“Love all around you”: Luna Shadows Talks Period Cycles, Reflective Creativity, & Witches for Sophomore LP ‘bathwater’

Luna Shadows 'bathwater' © Lauren Sotelo
Luna Shadows 'bathwater' © Lauren Sotelo
Luna Shadows sits down with Atwood Magazine to reflect on life and meditative musicianship leading up to the release of her sophomore album, ‘bathwater.’
Stream: ‘bathwater’ – Luna Shadows




I would like to be an artist who’s in constant evolution.

Since her debut album, Digital Pacific, in 2021, Luna Shadows has been honing her craft, refining the specificities of her artistry, and defining what creative intention means to her. Enter bathwater – a truly self-made project through and through, and a fantastic labor of love that celebrates the fullness of womanhood and emotion.

bathwater - Luna Shadows
bathwater – Luna Shadows

Independently released June 21st, bathwater stands out for its wonderfully indulgent lyricism, unapologetically embracing the ebbs and flows of self-discovery. This intentional storytelling was important for Shadows in the conception of the record, stating, “where Digital Pacific was reactive, and bathwater is reflective”. Tracing her period cycle – quite literally – the album begins at a contemplative low state, marked by a deep reverberating cello arrangement in ‘full moon.’ Beckoning us further into the journey, Shadow’s dreamy vocals guide us through this cycle of the moon, tracing the highs and lows.

The titular track, “bathwater,” itself encompasses a conceptual love. Inspired by her mother, Shadows recalls the warmth of her love, like a bath, all encircling and panoramic. She states, “It’s also like being in the womb, and the song being about my mom… It’s like a big hug. I feel like love is usually described as something between people but I think of love in this case as being something that’s everywhere around you. So bathwater is an expression of love all around you, it’s something you feel everywhere. It’s not something you lose or let go of.”

From the visuals, the songwriting, production and release campaigns – Shadows has truly put all of herself into this project, unveiling her expansive skills as a musician but also her curiosity and exploration as a creative in all aspects. Shadows designed a set of tarot cards herself, mailing them to her fans one at a time. Each one represents a song, slowly revealing the world of bathwater to her fans.

Luna Shadows' tarot cards
Luna Shadows’ tarot cards

From a low hum that sustains the opening tracks, deep synths are traded out for upbeat indie percussives in “bleach.” “nudes” and “bathwater” almost anticipate the upbeat sonic release in “stay mad” and “little rituals.” Sparse and fairy-like instrumentals follow in “honeymoon,” sending you into a trance, before crashing again into a fuller soundscape in “arms length” and “monroe.” The journey wraps up and winds down on “apocalypse love song” – an emotive orchestral arrangement rounding out the project as Shadows’ croons poignantly, “Here at the end of the world, it’s the start of the day.

Luna Shadows sat down with Atwood Magazine to discuss life leading up to bathwater, and the creative intention that went into the album’s conception. From writing and production to visuals and concept – bathwater is truly a thoughtful insight to Shadows’ creative mind, a beautiful testament to celebrating the self in all its imperfections.

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:: stream/purchase bathwater here ::
:: connect with Luna Shadows here ::
Stream: “nudes” – Luna Shadows



Luna Shadows © Lauren Sotelo
Luna Shadows © Lauren Sotelo



A CONVERSATION WITH LUNA SHADOWS

bathwater - Luna Shadows

Atwood Magazine: Congratulations on bathwater! It’s a stunning album, and I understand it’s been years in the making. How are you feeling now that we’re leading up closer to the release date?

Luna Shadows: Yeah, it’s such a relief, I actually started this album during the pandemic, before my first album, Digital Pacific, came out. So it’s been a long time in the making, and everything always takes longer than expected. So much of it actually came out in 2021, but part of the reason that timeline got extended was because a lot of the songs like ‘little rituals’ and ‘heroine’ were written later. I was like, oh I actually have to add these to the record. So to answer your question, it’s a relief that it’s finally coming out. It’s been a long time in the making, and I’ve put a lot of time and effort into it. I’m very excited that it’s gonna get to float around.

The pandemic was a self-reflective time for us as a collective, and you can really hear that in the record. What led up to the conception of the album - for you in your life personally, or you as a musician?

