“Thorns” is rich, nuanced, and sculpted with the most exact of razors. Each look over the shoulder, each dip into the shadows – precisely maneuvered by an artist who understands what it means to have ownership of one’s art.

Luna Shadows, the artist in mention, has a vision for her work. While the inspiration or moment can come from a variety of possibilities, the authenticity of the creation is never in question. We talked to the LA-based artist about what it means to work within your own confines. Our discussion is below, and be sure to listen to “Thorns” on a loop while you’re at it.

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Who was influencing you as you started out – do you think there’s any moment or artist where you can think, “Yep – this is what I want to do”?

This changes daily for me. I think in order to stay creative, I need a constant flow of inspiration. Certainly there have been recurring influences, but it really depends on the day. I grew up playing classical piano, so sometimes Chopin will be the inspiration. Other days, I am inspired by dirty synth pop/rock like the Strokes or the Killers.

I think the first strong female vocalist I heard was Ariel from The Little Mermaid, and I definitely remember thinking “This is what I want to do; I want to sing like that” at a very young age. Nowadays, I listen to Spotify’s daily mixes for me on the reg for fresh inspiration.

“It’s a very important time for artists to support one another, to share each other’s work, and to lift each other’s spirits.”

You don’t seem to mind getting your hands dirty in the creative process – lyrics, producing, instrumentation, engineering… I know the fellas from Now, Now and the Naked and Famous have helped in some aspects, but do you ever think about letting go of a little bit more, or are you trying to keep everything as personal as possible?

For me, I don’t see the point in not having complete control over my art. It wouldn’t be my art then – it would be someone else’s.  Even when I collaborate, there’s not a single sound that I don’t have a say in. Every bleep and bloop gets isolated and has to pass the Luna test. I go through every single noise with the people I work with to make sure everything is consistent with my vision and the emotional thing I’m trying to communicate with the song.

I write every single lyric – no one touches that. I really can’t imagine singing someone else’s words unless it felt like a page from my diary (not that I have a diary). But for me, art is self-expression, so it wouldn’t make any sense for me to let go of any control in that regard. The exception would be if some of my friends or favorite writers were helping me channel my voice. Of course, if Thom Yorke wrote a song for me, I would sing it.

The DIY aesthetic seems to have really taken to off across all genres. What does it mean to you as an artist to have so much control over your final output? Is the DIY music community in LA a collaborative place where you can rely on each other for bouncing around ideas or testing things with one another?

It’s funny that there’s a DIY aesthetic… DIY just means do-it-yourself, which is just a result of caring deeply about your project. I’m very fortunate to be a part of a very strong creative community here on the East Side of LA, where we all collaborate regularly with each other very freely and openly.

It’s definitely a safe place to share ideas, ask for constructive feedback, and seek creative assistance. It takes time to find your collaborators though, and in my case, it took nearly a decade in LA to really establish a network of creatives that I feel comfortable with.

Speaking of the aforementioned guys – how did you get connected to Brad and Thom?

Brad’s band Now, Now was touring through LA a little over 5 years ago, and they needed a place to stay, so a mutual friend of ours introduced us and his band stayed at my apartment. I baked them cupcakes and we had a sleepover. It was one of the most fun nights of my life. We immediately became best friends, though we didn’t work on music together for several years.

Brad introduced me to Thom over tacos one night, because he thought we might work together well and also because Thom is intimidating, and he didn’t want to go alone. Then we all got free margaritas, and none of us remember the rest of the night.

He asked me to send him my demos (some of which I’d started with Brad), and then he asked if he could work on my music. I’ve been bossing him around ever since.

Within your tracks, there seems to be a sonic and lyric tug-of-war, grey moments balanced with these tremendous bursts of radiant glows. How do you find that balance as an artist? Is it reflective of the personal you, or does it seem to arise more in the creative contexts of life?

My musical identity is very much derivative of my personal identity. I would just liken it to photographs – you are who you were in the photograph, but it’s a specific moment under the microscope that we are looking at for a few moments. It’s not that this is your constant state or your permanent sense of self, but rather who you were in a specific moment. My songs reflect on very specific moments or individual thoughts. It’s like a bit of creative meditation on a thought that might’ve been fleeting if it hadn’t been captured.

“Cheerleader” and “Thorns” both take big leaps in various ways – the productions are lusher, the moods seem darker, the atmospheres thicker – how were you able to springboard to this next level?

The truth is actually that these songs were written at the same time and in the same era as my previous release, but I sequenced them as such because I sensed a different darkness. With “Cheerleader,” I decided to take a specific aspect of my personality and set it on fire – the song is dripping with sarcasm, self-deprecation, and self-confidence simultaneously.

“Thorns” is a departure from the character in “Cheerleader” – it’s more fatalistic, introverted, and cinematic. I’m always very aware of what I’m doing conceptually, and I put a lot of thought not only into the songs but how they are sequenced, how to represent them visually, etc.

Going back to atmospheres, your music has a vivid quality to it – you can visualize so much, and the listener can fill in the colors as the songs progress. There’s an artistic quality there – are you influenced by the world of art in a way that helps you to create the way you do? Beyond the music, where are you looking to cull creativity from?

Everywhere and everything. Some ideas I get from evesdropping on conversations. “Thorns” came to me in a backyard near a rose bush. Obviously “Waves” and “Cherry” also had some nature influence. Hallelujah California” was inspired by the place I’m living in. I have an upcoming single that I wrote on my walk on the way to my songwriting session because I saw something on the way.

Other than that, I definitely find myself drawing inspiration from visual art and poetry. Usually, a song starts with a single word or phrase or melodic idea. “Cheerleader” started in a dream – I wrote the chorus in a dream, and I woke up, scrambled for my iPhone, and sang a very non-coherent version into voice memos.

To switch gears to a broader spectrum, outside of the personal, do you see your music as a larger reflective statement on the times in which we live?

Definitely. But, one of the most important lessons you learn about songwriting is that the more personal and detailed you can be, the more relatable you are on a larger scale, as the human condition is ultimately a shared experience. So, the twist is that writing from a personal perspective is often the best way to reflect on the bigger picture as well.

“For me, I don’t see the point in not having complete control over my art. It wouldn’t be my art then…”

And related to that, how important is it for the creative communities to band together now? What role do you see artists and creators playing in discussions moving forward?

I think artists and creators are incredible communicators – they help us process and cope with all of the emotions surrounding current events and personal circumstances. I don’t think artists have an obligation to participate in any discussions they don’t want to, as art can be just for personal needs or entertainment, but I think it’s awesome when artists do use art to start discussions and communicate ideas.

I think comedy in particular is having a moment right now, helping everyone to digest what’s going on in the world and providing small moments of relief in all the despair. It’s a very important time for artists to support one another, to share each other’s work, and to lift each other’s spirits.

Finally, what does 2017 hold for you? Will you be releasing an album, touring, collaborating, etc.?

Keeping everyone on their toes.

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All photos in the article by Shervin Lainez