ACL Fest 2022 – Luna Luna Moves From Dallas Origins to Riverside HQ to Make ACL Fest Debut: Indie-Pop Quartet Engages with a Very Online Latinx Audience – Music


Photo by Jana Birchum

Having a song, maybe a loving but heartbroken groove, going viral on TikTok has its pros and cons. Trends pass, interest wanes, or in some cases the music begins to fade into the background as it flows over soundtrack banalities like “get ready with me” videos. Of course, racking up thousands of subscribers and racking up millions of streams on Spotify certainly doesn’t hurt, especially for indie artists creating beats in their bedrooms.

Enter Austin-by-way-of-Dallas indie-pop band Luna Luna, embodying the multifacetedness of their online fan base while sporting colorful ’80s attire. west of Oak Cliff in D-Town, consists of drummer Kaylin Martínez, bassist Ryan “Gordo” Gordon, keyboardist/vocalist Danny Bonilla and vocalist Kevin “Kavvi” González, who launched Luna Luna as a solo project . Guitarist Brennan Shrestha joins live.

In June 2020, the group released a short clip from the music video for “Commitment”, the first single from the 2019 sophomore collection. Carousel. The song and accompanying message quickly sent TikTok into a frenzy with consolidated sounds of heartfelt R&B and rich, hypnotic dream-pop. Unassuming captions noted, “We’re Luna Luna/ A bilingual Latinx band from Dallas, TX/ We make songs in our bedroom/ This song is called ‘Commitment’.”

At the time, Martínez resided in Denton and Gordon lived in Plano, while vocalist González stayed in Oak Cliff.

“And Danny…Danny is more nomadic,” Gordon says in a Zoom group call.

Fittingly, Bonilla tunes in from the window seat of a bus leaving the Houston area en route to Dallas, separated from his bandmates. He has spent most of his day on the road, but remains in good spirits. “I’m used to it,” he laughs.

Until the relocation of the group’s capital last year, Luna Luna collaborated from afar. After unanimously agreeing on reassembly in Austin as the most logical next step, they came across a house with a built-in studio and practice space near Riverside, which now functions as their official headquarters. by Luna Luna.

“Austin made more sense because it’s the capital of live music and there’s a big Hispanic community showing up,” Bonilla says. “It’s the perfect fit for Luna Luna.”

Since the local move, the four have firmly established themselves as a unit in Austin music, most notably with the booking of the first weekend of the ACL Fest. Individually, drummer Martínez also plays in post-punk Austin-Denton trio Manifest Destiny’s Child, Ariel + Bottomfeeders and Thelma and the Sleaze, while Bonilla recently unveiled new glam-rock-sized solo tracks. Their Zilker Park date is part of an ongoing fall tour, which kicked off in Tucson last week.

As a teenager, González dabbled in GarageBand on his iPhone. He began uploading some of his recordings to SoundCloud in 2017 under the moniker Luna Luna, compiling what would become the bulk of the project’s scintillating, synth-pop-inspired debut, For lovers only. As the area’s interest in the project grew, opportunities for González presented themselves in the Dallas DIY-oriented home show circuit.

He sought out musicians to better fit Luna Luna’s party performance parameters, and the band’s lifelong line-up finally solidified when Bonilla, Gordon, and Martínez came on board. Luna Luna would go on to open for the chillwave vanguards Washed Out and Neon Indian at respective tour stops in the DFW area. The band also landed a spot on the management roster of Los Angeles-based Cosmica Artists, home to fellow Austin bandmates David Garza and the Tiarras.

Prior to the first round of festival cancellations in the spring of 2020, the band had been booked to play South by Southwest, as well as McAllen’s growing music and arts festival, MXLAN. Like many with touring plans interrupted by an impending global lockdown, the band have turned to live-streamed performances and a strong online presence. Thus, an already fervent fan base quickly multiplied with interest in “Commitment” – where Kavvi’s silky, commanding falsetto vocals lead into the song’s finger-snapping, slowly blocking heart.

In the second half, a conversational transition from English to Spanish embodies a new generation of Latinx artists. Like Ambar Lucid, Omar Apollo and Victor Internet, Luna Luna reinvented the bedroom-pop genre by drawing inspiration from the romantic ballads of their parents’ generation.

“I remember watching a lot of VH1 Classic, like all these 80s bands with long hair and stuff,” Gordon adds. “I wanted to emulate that throwback style…I was talking to my mom recently and found out that a lot of [my family] grew up playing drums, percussion and vocals. It’s cool to be able to carry the torch.

To date, the aforementioned “Engagement” music video has garnered over 850,000 views, registering the song to over 10 million plays on Spotify. Beyond all the statistics, groundbreaking acts like Luna Luna are forging a deeper connection with a very online Latinx audience eager to see parts of their identity reflected in the musicians they resonate with.

Bonilla, whose family is originally from El Salvador, says he grew up with everything from reggae and cumbia to merengue. González, founder of the group, originally from Colombia and raised in Dallas, grew up with the music of Héctor Lavoe and Marc Anthony, as well as bachata groups such as Monchy & Alexandra and Aventura.

“My mom’s side is very music-oriented,” he says. “They always had instruments and sang with the family. Growing up here in America, I was also surrounded by English music, stuff like Frank Ocean, Tame Impala.

Drummer Martínez adds, “I grew up playing worship music in church. I think that influenced the way I play a lot these days, definitely a lot of rock.

Excluding last record of 2021 Flower Moon, “Feel It Now” highlights Kavvi’s fondness for Tame Impala’s psychedelia and alludes to Martínez’s dynamic drumming and alternative rock. Led by Gordon’s melodic, catchy bassline, “Golden” lets Bonilla’s funk flair shine through, while the title track and “Baby Loner” lean into space shoegaze.

On stage, Luna Luna delivers other stylistic exceptions, energizing the crowd by blasting out dancefloor anthems like Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina” or El Alfa’s “La Mamá de la Mamá” between songs. When they’re not covering classics like “Cómo Te Voy a Olvidar” by cumbia titans Los Ángeles Azules, they charge through a rendition of Harry Styles’ “As It Was.”

“Ryan and I both have rock backgrounds, Kavvi has pop influences, and Danny has that soulful, old-school style — and we combine all of that,” Martínez explains. “It creates a lot of sounds that people may not have heard and are excited to see. It’s a happy accident.

Luna Luna performs ACL Fest (Sun, 11:45 a.m., Barton Springs stage) and opens for Omar Apollo (Sat, 9 p.m., Moody Theater). They’re featured on San Antonio rapper Lilbootycall’s latest single, “Sunset Blvd,” in a Texas collab with 8percent, Wassup Rocker and Astrus*.

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