The depth and eclectic production style of Australian DJ-producer, Anna Lunoe, is evident through both her high energy live gigs and inimitable music releases. Anna’s high regard for her role as a DJ has aided in her success and open-to-anything approach to music composition. “I think the instincts that a good DJ has makes them a musician,” Anna says. Credibility as a musician is a common debate among the DJ-producer world. The textbook definition of a musician is someone who composes, performs, or conducts music. Anna is the quintessence of the modern musician by definition and concept through her acute songwriting and innate electronic production talent.
In September, Anna released her first four-track All Out EP on Ultra Music. Ms. Lunoe will be touring with Norwegian artist, Kygo, next month. Here, we speak to Anna about going ‘all out’ as a leading lady in electronic dance music.
Life + Times: I have to hand it to you. I kind of consider you the “Björk” of the dance music world – even though your music is obviously relevant to the rest of the industry (outside of dance music). What attributes to the fact that you don’t stick to one genre?
Anna Lunoe: Oh my god! You know, that’s the best thing that anyone’s ever said to me. Yeah, I don’t know. I guess it’s a little bit of a strange thing to do. I notice that people kind of reference it a lot. I’m pretty instinctual about what I do. I don’t worry too much about genre. Each day is a different mood. One day you want this, the next day you want that. Each song I think of kind of like I do my deejaying. When I first started deejaying, I used to play a lot of different genres. So, I started out as a hip hop DJ. Then, I started to play for dance music, more disco, more house and whatever. So, each time time I did a set I did what was best for that show. It’s not like I just went in and played whatever I want. I always thought, ’Okay, this is the gig. This is what they want. I really like this and I want to push this sound. So, I’m gonna bring this 70 percent and they can come to me 30 percent.’
That’s kind of how I look at it. Each song is just one vibe. Each release doesn’t mean that that is ‘me’ – like All Out doesn’t encapsulate everything about me. It encapsulates one little side of me. That emotion and that feeling – that song encompasses that feeling. Next week it could be something completely different.
L+T: Well, that’s what makes you so versatile – like I was saying, basically a Björk of the dance music world. I noticed that parallel and I’ll use her as an example. She’s one of my muses. She’s always played around with different sounds whether it’s drum n’ bass or even some breakbeat elements in Post, but it’s never been just one particular sound. With you for example, sure you’ll tie in some old school disco and like you said, you have a hip hop background as well where you can hear that in some of your releases. It’s not just one pigeonholed sound. You have to be able to appeal to the crowd, but also not jeopardize your creativity and you’re doing that! So, kudos to you.
AL: Thank you. I appreciate it. I feel also I think that, like, you don’t want to give people what they expect from that genre specifically, you know. Right now deep house is like this hot thing, but when I’m doing my DJ work I can go through a couple of hundred songs…I’m like, ‘That is a deep house song. It’s got all the elements. It’s got that drop. It’s got this, it’s got that – but it just doesn’t have the charisma that’s gonna differentiate it or make it really different or stand out from any of these other songs.’ It’s just for me and the way my personal preference is – it’s just not enough for it to be a good representation of that genre. Like once you can engineer something you can do this kind of bassline – you’ve just made X. It’s like creatively I’m thinking, ‘Okay, this is what deep house is doing. This is what disco’s doing. This is what hip hop’s doing. What if I take trance like – what if I take those things and do some like weird hillbilly riffs on like an old guitar. That’s like a flip on this.’ That’s just sort of the way I like nothing’s quite the same as everything else in that genre – a little bit odd and just stands out a little bit from it.
L+T: And that makes sense. I mean, why would you want to support something that’s cookie cutter, not different? If it doesn’t stand out to you, then the listeners will know. Another thing I thought was really cool with some of your inspirations that I saw in your bio, you have such a diverse range of music – from TTC which is super throwback French electro rap group to Diplo to Sampha and TEED. As far as your songwriting goes, what would you say influences you the most when you put together a record?
AL: Well, the songwriting part that’s the one part you can’t overthink too much – well for me anyway – that’s the instinct that I can’t really define; because the first thing that happens is that first shot of creativity that comes from you – whether it’s an image that I’ve seen. You just can’t predict what melodies are coming out of your head. So, in terms of songwriting I think that for me personally I think that the songs that I write are references of everything I’ve consumed in my life. I think [of] all the old songs that I listened to on the radio when I was a kid. I also think that everything you have ever listened to is stored in your mind and we’re all kind of this cultural reference point with experience in a way.
