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How to stan yourself, according to MUNA
MUNAPhotography Issac Schneider

How to stan yourself, according to MUNA

As they release their second album, Saves The World, we meet the self-proclaimed ‘greatest band in the world’ to find out the key to self-love

During my brief half hour with MUNA, we cover a lot of ground – partly interview, partly enthused interjections about make-up smudges and The Great British Bake Off. “I’m biting my tongue trying not to laugh at you,” exclaims guitarist Naomi McPherson, smirking at her bandmate Josette Maskin. We’re sat in London’s Ace Hotel the day after MUNA’s triumphant first show at the nearby Village Underground, which, ten minutes before, got a five-star review in The Guardian, so they’re understandably giddy.

“I want to read it but I’m also afraid,” singer Katie Gavin admits, before looking over to Maskin and teasing: “They could be like, ‘the only thing that sucked was Jo’.” 

“That wouldn’t be true,” McPherson interrupts, “it would be like, ‘Naomi’s nerves were palpable as her trembling hands shocked the audience’.” Of course, this is all mocking self-depreciation – after all, MUNA is the “greatest band in the world”.

Four days before they’re sat in front of me sipping Americanos and pondering the benefits of drinking charcoal, MUNA released their explosive second album, Saves The World. It’s a fiery pop record, filled with behemoths like uplifting lead single “Number One Fan”, which playfully riffs on stan culture, intimate six-minute closer “It’s Gonna Be Okay, Baby” – a self-assuring mini-memoir by Gavin – and the Robyn-esque “Never”, interspersed with softer ballads like delicate piano opener “Grow”, longing track “Who”, and the brighter, but painfully relatable, “Pink Light(“So I let it happen again / I loved someone who’s indifferent”).

A product of the comedown following their About U debut album tour, and subsequent supporting slot for Harry Styles, Saves The World is a journey of personal discovery, ultimately evolving into MUNA’s self-declared ‘coming-of-age’ record. 

Central to the album is the idea that “saving yourself should be seen as saving the world”, drawing on the self-care ethos encouraged by the likes of Lizzo and Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next”. Except this is MUNA, so there’s a beautifully self-aware wryness to it all: “So I heard the bad news / Nobody likes me and I’m gonna die alone” blast the opening lyrics to “Number One Fan”. Plagued by imposter syndrome, and away from the screaming fans who provided much-needed reassurance, Gavin, Maskin, and McPherson had to battle their own self-delusions by becoming stans of themselves. 

In honour of Saves The World’s release, we thought it was high time we found out just how to become your own number one fan. So, here’s MUNA’s lessons on how to stan yourself.

EMBRACE YOUR CREATIVITY

Josette Maskin: When I’m being creative – actively making music, or adding a part to a song that we’re working on – it’s one of the few moments that I feel truly present as an individual, and I think presence is what love is all about. The moments I feel the most love is when I’m actually open to paying attention, and open to being self-aware.

Katie Gavin: Because I’ve been a songwriter for so long – I started writing when I was around ten years old – (making music) has always been about acknowledging my ability to make a story out of my own experience, and I think that’s an important part of loving myself. Acknowledging the power that I have to say ‘this is what happened to me, but this is what I’m going to make out of it’ is a really beautiful thing.

Naomi McPherson: Music for me has always been something that I knew I was good at, for whatever reason it just felt natural to do it. I think that whatever your creative impulse is, it’s probably something that’s worth loving yourself for being able to do.

REMEMBER THAT EVERYONE FEELS THE SAME AS YOU

Josette Maskin: As a band, I think the thing we’ve found a lot – especially during the making of this record – is that we isolate ourselves from each other at certain points, then when we finally open up it’s as though we were all going through the same thing but were just being closed off. I think that represents how universal human experience is – as specific as it gets, we’ve all been there: we’ve all been in love and we’ve all felt really poop poop.

Katie Gavin: If you’re being honest about something that you’ve gone through, or something you’ve felt, and you’re being really specific, other people seem to relate to it as if it’s actually happened to them. I’m not trying to make relatable art, but I am trying to send a message to myself that whatever I’m going through is OK, that there’s nothing I’m not allowed to share. I think I’ve felt my way through a lot of things like shame, but I’m in a different place now where I’m more self-accepting. I do still feel vulnerable, but that’s not necessarily a bad feeling.

