Scrolling through pictures of Los Angeles on Google Images, it’ll take any viewer an eternity to spot a black and white picture amongst the many saturated, breathtaking images of beautiful beaches and peaceful palm tress. In pop culture, LA is a retro, utopian dream world, which is true to an extent, but Luna Shadows paints a different picture with her elegant, romantic Echo Park pop. Her aesthetic is simple, as visually illustrated by her Instagram: black and white, complimentary to a fault. The beautiful beaches and peaceful palm trees exist, but in the multi-instrumentalist’s scenic world, they’re delightfully dark.
Stylistically described as a three-way date between Lana Del Rey, Lorde and Ellie Goulding – equally as dreary as dreamy, each contrasting characteristic amplifying each other – LA’s indie pop sweetheart resides in her own lane. Her debut EP Summertime, which was independently released in July, stole the hearts and ears of millions and received high praise from Billboard who hailed the premiere as, “some of the most refreshingly soulful and haunting indie pop to come out this year.”
Currently on tour with fellow collaborator Thom Powers and The Naked And Famous, we caught up with Luna Shadows to explore her stylistic approach and aesthetic behind the enchanting Echo Park pop, in advance of her first ever visit to The Underground, let alone Charlotte.
It’s very fitting that you’re back in New York at the moment. How do you see you’re music fitting in the New York scene. How do you see your style fitting with the New York vibe?
I was born in New York and moved to LA about 10 years ago. As soon as I got there, I felt like I was home. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been a California person even though it took me awhile to move out there. I don’t think my style or sound was influenced by California necessarily, but instead by the people I met out there and collaborated with. That drew me in the direction of my sound, which I think is the most “me” it could possibly be. I definitely think a lot of my music is inspired by my setting, but I was always drawn to that, even when I lived in New York.
In my perception, I’ve only been to California twice, both times to San Francisco, never LA.
Oh yeah, terrible weather! San Francisco and LA are totally different!
Right! I feel that San Francisco fits your aesthetic so well! It’s very black and white with the fog and everything.
That’s very interesting. I wanted to show LA in a way that not everyone sees. Whenever you see pictures of LA, it’s always saturated with pictures of sunsets, retro and everyone is at the beach. While that is real on some level, at the same time, there’s life going on. I thought it would be cool to show that darker side – more black and white, less color. It’s a bit metaphorical. It’s rawer than how others illustrate LA.
Now I know you’ve been collaborating with Thom Powers of The Naked And Famous, who you’re currently on tour with, but what’s the most challenging part of being a solo artist, other than the perception that you’re not (because I know that’s something you’ve spoke about before)?
There’s ups and downs to being in a band. There’s ups and down to being a solo artist. I think everything falls on me as a solo artist and I don’t see it as a negative that I have to operate the whole machine. I think that’s ultimately why I became a solo artist, because I like having control over what I’m putting forward – the art that I put out. There was a point that I tried to be in a band, but I never felt anyone else was as dedicated to making music as me. I’ve always leaned towards being solo. I think the biggest challenge is keeping up with everything. I’m tour managing this entire tour. I booked everyone’s hotels and flights, I booked wrong hotels that I had to fix. I’m responsible for getting all the gear out and the promotion. Everything falls on me, which I’m happy to do, but there’s a lot of pressure. There’s a lot of keeping up.
What part of being a solo artist do you enjoy the most?
I really enjoy the moment that it all comes together. I wish I could say – the way people romanticize it and how the words all just fall out, it’s so inspiring – sometimes you get that, but it’s rarer than the times you need to chip away at it. There’s been times over the last month where I was nearly in tears and wanted to quit because I felt I was useless without any good ideas. It’s the satisfactory moment of finishing it. It’s more like putting together a puzzle than being creative – putting the pieces in the correct spots. I try to write songs that are conceptual and cohesive, some are abstract, but they all need to make sense and have a clear picture. That’s the hard part. You can have all the ideas in the world, but you need to put them together so they make sense. That’s the frustrating part. It’s satisfying when all the pieces fit together.
Is there a moment in your life that you can point to that inspired “this lifelong dare that sounded pretty fun”?
I love that you did your research! It’s so funny because I think I said that once a few years ago. I don’t know if there was one specific moment. I was always drawn to art the way people see a flower and want to pick it. That’s the best way I can describe being drawn to art and music. I’m very shy and introverted. I disguise myself as an extrovert, but I’m very to myself, creative and solitary. I was always scared putting myself out there and going on stage. It’s always been hard for me and still is. However, it’s also the most exciting. It’s not my natural habitat to be out in front of someone. I don’t think there was a specific moment, but seeing other artists and singers, whether that’s the Little Mermaid when I was younger – the first singer I can remember – or Alanis Morissette or Brittany Spears or any female artists while I was growing up. I’ve idolized them and as I got older, it kept evolving.
What comes first in the process of writing your music – the beautiful poetry or the great melodies that go with it? They all just fit so well.
I think it’s pretty simultaneous. I’ll get a beat or chorus progression going and in my iPhone I have a whole journal. So, I’ll get a beat going and then just start saying gibberish over it and then I listen for a feeling. I know that’s abstract, but I’m waiting to see how the sound makes me feel. Does it make me feel hopeful or sad? I’ll go through my notes and pick out phrases or maybe just a single word. I have a song called “Cherry.” We started writing the song and I went through my notes and came across the one word. I didn’t know what it meant to me at the time, but I liked the idea. I molded it into something else to fit the feeling and music. It’s starts with a lot of gibberish usually (laughs).
One lyric I really felt drawn to is in “Cry Wolf” – “Who are you in the dark with the lights, with the lights out”. That fits your black and white style you have on Instagram and your aesthetic, but what about black and white inspires you? I feel there’s even a resemblance in your name with lunar and Shadows. The light and the dark.
I’m just fascinated with the idea of dark and light… Are you a photographer?
Yes, I am. Light is essential!
And contrast is a thing! When you put lights next to darks, both are amplified. I just love that concept and I love it in music. I try to do the photographic equivalent in my music. In “Cry Wolf” for example, we had this tropical beat going and I wanted the lyrics to be dark and menacing. I’m singing them sweetly, but what I’m saying explains a lack of trust. In the song, who are you with the lights out, who are you when no one is looking, what is your identity? What you’re showing to the world isn’t what I believe to be the true. Before when you asked why black and white and why this darker theme that seems more San Francisco than LA, it was for the same reason. I like how that looks, feels and sounds.
Lastly, when you’re not starring in your own show, what are you doing on the side to enjoy yourself?
I’m truthful in my songs. I love LA and the place I live. I like being out in my neighborhood. I live over Echo Park and I enjoy going to the park and on a hike. LA is cool because it’s urban, but you can walk three minutes, depending on where you live, to the mountains. I’m also vegetarian and super into food as of late. I like going on culinary explorations and finding new restaurants. I like photography, as evidenced by Instagram. I also have two cats, who I like to hang out with. Is that too grandma of an answer (laughs)?
Tickets for Luna Shadows and The Naked And Famous’ show at The Underground on Saturday, April 29 can be purchased HERE. Showtime set for 8 p.m. For more information on Luna Shadows, visit her Facebook page and Instagram. Watch Luna Shadows’ aesthetically pleasing video for “Hallelujah California” above and stream her entire catalog below via Spotify.