So with the songwriting, that’s the part that you can’t overthink. That’s the instinct part of it. That’s just who we are. We all have a different take and we all love songs that have different melodies and harmonies. So yeah, that’s just the part that comes out and I can’t control it; but what I do try and do is I try to accentuate that to the nth degree now. I don’t just take my first instinct and leave it at that. I really kind of cut up a part now and go, ‘Okay, how can I make this the best song it could possibly be?’ So, you give birth to a little baby and then you nurture the baby. (Laughs) And make it the smartest little baby in the world.
L+T: Fair enough. That’s a great analogy. (Laughs)
AL: Is it really? (Laughs)
L+T: Anything that’s understandable. I’m like the queen of analogies. I’m surprised I haven’t dropped one yet. Well, Björk was my analogy.
AL: Yeah, totally.
L+T: So, I get it. For “All Out” you collaborated with Julian Brunetto who also wrote songs for One Direction and different movie soundtracks. Very interesting. How were you introduced? Tell me a bit about that decision.
AL: Ah, Julian is a friend of my manager’s actually. He’s one of the first people that I worked with when I moved here in LA. He’s amazing – an amazing producer, amazing writer, and we just got along really well and just have written a bunch of different stuff together. Yeah, he’s incredibly talented. It’s all about the energy you have with someone, you know. People feed off each other’s energy. It doesn’t matter what the person’s done before. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a more pop background, but if they can dig what you play them…They can vibe with you and capture your energy and really listen to you and go with you and take risks with you, then you can make really great music together.
L+T: You’re right and that’s regardless of background. At the end of the day, good music is good music. Like you said, whether someone has a pop background or even country – if it’s solid, it’s solid. You can get each other’s ideas and visions – it works.
AL: Exactly. I think that with “All Out” in particular – He (Julian) was really good about bringing out my songwriting and challenging me, and being like, “Hey, that’s really good but can get that line better.” You know what I mean? He really forced me to go back on it and rewrite it so that it was tighter and more succinct. That’s what I wanted for that song, you know. Out of all the songs I’ve written so far, it’s the closest to a radio song. It has really strong verses and a really catchy chorus. It’s not just enough to have a la-dee-dee kind of like chorus that doesn’t say anything. You need your story and I needed to tell a story and the words needed to be a really succinct telling of whatever story I was trying to tell. He really helped me get there.
L+T: It’s really awesome that you learned something from the experience too. I always like when you can learn something through partnerships.
AL: Definitely and you can make music in many different ways. I love writing on my own and I love making something from scratch, but I love writing with people as well. It just forces you to go to a different place with it. I just think it’s a healthy thing to keep your music as diverse and interesting as possible.
L+T: Yes, I agree! Back in May you brought up a really interesting question on Facebook that was based off of a Thump post. They presented some festival statistics. Why do you specifically think there aren’t more female DJs booked at big festivals?
AL: I think it’s really hard to pinpoint to one thing. I think there’s so many factors that are at play and it’s not just the deejaying thing or a dance music thing. I was reading an article the other day about punk and how they (women) have always been underrepresented in the history books, you know. It’s more of a male-female issue in kind of a bigger picture and a female representation thing. It’s a really complicated issue. My big thing is though – I just want girls to have the balls to do whatever they want. (Pause) The reason that I instigate those questions is not because I want to kick up a stink and be like, ‘This isn’t fair.’ It’s because I want to inspire girls to be like, “I can fucking do this. I can totally do this. I always thought I couldn’t because of this, but actually I can do this and I’m going to try.” That’s why I do it.
L+T: I’m with you on that. It’s interesting to me that on the journalism and PR end of the dance music industry, there are more females. There’s no shortage of females when it comes to the dance music world on the industry side as far as the behind-the-scenes. But when it comes to being in the forefront of producing and live DJ sets, I always notice that it’s an issue. I think it’s great that you’re trying to inspire. Some females might be thinking, “Well, there’s not too many female DJs. Maybe I should not do it.” That’s definitely something that should not be the case.
AL: Yeah, or even just these younger girls at these music festivals if the only ones they see are dancing on stage in, like, little outfits. There’s nothing against dancers, but if they’re not seeing DJs as women – then why would they think they can do it subliminally? Like why would they think, “Oh, I can do that,” if they’re just not seeing it? There’s so many girls who are incredible and are coming up in a big way. There’s one or two girls in the top tier, but mostly they’re in the kind of second tier of dance music or whatever. When they see those girls go into the top tier, then I think you’ll see so many girls going in. The more girls that go into the industry, the more girls that go up in the ranks. It’s a numbers game. Getting as many girls thinking that they can do it [and] that they should try. It’s just, like, achievable. I really believe that everyone should do the things that just scares the shit out of all of them.