Los Angeles-based pop trio MUNA are masters of turning pain into power-pop anthems. On their debut album, About You (February 3, RCA), "Loudspeaker" celebrates surviving abuse; the LGBTQ-positive "I Know a Place" encourages listeners to be themselves. Today, the trio—frontwoman Katie Gavin, guitarist Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson (also guitar)—does it again on their first new track (and video, premiering below) since their record's release: "In My Way" tackles modern relationship—or, rather, non-relationship—culture, asking: how do you find intimacy during a moment when it's not always cool to put a label on it, when falling for another person induces not just excitement, but panic. Here, though, rather than focusing on the feeling akin to standing atop a cliff and looking down, Gavin, who penned the track, focuses instead on taking that leap of faith, declaring: "When it unfurls / It's a sick, sad world / But I'm your girl, even when I'm not your girl / I'm not afraid to say / I love you in my way."
"This song was partially a result of me thinking a lot about the way that people—my peers and myself—talk and think about sex and love and relationships," says Gavin. "I was basically exploring where we can find tenderness in a time when, in some ways, it is celebrated to be able to have physical connections without emotional connection. And I wanted to see if I could make a song that made vulnerability sound—not super scary, but something that could be fun. There is a little bit of 'faking it 'til you make it' in this song, because yeah, if you have somebody that you have an undefined relationship with, it obviously is really scary to tell them if you have loving feelings towards them."
"But from there," she continues, "Something really cool happened, where the song shifted and became also about the tenderness of our friendships within the band. I think part of the reason our generation is shifting in these conversations is that we see that we can get romance, tenderness, passion, and compassion from all different sorts of relationships. Like for me, in my life, a lot of [those rich relationships] has just been from my best friendships. And I feel like the video is just a celebration of that."
In the video, the band went a different route than on their earlier visuals, like the cinematic home-town nostalgia trip, "Winterbreak." Instead of writing a treatment, they opted to take their own camera, and film each other in small, casual moments—the majority of which take place in San Francisco, where they traveled to play the Outside Lands Festival in August, and London, on a writing trip: "[We decided to], for once, kind of be ourselves in a music video," McPherson says. "We just goof around, and we have a lot of fun together. We're really silly with each other."
In this way, an already uplifting song takes on a wonderful second meaning—a celebration of the joy of best-friendship, of the pricelessness of catching another person at their most candid: Gavin winks at the camera, holding a radiant bouquet of sunflowers from London's Columbia Road Flower Market ("It's one of the most gorgeous places in the city," she says); Maskin and McPherson rock out, playing air guitar: "Katie was filming us [playing air guitar]," Maskin says," And was like, 'Do it!' And we just did it, but it's disturbing for us to watch [back]. I have a horrible reaction. But like, fuck it."
All three laugh, in unison. Sounds about right.
Catch MUNA on tour with Harry Styles this fall.
Avery Stone is a writer living in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter.