HELLO LUNA – DEAR DEMONS (REIMAGINED)
Columbus, Ohio’s Hello Luna specializes in the type of alternative rock one might associate with Paramore or even fellow Ohio artist Jetty Bones—pop-punk adjacent, at times faintly inspired by heavier genres, but firmly rooted in the power of pop hooks. The band’s most recent set of new songs, 2019’s Dear Demons, pushed that sound to emotional limits as vocalist/guitarist Kenzie Coyne dealt with the public trauma of a criminal case against her father that had him facing life without parole and her confronting past memories of abuse.
The EP’s five songs are at times enraged, heartbroken, and hopeless—there’s an almost claustrophobic sense of uncertainty throughout. Earlier this month, the band released a new take on those songs, Dear Demons (Reimagined), which sees Hello Luna adapting to a heavily electronic sound where Coyne’s voice sounds even more isolated with a synth backing that can act both suffocating and freeing.
In the current pandemic-plagued state of the world, it’s easy to interpret the lyrics of lost identity and isolation or the abandoning of traditionally more natural instruments as an effect of that state. “Don’t come any closer, I’m on fire with emotion,” Kenzie sings at the start of opener “Tongue Tied.” It’s an apt rearranging—that track moved from the penultimate slot on the original Dear Demons—and an apt warning of what’s to come. While the heavier, alt rock format of the songs’ first release highlighted angst and pent up emotion that one may experience with trauma, these arrangements give more weight to the frustrations and helplessness that can swarm around those feelings.
Originally intending to record stripped down reworks of the songs, Hello Luna found a new course when engineer/producer and neighbor to the band’s studio, Gino Bambino, happened into a session and tried adding some synths to the tracks. Where distorted guitars and big drum sounds usually dominate the soundscape, lush synths and snappy drum machines have taken over. “Great Escape” stands as the pinnacle of those possibilities with a ballad-like piano intro cascading into lose-yourself dancefloor magnificence.
While the whole bears little resemblance to its prior form, Dear Demons (Reimagined) carries over the band’s pop sentiment, perhaps accenting it even more and often slips in some of those more comfortable electric guitars. “Sympathize” could pass as a festival style electro alt-pop number, but it doesn’t shy away from the sharp and chugging guitars, though they do come with the grand echo one associates with a large festival stage.
The electronic approach has the added benefit of emphasizing the human element of Coyne’s voice as it plays alongside more manipulated and synthetic backgrounds. Occasionally it can get lost in the digital manipulations, but that plays to good effect on “Lifeboat” where her voice seems to bob above and below the wave of the track in parallel with the lyrics. “Threw you a lifeboat but you wanted mine / kept my head over water but the tide will rise,” she sings in the chorus.
Dear Demons (Reimagined) was followed by a short documentary on the writing of the original songs. In it Coyne speaks of fighting to forget a past and ultimately coming to face it. The original EP served as a sort of confrontation to those traumas as she viewed them in new perspectives. This collection can be seen as a continuation of that, a band engaging in the task of considering their meanings and intents and again presenting them from new angles.