April 6th and 7th were two dates I’ve had triple circled on my calendar for many months. On that first day, Moon Taxi was opening for the Flaming Lips playing an all Rage Against the Machine covers set at Augusta (Masters Thursday). The following night they were playing a small club gig in my hometown of Charleston, SC, with it well known they’d be playing some music off their upcoming new album.
Unfortunately, as that Monday hit to kick off the week, I received the horrible news a dear friend had passed away. It was looking like I’d be unable to make either show, which was the furthest thing from my mind, but I had been in talks with the band’s management up to this point for an in-person interview to rap with them about the new album. They were fantastic in working around my changing flight schedule, so I do appreciate that and wanted to thank Dawson and Matt for their condolences. As things shook out with my timeline last minute, I was able to chat before the show back stage with bassist, Tommy Putnam, and then catch their set in full right before my flight.
Moon Taxi has been a stock on a steady incline. The band’s last album, Daybreaker, which was released in the fall of 2015, reached #2 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums. It’s one of the rare albums these days that has hit after hit all the way through. The bar is certainly raised high for their 2017 release, so I wanted to dig in and see what gems I could find out from the band on that. I can confirm that my desire for a Tom Morello collaboration did not make this album. An interesting nugget though is they are returning to self producing their album. We also talked about the amazing Coachella gig from last year where Moon Taxi played the same stage before Ice Cube, Gary Clark Jr, and Guns N Roses.
Writers on the Storm: First, before we get into the new album, I wanted to tie a bow on Daybreaker. Did the chick from the song “Make your Mind Up” ever make her mind up?
Tommy: “Oh I don’t know. She’s hypothetical. They all end up making their mind up, right?”
Ah! (Imagine the noise of someone blowing up a balloon and letting it go). I just figured it was about some groupie and there was a story. Man, I wasted so many brain cycles on long road trips trying to dissect those lyrics.
Tommy: “Nah. It’s just a hypothetical situation. But everybody’s been there before you know?”
So, is there a date yet for when the new album is coming out?
Tommy: “We don’t know yet. Hopefully late summer.”
Last Fall, we talked about how producer, Jacquire King, [Kings of Leon, Tom Waits, Buddy Guy, Cold War Kids] brought so much to Daybreaker. Is he producing this next album, too?
Tommy: “No. Spencer [Moon Taxi guitarist] is doing it. ”
Interesting. I thought Spencer’s production work on the album Mountains Beaches Cities was solid.
Tommy: “He’s done a lot of work with Jacquire recently on different projects, so he’s learned a lot from that and we’ve learned a lot from the process from working with Jacquire. So, we’re kind of honing in those skills. When we were in the studio with Jacquire, we did a song a day and that was the structure. With this kind of format we can change stuff up a little more. It’s a little more fluid.”
Are you recording in Blackbird Studios [Nashville] again?
Tommy: “No, it’s mainly at Spencer’s house and we’re doing songs at different studios. We did one at Sputnik. I forget the name of the other place. Sputnik is pretty tight. It’s owned by [four-time Grammy winner] Vance Powell and the other guy, Mitch Dane. He did a lot of the Jars of Clay’s stuff. But Vance Powell does a lot of Jack White’s stuff.”
How many songs are on it?
Tommy: “Ten or eleven. It’s not done yet so I don’t want to talk too much about it.”
Is the sound a continuation of Daybreaker or did you add instruments, etc?
Tommy: “It’s different than Daybreaker for sure. It’s its’ own thing. It’s not like any of the other stuff we’ve done.”
So, it’s not like your first songs from 2008 like the track, Totally Nude? (Side note: Moon Taxi originally was a jam band)
Tommy: “No, no! It’s not that far back. It’s difficult to describe. We just keep growing as a band so the sound is going to evolve. The good thing is it’s not the exact same. I’ve never liked it when bands stay stale and do the same stuff over and over, so we’ll continue to reinvent ourselves and put out good music we hope our fans like.”
To me, and everyone I’ve spoken to agrees, that Daybreaker is one of those rare albums that you can click Play on track one and listen to it all the way through whether you’re at work, a party, or the gym. Do you think about that when a band member wants to add a song that is important to them and you’re like ‘Eh….’?
Tommy: “Totally. I’ve got tracks that are really, really heavy that aren’t going to make this record. That doesn’t mean they’re bad, but they’re just not going to make it because they’d stick out. But there are some heavy songs on there that do fit in their own way. So, yea, we think about that.”
“At first it just starts out with just a bunch of different ideas on a private Soundcloud that we all listen to. The ones that would make up a good record start to emerge. You know, the ones that seem like they might be related in some way. “
Any collaborations on the new album? I recall the Matisyahu track on your 2012, Cabaret album.
Tommy: “No. We’ve never even really reached out to anybody like that. Matisyahu we toured with a bunch back then so he was relevant to our world. A lot of the fans we were getting, we were touring with him so much and opened for him, so many of our fans were his fans so it just made sense.”
Do you have a song circled on the new album like ‘Year Zero’ where it’s like, “this is definitely our first single”?
Tommy: “We are releasing a song soon. I don’t want to say the date but you can expect it in maybe a month. I don’t know if we’re cleared to say we are going to release it but we’re looking at Cinco de Mayo. And that’s the song we’re going to play tonight [Two High].”
I saw on Trevor’s Instagram post from last year your Coachella stage lineup. Holy crap. Let me read this off as a reminder. Moon Taxi, Gary Clark Jr, Run the Jewels, Chvrches, Disclosure, Ice Cube, and Guns N’ Roses. That must have been one hell of a green room.
Tommy: “You know, they don’t have a private bar for the artists at Coachella…like a free bar, which is bullshit. This thing is making so much money we should have an artist bar where I can go and hang out with Ice Cube…
Like an Olympic Village.
Tommy: “Yea, exactly. I can go and sit there and talk to Tove Lo. But whatever. Bonnaroo has a bar where you can just go up there and fraternize with all kinds of different people. And most other festivals do. I expected one at Coachella. You know, you get your little trailer. Coachella is just tough. It’s hot. If you want to stay close it’s really expensive for the bands even. Like $500 hotel rooms is all you can get, so we ended up staying pretty far away. I’m not going to dive into the full story, but it’s cool. I’ll go back.”
OK…so I’m going to end on a couple of Either/Or scenarios for you to pick from.
Moon Taxi has to be Justin Bieber’s backing band on his tour for one year…or have all the Kardashians act in all your music videos for your new album?
Tommy: “Kardashian girls 100%. My girlfriend absolutely loves to watch Keeping up with the Kardashians. I don’t get the draw to that. I don’t see why girls like to watch it. But [if they acted in our videos], we’d get so many fucking fans out of that. If they were in the videos all their fans would watch it and views would go through the roof.”
Fair enough…but imagine the Moon Taxi merch sales from a Bieber World Tour!
Tommy: “Oh yea. But whatever. (laughing). But we’d get to fraternize with Kim, Kendall….Caitlyn. (laughing).
OK, next one. I saw Trevor [lead singer] is getting married. If you were in charge of his wedding entertainment and the two options were Paris Hilton DJ’ing or Marilyn Manson…who would you pick?
Tommy: “Marilyn Manson would be so awesome!!”
The old people at that wedding are in for a treat. I regret not making it the Jonas Brothers! OK last one, if you had to do a one minute solo during ‘Year Zero‘ with either the French horn or a Glockenspiel…which would you pick?
Tommy: “French Horn. I’d be OK with that. They both sound like shit, but yea, French horn. That’d be cool.”