Grace Repasky and Maggie Geeslin have been best friends since eighth grade, when their shared appreciation for indie music led them to form a band called Lunar Vacation. After making demos in their bedrooms and playing as many shows as they could in their hometown of Atlanta, they added Matteo DeLurgio on synths, Connor Dowd on drums, and John Michael Young on bass, and self-released two EPs, Swell and Artificial Flavors, shortly after graduating high school. The group’s vibrant, dreamy sound – which they used to call “pool rock” because the members were listening to a lot of surf rock but there weren’t any beaches near them, only pools – ended up garnering a fair amount of critical attention and millions of organic streams, but for a while, it seemed like that might be it for Lunar Vacation. Their bassist left in 2019, and though they continued touring, tensions were high, and their musical future together was uncertain.
They decided to take a much-needed break, which proved crucial in bringing the group closer together and turning Lunar Vacation into a more collaborative effort. While Geeslin was working in a record store, she met Daniel Gleason of Grouplove, who helped refine the band’s lo-fi sound by capturing it in a studio setting. The band recorded ‘Unlucky’ with him and released it in early 2020, the first in a series of singles leading up to their debut album, Inside Every Fig Is a Dead Wasp, which was produced by Gleason and came out last Friday via Keeled Scales. It’s an impressive and emotionally potent record that retains the band’s original appeal – their DIY charm, their knack for blending pop melodicism with psychedelic textures – while making these qualities fit into a more dynamic and effective whole. As a result, it’s harder to gloss over the content of the songs, which is more uncompromising in its expression of self-doubt and hopelessness. They spend much of the album trying to find the right words, but it’s not until the final track, ‘But Maybe’, that the truth comes pouring out. “I feel like I am truly ready to face it all on my own,” Repasky sings, and all doesn’t sound so daunting.
We caught up with Lunar Vacation’s Grace Repasky and Maggie Geeslin for this edition of our Artist Spotlight interview series to talk about their friendship, the band’s journey, the making of their debut album, and more.
What was your impression of each other when you first met?
Maggie Geeslin: We met through a mutual friend – one of my childhood best friends went to middle school with Grace. And I knew that Grace liked music and I was into music, so I think the first time we hung out, I made Grace sing [Maggie laughs, Grace covers eyes] for me and my mom. We had this little electric keyboard in our basement, and Grace played ‘Say Something’ by – who sings that?
Grace Repasky: A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera.
MG: Yeah. Just like crooning in my basement, and we were like, “Yay!” [laughter] And then we just kind of stayed friends.
How did you convince them?
MG: I don’t know, I think I was just like, “Do it, do it!”
MG: I feel like I can convince you to do things.
GR: You can.
That was right when you met.
GR: Yeah, it was like the first time we actually hung out.
MG: I think we were just having such a good time that Grace trusted me enough to just sing. Also, you probably – you like singing.
GR: I love singing. I definitely was like, I get nervous and scared, but I think you guys were hyping me up. So we had that fun hanging out in eighth grade and we went to the same high school, and then didn’t really hang out until sophomore year when we were in the same guitar guitar program and we were in a songwriting group together. That was like 2015, so we were obsessed with Twin Peaks and MacDeMarco and all those garage rock bands, and not a lot of other people listened to that music in our school because it was a small Catholic school.
MG: Our friendship is and always has been grounded in music, because even when we weren’t really friends for the beginning of high school, Grace would come up to me in the hallway and be like, “Oh, have you heard of Father John Misty?” or something. So we were always music friends. Grace was my music homie. And then once we had guitar class together, we had that every day so we’re spending time together, playing music every day.
GR: And we went to shows together. We were like, “Oh my god, I want to play a show so bad, they’re so cool.”
MG: Yeah, we were laughing the other day ‘cause we recently looked up Twin Peaks and Mac DeMarco, and like, we just wanted to be garage rock boys that got plastered on stage.
GR: Literally. We just wanted to be men.
MG: [laughs] We just wanted to be rock and rollers, and that was just so different from the environment that we were living in in the South and going to Catholic school, like a very conservative, uniform environment. So music, and particularly that music scene, was escapism, I guess. Like, We’re wearing plaid skirts and polo shirts every day, but let’s talk about Mac DeMarco.
Did you realize at the time that it was a kind of escapism?
GR: I think so, definitely. I remember, as cliche as it sounds, when things got hard and rough, I always found a nice peace just going on YouTube and watching, like, people’s Audiotree sessions or KEXP or any of that. Like, Wow, there’s a whole other world out there that I haven’t even stepped foot in. Because no one talks about a feasible career in art, it wasn’t really encouraged at all, so this was like, people are making it work, and they seem happy and they’re creating things that are really profound, to where it has an effect on two 15 year olds and makes them want to go pursue things.
