“I really care that our music is a story of growth,” Muna singer Katie Gavin tells Rolling Stone in an August phone chat. Fittingly, the thoughtful L.A. pop outfit, also including guitarist Josette Maskin and keyboardist-guitarist Naomi McPherson, is in the midst of a major real-world growth spurt. Currently opening for Harry Styles on his first solo world tour, the band – whose anthemic synth-pop debut, About U, was released in February – is now faced with the massive task of adapting their show to massive crowds around the world.
“We are thrilled to be on tour with Harry,” McPherson says. “We are nervous,” she adds, “but excited.”
The members of Muna first met at USC, where they shared classes in music and various ethnic studies. “We are a college band, in the sense that we jammed in our dorm room and played college parties,” Gavin says. “But we are a queer-identifying band whose language is really tied to the academy, and it has been since we started writing about ourselves.”
The band’s own detailed texts have helped contextualize songs like “I Know a Place,” which Gavin describes as a modern-day work song dedicated to “the rich LGBTQ history of turning bars and ballrooms into safe havens.” Gavin adds that songs like “Loudspeaker” and “Crying on the Bathroom Floor” are about “the hard work that we do in our personal [lives], to get free; the hard work we do to have spiritual awakenings, and to sustain those.” The results are lush pop songs accompanied by stylish, intense visuals, which carefully reflect the nuances (and ambiguities) of being young and queer. Muna’s latest video, though, takes a different approach: Filmed with an old camcorder, the “In My Way” clip highlights the band’s sillier side – namely, their air-guitar skills.
As they geared up for the Styles tour, the bandmates reflected on their early memories of big pop shows. McPherson grew up going to concerts with her musically inclined family, and particularly remembers her funk-loving mother taking her to see James Brown. Maskin saw Heart at Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre – where the band will perform Wednesday night. Gavin cracks up her bandmates as she recalls first seeing Shania Twain at the United Center in Chicago. “She was wearing a Bulls jersey as a dress,” she says, “and it was really hot.”
Thanks to the Styles tour, Muna’s own ambitious live performances will become part of many first-show memories for young concertgoers. Meanwhile, they’re already at work on the follow-up to About U, which Maskin jokes will be “even saucier.” For now, they are relishing the response to their debut. “We’ve been working on it our whole creative lives – it was all building towards that,” McPherson says. “It’s really fun to be able to play shows, and have people know all the songs you’re playing.”