Lunar has been one of Sheffield’s best kept secret for far too long. This is a girl whose talents have seen her support the likes of LSB, Break, Levela, Turno and Noisia, so you’d be forgiven for wondering why you’ve not seen her tearing up a venue near you before now. The fact is, aside from a few choice performances (like NASS fest no less!) she’s been far too busy growing a loyal fanbase (and helping to raise some serious cash for charity) from within some of Sheff’s most iconic venues.
But Steel City is soon going to have to share Lunar’s dark and heavy brand of DnB with the rest of us. Her lockdown livestreams and badgal mixes have been getting some serious attention over the last few months and now she’s signed to Nottingham based agency Submerged, you can bet you’re going to see a lot more of this magenta haired queen in 2021. Luckily, we managed to sneak in a chat before this gal explodes.
Hey Lunar! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us in-between all the fire livestreams you’re putting out at the moment. We’re already huge fans here at Dynamics, but let’s start with some introductions for those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of hearing you spin your particular blend of dark stompers. Can you tell us about your influences, when you first started DJing and your journey so far?
So, I started DJing in 2017. But I guess I really started my musical journey when I went to NASS Festival in 2014, Boomtown in 2016 and then Westfest when I was 18. I gravitated towards the Drum & Bass stages there and you’d 100% find me at the front row at any Heist, Majistrate, Hazard, Taxman, Dominator (RIP x) and Shadow Demon sets. I was really into like the most outrageous “your mum hates this kind of music” jump up! Now though, even though I don’t consider myself a jump up DJ, I’ve been told that you can definitely tell I’m very influenced by old school jump up in my sets despite the fact I span the whole darker spectrum of DnB whilst playing.
Then when I moved to Sheffield in 2016 for Uni, my influences broadened and I started listening to more liquid and darker, rolling DnB. I feel like I go through different stages with different sub-genres so my influences are always changing. I would say I’m going through a bit of a techy DnB and Neuro stage at the moment following that compilation album that came out on VISION recently. Currently, I’m highly influenced by the likes of Icicle, Mefjus, Kyrist, and BTK. But ask me next week and I’ll probably say something completely different! If I had to pick like a solid top 3 influences that will always stick by me regardless, I’d probably say: Hazard, LSB and ahhhhhh.. um, I can’t pick. Ok, probably Spectrasoul. That was tough!!
Awesome, that’s quite the mixed bag but I do think you can hear all those influences coming through in your mixes. You mentioned your move to Sheffield in 2016 – there seems to be a steady and loyal scene there at the moment. How has that supported your journey? And what’s it like generally for up-and-coming artists in Sheff (when the world isn’t on fire)?
One thing the scene here has given me is confidence. I refused to play out for a while because I was too nervous and didn’t think I was any good! I started getting booked by friends who ran nights who obviously wanted to support me! For example, Ellie (Clouwds) gave me my first booking in 2017 for a night she used to run called ‘Lady & the Trap’. Hayley, who was in charge of Rave & Raise, kind of took me under her wing and wanted me as a resident so she’s supported me lots too (big up Hayley!).
From there, I started getting messages from the bigger nights asking me to play and then whenever I played out, I just got chatting to people in the scene and more bookings kind of came from there, I guess! It doesn’t matter where you are in the country or world, I cannot express the importance of just talking to people on nights out to connect with new creative minds and a lot of opportunities have come up for me by just putting myself out there. I hate self promo but you’ve just gotta ignore the cringiness and do it – let people know what you’re about and what you’re up to!
In general, the main venue for up-and-coming artists used to be The Harley. It was basically this 200-cap pub/bar/hotel in the centre of Sheffield where grassroots nights could start out. Basically, it used to be the place to go – you know it’d be a sick night if you ended up at The Harley! Sadly, it closed in Summer 2019 so it’s been kind of up to the bigger, more established nights like THE TUESDAY CLUB, Wub Club and Displace to adopt the up-and-coming talent alongside multiple headliners. I, personally, feel like they’ve definitely done that so whilst it’s a massive shame to see to Harley go, it’s also really promising for the scene up here that up-and-comers are getting these bookings! Hopefully we’ll be able to see more of it when we get raves back.
