There’s an old saying that used to go something like this: behind every great man there stands a great woman. L.A. pop artist Luna Shadows seems to have written her new song ‘Cheerleader’ from the perspective of that woman standing behind her man – in order to imagine her takeover. At first, the song’s narrator plays the role of submissive arm candy (“Keep me where I belong / Candy on your sweet arm”). But the song’s subversive theme of empowerment emerges when Shadows ends each chorus with the refrain, “But I will be the one to change the game.”
Luna Shadows answered a few interview questions for Culture Creature via email (read below). You can also catch her on tour with Wavves and The Naked and Famous for select dates this Spring.
Culture Creature: Your song ‘Cheerleader’ is (partially) about quietly plotting from the sidelines. Do you think that approach can be a strength in today’s relentless pop culture landscape, and if so, how?
Luna Shadows: A few years ago, I had a meeting with a wise music industry veteran who posed this haunting question to me: “what if you’re there the whole time, but no one ever notices?” This question really made me realize how hard I’d have to think really hard about how I could cut through the noise in a culture that is so saturated and competitive. As he was implying, it was going to take a lot more than a few songs. A lot of artists have good songs. I noticed that many artists took the aggressive approach of getting louder, taking up more space, and putting forward endless content. I dropped everything I was doing and went in the exact opposite direction, because it felt more true to me as a person and as an artist to go for a long play. It wasn’t easy, though. I don’t think this path is for everyone. It requires an unimaginable amount of patience, self-reflection, anxiety, and perseverance. I cried a lot.
You have a strong visual sense that’s reflected in your videos, art, and personal style. Which came first for you: visual art or music?
Thank you! They actually came sort of simultaneously. My concept for my visuals for this project were born when I wrote ‘Hallelujah California.’ That song really put everything on a grid for me. I recognized how important my environment in LA really was, and I tried to think of a way to translate my experience visually. I thought about how California is typically portrayed as a colorful paradise in photos and films, and I realized that there was not currently a voice in pop culture showcasing the raw, DIY, east side artist culture. My presentation of LA is more monochromatic and (perhaps) equally romantic but in a different way that isn’t just Hollywood, bikinis, and popsicles. I definitely enjoy the retro LA culture, but I also felt the desire for an update which was more inclusive of other aspects of life here.
The moon is obviously a meaningful symbol for you. What is it about the moon that interests or inspires you?
I like the moon because it’s subtle and secretive. From earth, it appears so calm, serene, and still. Meanwhile, while we’re all consumed by its beauty and its phases, it controls all the oceans on earth and steals sunlight. The moon is kind of like a clever thief. It doesn’t glow on its own, but it convinces everyone that it does until they learn otherwise. There’s a line in a Paramore song: “Like the moon, we borrow our light.” I like the idea that something so far away has so much power. It relates back to my concept for ‘Cheerleader’ in that way – as a metaphor for something quiet but powerful with precision.
What inspires you most about the cultural history of Los Angeles?
I am so obsessed with all aspects of the cultural history of Los Angeles. I think people are typically interested in the golden age of Hollywood, but living in Echo Park I am most excited to learn about & participate in the preservation of Mexican culture here. I took an entire college course on this topic. California would not be what it is without the colorful and welcoming culture of our incredible neighbors. It is present in everything from our food to our architecture to our condiments (hot sauce is a centerpiece of every table) to our rooftops. With everything going on in politics right now, I think it is more important than ever to recognize international influence in our cities. My personal favorite place for cultural exploration in this regard is the Olvera Street marketplace in DTLA, which celebrates and preserves some of the original establishments from Mexican vendors in LA.
If you could go back in time and join any band, which would you join and why?
Probably Radiohead because I’d love to be a fly on that wall for the songwriting process. Do I need to go back in time for that though, or can I just join? Thom Yorke, if you’re reading, hello. Otherwise, maybe the Beach Boys, but they’d have to change their name to include me. Maybe like, ‘The Beach Babes.’ I don’t know. We’d have to vote. I think bands vote on that kind of stuff. Usually it ends well. Just ask Oasis.
🙂 Thank you!