Words & Images by: Stu Kelly
Moon Taxi recently treated fans to a special unveiling of their new album Let The Record Play at the Adventure Science Center in Nashville, the band’s hometown. In an effort to release an album in a way they’ve never done before, the band pulled out some special tricks for this planetarium listening party. This wasn’t something they took lightly as they worked with a programmer to run a laser light show over constellations synced to the new album.
As the group continues to mature, their success seems to be a reflection of their dedication to their craft. The group is no stranger to making giant career-leaping strides year after year. Moon Taxi carved out their own unique path by having one foot firmly embedded in the jam band community, where they first put their roots down, and one foot extended into a pop world that puts them on the national stage. This has been somewhat of a blueprint of success for the band since they released their sophomore album, Cabaret.
It’s not often you see a band making stops at Bonnaroo, Coachella, Lockn’, Lollapalooza, Governors Ball and Austin City Limits, while also having two of their songs featured in national television spots and making regular appearances on talk shows like the Late Show With David Letterman, Conan, Late Night With Seth MeyersMegyn Kelly Today. Boasting over 75 million streams on Spotify and regularly getting airplay on Sirius XM’s The Spectrum, Alt Nation and Jam On proves that their reach isn’t limited to one type of fan.
I had the pleasure of catching up with frontman Trevor Terndrup, while the band is enjoying some well deserved down time back home in Nashville, to talk about the new album, the band’s approach to the studio, dream collaborations, and reminisce over the band’s career and accomplishments over the last 10+ years.
JAMBASE: Congratulations on the new release, what can you tell me about the new album?
TERNDRUP: I think it’s a great continuation of our story. I feel like we just get a little better each time we put out a record, like little better versions of us. The songwriting improves slowly, but methodically, as well. I think it’s great Spencer [Thomson] is back at the helm in the producer role too because we’re all more comfortable that way. He knows how to really represent us sonically. I think the songs are great. It started with a huge bang when we wrote “Two High” and put it out on our own in May of last year and it was just life-changing. It garnered interest from pretty much every single major label and got us signed to a major label 10 years into our career as a band.
I think the rest of the songs on the record speak for themselves as well. I think it’s going to be great for people first discovering Moon Taxi. People who aren’t familiar with Moon Taxi will definitely appreciate it for what it is on its own standard. Hopefully, they will go back to our catalog and start to discover some of our music that’s been out for years. For Moon Taxi fans, those who have been with us for a while, I think it’s going to be a continuation of our own growth and a testament to challenge us to write better songs and make better records.
JB: Recently you said “Not Too Late” off the new album is the most important song the band has written to date, what makes this song so special?
TT: I think it comes from a very sincere place. Spencer penned the lyrics and when I first read them I just felt like it was such an autobiographical song. We tend to not write about ourselves. In the past, we’ve liked to write about escapism, travel and trips we wanted to take. This is more introspective and kind of lets the listeners into our personal lives a little bit more than we have in the past.
JB: You touched on Spencer being at the helm and handling the producing again, tell me a little bit about the comfort level and creative liberty that comes with that.
TT: It’s so much easier when it’s all within the band. We enjoyed working with Jacquire King on Daybreaker but it felt like we were inviting someone else into that close circle. Not that the circle was broken at all, he’s a master at what he does and his work speaks for itself and he deserves all the respect he gets in the music industry. When you have five creative forces in the band, I just don’t think that we have necessarily needed anyone outside of the band. Spencer’s technique as a producer has only gotten better over the years, especially his ability to get amazing, unique sounds out of us. I keep saying there’s an increased comfort level, and I really wish I could say that in a much deeper way, but really I just feel more relaxed and at home. Most of the songwriting was done in our personal homes. That’s how it’s always been and that’s how I feel like it’s always going to be.
JB: Ten plus years is a long time for any band, but you’ve accomplished so much as a group in that time frame. When you look back on some of your accomplishments what are you most proud of?
TT: That’s tough. It’s definitely a series of milestones. I think the first Bonnaroo we played in 2012, at That Tent, it was a Thursday night slot and that was a huge milestone for us. It really put us on the national recognition level we needed. The David Letterman performance was also huge for us, I remember calling my dad and telling him we were going to be on T.V. and that felt like a moment where he felt like, “Oh wow, well this is what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life.” It was just so validating. It felt great. I feel like every record we’ve put out has also been a great milestone. I’m mentally preparing myself for this record to make waves because I feel like it really is our best work to date.
JB: Whom would you like to collaborate with either on stage or in the studio that you haven’t had the chance to work with yet?
TT: Oh man, that’s a great question. As far as in the studio, I really love everything Dan Auerbach has done. He just put out a great album [Waiting On A Song]. I love “Malibu Man” it just puts me in such a good mood (laughs). I know I just went on about how we don’t really need a producer, but if he could guest produce or collaborate for a track or two that would be really cool.
As far as a live collaboration, I would really love to play with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. We’ve been incorporating some horns into our sound slowly but surely and I think that would be really cool. I love how well they fit with My Morning Jacket so I think that would be a really fun element to our live set.
JAMBASE: The band recently wrapped up 2017 with a two-night New Year’s Run in Atlanta at the Tabernacle. Take me through what it’s like coming back down to the South after touring the country and selling out such a renowned venue for two nights.
TT: It’s just such a great energy to be back in your home region. I think it all circles back to Spencer in the producer role in the sense we’re just really comfortable. We’re really comfortable playing in the south. We feel like these people get us and we just play in such a relaxed way. It was just awesome. I was talking to some of the staff at the Tabernacle and they were just so happy with the energy and the crowd because they see a lot and there have been some shows at their venue that have been maybe a little darker. The Moon Taxi crowd is definitely a wonderful, driven, pure kind of energy and we felt that through and through. It was elating.
JAMBASE: When you look back at Melodica, how do you compare where the band is now in your career versus your early years?
TT: You know it honestly feels like a different lifetime. It was so long ago and we were in such a different place. I still love those songs and I still play them on my own. I’m not sure if we’ll ever really integrate those songs into our new set because they’re just so different from us now. I hate to say that because I love a lot of those songs but I’m not sure if they fit with us currently. Maybe it will take some time for us to mature a little bit where we could incorporate our whole catalog into a live setting.
As far as the production quality goes on the album, it’s night and day. We were in college, we were 20 years old and we didn’t know how to make an album.
JAMBASE: What else is in store for Moon Taxi in 2018 that hasn’t been announced?
TT: Everything is going to be bigger and better this year. [bassist] Tommy [Putnam] and I just met with a lighting designer and we have a few tricks up our sleeve, I’m not sure if we’re going to have everything together for this upcoming tour in February but we definitely have a lot to look forward to. We’re just going to put this record out, let it simmer, let people enjoy it and then take it on the road.
Moon Taxi currently has a bevy of dates this February booked in the South and Midwest. The band will support Let The Record Play with stops in North Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Arkansas and Missouri to name a few before they join My Morning Jacket’s One Big Holiday in the Dominican Republic. When the band returns stateside they will pick it right back up with dates currently booked through July.