January marked one of the hardest moments of Luna Aura's life: the tragic passing of the singer's 15-year-old brother in an accident at a boys' camp in northern Arizona. Instead of paying tribute to her sibling mournfully, the 22-year-old pop singer released an upbeat song she says her always-happy brother would have loved to dance to. The song, "Dancing with Your Ghost," is a catchy, beautifully sung track about never losing touch with someone you love.
"He was such a positive person, and the last thing I want is to remember him in a sad way or make it into a sad situation," says the singer, who melds electronic and hip-hop hooks and layers them with powerful, soulful vocals. "I came to the realization he's still here in everything I do. The song relates to that, and that love can't be broken by any kind of boundary. I love him, I know he loves me, and I can feel that through whatever energy I need to feel that through. That song is about eternal love, that it never ends, and no matter what, that person is there."
Aura, born Angela Flores, crafted a playful music video for the song, filmed at a local roller rink with eye-catching outfits, a mascot, and dance moves galore. The video's storyline follows a nerdy, sweet guy who crushes on a popular girl, played by the singer, and the clip's spirited vibe matches the song's memorable beats.
Like everything Aura presents, the song and video are polished and will stick in your head, as will the other tracks off her new EP, Supernova. The new release (Luna Aura's second) is a five-song collection promoting self-empowerment and positivity on tracks like "Like You," about not fitting in but finding someone you greatly relate to, and "Supernova," inspired partly by the singer's younger sister and the pressures young women feel in conforming to a selfie-filled world.
"I feel like a huge sentiment in the EP is overcoming obstacles," Aura says. "I wanted to preach something different, about being proud of who you are no matter what. If someone doesn't like you, they don't like you. You don't have to impress anyone — just be yourself."
Musically, the singer finds it difficult to categorize her sound, opting for the broad "pop" term because she aims to craft tunes that are accessible to a wide audience. The singer is influenced by everything from R&B to rock to jazz, and she names Norah Jones, Toni Braxton, and No Doubt as acts she loves. She'll rap when she feels the lyrics call for it, right before soaring into breathy high octaves that transcend the range of some of today's biggest pop stars.
"I pull from a ton of different places," Aura says. "I don't ever want to tell myself, 'You can't make a song like this, because that's not who you are, image-wise.'"
Beyond the music video screen, the independent artist is known for her standout live shows. Fans can expect costume changes, flashy light sets, choreography, live instrumentation from a keyboardist and a drummer, and ultra-confident crowd interaction.
"Everyone in the local scene is so talented, but I feel like the show we offer is so much bigger than anyone has seen recently," Aura says. "I, as an entertainer, want to entertain, and with that, the shows need to be immaculate and perfect. If I want to be a pop artist, people better be paying to see a pop artist and not just a girl on a stage singing."
Already gaining notoriety on a national level, having been featured on MTV and VH1 and garnering coverage in national music mags, Aura is increasingly gaining admirers in the Valley, from both music fans and other local musicians. James Keenan, who has performed with Aura and is collaborating with the singer on his DJ duo project W.A.S.H., says he has no doubt Aura is destined to be a star.
"Everything she does, from her songwriting, to her fashion, to her attitude, reflects just that," says Keenan, who performed on stage with her during an opening performance for the Ting Tings this past spring. "She writes with a maturity beyond her years and homes in on the exact style she wants. She absolutely destroys any track or stage she touches."
Her charisma is part of what appealed her manager, Travis Alexander, after he heard her perform a karaoke version of a Katy Perry song and immediately knew he had to meet her. He says Aura is exactly the kind of selfless, creative, humble person he wants to work with, as she focuses on spreading positivity and light, as is evidenced by her latest single and live shows.
"Luna instantly commands a room and makes the audience feel as though they're all in it together," Alexander says. "When she touches a stage, no matter the size of the venue, every single person in the room will shut up and take part in the action. She has soul, authenticity, energy, and charisma that is untouchable. Her goal is to make sure every single person walks away from her performance with a smile on their face and something to talk about."
Part of her confidence as a singer relates to her stage name, which she adopted when she decided about three years ago to pursue a career as a musician after a last-minute decision to stay in Phoenix rather than head to the Berklee College of Music. Her name was inspired by a character from X-Men comic books, a girl named Luna Maximoff, who had the power of aura visions.
"She could sense what people were feeling and then manipulate their feelings, which I feel like is what I do with music," Aura says. "Luna Aura is the person I always wanted to be and the star I always wanted to be, and Angela is who I am as a person down to the core. I didn't change my name because I hated it. I changed it because it allowed me to be this whole other monster and beast, and when you give it a name, it becomes real. I like my real name. It's what my parents gave to me, and I want to respect that. I feel like more of a Luna than an Angela, though — Luna is my soul's name."
Aura is taking her powers on the road, as she is realizing her dream of touring, after playing myriad shows in the Valley and in Los Angeles. This October, she will embark on a month-and-a-half-long tour with Nova and the Experience, Luxxe, and Gabe Kubanda, hitting everywhere from New York, Washington, and Boston to cities in Tennessee and Texas. In the meantime, she's working on new music, which includes heading to L.A. to collaborate with other songwriters.
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At her EP-release show, she'll play all the songs on Supernova, tracks from her debut self-titled EP, plus a few new songs and covers. And the show will include appearances by members of Jared & the Mill. Aura calls the local scene a big family, one that's full of heroes, and she's certainly stepping up to that role herself.
"I am so passionate about this," Aura says. "It's not about coming and seeing me. I want you to come and experience a great show. We're trying to create this fun, lighthearted environment.
"It's the perfect moment for anyone who wants to let go and have a good time."