"I love that connectivity, I love that ability to take something that’s personal to me and to communicate with someone else and share it with them."
Words: Rachel Cameron-Potter and LUNA AURA
Photography: Ray Squared Productions (@raysquared)
Hailing from Phoenix, Arizona, LUNA AURA is a singer-songwriter making waves with her EP 'THREE CHEERS FOR THE AMERICAN BEAUTY'. When not making music, AURA spends her free time cooking, watching The Real Housewives and spending time with her family, and dreams of one day owning her own farm in North Arizona.
Logging on to my laptop at in London a couple of Thursdays ago, I’ll admit I was a little nervous. I’d been anticipating this day from the moment up-and-coming music sensation LUNA AURA accepted my interview request, and as I waited for the California-based singer to flash up onto my screen, I could definitely feel the knot in my stomach tightening.
Having released her EP ‘THREE CHEERS FOR THE AMERICAN BEAUTY’ in 2020, the EP’s sensational songs have gone on to feature in Netflix favourites ‘Sabrina’ and ‘Riverdale’, with hits like HONEY and BABYDOLL bringing all the bad-ass sass a girl could want.
Of course, the moment Luna joined the call, all the tension I had held onto minutes beforehand evaporated almost immediately. Laid back and easy going, Luna beamed at me from her living room in sunny LA, sipping her favourite breakfast smoothie to get the day going.
“Bananas, berries, yoghurt, orange, mycelium mushroom powder, collagen and protein. And almond milk. Did I say almond milk? Almond milk.”
Having noted this down to sample for myself (admittedly I am yet to find a handful of the ingredients, but bananas, berries, yoghurt, orange and almond milk is definitely a good combination), we got down to business. With such a talented songstress in front of me, I had to know where it all began.
“I knew from a really young age that I loved singing, I loved performing, and I started writing songs when I was about 11 years old,” Aura recalls. “I got my first guitar when I was 13, and I taught myself how to play guitar and started going out and actually performing and selling tickets to shows when I was about 15 or 16. So, it was all just kind of a huge part of my identity.”
However, Aura’s journey to being an alternative/indie badass didn’t happen overnight. Writing in the early 10s, where pop music by the likes of Taylor Swift and Katy Perry dominated the charts, there was an immense pressure to fit in with the mainstream music industry.
“When I was about 19, I started releasing pop music, which was at the time what the music industry was really geared towards. It was the era of Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, so I decided to try to fit in and figure out how I was going to make this work for myself.
“And so I released a bunch of pop music, but I got to the point where I didn’t really feel like what I was writing and what I was doing was who I was as a person. So I took a hiatus and started writing for other artists, for sync, which is for film and television, video games and stuff like that, because I just wasn’t happy with my work as an artist at the time.
“That’s sort of when one day I cracked. I woke up, I went into the studio, and it was just like, I don’t care what anyone says, we’re writing something bratty today.”
That decision led to the birth of Aura’s first EP 'THREE CHEERS FOR THE AMERICAN BEAUTY’, the album itself a defiance against an industry steeped in sexism. The misogyny that thrives in the music industry perpetuates a harmful narrative that our favourite psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud has coined as the Madonna-Whore Complex, where women are neatly categorised as either pure and chaste angels or sex-mad sluts.
“I was writing pop music because I felt like that’s what the industry wanted from a girl like me at that time. A lot of the time the gatekeepers and the producers and the people that you end up working with are men, and a lot of the time they think they know what’s best for you.
“So here I am, this girl writing these bubbly pop songs that are sappy, like tugging-at-the-shirt type of shit, but it just wasn’t who I am as a person. So when I was in the studio writing these really soft songs, it felt like I was wearing someone else’s skin. When I went in [the day of writing THREE CHEERS], I had not only come into myself as a writer, but I also stepped into my confidence.”
In stepping into her confidence, Aura wrote an album that not only gave the middle finger to the music industry’s sexist standards but encouraged women everywhere to question the patriarchal society that governed their lives, telling them what to wear, how to act and who to be. Coming from a religious background, Aura commented on the teaching that are drilled into girls from a young age, where one must be meek, reverent and proper in order to prosper in married life.
“For me, this EP was freedom,” Aura says. “It was my moment to prove to myself that I have grown, and that I am the woman that I want to be. And if that is able to help somebody else find that in themselves, then I feel like that’s just the cherry on top.”
Perhaps a testimony to Aura’s empowering EP was the feature of HONEY in Spotify’s ‘Walk Like A Badass’ playlist, which in the artist’s words “makes you want to drive super fast on the highway and break all the rules.” Being one of the first songs she wrote in the studio, the song set the precedent for Aura’s image as an artist, with the third line of the chorus – “I know you weren’t ready for a girl like me” – addressing the music industry’s narrow expectations of how women should behave, and how Aura’s introduction to the scene will send them spinning.
“There are a lot of men in the music industry that don’t fully get what it’s like to be a woman, especially in American culture. This song for me was like, you guys think I’m this cute little girl who’s nice and a good singer, but what you’re not seeing is who I really am, which is a fucking monster, a beast and a boss. This song is about me stepping into my power and reminding people who I am.”
Aura’s challenge to the patriarchal society that thrives in American culture extends beyond ‘HONEY’ and bleeds into the whole album. The album cover art looks as though it has been pulled directly from a 1980s high school horror movie, complete with ghoulish pageant girls and bloodstained ballgowns, yet each blood-spattered beauty queen has their own accompanying story which tells the grisly tales of women living in the patriarchy.
“I had created these stories that attached to each song. For instance, ‘TALKING TO ME’ is attached to a girl named Holly who has a teacher come on to her at school, and instead of letting it happen takes matters into her own hands and kills him.
“To me, Holly was the personification of the hyper-sexualisation of young women in American culture. When I was 14 years old and performing, I’d have these grown men coming on to me, which happens too frequently to young women. And especially in American culture, I feel like our society here really puts and emphasis on youth and being young and being sexy, which I think can be contorted to be very disturbing. Each one of these girls really embodies a different issue, and her story is a vigilante for that issue.
“I wanted each song to have a different girl with a different story attached to it, which I’m hoping I’ll be able to turn into a book that people can buy when I’m on tour, so that they can get into the music and the fact that the music is a soundtrack to these stories.
“I love that I have the ability to take everything that’s inside of me and that I’m able to convey that in such a way that tells a story and reaches a lot of other people. With every song that I write, it’s mine for a little bit and then once I release it, it belongs to everyone else. I love that connectivity, I love that ability to take something that’s personal to me and to communicate with someone else and share it with them.
“I also love playing music live, I just love the feeling of being in a room with a group of people who are there to enjoy life and to have fun.”
Being released in 2020 amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Aura has yet to take THREE CHEERS on tour, but is already making plans to take to the stage as soon as restrictions are lifted.
“Whatever I end up doing, I’m sure it’s going to be the biggest thing I’ve done, especially now that the EP has been out, and I have a bunch of new fans from ‘Riverdale’ and ‘Sabrina.’ I’m also writing some really exciting stuff that will hopefully be coming out this year too, with some really exciting people. Hopefully we can expect some tour dates in the UK at the end of this year or at the beginning of next year.”
THREE CHEERS FOR THE AMERICAN BEAUTY is out on Spotify.
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