THE AGE OF LUNA
"BLOW ME AWAY"
The Age Of L.U.N.A is a proudly organic rebellion; a group of young Londoners that intend to force musicality and consciousness back into mainstream rap music, placing the quartet head and shoulders above the formulaic laptop crafted beats and hashtag ready raps that accounts for much of today’s output.
Despite an average age of 18, the quartet boast an impressively diverse and timeless range of influences, from Fela Kuti to A Tribe Called Quest and Erykah Badu to Tears For Fears. While their individual idols differ, the group - comprised of two rappers, a vocalist and a producer - all share a love of 90’s hip-hop, with its focus on instrumentation, musically and conscious lyricism.
Having officially formed in 2013, The Age Of L.U.N.A was drawn together in stages through real life relationships, as organic as the music that they output. The first to unite were the group’s two rappers, Butch Arkas and Kyoto Noir, who perform as a duo under the name ZangWu and have been together since the pair found themselves in the same tutor group eight years ago.
The duo later met producer NK-OK - the youngest member of the group at 15 years old - via some SoundCloud surfing and reached out to him to collaborate. The final piece came into place when a photographer friend, Daniella Thomas - who they’d met at a party - asked to sing on one of their tracks. “I was pretty surprised,” remembers Butch of the request, now four years ago. “I went down to the studio to hear her sing for the first time and we wanted to get her one one of our tracks. NK was already doing the beats and everything just came together.”
Having all been involved in more traditional set-ups within their respective fields, The Age Of L.U.N.A feels like a distinctly different experience to its members. ZangWu have been in and out of larger collectives, but got bored of just hearing a bunch of rappers on a song, adding a female vocalist and in-house producer to the mix gives more elements to play with and a much more experimental and cohesive sound. The first thing that stands out is the production, which is formed of live instrumentation - a rarity in modern music across all genres - and then there is the soulful vocals of Daniella that instantly connect with the listener, and the conscious lyrics of ZangWu that relate to the lives of fans rather than talking about the jewellery, expensive clothes and money that they’ll never have. The trio of elements spawns music that connects on multiple levels and demands replay, their music has the ability to connect on multiple levels, whether the listener simply wants to vibe to the sound of Daniella’s voice over NK’s instrumentation or get deeper into the lyrical content.
The name came about one night as Butch’s thoughts wandered to the task of coming up with a title for the burgeoning movement. “We thought of ourselves as little rebellious people and we wanted a cool idea,” he recalls. “I looked up at the moon and thought ‘Luna’ how about that?” At first he came up with the acronym ‘Living Under No Atmosphere’ but when Kyote suggested that they live under no ‘Authority’ the idea came together. “We wanted to create something that would move the generation,” he adds, “So we’re the Age Of Living Under No Authority.”
The group member’s individual musical journeys have all taken them on different routes. The boys all started off with Grime as a gateway, and still credit MC’s like Dizzee Rascal and Kano as inspirations. Discovering the freedom that hip-hop could give them creatively and musically, they began to slow down the tempo and experiment. This stylistic change was something that particularly affected NK, who began to explore production with live instruments rather than the synth-lead music that was being created by his peers. “Wanting to understand old school hip-hop more, I started going to Jazz jam sessions,” he explains. It was at these sessions that he would meet his keyboard player, and would start digging into records by the likes of Thelonious Monk, Oscar Peterson and Art Blakey for inspiration.
Daniella draws her vocal inspiration from a more alternative palate with the likes of The Police, Coldplay, Radiohead, Portishead being listed as her go-to artists as well as the more obvious influence of Jill Scott and Erykah Badu. She believes that it’s this concoction of influences that make the group’s dynamic so interesting. “We all grew up around MTV Base and that era,” she says. “All of our different influences and styles mashed together will make a new style.“
Being self-sufficient is another important factor to The Age Of L.U.N.A, and they utilise their skills outside of music - photography, film production and styling to name but a few - to help project their vision further. Despite the creative freedom that has been granted by their label, they still have the mainstream market in their sights. The Age Of L.U.N.A’s ambitions extend beyond those of your average indie artists. The timing certainly feels right, with a wave of 90’s nostalgia spreading across music with likes of Disclosure, Joey Bada$$ and Tinashe all taking influence from the era within their respective genres it feels like a golden age is once again upon us, just this time they have the Internet. “We’d like to move commercial music from where it is now,” states Butch. “We want people to love that old school, musical vibe instead of this synth-lead, non-conscious state of rap. We want to bring that back to commercial music and move everyone.”