Luna Li reflects on her “whirlwind” breakthrough year, talks CRSSD & 2023 plans

Post Author: Jeff Cubbison

The Toronto indie pop rising star performs on Sunday at the downtown San Diego festival

Last year was a big one for Luna Li. Between the release of her debut album Duality, a full touring schedule that included several festivals and opening for the likes Japanese Breakfast and Wolf Alice, as well as dropping her Jams 2 EP, the Toronto indie pop rising star reaped the rewards of new fans and critical acclaim.

Duality was one of our favorite records of 2022. Intimate, introspective, heart-on-your-sleeve, and realized through a palette of wistful indie rock and dream pop, the album ear-wormed its way to repeat listens because it plays to a variety of moods. It’s a deeply layered collection of songs. On one hand, there’s a buoyant melodic kick to it that’s warm and inspiring. It’s an album you can throw on at a kick-back with close friends and everyone will vibe to it. But if you really soak up Luna’s confessional lyrics, her gorgeously soothing vocals, and her calming, reverb-tinged sounds, you realize it’s also a cathartic, therapeutic listen. It’s an album that you can emotionally unwind to in the comfort of your bedroom on headphones. Nearly a year after its release, Duality continues to soundtrack so many different moods and moments.

Another wonderful aspect of Luna Li’s music is how she radiates her classical music roots. Duality is full of lovely baroque pop elements – the lulling strings on “Afterglow,” and the sweeping, ambient orchestral send-off on album closer “Lonelylovely.”

With that album and touring cycle in her rearview mirror, she’s now taking time to step back, reflect, spend time with family and friends in Toronto, and perform a handful of one-off shows – before looking ahead to LP 2. We sat down with Luna as she shared her thoughts on her “whirlwind” past year, her performance at CRSSD festival in San Diego this weekend, her plans for 2023, and more.

2022 was a breakthrough year for you. How would you reflect on the year you just had, and the reception to your records Duality and Jams 2? And what have you been up to since you wrapped your last tour?

2022 was an incredible whirlwind and I’m still processing the amount of change and growth I’ve gone through. It’s so rewarding to see years and years of work paying off and I’m so grateful for the overwhelming amount of support I’ve seen for my music, and for the opportunities that have blossomed out of it all. I’ve been playing some one-off shows here and there since our Europe tour wrapped at the end of last year, and have been working on writing new music as well as spending time in the Toronto snow and LA sun, spending time with my family, and crocheting lots of fun hats for all of my friends. 

You opened on tour for some really incredible artists, such as Japanese Breakfast and Wolf Alice. What did you gain from those experiences, as you look to headline more shows of your own in the future?

Getting to be a part of those tours is something I will never forget. The Japanese Breakfast tour was my very first big tour – 6 weeks and 30 shows – after 7 years of playing local shows in and around Toronto. Both Japanese Breakfast and Wolf Alice have been touring for quite a while and are absolute pros as well as really great and kind people. It was so great to be able to learn just by watching how they went through the day-to-day of touring with such a high level of competence and grace. 

You’re playing a couple upcoming festivals, including this Sunday at CRSSD down here in San Diego. Have you performed in San Diego before? What are you most excited for, and what do you have in store for your CRSSD performance?

I love San Diego! My friend and collaborator Yan Zhu and I filmed the music videos for “Cherry Pit” and “Star Stuff” in San Diego right before the pandemic hit. I’ve played there a couple of times before with Japanese Breakfast and Beabadoobee, which were really fun shows. I’ll be flying down with my band from Toronto for CRSSD and am looking forward to escaping the winter and being in the sun surrounded by music. 

Looking ahead at your plans for 2023, besides playing at CRSSD, do you have any other shows or tours on the horizon? Any new music in the works?

We’re playing our very first show in Asia this month in Singapore. I’m actually on my way there on the 17-hour flight answering these questions right now! We have a couple other one-off shows and festivals coming up but I’m trying to take some time off from shows right now to write new music. I’m working on album 2 and it’s been really great to start a new project from scratch. It’s feeling really fresh and wonderful. 

You have collaborated with some amazing musicians; Jay Som, beabadoobee, and Dreamer Isioma on Duality, Aaron Paris and Amaria on Jams 2. What is your mindset like when you look to collaborate with someone? What other artists would you love to work with going forward?

I see collaboration as something quite intimate, and I always try to approach it with an open mind. It still baffles me that I’ve been able to collaborate with so many incredible artists who I really admire, and it’s a good reminder that there’s no harm in reaching out even if you’ve never met before. One of my dream collaborators would be Melody Prochet aka Melody’s Echo Chamber. I’ve been a fan since I was a teenager and think we could make something really cool together. We both play the violin!

On Duality, you incorporated some of your classical background in certain moments, especially on the sweeping album closer “Lonely/Lovely.” Do you feel motivated to channel more of those classical impulses in the future?

I love tapping into my classical background as it’s such a big part of me and my musical upbringing. I definitely want to continue to explore how it fits into the world of Luna Li. 

The Toronto music scene seems to be thriving lately, with lots of great venues as well as exciting up-and-coming artists on the rise. Are there any bands or musicians from your hometown that you’re particularly fond of right now?

My keyboardist Char fronts a band in Toronto called Mother Tongues, which I actually used to play keyboards in a few years back. They’re working on a record right now which I’m really excited about. My bassist also has her own solo project called huxlii, and I have some other really talented and amazing friends making music in Toronto right now like Kali Horse, Deanna Petcoff, Aaron Paris, and The Kount.