The acclaimed Nashville indie band talks about their new record, touring, appearing on the Letterman show, and more.
BY KLAUS NYMAN
Moon Taxi hails from the country music mecca of Nashville, but as we’ve learned in the past few years, the city is fast becoming an indie rock hotbed as well. Formed in 2006, the band features guitarists Trevor Terndrup and Spencer Thompson, keyboardist Wes Bailey, bassist Tommy Putnam and drummer Tyler Ritter. They recently self-released third album Mountains Beaches Cities (the followup to the well-regarded Cabaret), which has been getting positive press notices left and right. And on Dec. 17, Moon Taxi will drop a brand new live EP Acoustic on West 56th with a serious round of touring to follow shortly after. We sat down with the group to get the scoop…
BLURT: Tell us about the writing and recording process for this album, Mountains Beaches Cities. How does it differ from previous records? Was it more of a challenge, or run smoother than previous records?
MOON TAXI: We took the same approach with Mountain Beaches Cities as with Cabaret. Instead of locking ourselves in a rehearsal space for weeks at a time, the album was constructed in pieces primarily at Spencer’s home studio. Some of the demos began as rough outlines of what the final products would be, and others were more produced and found their way on the record with little additions or adjustments. “River Water” is a tune that falls into that latter category. Nearly every instrument was tracked at Spencer’s place, with the exception of drums and bass. Tommy and I had two days at Sony-Tree on Music Row to get our parts locked in. There’s nothing stress free about that situation, but I personally love recording that way. I’ve always got to be at my best. The last song tracked at Sony-Tree was the outro of “Beaches.” Where every other tune was pieced together separately, that 3 minute section was recorded live. Tommy, Trevor, and I did 5 takes, and I believe we took the 4th pass. I think all of us had more fun recording MBC than any other project we’ve worked on.
What song off of the new acoustic EP is the group most proud of? Why? Were there any other songs considered for the EP? And why didn’t they make it on the project?
“Suspicious” turned out excellent! Of the 6 tracks, “Suspicious” lacked an already rehearsed and defined acoustic arrangement. We actually took an unusual approach (for us) in learning how to play the MBC material live, which involved working on acoustic arrangements before plugging in. At that point, a rehearsal space didn’t exist, so we gathered in Trevor’s living room and practiced the song forms unplugged. Learning these new tracks in that way really let us focus on the key elements of the songs. All of that being said, the performance you will hear on Acoustic On West 56th is the full 6 song performance from the BMG offices. Every song turned out fantastic, but “Suspicious” has a whole new feel. I love that arrangement.
On this tour for Mountains, Beaches, Cities what has been the ultimate high? What has been the low?
The ultimate high would have to be performing on The Late Show with David Letterman (Nov. 11). It was so incredible to see how The Ed Sullivan Theater operates. All of those guys on the crew are beyond professional, and having the chance to see Paul Schaffer and the CBS Orchestra rehearse absolutely blew me away. There’s no question that the lowest point of this tour was sitting up front with Tommy as we were on hour 12 of what should have been a 9 hr drive back home from South Carolina, and all of a sudden our engine makes a noise comparable to a gun shot. It turned out that a spark plug had exploded and caused significant damage to our (now deceased) 15 passenger van. The icing on the cake was the fact that we were only 40 miles from Nashville at that point. That sucked, to say the least.
Since forming, in Nashville (Belmont University days), has there been an identifying moment when the group knew this was going to be a successful career?
The release of Cabaret was a big step forward for us. Soon after that we were starting to see bigger turnouts in markets that we didn’t necessarily feel confident in before, and our songs began showing up on television shows. And then there was Bonnaroo, which to this day is the biggest show we’ve had. I’ve heard that 15,000 people were in attendance.
Give fans a brief insight to the dynamic of the group onstage and off. Who’s driven, the leader and/or jokester?
When you put five guys together that are all as equally driven as they are ridiculous and goofy, it makes for an absolutely hilarious life on the road. I don’t see how the five of us could still be together after nearly 7 years without sharing a common goal. We all have specific roles musically that have to happen every night, but off stage we all like to joke around and mess with one another.
What’s something interesting you can tell fans about the group they don’t already know?
We’ve never had any sort of pre-show ritual. A lot of bands huddle up, or sing, or do a “let’s go” thing. We just go. As far as post show rituals, there’s the fairly common hotel parking lot party, where you can hear lots of hysterical laughter and nonsensical statements spoken in the Daniel Plainview voice. “I’VE ABANDONED MY CHILD!” is a good example.
If there was one other group the guys would like to go on tour with, that are currently releasing records and touring?
I’m pumped about our shows in 2014 that we’re doing with White Denim. Those guys are awesome. I’d love to tour with Walk The Moon. I’ve been listening to them for a while, but all five of us had the chance to see them perform at ACL Fest and they were incredible.
Photo Credit: Rob Loud
MOON TAXI TOUR DATES:
12/13 Milwaukee, WI @ WLUM Big Snow Show^
12/20 Birmingham, AL @ Workplay Theater
12/31 Nashville, TN @Marathon Music Works
1/13 Scottsdale, AZ @ Pub Rock
1/16 Los Angeles, CA @ The Troubadour
1/17 Sacramento, CA @ Harlow’s%
1/18 Crystal Bay, NV @ Crystal Bay Club Casino – Crown Room%
1/19 San Francisco, CA @ Brick & Mortar Music Hall
1/21 Portland, OR @ Peter’s Room
1/22 Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
1/23 Sandpoint, ID @The Hive
1/24 Missoula, MT @ The Palace
1/25 Jackson, WY @ Pink Garter Theatre
1/27 Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater#
1/28 Boulder, CO @ Fox Theatre#
1/29 Colorado Springs, CO @ The Black Sheep
2/13 Norfolk, VA @ The NorVa*
2/14 Asheville, NC @ Thomas Wolfe Auditorium*
2/15 Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore*
2/21 Louisville, KY @ Headliners Music Hall
2/22 Chicago, IL @ Dunn Dunn Fest 2014
4/4 Charleston, SC @ North Charleston PAC*
4/7 Augusta, GA @ Jessye Norman Amphitheater*
4/14 Fort Lauderdale, FL @ Tortuga Fest (South Beach Park)
4/26 New Orleans, LA @ Civic Theatre$
^w/Foals and Arctic Monkeys
%w/ Tea Leaf Green
#w/ White Denim