Luna Li: The WL Interview

Purveyor of: Dreamy rock with beautiful melodies

File next to: Goodbye Honolulu, Weaves

Playing: Wavelength Winter Festival, Sunday Feb 17, 2019 @ The Garrison. (+19)  Get your tickets here!

Toronto-based Luna Li has been playing shows around Ontario and Quebec for the past 3 years, and has released three music videos and a debut EP, Opal Angel, in October 2017. In June 2018, she released a new video for her single “Silver Into Rain.” She’ll be performing at the Wavelength Winter Festival this February 17th. Alanna Gurr and Charlotte Moore of Holy Smokes Festival caught up with her to discuss representation in music and their creative process.

You’re a classically trained pianist and violinist. How does this influence Luna Li and the sound you create? Was there a moment where you chose to create your own music versus carry on with a classical career or was this a natural progression for you?

,My classical background subconsciously affects everything I write since it was my focus for so long, and my first introduction to playing music. My drummer was saying a little while ago that some of the guitar lines I write remind him of Bach! It’s also great to have a knowledge of theory and harmony especially when arranging and creating parts and harmonies. My Mom runs a music school and I was very privileged to be able to attend the school and take several different types of lessons growing up. Throughout high school, I was preparing to go to university for music, with violin. I attended McGill for a semester, but then dropped out to return to Toronto and focus on my own music and to start a band.

Your bio references you as a “much-needed strong female presence in the Toronto music scene” (YEAH!). Have you experienced any any pushback from the music community surrounding the fight for greater representation? Do you feel that the industry is changing? Was it important for you to have a female-centric band?
-I am part of a relatively woke and inclusive music community, so I’ve never experienced any pushback; however I feel that people aren’t always willing to make the effort when it comes to representation and curating diverse and inclusive events. I do feel that the industry is slowly changing and people are becoming more aware of this issue. It was definitely important for me to have a female centric band! Representation absolutely matters and I hope to inspire especially the young womxn portion of my audience.

You toured with the Born Ruffians this fall. one review described your set as: “The set was dreamy, it was deep, it was beautifully seldom and surprisingly explosive. It was familiar. I felt like I was outside, it’s summer, it’s sunlight,” do you feel like this perfectly sums up a Luna Li show? How would you describe the atmosphere you feel from the crowd?

That description is amazing! I love when the crowd engages and we get to feed off of their energy and project it right back at them. It feels like magic and like having a superpower.

Do you have a set-in-stone creative process? Do you like to begin a new song/piece on your own or as a collective?

Luna Li is my stage name (versus being a band) and I write all of the music on my own. I use Logic and record as I write, which means that I also come up with most of the arrangements of the recordings on my own. Lately I’ve been bringing my demos to the studio with my drummer/producer Braden as we are working on a record! We re-record everything in the studio and sometimes he’ll help finesse the arrangement. Then I’ll bring it to the band and we figure out how we can arrange it for a four-piece band.

You definitely have an amazing presence on stage. Do you feel this is an extension of yourself or do you look at it as a character or a role as a performer?

I can be quite shy in real life, so I try to think of Luna as an alter ego that I can use to be more confident and energetic onstage. I guess I do feel it’s more of an extension of myself rather than a character, since I could never really remove myself completely from the situation singing personal lyrics that have been inspired by my “Hannah” experiences.

After playing in a few different bands, do you have any advice for someone trying to start out  in the music scene?

I’d say play to your strengths, don’t try and fit into what’s conventional! Try and find a band to play with if you can (I love playing with a band vs. solo), and go to lots of local shows to connect with other musicians! Remember that it takes a while to build up your name, so don’t be discouraged if the first few (or several!) shows aren’t great. Play as many shows as you can in the beginning to figure out how you want to perform.

How could 2019 top 2018 for you?

I’d just love for 2019 to be bigger! More festivals, more touring, reaching a wider audience around the world, and lots of new music (which is the plan)!