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From writing lyrics to producing vocals and directing her own music videos, Luna Shadows single handedly creates so much of the world that surrounds her music.
Shadows sat down last week with The Harvard Crimson to talk about her new single “witches’ brew,” her forthcoming sophomore LP, and her creative process and inspiration. Zooming in from Los Angeles, the singer-songwriter shared how she has been exploring memory and self-reflection through her emotive indie rock and electro pop in her new projects, where she shows off her meaningful lyrics, extensive world-building, and mature artistic vision.
Her single “witches' brew,” the lead single for her upcoming album, came out on Oct. 27. She started writing this song in 2020 at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic when she was living out in California, separated from her family on the East Coast. She was confronted with her memories and chose to reflect on them through songwriting. Backed by acoustic guitar and melancholy strings, her poignant lyrics soar above the enchanted blend.
“The song itself is about my own experience with mental health and going through a really difficult time. I struggle with PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder),” she said.
In her music, she does not only write about the dark moments, but also emphasizes the light on the other side even when it sometimes seems far away.
“I can go to really, really dark places, and it can feel in moments like there's not going to be an opportunity for recovery. And this song is about one of those really dark moments, and I wrote it when I was kind of coming out of one of those depressive episodes,” she said.
When initially writing this single, she thought that every song on the album was going to be sad, yet it evolved to be about memory and how it shapes us. According to her, this album marks a shift to being more reflective compared to her earlier work, which she feels was more reactive. With this album, she focuses on selecting memories to represent certain people and experiences that have been a part of her life for so long.
Shadows hopes to create high and low points in the album, where she can highlight contrast as a motif in life and in music. When asked to describe her artistry in a few words, she responded “dark and light.” In the past, she explored this idea through mixing upbeat music with melancholy, introspective lyrics, or vice versa. In her forthcoming album, the varying subjects of the songs also reflect this opposition.
“When you put something dark next to something light, the dark gets darker and the light gets brighter, and I think I'm always trying to explore that in my music,” she said.
“I like seeing both sides of the spectrum,” she continued. “I feel like we try to think of ourselves as being only one thing, or if we have a feeling, we're kind of stuck there: I am this way, I am this person. But then, the next week, you have a different experiences and a different feeling.”
“I think we can see multitudes and we can be a lot of things.”
Shadows strives to make her lyrics both poetic and direct. Finding inspiration from other upcoming singer-songwriters, she makes her voice come through her words. Being able to create her own voice has always been important and Shadows is the vocal engineer and producer for her work. She records and edits all the vocals, including the fine details of tuning and timing.
Growing up, she learned sound engineering and producing out of necessity, taking some classes at school but mostly learning from experience. Although she wasn’t aware producing her own vocals was a possibility because she hadn’t been exposed to many female producers or engineers when she was younger, controlling her own vocals allows her to carry out her artistic vision.
“As I started creating music mostly as a songwriter and a singer who wanted to be able to control my own voice, both my voice as a writer and as a singer, I found myself wanting to improve upon what other people were doing,” she said. “At a certain point I just had to kick them off the computer and try to do it myself.”
She also works remotely with her co-producer, Bradley Hale. Based in Minneapolis, he is in the alternative rock band Now Now. They met back in 2011 when Hale’s band stayed at Shadows’s apartment while on tour in L.A. because they needed a place to crash. They kept in contact, and a couple years later Shadows reached out to Hale about producing together. After initially declining the offer because of his projects with his band at the time, he later agreed and the rest is history. Next year, Shadows and Hale will be coming up on their 10-year anniversary of working together.
In addition to her lyrics and meaningful messages, Shadows loves creating an environment surrounding her music. In an entirely collaborative project with Hale, who is also a graphic designer and visual artist, Shadows created a deck of tarot cards for the new album. Each month she sends a card to fans in the mail that reveals a song on the track list. This card connects to a website, where each month a new card turns over with insights into the songs and lyrics. For this new album, the world she is creating is about using music and magic interchangeably, as shown by the books entitled “Women in Magic” and “Women in Music” that recently appeared in the music video for “witches’ brew.”
Visually, Shadows plays off of something more fun, humorous, and supernatural in the music video than the very secular and down-to-earth mood of the song – the words “witches’ brew” don’t show up in the lyrics, but rather constitute a metaphor for her own experience. In the video which she directed, she stands in an alternate dreamscape reality, outfitted in a flowy white dress in a cemetery. Drawing inspiration from other portrayals of witches and the retro flare of sci-fi films from the ’70s and ’80s, she used practical effects rather than CGI to create a realistic look, with props such as a miniature of the cemetery and a guitar suspended on fishing wire. Shadows’s dedication to the world-building aspect of her work allows fans to fully engage with the meaning and aura she creates.
Shadows’s full package, including her lyrics, world-building, and production skills creates a full musical experience that foreshadows her new sophomore LP.
“Witches’ brew,” the lead single for her sophomore LP, is available to listen to on all streaming platforms.
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