Luna Luna Moves From Dallas Origins to Riverside Headquarters to ACL Fest Debut
Indie-pop quartet makes “Commitment" to very-much-online Latinx audiences
Having a song, perhaps a lovestruck-yet-heartbroken groove, go viral on TikTok comes with pros and cons. Trends pass, interest wanes, or in some cases, the music begins to fade into the background as it circulates to soundtrack banalities like “get ready with me” videos. Of course, racking up thousands of followers and amassing millions of streams on Spotify as a result certainly doesn’t hurt, especially for independent artists crafting beats in their bedrooms.
Enter Austin-by-way-of-Dallas indie-pop band Luna Luna, embodying the multiformity of their online fan base while decked out in colorful Eighties garb. The quartet, formed in D-Town’s southwest Oak Cliff neighborhood, consists of drummer Kaylin Martínez, bassist Ryan “Gordo” Gordon, keyboardist/vocalist Danny Bonilla, and singer Kevin “Kavvi” González, who started Luna Luna as a solo project. Guitarist Brennan Shrestha joins live.
In June 2020, the band posted a short clip from the music video for “Commitment,” the lead single off 2019 sophomore collection Carousel. The song, and its accompanying message, promptly sparked TikTok frenzy with consolidated sounds of heartfelt throwback R&B and rich, hypnotic dream-pop. Unassuming captions noted: “We’re Luna Luna/ A bilingual Latinx band from Dallas, TX/ We make songs in our bedroom/ This song is called ‘Commitment.’”
At the time, Martínez resided in Denton and Gordon lived in Plano, while vocalist González remained in Oak Cliff.
“And Danny … Danny’s more nomadiclike,” explains Gordon over a group Zoom call.
Fittingly enough, Bonilla dials in from the window seat of a bus leaving the Houston area en route to Dallas, separate from his bandmates. He’s spent most of his day on the road, but remains in good spirits. “I’m used to it,” he laughs.
Up until a group capital city relocation last year, Luna Luna collaborated from afar. After unanimously agreeing on reassembly in Austin as the most logical next step, they stumbled on a house with a built-in studio and practice space near Riverside, which now operates as the official Luna Luna headquarters.
“Austin made more sense because it’s the live music capital, and there’s a great Hispanic community showing up,” says Bonilla. “It’s the perfect fit for Luna Luna.”
Since the local move, the four have firmly planted themselves as a unit in Austin music, most notably with booking at the first weekend of ACL Fest. Individually, drummer Martínez also plays in Austin-Denton post-punk trio Manifest Destiny’s Child, Ariel + Bottomfeeders, and Thelma and the Sleaze, while Bonilla recently unveiled new glam-rock-sized solo material. Their Zilker Park date locks into a current fall tour, which kicked off in Tucson last week.
As a teenager, González dabbled in GarageBand on his iPhone. He started uploading some of his recordings onto SoundCloud back in 2017 under the moniker Luna Luna, compiling what would eventually become the bulk of the project’s shimmery, synth-pop-inspired debut, For Lovers Only. As area interest in the project grew, opportunities for González arose in Dallas’ DIY-oriented house show circuit.
He sought out musicians to better accommodate Luna Luna’s party performance settings, and the band’s permanent lineup eventually solidified when Bonilla, Gordon, and Martínez came on board. Luna Luna would go on to open for chillwave vanguards Washed Out and Neon Indian during respective tour stops in the DFW area. The group also landed a spot on Los Angeles-based Cosmica Artists’ management roster, home to fellow Austin acts David Garza and the Tiarras.
Before the initial round of festival cancellations back in spring 2020, the band was booked to play South by Southwest, along with McAllen’s growing music and arts festival, MXLAN. Like many with tour plans halted by an impending global lockdown, the group pivoted to livestreamed performances and an online-heavy presence. Thus, an already fervent fan base quickly multiplied with interest in “Commitment” – where Kavvi’s silky, towering falsettos lead into the song’s finger-snapping, slow jam core.
In the latter half, a conversational transition from English to Spanish embodies a newer generation of Latinx artists. Like Ambar Lucid, Omar Apollo, and Victor Internet, Luna Luna reenvisions the “bedroom-pop” genre by taking cues from the romantic ballads of their parents’ generation.
“I remember watching a lot of VH1 Classic, like all these Eighties bands with the long hair and stuff,” adds Gordon. “I wanted to emulate that throwback style … I was talking to my mom recently and found out that a lot of [my family] grew up playing drums, percussion, and singing. It’s cool getting to carry the torch.”
As of today, the aforementioned “Commitment” clip has garnered over 850,000 views, clocking the song at over 10 million plays on Spotify. Beyond any stats, breakthrough acts like Luna Luna forge a deeper connection with very-much-online Latinx audiences eager to see parts of their identities reflected in the musicians they’re vibing to.
Bonilla, whose family hails from El Salvador, mentions growing up with everything from reggae and cumbia to merengue. Band-founding González, a Dallas-raised native of Colombia, was raised on the music of Héctor Lavoe and Marc Anthony, plus bachata groups such as Monchy & Alexandra and Aventura.
“My mom’s side is very music-oriented,” he says. “They always had instruments and were singing with the family. Growing up here in America, I was also surrounded by English music, stuff like Frank Ocean, Tame Impala.”
Drummer Martínez adds: “I grew up playing worship music in church. I think that influenced a lot of how I play these days, definitely lots of rock.”
Off latest 2021 record Flower Moon, “Feel It Now” highlights Kavvi’s soft spot for Tame Impala’s psychedelia and hints at Martínez’s dynamic, alternative-rock-driven drumming. Steered by Gordon’s snappy, melodic bassline, “Golden” gleams Bonilla’s funk flair, while the title track and “Baby Loner” lean into spacey shoegaze.
Onstage, Luna Luna provides further stylistic exceptions, hyping up the crowd by blasting dance-floor anthems like Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina” or El Alfa’s “La Mamá de la Mamá” in between songs. When they’re not covering classics like “Cómo Te Voy a Olvidar” by cumbia titans Los Ángeles Azules, they’re charging through a rendition of Harry Styles’ “As It Was.”
“Ryan and I both have rock backgrounds, Kavvi has pop influences, and Danny has that soul and old-school style – and we’re combining all of that,” says Martínez. “It creates a lot of sounds that people might not have heard and are excited to see. It’s a happy accident.”
Luna Luna plays ACL Fest Sun., 11:45am, Barton Springs stage, and opens for Omar Apollo Sat., 9pm, ACL Live at the Moody Theater (310 Willie Nelson). They’re featured on San Antonio rapper Lilbootycall’s latest single, “Sunset Blvd,” in a cross-Texas collab with 8percent, Wassup Rocker, and Astrus*.