Ahhh the Harley! One of my mates used to help put on the DuskTilDawn nights there back in the day. Excellent venue. Such as shame it’s closed now but I’m glad the nights are living on. You mentioned being a Rave and Raise Resident. That’s such an amazing initiative; can you tell us a bit more about it?
Rave & Raise, yes! As I mentioned before, my friend Hayley saw me play at a night at the Harley. She manages Rave & Raise (although it’s on a hitaus at the moment) so that’s how I became a resident. The main idea around it was that we would pick a charity close to our hearts – mainly homelessness and mental health charities – and then throw a big party to raise money for them.
We’ve raised money for charities like The Snowdrop Project, Papyrus, Mind (Sheffield), and Roundabout. We’d use fundraising techniques like attendees saving money on entry if they brought along tinned food or clothes for the homeless which we then distributed. The events themselves used to (before Covid) have a strong community vibe to them – it always made me smile playing to a crowd knowing everyone had come down to support the charity and everyone involved. One Rave & Raise event that will always stick out is one we held at The Night Kitchen for Mind. We had Klinical headlining and then a load of Sheffeld DJs and raised over £1k in one night – madness!
Wow, that’s sick. Big up Rave & Raise. We love that raving can have a positive social impact! I guess it goes hand in hand with trying to change perceptions of the scene which is something we’re passionate about. Which leads us nicely into our next question! What has your experience been like as you establish yourself as a female artist in the DnB scene? Has there been any barriers you’ve had to overcome?
I was only reflecting on this the other day after reading the article Averil (Averse) wrote for Dynamics (side note – if you haven’t read it yet – stop whatever you were planning on doing next and GO READ IT!). In my head, it’s complex and tricky. I’ve tried to just go with the flow and stay focused on my progression but there are always going to be people that make comments.
One barrier at first was definitely the general male-domination of the scene. In 2017, when I first started DJing, I found it can be quite overwhelming when you’re the only girl on a line up. One of the first times I played out, an MC who I didn’t know randomly jumped on my set without my permission and then said to me at the end of my set: ‘you’re pretty sick at mixing for a girl, you look good on the decks’. This comment upset me for obvious reasons but it was pretty easy to shut him down for his backhanded compliment and educate him on why it was wrong. For me, it’s the people that have the ‘girls only get to where they are in the scene because they are girls’ mentality that are the ones to watch out for. Sometimes they can even come in the form of ‘friends’ and that attitude is a lot more subtle but yeah, salty!
I think the most important thing towards breaking the barriers us girls face is believing in yourself, practicing loads and finding a galdem support network to big you up! My support system of gyaldems include DJs like Ellie (Clouwds) and the Nuance gang, Katalyst, Charla Green and Ashleigh (HungryLungZ). There’s lots of groups and collectives out there that are female run that GET THE STRUGGLES and are there for you to make you feel more comfortable in the scene! For example, JustBe, Concrete Jungyals, Peachy & Not Bad for a Girl.
And you’ve worked with quite a few of them, haven’t you?
Yeah. ’Peachy’ started in Sheffield so it was quite easy to reach out to Gabby to do a Peachy Podcast for her. Peachy also started out a multi-genre night so I’d always pop down to them to support and they really reignited my love for Dubstep! A Peachy club night was always sick and definitely exposed me to different genres and people within those genres.
I LOVE working with Manchester’s Not Bad for a Girl. Martha is lush to work with and hopefully, when raves are back in full force I can go and play for them in person! The all-female environments and the males supporting them are really driving the scene forward – team work makes the dream work!
Talking to you, it’s clear you’ve already done so much in a (relatively) short space of time but what would you say has been your biggest achievement to date?
Tough one! But I’ve gotta say playing at NASS Festival in 2019 on the Renegade Stage B2B with L.E.X. supporting Break, Rockwell, LSB, Spectrasoul and Sustance. What a weekend!
