“I’d never seen a band that looked like me before—it blew my mind,” says Danny Bonilla, keyboardist and backup vocalist for the Dallas-based bedroom pop band Luna Luna. He’s thinking back to the first time he saw the group’s founder, Kavvi González, perform.
It was an open-mic night in 2017 at Drugstore Cowboy, a Deep Ellum bar that has since closed. González took to the stage with a keyboardist and guitarist in front of a small crowd. Bonilla was immediately drawn in by their sound. Over synth arrangements, González’s voice was tender and emotional, toeing the line between indie pop and R&B. Bonilla had always wanted to be a musician, but he’d also always run short on inspiration. He looked up to artists like Jimi Hendrix and Prince, not just because he loved their music, but because they were some of the only musicians he could find that had his brown skin and dark, curly hair. To finally watch another Latino musician in person was revelatory; it made him feel like his dream was within reach.
He followed González out after the set, asking for a chance to show off his chops. After a jam session with Bonilla (a multi-instrumentalist who plays guitars and keys and also sings), González brought him on board. Later that year, González recruited drummer Kaylin Martínez after hearing about her through a mutual friend, and happened upon bassist Ryan “Gordo” Gordon at a house show in Denton. For the next few years, the band would continue performing at house shows and open mics, workshopping the songs that would appear on EPs. Ethereal harmonies and pining lyrics became trademarks of Luna Luna’s sound, as the band gained traction on social media from songs including “Daydream,” whose verses melt into a doo-wop–style chorus, “Daydream / Only wasted lovers / Love that we uncovered,” until the song fades out.
In August, Luna Luna released its debut album, Flower Moon. The ten-track record shimmers and vibes, offering up songs that range in texture and feeling, from the slow dance “Baby Loner” to the funkier “Feel It Now.”
Throughout, the band retains its celestial sound, but pivots nimbly from brokenhearted love songs to several danceable tracks. Grooving bass riffs and expertly chosen featured artists, including Dallas rapper Pretty Boy Aaron and the LA psychedelic indie pop band the Undercover Dream Lovers, push some songs in a nineties R&B direction. The result is a blend of nostalgic slow jams and upbeat Beach House–style tracks with beautifully layered vocals.
In a world in which Latin artists have become synonymous with a mix of reggaeton, cumbia, and trap beats, Luna Luna is a breath of fresh air—a sign that, thanks to it and acts like Los Retros and Victor Internet, the perception of Latin music will have to become as expansive as the community it represents. “Our past projects have been mostly love-song oriented,” Bonilla says in a Zoom call with his bandmates, who nod in agreement. “This record, we touch on topics like moving on from trauma or processing pain—topics that have more to do with growth.”
In early 2020, Luna Luna completed a thirteen-city tour, just weeks before the pandemic shut down venues and put bands across the country on an indefinite hiatus. It was the first of two major goals the musicians were determined to cross off their list in 2020, the second being the release of their debut album.
With the tour out of the way and with nothing else to distract them, they got to work. “In a way, we got lucky,” Martínez says. “We were able to get a lot closer and be super involved in each other’s lives while making this album.” There was evidence of this during our interview. The band members often finished one another’s sentences and burst out laughing from inside jokes or from trying to squeeze song names into their answers.
That camaraderie translates to a cohesive album, but it wasn’t easy getting there. Though the band is currently planning a move to Austin, members spent the first months of the pandemic trying to coordinate meeting points for writing and recording sessions while being spread out among their homes in Denton, Dallas, and Houston.
In the process of recording Flower Moon, the band started blowing up on TikTok. As with most viral hits, this was a fluke. González and Bonilla were working on a song in late June of last year, and during a break González uploaded a snippet of the video for Luna Luna’s 2019 single “Commitment” before closing his phone. By the time he opened it a few hours later, the band’s profile was flooded with notifications.
Accompanied by a dreamy video, the bilingual track is the epitome of the band’s swooning sound and lovesick lyrics. “Aquí en mi soledad / Eso lo que siento / Haber si no me muerto” (“Here in my loneliness / That’s what I feel / We’ll see if I don’t die”), sings González on the chorus. “I feel like I’ve been waiting for music like this way too long,” reads one comment. “I felt this in my soul like that first spoon of sopa de fideo,” reads another.
Despite all the new attention, Luna Luna didn’t feel any pressure to perform. Instead, the musicians feel committed to staying true to themselves. This November, they’ll set out on their first tour in a year. As they prepare to perform their newest songs live, they’re excited to feel their energy in the room again. “It feels like everyone is following our lead,” said Bonilla, grinning and hopeful for their future.