Love songs — like love itself — can be complicated. Just ask Luna Luna, whose dreamy synth pop provides a soundtrack for young love and indie slow dances.
The band’s music, inspired by a ’70s disco and funk psychedelic, features romantic tunes, slick fashions and colorful music videos that have branded them as one of the more innovative acts — but that’s not all that makes the group so notable. Its members’ Latinx roots, which serve as a draw for a young crowd looking to see faces familiar to their own under bright stage lights, means something more than just Latinx representation — it means Latinx unity at large.
Formed in Dallas in 2017, Luna Luna made an instant impression from the moment the band started playing their first house shows. Their lovelorn synth-pop ballads and quiet dance numbers — influenced by Latin American crooners, salsa, R&B and contemporary pop — gained them a following even beyond their immediate vicinity. Flower Moon, their latest album, is the band’s most fully developed work to date, displaying a variety of influences and impressive songwriting. It’s the end of a journey and the beginning of a new chapter.
Originally, Luna Luna began as a solo project for singer-songwriter Kevin González (aka Kavvi) but soon expanded into something bigger: “I came from Colombia when I was 6,” Kavvi says. “My mom was a missionary for the church. She showed me salsa, merengue and cumbia. Soon, music became my favorite thing.” Finding the means to translate his passion into a craft, Kavvi turned to his phone, finding sounds on the GarageBand app to express his feelings while working as a phone service salesperson at his local Walmart. “I just gravitated toward warm sounds,” he explains. “It was a little lonely growing up. Deep down, I wanted love, so the songs I was writing were romantic. It was healing for me.”
At some point, Kavvi was invited to play a show that motivated him to find musicians in Dallas to back him. After many members came on board and left, the current lineup of Kavvi, vocalist/keyboardist Danni Bonilla, drummer Kaylin Martínez and bassist Ryan Gordon came into place.
Luna Luna has coalesced into a tighter artistic outfit, thanks to the players becoming a band in every sense of the word. “When we were playing house shows, getting our feet wet, I could just tell we affected the audience in ways I haven’t seen many other bands do,” Gordon says. “I thought, ‘Whoa, we have chemistry.’”
Playing on the DIY scene was integral, not only in shaping their music but also their chemistry. However, the group has scaled to bigger stages without imposing limits on themselves. “It’s definitely a more intense, raw feel,” says Gordon about playing those kinds of shows. “It’s like, ‘OK, anything could happen.’ As we continue doing bigger and bigger shows, we have to amp up our sound, get new gear and expand.” Adds Bonilla, “Personally, when I write a song, I imagine playing it in a stadium. That’s what I hear in my head.”
According to Kavvi, the band came into its own with the recording of Flower Moon. Writing for the album began during the first lockdown, when everyone was isolated from each other; but this experience was positive for the band members. “We did get closer,” Martinez says. “And I think during that time, as we were connecting more intellectually, we were able to better articulate ideas we had for the album. You can hear more cohesiveness throughout each song, even though they may be different in theme.”
“We started to value each other’s presence in our lives,” Bonilla explains, “and we wanted to maintain that relationship.”
A lot of these feelings are reflected in Flower Moon, which is based on the idea of a lost boy confused about life and turning to the moon for answers. “The songs kind of go up and down,” Kavvi says. “There are upbeat party songs, then there are songs that are more mellow and sad. They both ended up being about missing people, doing stuff with friends, and missing that feeling.” A key inspiration that helped unlock the rest of the album came from learning to listen to nature. The title song, in fact, was written about Kavvi trying to communicate with the moon. “Sometimes you don’t know how to express what you’re feeling,” he says, “so you put it in a song.”
Although Luna Luna has left behind the living room and backyard shows in favor of bigger venues — and currently works with a team behind the scenes — they remain a bedroom recording project. The band still encounters some bias in that respect, but Kavvi says that’s lessened, noting the Grammy-winning production work of Finneas with Billie Eilish.
While most of the sessions took place at Kavvi’s house, there was some work done with another producer in a studio in the small town of Spur, an hour east of Lubbock. Coincidentally, this session happened when a snowstorm hit Texas, leaving Luna Luna stranded in the studio but mercifully left with power. It effectively forced them to seize the opportunity. “We got to stay there and just work on music,” Kavvi says. “Eat and hang out at night, then wake up and do music. It felt like a music boot camp.”
Being snowed-in — not to mention during a worldwide pandemic — is just one of the hardships Luna Luna has endured on the way to delivering Flower Moon. Yet, their mission, as well as their motivation, remains clear. “Our foundation is sturdy,” Kavvi says.
“We all have the same path,” Bonilla says, “and that’s what’s helped us stay together. There’s a lot of love for each other and also for our fans. That’s what it is to be a band.”
The love fans feel is particular. The majority of Luna Luna followers are Latinx, something not lost on the members of the band and something that brings a special energy to their shows. “Seeing a bunch of people in the crowd that look like us really impacted us,” says Kavvi. “I’d see the online streams were growing, but I didn’t really know who was listening. So when we started playing shows and seeing a bunch of Latinx faces, I’m like, ‘Oh, it’s our community that’s supporting us.’ We’re looking forward to seeing people in cities who’ve never seen us before.”
Luna Luna is part of a new generation of Latinx pop artists speaking for a young generation of listeners ready to fall in love or having their hearts broken for the first time. The band is bringing a unique sound that captures what it means for those in their audience to be themselves.
“It’s the best part about doing what we’re doing,” Kavvi says. “I grew up here, and there are a lot of kids who grew up here, so they get the culture from their parents, all the Spanish music. But they also get all the English stuff just by living in the United States. So I think that’s why you see artists now who are making bilingual music. That’s why our music sounds this way. It’s a clash of cultures, and it’s produced a beautiful baby, and we are that baby.”
Editor’s Note: A version of this story originally appeared in Remezcla.
photo by Jinni J