The Future Is Queer: In Conversation with MUNA

Your new favourite trio grace the cover of Issue 3, discussing their diverse ‘MUNAverse’ world and the power of queerness in music. Their debut record, About U, is out now.

This modern-day witch coven is set on casting spells into the vibrant pop-whirlpool.

What made MUNA’s debut full-length About U seem almost effortless was the unattempt to craft a body of work that would inevitably cater to the masses. Whilst it indulges in its sparkling pop moments such as I Know a Place, the record turns at various points exposing the bare and vulnerable side to the band as heard in deep cut If U Love Me Now. What separates the group from the rest is their inability to restrain themselves from spilling their guts at every given opportunity. Topics that could be seen as taboo become a casual discussion over an early morning cigarette for these three ladies.

Starting off as a jam band back in their university days, being known as an acclaimed queer dark-pop girl group is something a young Katie Gavin, Naomi McPherson and Josette Maskin never thought to envision. “It’s so strange, I feel like everything we’ve done has been a gradual build with everything happening at the exact right moment,” McPherson offers. “I feel like we’ve earned what we’re getting.”

Katie is wearing shirt by Konsanszky

It didn’t take long for MUNA to realise their genius, since thinking of how they’re going to outdo themselves. “We’re just the kind of people who constantly want to grow and constantly want to challenge ourselves,” guitarist Maskin chimes in. “Now we can really put it together. We have all these songs, let’s widdle it down to the absolute best,” adds McPherson.

We’re several minutes in when sighs of relief echo through the North London warehouse as much-needed coffee is served all around. Taking brief moments to soak in the caffeine, the topic of themes for the almighty challenging sophomore record hits the table; “Growth, change, reflection” – instant choices from guitarist Maskin. Just like the greats (Björk, Bowie, Kate Bush as they state), MUNA aspire to construct their work with an ever-more complex approach.

Naomi is wearing leather blazer by Nanushka, polo neck by LF Markey, necklace by Uno de 50

“I love experiences from artists where I know that they’ve put something out for me to figure out. I know there are layers to this shit, connections and meaning,” explains Gavin, before concluding: “About U was a collection of miniature vessels people could use to process an experience or make decisions in their lives. We want the second album to be a bigger, more connected vessel that allows people to go on a journey with the record.”

For a band that’s been together for a mere three years, the amount of time they’ve spent around each other has only enhanced their work. Best described as constantly being on “the crack of creativity,” moments of wisdom pour out from each member where they all instantaneously ‘get it’. It’s not a rare sight with moments of sagacity impending regularly; the About U visual project being a more recent example.

Josette is wearing two-piece by Nanushka

“We wanted to give people visuals that were our own imaginations of people listening to the record,” Gavin declares. Drawing inspiration from foreign art house films that oozed nostalgia and melancholy, the finished product wholly captured what the inside of their ‘MUNAverse’ looks like.

“Ideally, it’d just be a place where people could open their scope to the humanity of all people a little bit wider,” ponders Maskin on the visualization of their very own ‘MUNAverse’. Not to be confused with a fantasy world beaming with sunshine at every angle, in MUNA’s world the rose-coloured glasses are left firmly on the table. “It would be a horrific transformation from the world we have now, but then war wouldn’t exist and people would live out their lives without destroying the planet,” exclaims Maskin once more.

Forming their own safe space and expressing it through music is exactly how the LA ladies are making a name for themselves, all of which has built up to secure a support slot with ex-Directioner-turned-indie-saviour Harry Styles. The mystery stays ongoing as to why Styles hand-picked MUNA from the bunch (“We still have no idea, but word on the street is he specifically asked for us”), although there’s clearly no competition when scouting for three bad-asses approaching pop music without a rule book.

Styles single-handedly sent the Internet into a frenzy (a somewhat simple task for the man) resulting in overnight chaos. Being able to say you’ve woken up to double the fan base you had the night before is quite the feat, and is something MUNA have learned to adjust to.

“We’re always cautious to what we tweet, but we’re not trying to please anyone,” states Maskin before Gavin interjects. “I’ve been surprised with how many of Harry’s fans are adapting to the mould, totally getting what we stand for, they feel like they’re actually entering the MUNAverse in a way, not just silently thinking ‘why does Harry like them?’”

Whilst the upsurge of new fans and opportunities might have left others feeling overwhelmed, it’s just another day at the office for MUNA. They’re not some random band embarking on a huge tour because they got lucky, rather years of tireless work and progression have built up to claiming their rightful support slots for mega popstars. McPherson considers: “We feel prepared to do everything that we’re doing,” and this glimmering stroke of confidence is precisely how the band are having one hell of a field day bagging each and every opportunity that’s being thrown their way.

Right out the gate MUNA have been labelled as the fearless queer band addressing issues others are too afraid to approach. “You’re under the magnifying glass, especially because we’ve been labelled as representing a group of people,” expresses Maskin. “Which, first of all, is such a diverse group of people and we all have completely different experiences,” McPherson cuts in.

Katie is wearing dress & top by Samsoe Samsoe, Naomi is wearing jumper by LF Markey, blazer by The Kooples @ Zalando; Josette is wearing top & jeans by Aries, jacket by Scotch & Soda.

Whilst the label doesn’t necessarily add any boundaries, it has changed the way people see and hear the music. “People see that we’re a queer band and will not process our music like we’re a real band, like a fake ‘social justice warrior’ band. “They just exist because they’re serving an identity politics purpose,” it’s a thought Gavin emphasizes on. “But that’s not a real boundary for us, you can keep doing your thing over there and can see us with a ceiling on us and we’ll continue to be human beings because that’s what we all are, with no ceiling. We’re all so different, even us as a band, we’re each a representation of what queer could be.”

As people that trust in everything happening as-and-when it does, the band is content in knowing the time for being a voice within their community is now. “We’re fortunate to live in a time where I could name ten openly queer popstars, the paradigm has really shifted in that sense and we came about at a convenient time. We live in a very queer time,” concludes McPherson.

They’re on route to making the world we live in their own, going around with a checklist of ways to do just that. Unlike most, MUNA are on a mission to signal messages through their music, and as Maskin sits rejoicing “The future is queer!” to the bandmates by her side, all is clear in knowing they’re onto something much greater than anyone imagined. The future is MUNA.

Words: Jordan White

Photography: Larry Gorman

Styling: Kitty Cowell

Assisted by: Bluebell Wooi & Zarina Wilson

Location: The Cotton Store

Featured Image: Katie wears fur jacket by Minnan Hui, mesh trousers by Leaf Xia, metallic top by Weekday and shoes by Models Own; Naomi wears velvet trousers by Baum Und Pferdgarten, crop by Champion, fur jacket by Onar and shoes by Dr Martens; Josette wears trousers by Nanushka, top by Minnan Hui, shoes by Dr Martens

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