[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, "Bizarre Ride," appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. Follow him on twitter and also check out his archives.]
Before conquering Coachella, HARD and Lollapalooza, touring with The Weeknd and supplying runway anthems for Kanye West’s preferred haute couture brands, dance music DJ/producer Anna Lunoe toiled as a frustrated boutique clerk in Sydney.
Raised in a musical household, the Australian native started out making cassette mixes to impress her older brothers, before graduating to violin, piano and acoustic guitar. But after bailing on her journalism studies to work as a part-time selector on FBi Radio (Sydney’s KCRW equivalent), she paid her rent by convincing local rich people that the blouse they just tried on “looked killer.”
“One day at the shop, I randomly picked up the NME and saw a quote from Franz Ferdinand’s lead singer that changed my life,” Lunoe says, wryly grinning, wearing pink cat-eye sunglasses, a white T-shirt and a dangling silver pendant.
“The quote was about how he was working in shitty stores and realized that his life was worth more per hour than anyone was willing to pay,” Lunoe continues, describing her personal Jerry Maguire moment. “And I was reading this in a clothing-store job that I hated. As soon as I finished reading it, I yelled ‘I quit’ and walked out.”
She speaks with the chilled-out radiance and confidence of someone who has beaten the odds through bold risks and innate talent. Two years ago, she moved from Sydney to Silver Lake, to a house haunted by a mischievous rodent christened Shaquille O’Squirrel, who constantly ruins her gardening.
Almost a decade ago, the reality of being a celebrated international producer with a No. 1 Beatport single (“Real Talk”), co-signs from Diplo and A-Trak and a collaboration with Flume seemed practically inconceivable. Her longer narrative chronicles long hours spent mastering DJ technique and live performance, digging for perfect records to play out and honing a natural talent for melody, singing and songwriting. The shorter version seems almost fairy-tale.
After quitting her day job, Lunoe mined newfound inspiration from the burgeoning dance scene. She connected with power player Modular Recordings, toured Australia with Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem, and wrote phosphorescent, propulsive heat seekers singeing the nexuses of pop, house, disco and techno.
By the beginning of this decade, the(sydney)magazine had named her one of its “100 Most Influential People” and she’d become the first woman to ever curate a mix for Ministry of Sound, Australia.
“I’d essentially maxed out,” Lunoe recalls. “There’s only so many opportunities in Australia and I figured, ‘Let’s try this again — go to America and start from scratch.’ I didn’t have a name here, but I needed that. I was creatively lethargic and bored, and since I moved, everything has been a bonus.”
Her latest EP, All Out, blends dance-till-dawn beats, sly humor and irrepressible hooks. Released by Ultra in late September, its songs have dominated Australian radio and American festivals. They’re catchy without being cloying, pop that glides over refreshingly unprocessed grooves.
“Making music was such a huge, courageous journey for me that the message in everything I do is empowerment. I want girls to do whatever they want and guys to dance like they don’t give a shit about anything,” Lunoe says.
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“Dance music for me has never been about drugs or a scene — it’s just been about genuine elation and transcendence. I want it to be like that for the people listening to my music,” she adds. “It’s a journey. We start out strangers, get in this room, I play some songs on my black boxes, and now we’re all friends and it’s chill.”