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An Interview with Moon Taxi

By Amber Donoghue

March 5, 2015

Nashville-based band Moon Taxi dropped the album Mountains Beaches Cities in 2013 after a huge success with their sophomore release of Cabaret. Having been on the festival circuit gaining fans and exposure, and collaborating with other big names in music, Moon Taxi has fine tuned their sound to create music that withstands the test of time. With the unique advantage of having band members with interests from all the corners of creativity, each bandmate brings a signature sound to the musical process. Mountains Beaches Cities has undertones of Simon and Garfunkel, Fun. and The Black Keys. It’s danceable and familiar; it’s that soundtrack that’s playing in your mind throughout the day.

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RideTheMoonTaxi.com

The band created this album so that their music might live past them. Mountains Beaches Cities takes the listener to so many places in just 12 tracks. Much like Gotye’s Making Mirrors, each track on the album is a bit unique in sound, though there is an underlined organic feeling so intrinsic to folk music that it holds it all together. It’s so easy to hear tracks like “Beaches” and imagine the plush grass underfoot at any given music festival on a hot summer night. You could be in your car mid-winter, fingers and toes numb, and feel it. The electricity. That vibe. It’s in there. It’s Moon Taxi.

CLTure spoke with the band — Trevor Terndrup (vocals, guitar), Tommy Putnam (bass), Spencer Thomson (guitar, programming), Tyler Ritter (drums) and Wes Bailey (keys) about their history, Nashville and D’Angelo, among other things.

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Moon Taxi

CLTure: From college days at Belmont University to the last stage you stepped on, Moon Taxi is the purest definition of five guys just making music and fueling a common dream. What’s it feel like to live that dream you created back in 2006?

Wes Bailey: It’s great. I have a hard time imagining any of us doing something other than making music. To be able to do that for a living makes us feel extremely blessed.

It’s cool to look back on some of the shows we were playing in the early days and realize how important every little step of the way was for us. Every small show or not-so-great song we wrote; it all helped us learn and get to where we are now.

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Wes Bailey of Moon Taxi. Photo: metrojolt.com

CLTure: Tommy, it is rumored that you’re big on hitting local shows when you’re home in Nashville. How does the music scene there influence Moon Taxi’s sound?

Tommy Putnam: It helps keep me in check with what Moon Taxi is doing as so many other great bands are coming on to the scene. When I go see lots of shows I stay aware of the pulse so that we can continue to hopefully be one of the better bands around.

CLTure: In 2012 Moon Taxi played at Bonnaroo, an electric show where you covered “Killing in the Name Of” by Rage Against the Machine among your originals. What connected you to the audience then, having won over so many new fans?

Wes Bailey: I think people could just tell we were having so much fun and we had worked so hard to get there that the excitement was infectious. If an audience can tell you’re having a good time on stage, they’ll in turn have a blast in the audience. It works every time.

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Bonnaroo

CLTure: Moon Taxi played with Warren Hayes last summer at Mountain Jam in Hunter Mountain, NY. What was it like to share the stage with a rock icon, playing one of your jams?

WB: It was amazing because he was so damn good. It’s one thing to just be on stage with a well known musician but for them to shred one of your tunes and take it to a place that it had never been, that was a moment I’ll never forget.

CLTure: Who are you listening to right now?

WB: Other than Howard Stern, I stream 101.5 Paris, France (Radio Nova) constantly. It’s what we typically stream in the bus after shows. It’s the coolest music you’ve never heard. B. Alone, “Where Are You?” – [that’s a] tight song I discovered on there.

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Moon Taxi

CLTure: Trevor, you said, “We strive to produce something that will outlast us as a band.” How do you want your music to translate into the memories of the people who hear it?

Trevor Terndrup: Shared experiences are the best kind. We want our songs to bring people together, even if it’s just for one show. I think great songs have that power. And we will continue to try and write lasting songs.

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Trevor Terndrup of Moon Taxi. Photo: usatoday.com

CLTure: Who would you love to work with?

WB: A Moon Taxi/D’Angelo collab makes no sense but I’d love to hear the result.

CLTure: Spencer, you produce the bands music videos. How do you visually conceptualize the music? Whats the process like?

Spencer Thomson: I like to ask myself, “What does this song LOOK like?” I let the answer come to me.  Until it comes, I do absolutely nothing.

CLTure: It seems that you all come from different corners of creativity to bring Moon Taxi together. What brings it all together? What makes it Moon Taxi?

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Moon Taxi. Photo: wakarusa.com

WB: It’s really about finding our own voice in the context of each song. Usually one person comes in with an idea for a song and it’s up to the group to interpret their part. The song sounds the most like Moon Taxi when we’re each playing something we would each instinctively play on our instrument. We all come from various musical backgrounds so the end product is usually very unique.

CLTure: Wes, your musical process came from the study of composers like Mozart. How did classical music get you to your sound now?

WB: Like most pianists, I started out classically trained studying Mozart and Bach. I would usually re-interpret the pieces into different styles to make them my own. Fortunately my piano teacher encouraged me to think outside the box, and a similar freedom is given to me when writing for MT. A lot of the music in our song “Change” played on a piano sounds like a re-interpreted classical piece to me.

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Moon Taxi

CLTure: Following the energy and success of the sophomore album Cabaret in 2012, Mountains Beaches Cities seems to have an evolved identity. Keeping the incredible touring experiences you have had selling out multiple theaters on your own and playing with the likes of Dr. John, Dirty Heads and Matisyahu; what should we look out for with Moon Taxi this year?

WB: A new album. We’re writing and preparing for it everyday. We’ve been live testing some of the new songs out on the road and making pretty drastic changes when a part isn’t vibing with the crowd. We’ll hopefully have a single out this summer and the full album out in early fall. That’s at least the plan for now.

Catch Moon Taxi at Amos’ Southend March 13th with J. Roddy Walston and The Business and Jessica Hernandez and The Deltas.

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