MG: Yeah, and our school was like college prep, technically, so everything was focused on getting you to go to college – I think 99% of our graduating class went to college. I think it was just this lens where we’re like, Oh my god, there’s so many other possibilities. And no one ever talked about making a living off of art, or even just dedicating time to art, or having multiple jobs so you could pursue your passion. It was very much a streamlined path to getting a job and making a lot of money.
GR: And having a family and going to church.
MG: Yeah. I think we did realize it was escapism.
GR: That’s why it’s so special, you know?
How much of your friendship at the time revolved around music?
GR: Pretty much all of it. Because our friends that we found later that would come to shows with us and we’re still best friends with now, it all just centred around going to shows.
MG: Or certain indie bands – like, if there’s someone in the school that liked indie music, everyone knew. We would scope it out like, “Oh, I heard this person likes…” It was like the indie pop wave, so it was like, Two Door Cinema Club.
GR: We weren’t the only kids that liked indie music at our school, so we find our little group, and it definitely bonded all of us. I would say our friendship, and this kind of happened with the whole band too, music was first, and then that was the catalyst for friendship. It wasn’t really the other way around. So maybe that’s why we’ve stuck together so long.
When you first started playing shows, did it feel like big decision at the time, or like an act of rebellion?
GR: Yeah… I think so.
MG: Which was also really exciting, because it’s like we had our own little thing that no one else – there were musicians in our school, but they all played like open mic nights, and it was like football players who would sing country songs, basically. But there was never like a band in our environment. We didn’t know that there’s such a thing as a local scene, and we didn’t realise there were other kids our age in bands. That’s something we discovered after the fact. And the boys that are in our band, we all went to high school together but they’re older than us. We never hung out with them, and we weren’t friends with them beforehand, so it was also strange because it’s like, we’re working on this project with these people that we see every day but we’re not like really friends with them.
GR: Yeah. It’s such an odd… Talking about it, I’m like, how did we even become a band? Like, we would see our drummer, Connor, in the hallway, and we would be like [coyly] “Hey.” [laughter] We literally did not talk to any of them, and then we would we just go to my house and practice and play a show. I remember the music-making and writing process felt very comforting to me, because I was just on my bed with GarageBand singing quietly so my parents couldn’t hear-type thing. But playing shows definitely was like rebellious, because we would go out Wednesday nights and we would stay out until like 11:30 playing at some venue downtown and my parents were like, “I don’t want you going down there, it’s too scary.” And we were like, “We have to. We’re rock stars.”
MG: And most of the time, at the beginning, we didn’t know that you were supposed to get paid for shows. And we would always have to leave early because in our state you can’t drive past midnight if you’re under 18, so we’d always have to be beating the driving curfew, so we would play, pack up, and then dip. And then, I think like six months into playing shows, our guitar teacher was like, “You’re supposed to be getting paid for these shows.” [laughter]
MG: We were like, “What? What are you talking about?” We would have to sell tickets [Grace laughs] – we would stand in the hallway and be like, “Hey, want to come to our show?” And our teacher was like, “Are you guys getting paid for this?” We’re like, “No?”
GR: It felt so sus, because I had like a wad of tickets, pulling it out of my backpack like it’s drugs or something.
When Connor and Matteo joined the band, how did the dynamic change, and how did your relationship evolve over time?
MG: I would honestly our friendship really solidified, where we’re like deep understanding connected friends, really only after we made our album this past year. We spent a lot of time together and toured together and had a great time giggling all the time with them, but I personally didn’t feel as deep of a connection as I do now until we made our album. It was was just such a vulnerable time for everyone, it was pandemic lockdown, we’re spending 12 hours a day in this tiny studio, and everyone was like a little bit unhinged, emotions were very high. But we were also dedicated to making this thing together, and I feel like that is what really really unified us.
GR: We used to be a five-piece, and then our bassist left in 2019 and then all of us decided to go back to college, take a break from touring and take a break from music in general. I was starting to lose my steam and my will for it, I was like, “I don’t even want to do this anymore.” The dynamics in our band were not good. So I think that break helped us really figure out that we do love being together and we want to keep doing this. It really is just creating something to spending time together which really solidified all of it, where I was like, “I’m going to know these people forever, and I love them so much.” Our first two EPs, we didn’t all write that together. It literally was not a collective effort. At least the first EP is like my child, like I love her so much, she’s the best. But the second EP, it just doesn’t have the same amount of emotion and consideration as this album does. So, I think playing shows on those two EPs, it did feel a little weird because our dynamic was weird. When we were playing all those songs, it was hard to really get into them because it’s like, Maggie’s playing a guitar part that she didn’t even write or record, and that was the same thing for everyone else.