Luna Shadows: That’s a great question. As you said, it was a period for everyone to be introspective. I was spending a lot of time in isolation very far away from my family, friends… I have family abroad as well, so there were so many people I couldn’t see. So I was really just sat alone with myself and my collaborator on zoom, who was based in Minneapolis. It was such a solitary writing experience, I would put him on mute and go off and write all the lyrics with my little microphone next to me. I definitely think the time period informed what I was making and how I was making it. The album theme is memory – and if I could make one distinction between my last record and this record, I’d say Digital Pacific was reactive, and bathwater is reflective. It was a matter of thinking about a long-term picture and all these little memories, having a slow considered response to something rather than a quick “so this happened, I’ll write a song about it”. I asked myself how I’d write a song about somebody that means so much and that has spanned so many years. So I’d say that’s how the time period influenced the writing itself.

Luna Shadows 'bathwater' © Lauren Sotelo
Luna Shadows ‘bathwater’ © Lauren Sotelo



The album theme is memory – and if I could make one distinction between my last record and this record, I’d say ‘Digital Pacific’ was reactive, and ‘bathwater’ is reflective.

I understand you had a really hands-on part to play in not just the songwriting, but the arrangements and the production as well - that really makes the project so meaningful given it was reflective and not reactive, as you said. Tell me more about that creative process!

Luna Shadows: Absolutely! With regards to the music, Brad Hale is my collaborator. He’s in a band called Now, Now, and at this point has done so many amazing projects as a producer. Brad has been my long-term creative partner since 2014, so this year will be 10 years working together. In the past he’d travel here to LA when we worked together, but when the pandemic started, we had to try a Zoom session. I was really skeptical about it, but it ended up being such a success. Because both of us produce, having two computers gave me the ability to actually physically do stuff without having to share a computer. So I would write and record my parts here, write little guitar riffs, and send it to him all over Dropbox aux. And on Zoom we’d have a shared Ableton or Pro Tools session so we’d have various ways to send things back and forth. It was kind of fun because I would hear everything he was doing, but he wouldn’t necessarily be able to hear what I was doing until I sent it to him, so I also got this ability to be very private. And I think with the lyrics specifically, I really needed that. That was a big distinction from the previous record.

Do you think that you prefer working in this way, remotely and over zoom? Do you miss working on music in-person at all?

Luna Shadows: Yeah, it’s interesting. I actually prefer the Zoom session, but specifically with Brad. I’m not sure it would work great with everyone else. But we have joked, because he actually has come to LA a lot, that we’d still do the Zoom sessions even if he was here, haha! Because the two computers really give me permission to be a producer. With the previous record, a lot of it relies on my shouting out ideas, which are big picture ideas. But it’s nice to be a little more hands on. Brad also did all the graphic design elements with me, we did that over Zoom too. Everything was over Zoom. Zoom is getting a big advertise from me, haha!

But as things became a little more normalized, I began working on the visual aspect of the record too. I’ve now put together four music videos, which I directed and produced and edited as well. So I really had a heavy hand on all of the creative stuff for this record.

Oh that's amazing! I didn’t realize you did all the visuals as well, so you’ve really led all creative sides of this record.

Luna Shadows: Yes! Sometimes I would like to do a little less, haha! But no, I love it. I love it. But yeah, it’s a lot. And I’m so serious, I take everything so seriously that I think I need to have a little more fun. But I just care so much about everything I do, and every little detail. I put so many easter eggs in it too. Like in the ‘little rituals’ video, there’s a reference to the song ‘heroine’ and in ‘heroine’ there’s a reference to the name of the album. In the first video, there’s all these little seeds of creativity that I planted that I think if people go back now and look like they’ll be like, “Oh, that was actually planned out.”



LUNA SHADOWS’ “LITTLE RITUALS” FINDS LIBERATION IN UNABASHED DEEP FEELING

:: TODAY'S SONG ::

I really admire that, and as a listener I could really feel the care and love you’ve put into this project. How has your outlook, as an artist, changed between the first and second record?

Luna Shadows: I think with this album, not to say that I didn’t do this before, but I really focused on being a songwriter on this album. I think with the first one I was kind of budding as a producer and I was really heavily invested in the bells and whistles. I was trying to make everything really creatively interesting with the production. There’s also an emphasis on production with the second record, but it’s a little different. It’s a little dreamier, but I think the main difference is that stylistically, I’m entering more of the singer-songwriter territory. For me, it’s actually a return to form. I started writing music in my room with a guitar, and then I went on this journey of becoming a producer, which I really explored in my first album.

