Locals: Hello Luna at the Basement

Joel Oliphint

In high school, Kenzie Coyne bought a ukulele and began playing her own songs and folk covers in coffee shops, eventually graduating to acoustic guitar and bar gigs with a solo endeavor she dubbed the Kenzie Coyne Project.

But after forming a musical bond with session drummer Michael Neumaier during a recording session, Coyne got the itch to start a full band, and in January of 2016, she auditioned bassist Diego Villasmil, who clicked well but also came from the opposite end of the musical spectrum from Coyne — punk rock, prog rock and other “fast-paced, loud, heavy music,” Villasmil said recently at a Downtown coffee shop, seated next to Coyne.

The challenge was to find some common ground between Coyne's folksy roots and Villasmil's heavier influences. “I went into this thinking [the band] would be more mellow, like a Regina Spektor, Ingrid Michaelson vibe,” said Coyne, 22. “I had never played electric guitar live. But I had a Daisy Rock electric guitar laying around, and one day I brought it to practice and immediately was like, ‘I'm never touching the acoustic guitar again.'”

The trio reworked some of Coyne's older songs for its first gig as Hello Luna in March of 2016. A month later, Villasmil had a revelation while watching Welsh alt-rock act the Joy Formidable in concert.

“They just hit me in the face. Their set was amazing,” said Villasmil, 28. “I was hearing a lot of things in their music that we were already working on. I was like, ‘Guys, this is a band we can focus on.' We don't mimic them, but we definitely look up to them.”

“It helps to have somebody to base off of rather than basing [Hello Luna] off my love for Beirut and his love of Blink-182,” said Coyne, who'll join her bandmates for a release show at the Basement on Saturday, March 11.

To write Hello Luna songs, Coyne periodically decamped to her sister's place in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles, where she stayed in an extra bedroom with a balcony and basked in the California sunshine. Despite those sunny vibes, when Hello Luna began recording songs for its debut EP,Ghost of You, in July of last year, Coyne was able to channel darker emotions that had previously felt out of reach.

On EP track “Tell Me,” Coyne describes wanting to rip out her own hair and rip someone else's head off. “That song was like, ‘Let's be angsty. Let's actually express what I'm feeling and not hold back,'” she said. “When you're writing on a ukulele or a mandolin, it's hard to bring angst into that. But when you have an electric guitar, you can express that a lot more. It's been cathartic and a whole new experience for me.”

The Basement

7 p.m. Saturday, March 11

391 Neil Ave., Arena District


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