi McPherson describes it, “for kids to have their first gay kiss to.” “I think this is the first time we’ve put out a song where I didn’t feel very worried!” Josette laughs.
An addictive, bubblegum offering that celebrates the queer experience and those heady early days of a crush, it’s little wonder the track’s already been met with so much love. “There was just a moment of levity after finishing ‘Saves The World’ because that record was super heavy,” Katie offers up. “I got to work through a lot of stuff with that record.”
After completing that 2019 second album, a fresh burst of creativity soon followed, and the first steps of ‘Silk Chiffon’ were made. “I came back from a concert and the pre-chorus was the first thing I wrote; I just thought it was really funny, kinda like writing ‘Number One Fan’,” recalls Katie. “It feels like a joy that’s not necessarily hard-earned, but it definitely feels like a new choice to just be at a point in life where I’m choosing to have fun and experience some levity and have that queer joy represented in music. You know, 'That girl thinks I’m cute, yeeeeah!'”
As for their next move, the trio are still keeping things a little vague (“We’re not ready to reveal all of our cards yet,” nods Naomi), but the sense of joy from their recent single is set to find its way in. “There was a point when we were working on this next project, where I was a little worried because people know us and love us - to a certain extent - for the pain that we put into pop music,” Katie laughs. “I was like, ‘Is it too joyful?!’
“There’s stuff on this next record that’s in that realm of experiencing love and experiencing joy, and also just being comfortable with your own desires, whether that’s in a relationship, or a desire for freedom,” she continues. “But we’re also doing the very typical MUNA thing… It’s not a bunch of songs that sound the same, it’s a lot of different styles because that’s what’s fun for us.”
As featured in the October 2021 issue of DIY, out now.