Josie Boivin’s dream has always been to be a musician. Well, that and to go to Mars. “I love space. I love aliens. I love thinking that we’re not alone in this big strange universe,” says the Montreal-based singer and multi-instrumentalist who records as MUNYA. “Those things give me hope.”
Both the longing to make music and the desire for interplanetary travel come together in Boivin’s new album, Voyage to Mars. Named for Georges Méliès’ classic silent film Le Voyage dans la Lune, the record feels beamed in from another planet, suffused with an otherworldly light. It’s music that looks out to great darkness of the sky and the stars beyond for the inspiration to pursue your dreams.
Born the youngest of a large family in a small Quebec town, Boivin’s path to music was a wandering one. After a high school teacher discovered she could sing opera, Boivin spent years in the opera world, before switching to jazz in college. It wasn’t until moving to Montreal that she began to hone her unique musical vision. After releasing a trilogy of EPs on Luminelle Records in 2018, Voyage to Mars marks MUNYA’s official full-length debut.
“Yes, there is music or art that has a special power to take you somewhere else,” she says. “A certain emotion they give you. Sometimes you can’t put a finger on it, but you know it’s there, and it affects you. That’s what I wanted to do.”
Voyage to Mars was entirely recorded in Boivin’s apartment during the past year. The longing to for exploration is palpable throughout the album, each one a shimmering rocket sent skyward. It’s an expansive record that finds the wonder and vastness of outer space in the midst of the struggles of everyday life.
“I always have the same process,” says Boivin. “I have my little toys, my keyboard, and my guitar. My songs are always written by myself in my bubble with my little things.”
But for the songs to find their truest potential, Boivin reached out to her friends scattered across the continent, sending songs back and forth until they were finished. “I missed being in a room with other people, but it wasn’t an option, so I changed my mindset. There was a pandemic and I wanted to make a record, so that’s what we did.”
Boivin reached out to several friends, including Kainalu, P.O. Rioux, and Gabriel Lambert, for guitar, bass, and synth tracks, Sandy Davis on bass, and Mike Thies for additional drums. The resulting album is very much Boivin’s own. Lush synthesizers lend depth to the minimalist guitar, bass, and drums setup, adding a breezy quality that is both danceable and thoughtful at the same time. The lightness belies a sincerity to the lyrics, Boivin’s vocals heartfelt without ever seeming heavy or weighted down by the world.
Luminous first single “Pour toi” was inspired by Boivin’s childhood. “When I was a kid my parents had an old red telephone in the basement. And every time someone would call it had a weird buzz to it because it was old, a noise, as if someone was calling from outer space.” Boivin relates this nostalgic feeling to her interactions over the past year. “All we could do was call our friends and be on zoom, but having this distance from people made it feel like they were on another world. I was far from the people I loved and I really missed them, but all I needed was to hear their voice.”
The resigned beat and heavy keyboards with Boivin’s near-whispered vocal lend a feeling of isolation, but it never falls into despair. There’s a comfort to the song, a feeling that being able to reach out is enough, at least for now.
The lilting “Cocoa Beach” is a song about fearlessness. Over palm-muted guitars and a driving funk beat, Boivin sings, “She’s going wild, my friend/She’s a rocket in the sky.” It’s pushing yourself over your limits and accomplishing the impossible through sheer force of will. There’s a joy to the music, an unleashed quality, the wonder of seeing yourself achieve more than you ever dreamed. “When something calls out to you that is your greatest desire it takes courage to say yes,” says Boivin. “It takes dedication and many failures to reach your dreams. That’s what Cocoa Beach is about. It’s the origin story of MUNYA.”
Boivin’s cover of the Smashing Pumpkins’ epic “Tonight Tonight” is a revelation. “The music video for ‘Tonight Tonight’ inspired me so much when I was a kid,” says Boivin, citing the Méliès-influenced video. “I’m the youngest of a big family and I looked up and saw it on TV and never forgot that song or that video.” Substituting the original’s symphonic grandeur for shimmering disco-pop, Boivin sings the song with a bemused joy, her voice sailing like a comet over the beat, a sparkling wonder. She sounds like she’s having a blast, skating through the cosmos, beckoning us to come along.
“Voyage” is the song that ties the album’s themes together. It’s a celebration of the journey that led Boivin here, the release of her first record. It’s also about the importance of taking the time to enjoy your dreams as they come true. An up-tempo hand-clapping beat collides with Boivin’s wistful vocals as she sings, “All my life, all the dreams, I’ll never forget about you.” The voyage is every bit as important as the destination, and there are always new places to explore, new journeys to undertake. As Boivin sings towards the end of the song, “You keep dreaming, you keep moving.”
“I believe in humanity,” says Boivin. “I have this lightning inside of me when I think of what we can do together. We can do it with going to space, with medicine, with the vaccine, with all the new technologies. We don’t just have to go to space, we can save this planet too. We can accomplish our dreams, if only we try hard enough and never stop.”
It’s this sense of hope that animates MUNYA’s music. It isn’t cheap or sentimental, but a hard-earned belief in the goodness of people, despite all things. In a world that can seem darker by the day, a fierce optimism is the most powerful thing one can possess. As Boivin sings on album standout “Life Is A Dream,” “A dream is a safe place to land. Are you afraid? You can hold my hand.”