by: Danny Alvarado-Gómez ('22) & Madeline Turner ('23)
Connor O’Mara and Rye Milligan of up-and-coming indie rock UK band Luna Bay recently sat down with WVBR’s Danny Alvarado-Gómez and Madeline Turner to discuss their latest projects, best tour memories, and realities of building momentum as an artist during the coronavirus pandemic.
By the end of 2019, the four-man band was on fire after releasing their first self-titled EP and performing a headlining tour across the UK. Luna Bay finished the year with a sold-out performance at the venue Scala, which both members describe as the “highlight of their lives.” The group was ready to jump into recording new music and continuing to play live shows for its growing fanbase. Then, the pandemic hit. Lead singer Connor O’Mara reveals that the band initially felt at a loss to figure out what was to come next.
Faced with the harsh realities associated with being an artist during COVID-19, including everything from the loss of gigs to the cancellation of studio time, the band has improvised new ways to preserve the momentum they had spent the past year building. During lockdown, they released home recordings and got right back in the studio by July to release two new songs (including their single “Call the Night,” which hit over 1 million streams this past August).
Lead guitarist Rye Milligan is grateful for how Spotify has helped the band expand its audience without having the ability to perform live shows. When we asked about some of their favorite tour memories, O’Mara and Milligan shared stories of driving across the UK, eye injuries at the French border, and matching tattoos.
“...We had one day left for the tour. We drove down to Dover,” says the lead singer. “We were at passport control, and Alex, our drummer, just threw the passport at me as I turned round, and he split the underneath of my eye open, and there was blood everywhere, and we were escorted out of security. I played that gig in Paris with just the biggest black eye ever.”
It is clear that the two, recently roommates as well as bandmates, have both enjoyed their time connecting with fans across the country. In fact, the friendly pair is really the reason the indie rock quartet is called what it is today. O’Mara reveals how the name “Luna Bay” came to exist in the first place.
“When I started the band, I had it in my head I wanted to call it something with Luna. I've written songs since my early teens and I had this one song called ‘Luna,’” says the singer. “When we met up with Rye, we didn’t have the full name yet, and he’s from a place in west Wales called Cardigan Bay. So I was like, let’s nick that ‘Bay.’ Easy band name. Done.”
In terms of coming to the United States, Luna Bay was emphatic about playing abroad, whenever in the future that may be. “It would be a dream to just tour from one side of the other,” says O’Mara.
Incredibly enough, the band won’t have to wait long before they can perform their first live show since February 2020. This coming January 31st, Luna Bay will perform a socially-distanced live show at Lafayette London, a venue right in King’s Cross Station. The normally-600-person space is only selling 120 tickets, as part of Independent Venue Week. This initiative began in an effort to support smaller venues, which are even more at risk as a result of the pandemic. Tickets are sold in pairs or singles along with the expectation that viewers only come with members of their “household or support bubble” and wear face coverings while not seated. These innovative, socially-distanced spaces are vital to launching and supporting the careers of artists by ensuring that they have a platform on which to grow.
Luna Bay is more than a little excited for the upcoming show and the cause it supports. As Milligan tells us, “We’re still gonna rock out. I’m gonna go crazy!”
Tickets can be purchased via See Tickets, linked in Luna Bay’s Twitter and Instagram pages.
In addition to the upcoming London show, the band is planning on releasing many more songs in 2021, including their self-described “favorite” single so far, due to be released sometime in February. Luna Bay has also started a mailing list through their website, lunabay.uk, where they have been corresponding with fans through email, in order to really get to know the people listening to their music.
“We welcome that so much, especially because we can’t meet people at gigs,” explains Milligan.
Throughout the time we spent with the duo over Zoom, it was clear that the band is very optimistic for what the future holds. Luna Bay’s enthusiasm and love for its music and connecting with fans shines evidently throughout our conversation.
When asked for what advice they have for local Ithacan musicians, Connor O’Mara says, “You just gotta go for it. Things start to grow if you keep putting in the time”.
Clearly, Luna Bay has been putting in the time.