Class of 2020: Luna Li Creates Magical Worlds to Inspire Real Change

Class of 2020: Luna Li Creates Magical Worlds to Inspire Real Change
Photo: Halle Hirota
The story of how dreamy Toronto garage rocker Hannah Bussiere got her stage name Luna Li is as magical as her Instagram bio: "ur local moon fairy." And indeed, her whole aesthetic.
 
"We were trying to change it from Veins, because everyone thought Veins would be like a metal or a dark hard rock band, which it wasn't," Bussiere tells Exclaim! She had been shepherding her sound through a rebrand, swapping group members and working to articulate a clearer image of herself and the music she wanted to be making.
 
Bussiere doesn't remember how "Luna Li" ended up on the list of possible contenders — but it did, and from there began a process of elimination. "One day, me and Hallie [Switzer], the bass player, went on the street and just went up to random people and asked them. People liked Luna Li, so that ended up making the cut."
 
While her four-piece band — Switzer, Charise Aragoza, Sabrina Carrizo Sztainbok and Braden Sauder — accompany all her live performances, Bussiere is in creative command and plays most of the instruments in recordings. Her buoyant sound incorporates "nature and moon imagery," Bussiere says, "so [the name] was very fitting."
 
A "wholesome, chill experience" is what Bussiere wants her listeners to feel. When we listen to her music, she hopes we feel the way we might "chilling in [our] room, dancing around in pyjamas, that kind of thing," she says. It's an unmediated, self-assured and, most importantly, comfortable way, a way we ought to feel free to be outside the confines of the bedroom.    
 
This is an unabashed celebration of all things deeply feminine. Bussiere depicts pride in her embrace of nature, sequins, frills and feathers in a way that emboldens, that builds confidence in the listener; in a way that ultimately inspires us to take up space where we would have been afraid to, because this is what Bussiere is doing. She's leading by example, and showing us, should we want to follow, that we're not alone, that we are safe.
 
She began her musical career as an instrumentalist — she has classical piano and violin training; live, you might see her bring out her violin and perform backbends, as though the instrument were as light as a feather. Her voice is honey-like and strong, though she wasn't initially trained as a vocalist. "I started taking voice lessons, which has been really, really awesome and just kind of helping me find my voice a little bit more and just have it be a little more authentic," she says.
 
Luna Li had an incredible 2019. She played Royal Mountain Records' first Backyard BBQ back in June — alongside Dizzy and Hollerado — to raise awareness for the record label's Mental Health Fund; she played MattyFest back in September, alongside a stellar lineup including Wu-Tang Clan; and she opened for Hollerado at one of their final shows at the Danforth Music Hall in December. But while playing alongside all these big names might have her feeling empowered, she isn't losing her confidence or creativity; she knows her worth and is not apologetic about it. 
 
At the end of the day, Bussiere, through Luna Li, is, in her own way, working to brighten a burning and anxious landscape. While her new music will grapple with heavy issues of anxiety and mental health, it will all be in the hopes of creating positive dialogue, with a dusting of glitter.
 
Luna Li play Exclaim!'s Class of 2020 concert series, co-presented by Collective Arts, on Saturday January 18 at the Monarch Tavern in Toronto with Roach, Basement Revolver, Spirit Josh and Ducks Unlimited.