Korean-Canadian artist Luna Li brought mellow vibes and psychedelic imagery as she rocked the stage at the 2021 Head In The Clouds Festival. This is on-brand for the Toronto-based “moon fairy” who is known for her ethereal multi-instrumental melodies and angelic vocals.
After her opening act for day two, EnVi sat down with Luna Li to discuss her image, fashion, and goals as an artist.
A Strong Musical Upbringing
Before her band VEINS and stage name Luna Li existed, there was Hannah Bussiere Kim, a young half-Korean girl studying classical music at her mother’s school. From five years old she began learning piano, and with time she learned more instruments including violin, harp, and guitar. After high school, she attended university to study classical piano, but later dropped out to pursue her own musical explorations.
“I’ve always very clearly known that I wanted to do music,” Luna Li told EnVi. “It’s been just part of my life since I was born. Being at the school and being raised in a community of so many musical people—my mom is also a musician—it’s always just been a huge part of my life.”
In 2015, VEINS debuted with the Moon Garden album, among the 12 songs (coincidentally) is a song called “Head in the Clouds.” At 18, she was heavily immersed in the indie rock scene in Toronto, exploring her sound.
Creating the “Luna Li” Identity and Sound
In 2017, “Luna Li” was born. She released her first single “Opal Angel” followed by an EP of the same name soon after.
Going from VEINS to Luna Li was crucial for her. Luna Li told EnVi, “I decided to change to something that was more of an artist name. I had already sort of discovered that I had taken a lot of inspiration from nature and took a lot of that melding magic in nature in the imagery for my music, so I wanted to find a name that fit with that.”
After deciding to change her name, she and her bandmates tried brainstorming potential stage names. Luna Li and her bandmate took to the streets to see which name strangers liked best. The name “Luna Li’ reigned victorious to her benefit since that was also her favorite option.
In order to find her own unique sound, Luna Li has spent the past few years trying to meld her rock and classical musical backgrounds. She shared that she “started incorporating more violins, harp, and background vocals into the sound. It definitely feels like it’s been growing into something that’s more authentically me.”
In 2020, she released two singles, “Trying” and “Afterglow.” This was the start of a more experimental Luna Li. Throughout the year, she also released small minute-long multi-instrumental snippets of songs on her social media, building a solid following through her mystifying musical creations. Some of the creations ended up on her jams EP, including “castle cloud.”
Most recently, she released her single “Flower (In Full Bloom),” leading her 2021 EP of the same name. Five songs total, it contained some of her previously released singles from 2020 and 2021, including her song “Alone But Not Lonely.”
The Luna Li Aesthetic
Luna Li’s aesthetic is a mix of nostalgic and mystical. She can be seen wearing unique bodysuits and matching sets, even items inspired by y2k fashion. The most important thing for her is wearing “something you wouldn’t wear in everyday life, something out of the ordinary.”
At the Head In The Clouds Festival, Luna Li sported a matching flower patterned two-piece set. It was created by a good friend of hers, Isla, who runs a sustainable clothing line called Heavy Flow. Her recent tour outfits were styled by her friend Lynne Weare.
As someone who has been invested in music, Luna Li admitted she gets style tips from others more knowledgeable in the fashion realm. However, she sees this as an opportunity for her to support other women.
Luna Li shared, “Something that has always been important to me was working with other women, other women of color, and so for the visuals and for the fashion side I definitely turned to a lot of friends in Toronto who were working in those worlds.”
In August 2021, a new item became a “Luna Li” staple: a butterfly guitar. She bought it from a father who mistakenly purchased the adult-sized guitar for his five-year-old daughter. After showing the guitar to her followers on social media, they expressed that it was a match-made-in-heaven for Luna Li!
“It was just this guitar that I saw online and my logo is a butterfly, so I was like this is perfect,” Luna Li said.
“It sorta draws into the same theme of nature. I feel like butterflies are so beautiful. They represent beauty,” Luna Li told EnVi. “There is sort of a renaissance of [the] 90s and early 2000s coming back and I think the butterfly is part of that image.That’s why [I chose the Butterfly as my logo] too.”
On Performing at the Head In The Clouds Festival
The butterfly guitar did not make it to the HITC stage. However, that did not stop Luna Li and her band from delivering a powerful performance. Her music abilities were put to the test at HITC as she performed with her vocals, guitar, and violin. Among the various songs were “Silver Into Rain,” “Alone But Not Lonely,” and “Cherry Pit.”
“My favorite instrument to play at shows is guitar because I love riffing solos and that energy is the most fun.”
The festival was among the largest shows she has ever played, but she was excited about her stage. Luna Li just ended her opening show tour across the United States for Japanese Breakfast, an indie rock band led by Michelle Zauner, who she has previously cited as a source of inspiration.
After some reflection, Luna Li said, “I had such a good time this weekend. It was just so beautiful and incredible to see this festival and see so many other asian women performing. It just made me really happy.”
Luna Li’s Vision for the Future
Luna Li is a huge advocate for representation. It is on her list of things to do as an artist in addition to “welcoming and immersing people into the world of magic, creativity, and music.”
Before the interview, Luna Li joked that she felt right at home with the Korean flags hanging from the ceiling of the press room. During her performance, she shared her enthusiasm for playing at such an event, calling this something she wishes she had growing up.
“Another big part of why I do what I do is representation. I never felt like I was represented when I was growing up and so it’s really important to me to have my girls and other women on stage with me. I hope that young Asian women who are watching feel inspired and feel like they can pursue what they want to pursue.”
In 2022, fans can expect a lot more activity from Luna Li. There will be new music, videos, and shows coming out. On the list, is her November show, which has been postponed to next February.