Singer-songwriter Luna Li Taps Into Divine Power
Issue 6 | Experimentation
This profile is part of a series to mark the launch of Somewherelse’s latest project, HUH. It’s a virtual bridge between international cities and artists that otherwise wouldn’t be able to work together. Thanks to the Internet we live in a globally connected world. We come together to mourn, to celebrate, to protest and to create. HUH fosters collaborations between different kinds of artists from different cities and helps them create new innovative and fulfilling projects. The first iteration connected Toronto-based singer-songwriter Luna Li with Canadian-born, L.A.-based filmmaker Rosanna Peng.
Luna Li is a story that Hannah Bussiere is continually curating. Sonically and visually, she knows exactly what she wants her landscape to look and sound like and welcomes all the help she gets along the way.
“I’m definitely the curator in terms of the visuals, like I might not come up with all the ideas, but I love to craft the world. In general, I just want everything to feel very magical. I want it to feel safe and welcoming, a space where anyone can feel loved, just drawing on the magic of nature and also drawing on feminine energy,” she says. She’s a Libra sun with a Cancer moon, after all.
For the non astrology-inclined that means she prioritizes harmony, idealism and fairness. She reminds me of another Libra, New York-based R&B singer Raveena. They both embody the divine feminine in their music, their demeanor and their style.
A graduate of Toronto’s all ages rock scene, Bussiere swapped out the gritty guitar riffs of 2017’s Opal Angel, for a more lush, anthemic and orchestral sound. The sonic world of Luna Li is hazy and dreamy, with swooning melodies and her effervescent voice floating over top of it all.
Bussiere grew up in a musical household and her mother runs a music school. She started piano lessons at five, violin at eight and guitar at twelve. Now, she plays a little bass and drums, is learning the harp and, of course, sings.
Each HUH collaboration revolves around a mood, an emotion or sense selected by the artists. When Bussiere and filmmaker Rosanna Peng came together to shoot a video for the song, “Afterglow,” ethereal was the first thing to come to Peng’s mind.
Their minds aligned perfectly, Bussiere says ethereal has always been a key word for the mood she’s trying to evoke with the music she makes as Luna Li. “To me ethereal feels very magical, otherworldly, welcoming and beautiful.”
She wrote “Afterglow” in October 2017 about a toxic friendship that fizzled out over the span of a few years. The song lays bare all the things left unsaid. “I’m saying everything that I wish I had said to that person. And it also touches on realizing that self-love and self care have to come first in order to build healthy relationships,” she says.
She and Peng met on shoot early this summer. Peng had admired her music for a while and was interested in working together and the chance meeting felt like kismet.
Once they started on the project, they had a social distanced meeting in Toronto’s High Park. Peng lives in Los Angeles, but was in Toronto throughout the early months of the pandemic lockdown.
Bussiere found the treatment that Peng dreamt up to be very unique and unlike any other video she had worked on before. Her fellow bandmates Hallie Switzer, Charise Aragoza, Sabrina Carrizo Sztainbok and Braden Sauder are painting self portraits that come to life. “The portraits start berating them, voicing their inner self-doubts. Then, they overcome the negative thoughts and destroy the paintings at the end of the video. My role is kind of like the fairy godmother. I sprinkle the glitter on them to make them realize their self-worth.”
In the video, Luna Li is like a woodland fairy, surrounded by trees and playing her harp. Pearls and jewels adorn her hands and her hair. She wears a sheer dress with blue poppies.
They shot the video at the end of August. The self-portraits in the video were painted by Peng who has recently started exploring painting and figure drawing. To make them “come alive” they used a clever combination of stop-motion and VFX done in post to smooth things out. Peng turned around a rough edit in a day. “I had never had anything go that fast, ever,” says Bussiere.
Bussiere appreciated getting to work with her bandmates again since they haven’t played a live show together in over six months. She writes a lot of the music herself and records at Marquee Sound, Sauder’s studio. Sauder plays the drums and bass on all the recordings and Bussiere takes on everything else, guitars, harp, violin, keyboards and vocals.
She struggled throughout the sluggish months of isolation to find ways to motivate herself, as many people did. Getting to collaborate again was a refreshing energy booster. Although she and Peng were in the same city for much of the creative process, they did most of the planning remotely, over email, text and even a fitting over Zoom.
“I remember shooting the video and just feeling very renewed when we were shooting because I just felt like I hadn’t worked on something so collaborative and so exciting since COVID hit in March. I think collaborating with others really fosters a sense of togetherness. And also, you have that extra push and that extra drive and motivation because you’re working together.”
Prior to the government’s state of emergency announcement, Bussiere’s life was constantly busy. With the extra time she felt forced to slow down a bit and started working on making more of her jam videos. They evolved during the pandemic but started before when she would post videos of herself learning new guitar solos. She noticed people were reacting positively to them and slowly they morphed into multi-instrument productions of her performing one-person jam sessions in her bedroom. (maybe embed one from her Instagram). Some even went viral on Twitter, like her fairy jam with over 20,000 likes.
She’s always working on more monthly jam videos and she’s sitting on a lot of unreleased music that should be out soon, like her much-anticipated debut album that was slated for a spring release.
For the “Afterglow” video release, normally there would be a show or some kind of in-person event. With that out of the question, they’re hosting a little Zoom release party. Busssiere will be playing some songs, doing a Q&A and Peng will be leading a painting and drawing class. “It’s just to have a little bit more of a sense of community around the release, to make more of a moment.”
Written by Kelsey Adams
Lead Photo Illustration by Marta Ryczko
Photos courtesy of Luna Li