So when we all were like, “Do we even still want to be doing music? What are we doing?” that was when we all were like, “Let’s just give another shot. Let’s just go and try to make music all four of us together.” And it just worked out so well. There is so much trust that started building there, from a mission standpoint but also just as friends. Because if you’re making music, especially making a record together, it’s literally like being in a deep, emotional relationship with four people. But the best thing was when we all were like, “Okay, we’re putting everyone’s ego aside and we went into the studio and everything we’re going to do is going to serve the song.” And just over time, it’s just grown into something really beautiful, and it’s so amazing, because you would think that it would be like that from the start. But it started so strangely, but it’s morphed into something so fantastic. It feels like we just became a band yesterday – all the excitement is there.
MG: We always had that sacred excitement for music, and once it started dwindling, like Grace said, that’s when we’re like, “I don’t know if we should even do this, because it doesn’t feel as pure.”
I wasn’t even aware you were on a break. How long did that last?
GR: Not a lot of people are.
MG: We were still playing shows, too.
GR: We were playing sparse shows, yeah, but in terms of doing music full time, it was kind of like a halt. I guess we’ve literally never talked about how we had a big break and a lot of doubt and almost stopped making music.
MG: We still were doing tours that we had committed to, but I think we set aside the idea of making an album. Once we made ‘Unlucky’ together, that was the first time we went in an actual studio, not a home studio, which inherently changes the dynamic because we’re not running the machines. That’s when we met Dan, who produced the album, during this break time, and that was definitely huge. I feel like I’m telling everyone that Dan and [engineer] TJ [Elias] saved our band.
GR: They kind of did, in a way. They instilled so much confidence in us that we’ve never had before. It was just really magical and it came from such a pure place.
MG: Dan’s been in bands for so long, and he’s like Grace and I, where it’s like, we are so excited about the emotion behind the music and any songs we like. So when we toured the studio, that was probably in August during our break, but we’re like, “We know we want to make this single, and maybe make an album down the line.” And we met Dan, and the studio was tiny so we toured it for like 10 minutes, and then we sat down and told him our whole situation and how we were feeling about music. It was kind of like band therapy.
GR: It literally was!
MG: And he was just like, “Let’s try to make a song.” So we made ‘Unlucky’, and then the next one we made was ‘Peddler’ in January 2020, and that was when we’re like, “Okay, shit, we have to make an album.”
Grace, could you talk about your headspace going into the album? Did you find it hard to channel or explain what the songs were about to everyone?
GR: Going into the studio, I was definitely in a really bad headspace. Even finishing the record, I was super depressed and my anxiety was at an all-time high. That was kind of the most unhinged I’ve ever felt, emotionally. I just felt like an intense wreck all the time, and honestly, I think that’s what helped me write most of the lyrics that are super honest, to where sometimes I was maybe second-guessing them and being like, Oh, this is too obvious or too raw or I sound too whiny. Dan and our whole band were like, “No, I love it,” like you should keep those lyrics and all all that stuff. Looking back on it, it was really great, but I do remember there were some days where I was like – you know when you have those really dark thoughts where you’re just like, I’m gonna go home and never return. Like, I remember we were playing something one time and I was like, I don’t want to be alive. [to Maggie] Don’t stare, I’m sorry! [laughter] It was just really emotional and bad.
GR: It’s like, I am the worst and I hate myself and literally I can’t see any out ever, you know? Our last song that we have on that record was literally written after a really bad manic depressive episode where I, like, drove somewhere really far – it was just not good news. But I think making the record was a big healing process, because I look back and I’m like, Whoa, I overcame a lot of those things by being with people I cared about and making something that I really believed in.
Also, it’s hard because a lot of the songs are about this relationship I had two or three years ago, which is insane, but it was one of those things that lasts a short amount of time but then they kind of drag on for another year or two, so you never really had a good cut off point. And I think when we were in the studio I was in that vortex of just thinking about what could have happened and why it didn’t work out and if it was my fault, so it was kind of like a trip to the past. I was like, Wow, I feel like I’m 18 again. It was emotionally intense to hash out those feelings again and then also on top of feeling really, really low. But I think that all of us were all going through it, you know, and that’s what made us all super vulnerable and willing to try a lot of things. Willing to just kind of be like, “Fuck it, it can’t get any worse. Let’s just do whatever and go crazy.” But I don’t feel that way anymore, which is good. No more bad vibes from me.