With this album, I really feel like there’s this emergence of singer-songwriters, and I really wanted to put my voice back into that. I feel like I have this very specific story I want to tell. I wrote all the lyrics and melodies on the album, which I’m really proud of. It might not sound like a big deal but most people have at least one other writer, and my specific task for myself was to write every single word on my own.

That’s definitely a huge accomplishment. The songwriting on this album struck me as unapologetically introspective, and I’m wondering if you have any writing influences?

Luna Shadows: Yeah, oh, my gosh, I mean, that’s the thing. I feel like this album is the sum of every influence I’ve had, there are so many specific things. But I think I’m a person that is influenced by other art. I love art. There was a different thing inspiring me each day. But, for me, it’s kind of a musical collage of everything I’ve ever loved. I’m super inspired by all the other singer-songwriters out there right now. Sufjan Stevens was a huge influence, Fleetwood Mac… I was also inspired by a lot of literature, ‘little rituals’ was inspired in part by The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. That sounds so cliche and emo girl of me, but it was in my head and I had a sense of stillness in my life. It was making me a bit depressed, and I wanted to get back out there again. I was trying to reach for something else. So inspiration could be anything from other music, life experience was a huge muse… Also poetry and movies, you know, the whole spectrum of art.

Luna Shadows 'bathwater' © Lauren Sotelo
Luna Shadows ‘bathwater’ © Lauren Sotelo



One of my personal favourites on the record is “superstars,” the song itself but also where it is on the record. I wanted to ask about how you structured the album, because the tracklist is very specific and one song really leads into the next.

Luna Shadows: Really? I’m so glad I kept it on! Because people were saying it wasn’t the obvious single and that maybe I should cut it, but I really liked it. Anyway, you’re totally right, I love world building. I like creating stories and storytelling. So there’s a little narrative that’s abstract and open for interpretation. It opens with ‘witches brew”, which was the first song I wrote for the album, I was in a really low, dark place. But it was kind of a breakthrough, I liked this song and expressed how I was feeling. I thought the whole album would stay in that territory, which goes to show the poison in my head being like, “Everything’s gonna be like this forever.”

But I like to describe the tracks as different emotional vantage points, where ‘witches brew’ is kind of a low point, ‘heroine’ is the highest peak for me. And ‘little rituals’ is somewhere between the two. ‘apocalypse love song’ is the last track that represents a point of acceptance, stillness. ‘nudes’ is a desperate, hopeful combo. It kind of shifts through all these emotions. I’ve shared before that I struggle with PMDD, which is very similar to bipolar, which means I have really high highs and low lows. I think like, you can really hear my periods, there’s the PMS stage, haha! Like I’m joking but I’m also not because, for me, it is that big of a difference. Two weeks will go by and I’ll be in the ‘heroine’ stage. And then two weeks later it’ll be the ‘witches brew’ stage, so like, it’s very accurate for me. All the other songs are about other people who shaped my life and my experience and how I view myself.



I love what you said about it tracing your cycle. That’s really powerful and very feminine, which leads into my next question about the visual concepts like your tarot cards and spirituality.

Luna Shadows: So there’s this discussion going on right now, about how much you should involve the audience with your art. I saw this interview with Rick Rubin, who said they come last, and Jacob Collier had said like, actually, it could be fun to play with them. And I can understand both perspectives. But at this point, I have a strong vision and a cool audience, and I like knowing what they see. I like to play that back to them, and you know, my artist is Luna Shadows, it literally references the moon and stuff. I love the witch archetype. During this album cycle, I read so many books and listened to podcasts and learned about like, the history of the archetype and the word and the title and how it means different things to different people.

I just really enjoyed playing with that. I also feel like witches, shapeshifters, and I feel like I’m, you know, changing form or whatever – so dramatic, haha. But the relationship with the moon, specifically, came out through the music because of ‘witches brew.’ The phrase actually isn’t in the song, but it came as a joke from my collaborator, because we were saying that back in the day they would have cut my brain out or I would’ve been one of those women burned at the stake. Without a chance of forgiveness, which was just like about my depressive state and how back in the day they just would’ve pegged me as a witch. The witchy imagery just naturally came through so I just decided to really play up the visual.