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH FRIENDS

Josette Maskin: When I met (Gavin and McPherson) it was during a time when I felt so insecure and anxious, and they really empowered me to feel secure in my identity. The thing that’s helped my self-love is the constant support and commitment we’ve had to each other; it’s allowed us to grow as individuals knowing that we’re doing this because we love and respect each other. I mean, we can dip if we want to, but we ain’t dipping.

Katie Gavin: Belonging is a funny thing because I feel like I’ve learned from them that I can be exactly who I am – with my flaws, but also with the things that create tension and are spiky in our relationship. I think something that takes a really long time for certain people to feel comfortable with is accepting somebody’s unconditional love, but (my friendship with Maskin and McPherson) has taught me a lot about the nature of love. 

Naomi McPherson: There’s truly a ridiculous and probably hard-to-come-by level of platonic intimacy within our little trio. Because we’ve had to work through hard, prickly bits, I have a fundamental understanding that no matter what we’re good. Maybe (spending so much time together) has traumatised us into loving each other, like Stockholm syndrome (laughs)

Katie Gavin: When we first started we were really young, and I think I didn’t have a great understanding of the fact that I’m responsible for my own feelings. I used to be triggered or annoyed by them and expect them to take care of it, but now I’m like, ‘OK I’m having a disproportionate reaction to this, so let me go home and think about why’. Basically they’ve helped me with how annoying they are.

Josette Maskin: You’re welcome.

Naomi McPherson: To be honest, whenever I don’t see them for a couple of days I’m emotionally in hysterics inside.

“Even if one of us is feeling like a fraud, we can root for each other. I want them to win even if I don't feel like I deserve to win” – Naomi McPherson, MUNA

INDULGE IN CLICHÉ SELF-CARE RITUALS

Naomi McPherson: (When we’re on tour) we like to wear face masks and go get pedicures. We also go to the Korean spa with all the old ladies.

Josette Maskin: We do let each other have our own time though – Naomi and Katie like yoga, I like to work out. We all like to meditate, close our eyes, and rub some crystals. We also did a dance class.

Katie Gavin: We were overtaken by the power of music and danced so hard that we ripped the skin off our feet.

Josette Maskin: It’s called having little baby bitch feet (laughs). My biggest self-love cliché is meditating.

Katie Gavin: It’s planting and gardening for me. Cooking is a big thing for all of us. Also just fucking talking to a friend, or reaching out to someone. That’s a little anti self-care, but it’s so important to me to just text a friend like, ‘I’m feeling this way today’. Even though I don’t ever want to do that, it’s important.

DON’T BE SO HARD ON YOURSELF

Naomi McPherson: We felt intense imposter syndrome during the first record cycle – before it and after it. I think it took a lot of personal work for all three of us to figure out where that feeling was coming from. It led to a lot of walls being built up over time, and a lot of defence mechanisms surrounding the way we presented ourselves, and the type of art we were willing to make. I think it took Katie writing all these very vulnerable songs over a long period of time for me and Jo to be willing to go there ourselves.

Josette Maskin: I still feel like a fucking imposter most of the time. 

Katie Gavin: I’m not going to try and get over it anymore, I’m just going to try and accept it because it is fine to feel that way sometimes. It’s not judgement day for myself.

Josette Maskin: That’s the big thing for me – I have a tendency to judge myself. But now when I mediate things, I’m like, ‘I’m full of love, peace, and acceptance’. Rather than feeling deserving, it’s just accepting where I’m at on that day. I give myself a kiss sometimes, but sometimes I spit on myself (laughs).  

Naomi McPherson: Even if one of us is feeling like a fraud, we can root for each other. I want them to win even if I don't feel like I deserve to win.

Katie Gavin: I’m not going to love myself more on the days that I did everything on my to-do list, got up and prayed before sunrise, or whatever. I get to love myself no matter what, or how well I’m doing or not.