Toronto's Luna Li Is the Breakout Star of Physical Distancing

"Even though we're socially distancing right now, we can still build artistic communities online and inspire each other to create"

Photo: Halle Hirota

BY Alex HudsonPublished May 22, 2020

On March 20, Toronto multi-instrumentalist Luna Li tweeted out a home performance video with the caption "harp jams all day." The 40-second clip, which shows the pastel-haired Hannah Bussiere grooving her way through a fleet-fingered ditty on several different instruments, went viral, quickly racing past a million views. She had a few hundred Twitter followers when she posted the video; as of press time, she has 21.5 thousand.

In a music scene that's been understandably devastated by coronavirus, she's the exception. Her videos have continued to be wildly popular, making her a rare example of an artist whose career has thrived during isolation.

"The response has been amazing," she gushes. "It makes me so happy that, even though we're all isolated right now, I can still connect with people through music."

So what is it that makes her videos so popular? Well, for one thing, there's the music: infectious dream pop that's full of breezy bass grooves, twinkling harp and soft-rocking fretboard flashiness. She shreds, but with subtlety. According to Bussiere, the key appeal of the videos is the way they deconstruct her subtly intricate compositions.

"People love to see behind the scenes," she observes. "With the jam videos, I'm taking them into my bedroom and right through the process. My videos show the arrangement being built one instrument at a time, in a way that allows people to understand exactly how the instruments blend together to create a piece of music."

It's a well-deserved explosion of success for one of Toronto's most promising songwriters. A recent alumnus of Exclaim!'s Class of 2020 concert series, the self-described "rock 'n' roll moon fairy" has been picking up steam in the past few years: her 2017 EP Opal Angel introduced the world to her honeyed garage pop sound, while the sighing recent single "Afterglow" explored a more flowery, fantastical style full of harps and violins. She's classically trained and her mother runs a music school, which helps to explain her technical expertise.

Her music has a fiercely feminist bent, and she's keen to help lead rock music towards a more diverse future. "It's a really exciting time for women in music, and I think that people love to see women represented in the music world," she says.

Bussiere is looking forward to the day when she can reunite her full band for live shows. There's no doubt that her audiences will be a lot larger than they were pre-lockdown. But until then, she's making the most of physical distancing; she's even become a muse for other artists, several of whom have shared their own Luna Li illustrations.

"The art is so incredible, and it's crazy that I'm the subject," she says of the visual tributes. "Someone commented that 'they're killing it because you're killing it — creativity breeds creativity.' I love the notion that, even though we're socially distancing right now, we can still build artistic communities online and inspire each other to create."

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