Luna Shadows' tarot cards
Luna Shadows’ tarot cards



Why did the track “bathwater” stand out to you as the titular track for the album?

Luna Shadows: The track was inspired by my mom. She lives pretty far away, so I wrote it during the pandemic when we were separated. I had all this time to reflect on our relationship, and right before the pandemic she had breast cancer. Obviously that was very traumatic, and when she got better we were supposed to have this big reunion time together, but then the pandemic hit and I couldn’t see her for almost two years because her immunity was compromised. When I was writing the song I was like, how do I write a song about somebody that has just been in every corner and every memory of my life? And what memories do I focus on?

The title “bathwater” comes from the second verse of the song, which is my favourite lyric on the album, ‘flooding like peach and warm like bathwater and it surrounds us wherever we go.’ I think of my childhood memories, and there’s several dimensions to this title, it’s me literally being in the bath. Again referencing The Bell Jar, there’s a passage in it where she says there’s nothing that a warm bath can’t solve. I think for me that’s so true, it’s my place of peace. It’s also kind of like being in the womb and the song being about my mom it’s just very, you know, like a big hug. I feel like love is usually described as something between people, but I think of love in this case as being something that’s everywhere around you – it’s panoramic, all encompassing. So bathwater is an expression of love all around you, it’s something you feel everywhere. It’s not something you lose or let go of.

Luna Shadows 'bathwater' © Lauren Sotelo
Luna Shadows ‘bathwater’ © Lauren Sotelo



‘bathwater’ is an expression of love all around you, it’s something you feel everywhere. It’s not something you lose or let go of.

I really love what you said about involving the audience with your art, that’s such an interesting thought. Can we talk more about that and the visuals and the music videos?

Luna Shadows: I think the music videos play up this witchy character, and there’s a progression as they move on, which becomes a little more down to earth. And to your point about the specificity of it, and people being able to slot themselves in, I had a songwriting teacher once who said “we’re most universal when we’re most personal”. I really took that to heart on this album, where I wanted the lyrics to feel very personal and vulnerable, partially because I feel like my last album, I thought in my head at the time that I did that, but looking back, it was actually pretty abstract. And like, that’s cool. But like, what about saying what you really mean, and it could still be poetic, but just being a little more direct and conversational. A lot of the memories I’ve included are specific to me, but I do think it might conjure up a different memory for someone else.

And I mean, like we were just talking about the song bathwater. Not everyone has that specific relationship with their mom, or even has a mom. But maybe there’s somebody in your life that you feel this all-encompassing love from, it’s really important for me that I leave that space for you, the listener. While at the same time I’m also very transparent as an artist and happy to share my thoughts because I look back at some of the artists that I love. Like, I love Nirvana, I love Kurt Cobain. I’m like such a fangirl. But he’s such an asshole in interviews, he was so standoffish, and he wouldn’t share anything about anything ever. And he would almost pretend like his lyrics were insignificant and meant nothing. And I just don’t believe that, I think he was just trying to be cool. I guess I want to offer a balance of transparency with what my intentions were, but also leave space. I don’t think I need to say who every song was about but there’s a specificity in the lyrics where I hope listeners can hear that it was a real, lived experience.

I think it is quite a big task as well for you, as a songwriter, to be so specific and transparent in your craft. Was it hard for you to be that vulnerable in your writing, or was it healing?

Luna Shadows: You know, I think it was on some level. I like having that permission, where I could say whatever I wanted. It made the writing easier, but at the same time, giving myself permission was also difficult. I think it was a series of years where I was like, how do I get myself to be this open, and what do I have to do to get to a place where it’s not scary. I mean, I’m not saying anything crazy but it’s like, I’m quite private and shy in my day to day life. But I do like documenting my life through art, I guess that’s kind of what I see. My purpose is to figure out a way to document my experience on Earth – so dramatic – haha!

Luna Shadows 'bathwater' © Lauren Sotelo
Luna Shadows ‘bathwater’ © Lauren Sotelo



A lot of the memories I’ve included are specific to me, but I do think it might conjure up a different memory for someone else.

No, I definitely feel like in music you have to indulge in the dramatics! How would you say this album has helped you to grow as an artist, musician, songwriter?