Obviously, I mentioned earlier that NASS was the first festival I went to, so it was super humbling and surreal to be on the other side of the decks at a place that kind of started my journey for me – it felt like I’d come full circle! If you’d told a little, naive Lunar, aged 16, walking through purple camping to watch DJ Hazard tear up the Warehouse stage, that she’d be playing on that same stage in 5 years’ time, she’d have laughed in your face!
And judging by the waves you’ve been making even over lockdown, there’s still bigger things to come! How would you say lockdown has impacted your growth as an artist?
For lockdown 1.0, I went back home to Wiltshire in the South West. Luckily, I brought my decks with me as I was in the middle of sorting out my Wub Club mix at the time. I did a few live streams which, although it’s weird playing to a virtual audience, has definitely given me exposure across places that wouldn’t have necessarily noticed me beforehand as I mainly play in Sheffield.
I don’t like to focus too much on numbers as I don’t think numbers = ‘talent’ necessarily but the likes on my Artist Page doubled throughout lockdown which is good to see. Another positive to come out of lockdown is I got signed! Stu from Submerged agency reached out to me so I’m now part of their roster. They’re based in Nottingham so hopefully I’ll be jetting off down the M1 to play on some of their monster line ups post-Covid. So yeah, big up Submerged! Katalyst also signed to them over lockdown so I’m looking forward to working with her more because she’s a massive Hun.
That’s not to say it’s not been super tough. I think every artist, including myself, during lockdown has had down days where they have 0 motivation and think, ‘What’s the point?’. One thing it’s definitely made me realise is just how important raves are to the community. Not only to make people happy and to allow everyone to have a dance, but how much they give back to the economy. It’s horrible to see your favourite local venues, like Plot 22 and Dryad Works, having to put up Crowdfunders just to see them through to next year because they aren’t being financially supported by Government grants.
100%. The sooner we can all get back to the dance the better. So, with the hope that that’s not too far away, what’s next for Lunar in 2021?
I’m really excited to work more with The Wub Club as a resident as they are killing it at the moment and are quite possibly my favourite thing about the Sheffield scene. They are definitely keeping my motivation going and always pushing the freshest talent. I want to keep all my Sheffield residencies going, but my vision for this year is to also hopefully branch out a bit with my bookings. This is looking quite promising with Submerged. I’ve got some bits planned down South and festival season 2021 is on the horizon… (Covid pending, of course!)
I’m also working on some guestmixes for some of my favourite labels and collectives which I’m buzzing to get out onto the cloud of sound so keep your eyes peeled for them.
We most certainly will! And finally, we’re all about girls supporting girls, so what other gals should we be listening to at the moment?
Love this question! Production wise: The Drum Army ‘Yo Bro’ LP has a sick release from missledz and a face slapping remix from Cauzer on it. These two are definitely ones to watch if you like your DnB dark and weighty! I also can’t stop listening to Zara Kershaw’s voice on ‘Out of Time’ by Monrroe; it’s heavenly. I knew it was going to be special if her vocals on ‘Parallel’ were anything to go by!
Also, Gyrofield, Gyrofield and Gyrofield. I’m so excited by the direction of her productions. Everything she puts out is literal gold and mind-blowing. It’s so forthcoming and experimental but she’s also got a really clear sound that fits really well in dark, techy DnB. Ok, last one but I’m also really looking forward to hearing more sick jungle tunes from Charla Green as she’s working with Function Records for the EQ50 Mentorship Programme (Big up Char!)
In terms of mixes, I actually did a big Instagram story thread the other day of all the mixes that are getting me through this year so they are fresh in my mind! Anything by KIRA, Katalyst, AMA, Nuance (and L.E.X, Clouwds and Averse individually). I’m really loving the Kyrist Minirig Mixtape too – absolute fire mix from the queen of dark DnB! There’s also been some sick live streams. One of my personal faves is the Collette Warren & Ben Soundscape one from the Stay at Home Festival Part 1 back in April. It’s such good vibes and Collette’s voice is so beautiful.
Also… final shameless plug but I’ve got a mix coming out on the 8th December so be sure to check that out too! More details will be across all my socials!
Words by Emma Rochford