LOONY’s musical leap of faith

Soulful Scarborough singer releases monster debut album

LOONY:

LOONY

Genre: R&B

If you like: Doja Cat, Erykah Badu, SZA
Best track: Mama Don’t Be Sad
Rating: NNNN (out of 5)
Why you should listen: In her debut LP, LOONY traverses a wide range of genres, layering dreamy vocals and synths on top of mercurial bass lines and percussion licks. LOONY’s lyrics are personal and specific, yet they evoke a universal melancholy sure to resonate with fellow twentysomethings whose tastes ping-pong from the retro to the ultra-cool. “I love that LOONY!” Sir Elton John proclaimed in 2020. Me too, Elton.
NEXT: The Opera House, Toronto, Fri., May 31

It’s an unusually overcast day in Los Angeles when Kira Huszar appears on Zoom with a bright blue star sticker on her chin, her white-blonde curls swishing gently in the breeze.

“I’m sort of into this gloomy vibe,” she says, glancing at the murky sky. “I’m digging the rain. It’s kind of fun.”

The Scarborough-born neo-soul, R&B-influenced singer-songwriter, better known as LOONY, tumbles over her words as she speaks, passionate about everything from parmesan crisps (she loves them) to Love Is Blind (a newfound guilty pleasure). After years of promising EPs and single releases, the singer’s eponymous debut album drops on Fri., March 22, and her first headlining tour kicks off in Cambridge, MA, a month later. For now, she’s soaking up these final weeks of rest, working her way through Wuthering Heights (she’s a self-proclaimed hater — sorry, Emily Brontë) and the snack aisle of Trader Joe’s.

The early breaths of the musician’s career have been turbulent — like most twentysomethings, she lost precious years of her coming-of-age to the pandemic. That said, Sir Elton John proclaimed, “I love that LOONY!” on his radio show in 2020, launching her into indie princessdom as she released singles and EPs since and garnering close to 400,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.

Now, with her debut LP on the horizon, she’s looking inwards and owning the “craziness” that she says makes her unique.

“I’m a very spacey person,” she says. “I’m so crazy. It’s a running joke that I’m sick in the head. LOONY works for me — I own this craziness.” While her stage name may have roots in a one-off horoscope, Huszar embraced her image as an emotionally up-and-down space cadet and makes a point to talk about mental health whenever she can.

“Men didn’t always understand that women have complex emotions and deal with mental health,” she says. “There’s a huge mental health element to what I’m doing. I have ADD, and lots of people have their own battles and experiences with anxiety, depression. It’s just a really common thing. And for me, it’s nice to be able to wear that — it feels like me.”

That all-over-the-place-ness screams through the 12-track album, which traverses a surprising number of genres and sounds. LOONY easily hops from lo-fi to soul to R&B to pop, seemingly without taking a breath. Sure, it’s a cliché, and she knows it, but she really is genre-less, she says — and that’s by design.

“I grew up in a house that was pretty eclectic,” she says, citing influences ranging from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Courtney Love to Erykah Badu (and, of course, Elton John). In her teen years, her taste pivoted to bands like My Chemical Romance and Green Day (“I still love those bands,” she gushes, describing how she “falls down the wormhole” of their music whenever a favourite song comes on). These days, her Spotify is dominated by artists like Mitski, Doja Cat and SZA.

And those influences — as well as the multi-dimensional space cadet they’ve informed — shine through the album. The second track, Mama Don’t Be Sad, evokes Doja Cat’s viral Say So — for anyone on TikTok in the early months of the pandemic, the song is instantly nostalgic. The closing tune, To Walk Away, incorporates the non-musical, ambient soundscape of LOONY’s creative process, opening with a moody bass line and hazy vocals against the chatter of a public space. To Walk Away is a special one, says LOONY.

“It’s the song that’s most personal and most dear to me,” she says, remembering an afternoon spent watching her partner play a gig at Los Angeles members-only Soho House. “I sneakily pulled out my phone — you’re not really supposed to be on your phone there, but I was on my Notes app, which I think is okay — and as I was writing it, there was chatting, all this ambient noise. And I recorded some of it.”

The next few months promise a feeling of perpetual motion to LOONY as she zips from city to city, promoting the album and building her fan base. She’ll crawl down the east coast of the U.S., snaking towards California and eventually back to Toronto, where she’ll play her closing show at the Opera House on Fri., May 31. It’s an exciting, invigorating time — but Scarborough’s quirks still call to her, and she’s looking forward to returning.

“I miss that feeling and that space,” she says of Scarborough. “It’s just so nostalgic. Scarborough was always changing when I lived there, and it still is — I find that to be a trippy thing. Even the bars in my neighbourhood, the seedy, terrible little bars, have closed, and I miss them.” Some favourite spots remain — the Scarborough Bluffs, of course, along with pizza-and-chicken joint The Real McCoy and Caribbean favourite Chris Jerk. “It’s always good,” she says of the latter, licking her lips as she speaks.

But ahead of her homecoming this spring, LOONY’s all-in on promoting the album, despite the challenge posed by its eccentricity. The lack of a perfect label to describe the LP is posing marketing problems, she says, but it’s worth it to create the album of her dreams.

“If you say it’s pop, then people who are experts in pop are kind of like, ‘what?’” she jokes. “Same with R&B. It’s confusing and hard to market.

“But it’s fun to do something that’s a little bit unclear,” she continues. “It’s more of a movement.”

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