Luna Shadows: I think the biggest thing I noticed in my development, which is similar to what I had said earlier, is being reflective rather than reactive. I think that’s a side of my artistic maturity where I’m able to actually meditate on something and think about it, and really push myself to go to a more vulnerable and difficult territory than I would have previously. And I think just really pushing the barriers in my life, or questioning why I might feel like I can’t say something. Figuring those things out has been a big point of growth for me. I think focusing on the songwriting while simultaneously being more involved in the production really sharpened my skills as a producer and an engineer.

Here’s a cool thing about this album – I’m going off the question at this point – but some of the songs, I really wanted to preserve this photo album quality feeling where, like, what came out was the first iteration I had of that idea. Like for “nudes,” the recording of the chorus of the song is literally me making it up for the first time. What you hear is me writing it as I was saying and thinking it. We used that take, which is why it almost sounds uncertain, and desperate in this sad way. I really wanted to keep it and I just couldn’t recreate that. A lot of the album has these little bits of very authentic moments where they took the polish off a little bit. So circling back to your original question about artistic growth, I think with this album I learned to be less perfect even though I polished it to perfection in other ways. I had to figure out what were the imperfections that I wanted to keep, and what were the things I wanted to leave a little dirty.

That’s so interesting! Can we talk a bit about the music video for that song?

Luna Shadows: Yeah! It’s a performance video I shot in the desert. It’s a simple concept, I’m standing in the middle of this very scenic, very lonely desert road with a 300 foot microphone cable. It’s like the size of a football field. I actually had to go looking all over the internet for a cable that long, haha! I wanted to deliver a pretty vulnerable, straight performance to the camera. It’s like me with this electronic item in a very natural landscape, and it starts in the day and I sing the whole song until it’s dark out. And it goes into the golden hour and the blue hour. I was trying to capture the emotional instability, that quality of the early relationship, where you have highs and lows. Where you’re very excitable but also like, what am I doing? There’s parts in it where I’m making myself really big and there’s parts where I’m literally on the floor in the foetal position, making myself really small.



It’s really admirable and impressive you’ve done everything on this project yourself.

Luna Shadows: Yeah I mean, I’m very privileged to be able to be an artist so I don’t want to file any complaints, but yeah I definitely could use that extra support sometimes, haha!

You brought up the tarot cards earlier, I’ve been doing the tarot tracks, where every month I announce a new song to my fans through snail mail. I send them an envelope with a little seal and there’s a tarot card and a postcard in it. It basically tells you the next song, and you can go on this interactive website that’s an interactive lyric portal.

So each month a new card is revealed, and you can click it to flip it and learn about the song. It’s like a tarot card reading, but it’s really like an insight to what the song is about, without being over prescriptive or specific, so people can slot their own memories into it.

Luna Shadows 'bathwater' © Lauren Sotelo
Luna Shadows ‘bathwater’ © Lauren Sotelo



Luna Shadows' tarot cards
Luna Shadows’ tarot cards

That’s such a beautiful way to interact with your fans!

Luna Shadows: Thank you! Yeah, it’s been really fun. I think I’ve sent out over 1000 so far since October, and people are starting to put together their collections and share them online. I think they’re having fun with it. Brad and I designed the cards so the photos were either the actual imagery, photos I took, and some had images from music videos which we repurposed.

To wrap up, what do you hope then that people will take away from listening to the record?

Luna Shadows: I hope they take whatever they want from it, but I think that there is a song on here for a lot of different experiences. And actually for fun, I did an Instagram survey the other day asking what everyone’s favourite song is so far, and I was hoping for this result, but it was pretty much split. I think ‘little rituals’ had a narrow lead, but every hour that I checked it really went up and down. So I think that’s cool, that there’s a song on here for different moments in people’s lives. As a listener I hope there are some days when ‘witches brew’ is the track that you need, and other days where ‘heroine’ is the celebratory soundtrack.

So I guess I’m hoping that people are able to slot their own memories in, their own personal things in, and go on this little journey with me, whether it’s the high point or the low point. I hope the songs find them when they need them.

— —

:: stream/purchase bathwater here ::
:: connect with Luna Shadows here ::
Stream: “bleach” – Luna Shadows



— — — —

bathwater - Luna Shadows

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? © Lauren Sotelo

bathwater

an album by Luna Shadows



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