Photography: Isaac Schneider
“It’s scary to try and make things better, but that’s kind of the question we’re asking with this record.”
It’s a cliché that the second record is a difficult one, but for MUNA it was one that rang true. After they came off the road from touring their 2017 debut, About U, and tried to settle back into life in their adopted hometown of LA, the trio – made up of Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, Naomi McPherson, who met as students at the University of Southern California in 2013 – found the initial process of going back to their normal lives daunting. And once they had, they were faced with the pressure of delivering a follow-up record that matched the hype of their first.
“The press had been so kind to us about our record, we were treated like absolute darlings and everyone was very sweet to us…” Katie explains of their time spent making new album Saves The World. “Now, I look back on the first record and I’m like, ‘that’s a fucking good album’, but that is not always how I felt. There was definitely a lot of pressure. I think most of it was internal. All three of us are really hard on ourselves as workers and we expect a lot of ourselves.”
Without the cheers of the crowd and the validation that came from being on tour and interacting with an audience every night, making their second album partially became an exercise in learning to believe in yourself without having to rely on something external to tell you you’re doing okay. It’s a message that went on to be the central theme of the album as a whole: Saves The World embodies the idea that sometimes the most radical and important thing you can do is commit to looking after yourself before you can concentrate properly on anything else.
“We expect a lot of ourselves.”
Nowhere is this better found than on the album’s lead single ‘Number One Fan’, which marks a sonic departure from the synth-heavy ‘goth-pop’ of some of their earlier songs in favour of glossy pop kitsch. It also just so happens to have one of the best opening lines of any comeback song from recent memory: “So I heard the bad news / Nobody likes me and I’m gonna die alone / In my bedroom / Looking at strangers on my telephone,” the song begins, before stressing the importance of speaking back to the negative voices in your head and looking inwards for growth.
“We’d been away for almost two years and we were on this path of trying to reinvent ourselves and it was like ‘What is a better way to come back out of the gates with guns blazing than with a song that literally punches you in the face with sincerity and comedy?’,” Josette says of how choosing the song as their first single was easy. It’s a song that will be highly relatable to anyone who’s ever spent an evening in, scrolling themselves into a FOMO-heavy internet hole, wondering how their life ended up being so underwhelming.
But despite the song’s melodramatic edge, MUNA still intend their second album to act as many of their previous releases have done: using personal storytelling to act as a response to the political. From performing in t-shirts that proudly declare ‘FUCK TRUMP’ in bold, red capital letters to regularly speaking out about issues ranging from gun violence to climate change and reproductive rights, politics have formed – and continue to form – a central part to their existence as a band.
“Just calling the record ‘Saves The World’ and talking about world-saving and talking about saving yourself, all of these things, we want to position them as political statements because I think the idea that the world can be saved and that we have within us creative solutions to these problems, it just seems…” Katie begins, before continuing: “It’s kind of hard to accept that there is even any bit of hope left, because that’s scary. It’s scary to try and make things better, but that’s kind of the question we’re asking with this record. It’s an exploration of that.”
“We’re not nihilists,” Naomi adds. “I think we feel like there has to be a reason to wake up every day and keep going. We’re just trying to figure out a way to say something political without making everyone really fucking depressed.”
Saves The World is released September 6th via Columbia Records
Facebook: @whereismuna twitter: @whereisMUNA
See the video for ‘Number One Fan’ here: