While it was Muna’s inaugural performance at the Museum of Modern Art’s Party in the Garden fundraiser, it wasn’t the band’s first time at the annual event. Years ago, when James Blake was the performer, the trio — Jo Maskin, Katie Gavin and Naomi McPherson — sneaked in on a friend’s coattails and took in the show.
“We were young, we were drunk, and no one cared,” Maskin says.
Several years later, it’s safe to say people care: the band was the headlining performer at the party, popping in to play in the museum’s garden in the midst of its summer touring schedule, which includes opening for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour and a set at Bonnaroo.
“We came [to New York] for an event on June 1. We played at The Stonewall Inn, for the beginning of Pride. And we flew to Chicago, to do Taylor Swift’s show, and then we flew back yesterday,” Gavin says. “So it does feel like we’re jet-setting, except for we are in economy.”
They’ve managed to fit a lot into their short stint in New York City: they hit Dover Street Market (“took a look, did not buy anything”), ate at vegan Sichuan restaurant Spicy Moon on the Lower East Side and went to see “Parade” on Broadway.
“I think we were all like, ‘Oh, it’s going to be good.’ But we were gobsmacked,” Maskin says of the Tony-nominated show. “I don’t think I was ready for how beautiful that play was. It was great.”
The trio, who met at USC and formed in 2013, have been enjoying a recent rise to the top, with added attention coming from the Swift opening slot. But they’ve built a steady, diehard fan base over the 10 years they’ve been working.
“We had a really sweet photographer just now say, ‘Have you guys ever heard the phrase, you work for 10 years to become an overnight success?’” Maskin says. “He was like saying that that’s what we’ve done. And that was very sweet to me. That anyone still thinks of us as a success…because I’ve obviously felt that we’ve been working for 10 years. If anyone ever thought that of us, I would be shocked, but I’d say, ‘hell yeah.’”
They describe the experience of opening for Swift as “surprisingly fun,” despite initial nerves.
“I do have a little bit of a history of the nervousness becoming anxiety, like when it’s big shows, and so I was nervous about what it would be like to play a stadium,” Gavin says. “But I honestly have felt like a kid in a candy shop. The stage is so huge and we’ve been a band for so long that I feel like we’re kind of just road dogs and we know how to be an opening act and we know how to hype people up. So I don’t know, we just run around and have fun.”
A perk of being one of Swift’s opening acts is that they then get to watch her show, which they’ve now seen several times. They regret to inform us who haven’t that it is everything it’s cracked up to be and more.
“Dude, it’s f–king crazy,” McPherson says. “I hate to tell you this, but it’s f–king crazy.”
The Taylor Swift fans are known for their loyalty and passion, and the Muna fans are similarly motivated, McPherson says.
“Our fans are really sweet and really, really funny. So it’s been nice to see the bigger we get, the more of them there are, the more creative and funny people we have leaving hilarious comments and making funny memes,” they say.
“We like all that stuff. They’re so creative and sweet and they’ve started doing things during shows for us where they’ll mass mobilize hundreds of people to do something for us, during the show in front of the crowd or something. When that starts happening, it’s pretty hard not to be really moved and touched by how sweet people are.”