MUNA are topping off a stellar year with a tour supporting Harry Styles. Who else?
The sun is shining on the balcony of Shoreditch’s Ace Hotel, and MUNA are all in good spirits. Consisting of Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin and Naomi McPherson, the three-piece are fresh from a run of shows in the UK – and conversation quickly turns to their upcoming tour with none other than Harry Styles.
“We’ve had loads of love from Directioners,” laughs Katie. “We’ve been told he selected us personally, which is really humbling. We’ve been lucky enough to have a few musicians reach out to us and tell us they like what we’re doing. That’s obviously really cool – we want to create the best art that we can so it’s awesome to hear that”.
Many alternative acts may have avoided aligning themselves with one of the biggest pop stars in the word, but MUNA are quick to distance themselves from such snobbery. “So what if we’re a pop band, what the fuck of it?” says Naomi defiantly. “Don’t judge anyone for that. You’re going to be humbled if you make assumptions about people based on their popularity.”
“Harry Styles is proving himself to be quite an interesting artist,” continues Josette. “If you ask Directioners they would say that they’ve been following him for ages and he’s always been like that. He’s found ways to spread alternative messages through what he’s doing. So I think it goes to show that you don’t know somebody just because they’re a celebrity.”
The pop landscape is a subject MUNA seem particularly passionate about, and the band continue to dissect the phenomenon that is One Direction. “It’s like the Spice Girls type of thing,” explains Katie. “With every pop band, you have pre-existing personalities where people say ‘this one is the funny one’ and ‘this one is the sweet one’. There are millions of people who don’t know you that make assumptions about you – it comes from living a life entirely in the public eye.”
The band may hail from the US, but much like many of their predecessors, they established a fan-base in Britain before their homeland. “We’re all kind of anglophiles”, confesses Katie. “I love British humour in particular. I’ve watched every episode of Skins, Misfits and The Inbetweeners!”.
“Our first fans were here,” continues Josette. “People here are a little more open to new music, and I guess that’s always been true of Britain. People here are into new music in a way they aren’t in the States. The US is a massive country and so breaking there is so difficult, whereas here it feels a little more achievable.”
While the band’s debut album ‘About U’ has enjoyed widespread praise, the band suffered significant nerves before release. “Before the record came out I was ready for everyone to voice their disappointment in us,” explains Katie. “I didn’t understand why people thought it was enough – the way people have reacted to it has proven to be a huge lesson for me.”
“Everything with us feels like it was meant to happen,” continues Josette. “We feel ready to be on the road. It’s hard to tour when you have about three songs out, so it’s great that people know the record well and give a shit about it.”
The band formed in Los Angeles, but feel their signature electronic pop sound derives more from the records they bonded over than the place they are from. “We all love ‘Tango In The Night’ by Fleetwood Mac, ‘Body Talk Pt. 2’ by Robyn, ‘Hounds Of Love’ by Kate Bush, ‘The Joshua Tree’ by U2, ‘Heathen’ by David Bowie’, ‘Disintegration’ by The Cure,” lists Naomi. “We have a lot of common ground musically, and I think that shows with the music we make.”
“We’ve been listening to a lot of Talking Heads too,” continues Katie. “Sometimes it takes me a while for me to understand what’s going on conceptually with them. I guess we’re all from the same generation and connect over the same kind of music.”
The band do note, however, that the comparisons they receive in the music press don’t necessarily reflect these influences. “Twice in the last week I’ve had people say ‘you remind me of Haim’ – even when they’ve never even listened to our music. I wonder what it could be that makes them say that?” Katie notes sarcastically. “I don’t think that’s ever happened to a boy band.”
“It’s amazing that someone could say that, being so well-meaning,” laughs Josette. “To have the naked comparison without even listening to our music kinds of confirms that we aren’t as in the future in terms of gender as one might think. This is not to discredit any other band who identifies as female – I don’t necessarily think we sound alike to Haim at all. In some ways, we’re a lot more like the Spice Girls!”
MUNA’s live show has been getting better and better since their album dropped, and the band have taken to performing live in a big way over the last few months. “The last time we were in London there’s been a bunch of time when I’ve had to wake up out of a fever sleep,” reveals Naomi. “Then I go onstage and scream and jump for about an hour. I really enjoy pushing myself to my limit and being on edge all the time. There are so many conversations we’ll have backstage where we big ourselves up and tell each other to fucking smash it.”
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” continues Katie. “The most powerful high you can possibly experience. It’s akin to the creative process when you feel like you’re on the edge of something great. If you play a great show, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
As for the future, the trio are looking forward to recording more music and taking it to even more exciting places. “We love a long-term game plan. Doing anything, you have to take some time and reflect on what it is you’re trying to do. We are addicted to working and are constantly working – so you can expect to hear more soon.”
Taken from the November issue of Dork, out now. MUNA tour the UK with Harry Styles from 29th October.