Singer Kenzie Coyne confronts a traumatic past on the rock band's new EP
Prior to beginning work on the new Hello Luna EP, Dear Demons, singer and guitarist Kenzie Coyne found herself in a dark place. Her estranged father had been arrested, triggering memories of the physical abuse she said she experienced at his hands as a child. But rather than running from these remembrances as she might have in the past, Coyne opted to lean in and allow the pained memories to take hold, realizing that, ultimately, it was what she needed to do in order to finally begin healing.
“I stood in these really scary, dark places, and there was a point where it just switched in my head and it was like, 'No, stop trying to run. Stop trying to hide,'" said Coyne, who at age 10 moved away from her father with her sister and mother. “Everything in me was screaming to get out … but I just had this sense there was something to learn here, something I had to deal with. And so I leaned into my faith in God and was like, 'All right. You're letting me go through this, so you better help pull me out.'”
While writing and recording the songs that would eventually form the new EP, Coyne kept her history guarded from even her bandmates, who allowed her the space to grapple with events on her own terms.
“When we were writing this — and I know this sounds crazy — we weren't talking about it,'” said Coyne, who will join bandmates Diego Villasmil (bass), Eric Morgan (guitar) and Michael Neumaier (drums) for a Dear Demons release show at the Basement on Saturday, Nov. 2. “There was this... I want to call it a sense of respect, this unspoken thing. We knew what we were doing, but we never really talked about it.”
Gradually, though, Coyne began to realize that the music alone wasn't going to be enough to sustain her recovery, so she started attending group therapy sessions, eventually coming to understand that the release of the EP was only the beginning of a larger conversation that needed to take place.
“It's so upsetting how much attachment you have to your parents. They can do whatever they want and you still just want and long for that love, and that's never going to go away, which is something I had to come to terms with,” Coyne said. “In the past, I'd always drawn up these walls [and said], 'I just have this pain that no one is going to understand.' And I finally got this sense, like, 'No, this is important and I need to open up about it.' So I made a couple of simple posts on social media. I didn't go into details, because I'm trying to be vulnerable enough that people will talk about their issues without me being like, 'Here's all my junk.' It was about creating an atmosphere where people can connect their own dots.”
Hello Luna's new EP walks a similar line, with lyrics that broadly depict turmoil rather than relaying past traumas in graphic detail. Album opener “Lifeboat,” for one, includes references to being pulled under choppy waves, while “Tongue Tied” begins with Coyne throwing up that familiar wall (“Don't come any closer”) before it comes crashing down in a tumble of guitar as the singer begins to howl about the many “monsters that take up [her] insides.”
But while Coyne's words linger on complex, pained emotions, the comparatively polished music often points a way out of the dark. “Lifeboat” centers on a gorgeous vocal melody that stretches out like sunlight over calm waters, while the album-ending “Great Escape” pairs lines about struggling to find redemption with majestic pop-rock instrumentation that suggests this desired inner peace is within reach.
“I started out writing ukulele songs [10 or 12 years ago] and I remember one of my friends being like, 'Oh, my god. These are even more depressing than the heavy rock songs you're writing right now,'” Coyne said as a way of illustrating her long-held fondness for pairing heavy lyrical themes with sunny instrumentation. “I guess I still have some of that in me.”
In the process of creating Dear Demons, Coyne said she also started to reclaim a voice that had long been silenced in her, both by her internal fears and by outsiders who didn't want to believe what Coyne described happening behind closed doors.
“There was a point in middle school where I was trying to say, 'Hey, this [abuse] is happening,' and it was always shushed or brushed aside,” Coyne said. “This kind of abuse and negativity, people just don't want to believe it, so they choose not to. That's why I feel so strongly about this. I lived it. And I understand not everyone wants to approach these places, but that doesn't change that people are unknowingly taking the voices away from victims because they don't want to hear about it. … At a certain point you just have to crack it open and deal with all the crap that comes out.”