words / KEEGAN HUGHES
After packing a Honda Civic with as many instruments and healthy snacks as they could, the four-piece band Luna Li hit the road for their first ever tour.
The Toronto-based band has been playing shows in the GTA for a while now, but decided it was time to take a trip to a few of Ontario’s music-loving cities. The tour brought them to Montreal and Kingston, with a chilly show at Avant Garde in Ottawa sandwiched between.
Four musicians, three of whom are glittered-out girls, plus synths is the formula for Luna Li. When they play, an ethereal energy enters the venue. From Bussiere’s melancholic crooning, to the dazzling synths, to the tightly executed guitar and drums, the band seems to command the attention of the audience.
Hannah Bussiere, who fronts the band, has been studying music for more than 14 years. Her mother owns the Classical Music Conservatory in Toronto, an excellent advantage for a budding musician. Beginning with piano at age 5, and learning violin and guitar in the years following, Bussiere knows her way around a treble clef.
Luna Li has only been playing under that name for a few months. Before, the ensemble was known as VEINS, a name that Bussiere came up with to publish home recordings of songs she had written to Bandcamp.
“That was a poem I had wrote in high school, it was called VEINS,” says Bussiere, “I thought it was kind of romantic and cute.”
As the band was growing, it was decided that a new name would help encompass the themes of the band. Bussiere and her bandmate Hallie Switzer came up with lists of names related to nature and magic, and even solicited the opinions of strangers.
“One day we went on the street and we were asking random people what names they liked,” laughs Bussiere.
The songwriting is more or less exclusively Bussiere’s responsibility, but her bandmates help her arrange and perfect each tune. Switzer plays a variety of roles, including backup vocals and bass guitar, while Charise “Char” Aragoza picked up guitar and synth (after already covering backup vocals and more) in a matter of months to round out the lineup. Braden Sauder is the band’s lone male presence, keeping the beat on the drums and teaming up with Bussiere with recording at his studio.
Bussiere says all-ages shows are important to the band, because they are inclusive and safe for everyone. Luna Li is part of an artist collective known as Fried Records, which puts on these types of events.
As Toronto seems to be making a bigger name for itself in the music scene every day, the band get more opportunities to play better shows. Opening for acts like New York’s gobbinjr are a sign that they are building more of a name for themselves. However, Bussiere says that she is also seeing a lot of venues close as the city changes.
“This really small venue called The CENTRAL just recently closed,” says Bussiere, “it’s really really tiny but it’s where I played some of my first shows and it’s where I know so many bands in Toronto have played their first show, so it’s kind of sad to see that go.”
Positive changes are abound in Toronto as well, as more people are getting the opportunity to play their music.
“Promoters have been more aware about making diverse bills with more female artists and artists of colour, and that’s been really great to see,” says Bussiere.
Even with some cherished spots shutting their doors, things seem to be looking up for Luna Li. They have multiple music videos shot and ready to go in the coming months, but are keeping their lips sealed about the content. One of the videos was shot in New York in exchange for a film score written by Bussiere.
For now, Luna Li is applying for assorted Canadian music grants, and working hard towards their second album. Keep an eye out for their upcoming music videos, and an ear out for any new music.