Anna Lunoe Brings It All Out
It’s been a few years now since underground dance blew through the collective crust into mainstream sonic consciousness. It would be reductionist to lump all electronic dance music into a single acronymed genre, but in doing so for broader argument’s sake, EDM is a class of music in which women have been too often relegated to vocal cameos or stage dancers, and where female DJs themselves are disproportionately represented in booking lineups. Leave the technical stuff to the guys, they say. But a new crop of audiophiles like FKA twigs and Kimbra, to name just a few that have garnered name recognition, now have their hands fully integrated into the production end of R&B, electronica, pop, and dance. Then there’s the DJ side. Look to the BBC (America seems to lag here), with brand name specialist hosts Annie Mac, B Traits, and Mary Anne Hobbs. L.A.-via-Sydney DJ/producer Anna Lunoe’s debut U.S. release and North American tour could push this growing tide from abroad across the continent. From a teenager with an anthropologist’s curiosity in dance subcultures, to mastering the decks through tireless gigging, and now a full-on electronic compositionist and singer, Lunoe curates music to make you move.
It was around the time she was fiddling with the acoustic guitar and singing in pseudo punk bands that Lunoe turned up a local radio station in Sydney to poke around for, well, anything they might offer. After landing a spot behind the reception desk—“from midday to five,” she delivered in a Casey Kasem voice—Lunoe soon snagged an “all-nighter” show and then a lunch program. She kicked off pressing play on indie tunes across the airwaves, but within a year, she says, DJ music was taking hold in Australia. “At that point, DJs, to me, were people spinning on vinyl,” she recalls, “but it was the start of ‘blog house.’” The Internet suddenly provided a marketplace of ideas for a newly globalized music scene. “In Australia, you feel so far away from everything you’re a kid,” says Lunoe. “It’s not like now, where you can tweet at your favorite musician and they write back to you.”
The mid-aughts heralded an anti-mainstream pop dance revolution: MSTRKRFT, Justice and “all the Frenchies,” M.I.A., and Dizzee Rascal. “The tempos got higher and I got more into it,” Lunoe tells. Each year she dove into a new esoteric sub-genre, learning the ways of tribal house, Baltimore club, disco, hyphy, rave, and U.K. dubstep, all of which blended into her evolution as a selector. “I would get really deep in it, learn the history. And I was trying to play it in Australia where no one really cared. But I was all about it.”
Lunoe’s aural inquisitiveness was bred of kin competitiveness. The daughter of a bluesman, she “went nuts” brushing up on musical anthologies at the library, watching rock documentaries where ever she could; “I wanted to know it all,” she says. “My brothers were older, and they had a jam room where they talked about music with my dad and played his stuff. I would learn everything, then just casually drop it in during conversation. That was my whole angle—I was just trying to impress them.”
A lust for information serves as Lunoe’s psychological anchor as a DJ. She sees herself as a filter. She digs for the diamonds among the rough, patches sounds into a collage of cadence, then offers the presentation to listener. “I think if you have that thirst, it pushes you to go beyond what’s considered cool at that time,” says Lunoe. Her palette runs wide.
For years she’d gigged, honed her mix in Australia, but with ambition to make bigger moves, Lunoe left Sydney for Los Angeles. In the meantime, she’s progressed from DJ to compositional producer. The expansion has been exacting. In capturing musical lines and translating ideas through computer software, theory and delivery are not one in the same. Lunoe sees creative direction as her greatest strength. She always knows where a song should go, where to cue the drop; she always understands the energy. Navigating the endless options afforded by Ableton, however, is an endless work in progress. “It’s two different parts of your brain: it’s the creative part and your analytical, mechanical side,” she explains. “You have to go from idea to execution, so you’re swinging from both ends, trying to connect. It’s quite difficult and I can get very frustrated. We all have our struggles in music.”
In translating those ideas, she often thinks she’d have been better suited in a band. “I’m much more tactile,” she says. “If you put me in front of a proper synthesizer, or a bass guitar and real, tangible instruments, the idea flow is so much more immediate.” On a computer, thoughts are instead directed to folders, and plugins, “and this and that thing.” It’s not for everyone, she says, and laments that, often, creativity is stifled off because of the initial barrier between musician and the instrumentation inside. “I’m not naturally a computer person, and it’s something that I had to fight for.” The more she masters digital navigation, the more she considers a future in analog.
“I’ve always wanted to be a part of something bigger, a more live avenue, a more shared experience. I think it’s much more suited to my creative flow.”
Future meditations aside, Lunoe’s eclectic mix of postmodern dance pop brings audiovisual knickknacks to the floor. There’s something for everyone. This month sees the release of her first stateside EP, All Out, which will be supported by a North American tour. “It’s the first time I’m incorporating visuals, and picking support acts—making it my show,” she beams.
“There aren’t many DJs who sing, and not many who are girls, and not many that release four different genres in one month in order to weird everyone out. I feel it now, that people understand what I’m all about.”
And her WILD Wish?
“I wish to stay creatively supple my whole life. To want to learn, adapt, and create my whole life. Even if it means that my grandkids think I’m nuts. I want to be surrounded by people who want to continue to change shit and challenge what they know about what’s cool.”
Download Anna Lunoe’s All Out on iTunes