But it was definitely very emotionally taxing, and there was all this insecurity around my writing, too. It was very bad imposter syndrome, I was like, I don’t write songs, I don’t do music, I can’t do any of this stuff. Even if I did write something once that was good, it wasn’t me, it was a fluke accident or something. But I think it was just building confidence about writing, too, which is really scary, you know, you’re creating something and letting the whole entire world critique it. And especially if you’re not mentally stable, you’re like, Oh my god, this feels like the end of me. I don’t really know what the question was because I kind of just went on a crazy little thing, but I hope that answers something. [Maggie laughs] But long story short, I was really depressed and a lot of it just got put out in the music.
Maggie, did you want to add something? It looked like you were thinking or processing things and I wondered how you experienced that time, if you’re comfortable sharing.
MG: Yeah, I mean, obviously it was hard for everyone. I started going to therapy while we were making our album, maybe right after we had finished it. I think it was the beginning of a lot of stuff in our personal mental health journeys. We were just working ourselves so hard to make something that we believed in and to finish college, and I was just thinking, Wow, it’s actually happening now. I guess that ties into our record finally coming out, it’s like a very sweet release of emotion. The first few years of our band we were in high school and then the beginning of college, which is like emotional wreckage time, so this album feels like it tied up a lot of loose ends.
GR: It’s like full healing mode.
MG: I think we really learned how to be open while trying to find closure on so many things.
GR: Wow. That was deep [laughter].
MG: It’s almost like it had to be made to move on to a better place, you know.
Can you each tell me one thing that you find inspiring about the other person?
GR: Oh my god.
MG: I’m gonna cry.
GR: I will too.
MG: I have mine.
GR: Okay [laughs].
MG: Ever since I met Grace, even in eighth grade, Grace has always been so emotionally open with people. Before Grace and I were ever even really good friends, everyone in our grade knew about Grace’s crushes, because Grace was like, “Oh my god, I love this person.”
GR: [laughs] So embarrassing.
MG: Even if you didn’t really know Grace, you knew what they were into, because you just unapologetically love things, whether it’s people or art or bread and cheese or something. That’s always been so inspiring to me. And definitely just in my own creations, things that I write or whatever, Grace always encourages me to be emotionally open and not apologetic about it. Which is interesting, because Grace is always like, “Oh, I’m so shy.” [Grace laughs] But I don’t think Grace is really shy.
GR: I’m not shy when I’m with people I’m comfortable with.
MG: Yeah. But definitely just the excitement about anything. Grace gets excited about so many things, it’s so pure.
GR: Aww. That’s so sweet.
MG: Now compliment me. [laughter]
GR: Probably the biggest thing is that you’re one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, ever. I think it’s almost impossible for you to be mean to anyone, to have any kind of malice towards anyone. And that’s been something I’ve really looked up ever since I’ve been friends with you, because you always want to approach things in a very peaceful, kind, chill way. Even when we go into conflict, I’m always trying to be like “Fuck this!” [laughter] I go insane and unhinged, and you’re like, “No, no, peace, think about it from this side.” And I think you have a really pure appreciation for art, which is also probably why we’re such good friends. I think we can just talk about a lot of things, and you really have an interesting, positive outlook on things. I think you’re really warm. You make everyone insanely comfortable and it’s just really easy to be around your good vibes.
MG: Thank you.
GR: I love you. [They hug]
I have one more question, but it’s kind of just taking a line from your song ‘Mold’ out of context and applying it to the release of the album. And that’s: “Are you in love with what you’re making?” Or I guess, what you’ve made.
MG: I’m so happy you picked that line because I thought people would look over that one. Are you asking if we’re in love with what we’re making?
MG: Yeah. And I think that’s because I know all the people that worked on it, even Leo [Horton] who did the artwork, just every step of the way. And our label, we chose them because we could tell they’re good people who really put music first. Everyone who’s been involved with it has been so understanding and open, and I just know we really worked hard to have good intentions while making everything. It feels very pure, and I love it because of that.
GR: Yeah, definitely agree. I’m insanely proud of all of us and our capacity grew so much, in terms of respect for each other creatively and just the overall love for each other. We definitely spent a lot of time and energy carefully choosing who we have around us, because I think Lunar is a very sacred, special, pure thing still and I want to be able to protect it as much as possible [Maggie laughs] from, like, any bad things out there in the music industry. I don’t want anything to corrupt it, really. It feels really… It’s hard to put into words, but the overall feeling is like an insane amount of gratitude and appreciation, just in our team, but then also on the other side that people actually listen to our music and connect with it in any kind of way and want to see us play live or want to ask us questions about our album. That’s just the coolest thing in the entire world. It’s like, how could you not love all of it? And everything’s not perfect, even on the rollout there’s been some bumps here and there, but overall, we’re just really lucky to be able to do this. I don’t know…
MG: A lot of love.
GR: A lot of love. It’s all love. [laughs] So, yeah… Just all love and appreciation. Life is beautiful. We’re lucky to live it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.