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Moon Taxi Discuss New Album ‘Mountains Beaches Cities,’ Pros and Cons of Recording at Home + More

Moon Taxi
Rob Loud

What happens when you blend acoustic rock with electronic sounds? Moon Taxi, that’s what. Since forming in 2006, the Nashville quintet has been wowing fans and critics alike with their unique sound and unforgettable stage show.

It’s been a busy summer for Moon Taxi — guitarist Spencer Thomson, singer and guitarist Trevor Terndrup, bassist Tommy Putnam, keyboardist Wes Bailey and drummer Tyler Ritter –  as they’ve been growing their fan base with performances at such major festivals as Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and Hangout. They’ve also made time to play a few special locations, like McKittrick Hotel in New York City.

Although their second studio album, ‘Cabaret,’ has only been out for a little over a year, Moon Taxi returned with their third LP, ‘Mountains Beaches and Cities,’ earlier this month. Leading with the single ‘The New Black,’ the band is out to prove it can produce a studio album with the same finesse and quality as its live shows. Diffuser.fm spoke with Thomson, who produced the album with Bailey, about what makes ‘Mountains’ different from the last album, the worst part about having a home studio and what ‘The New Black’ is all about.

‘Cabaret’ came out last year, and now you’re back with ‘Mountains Beaches Cities.’ Why did you decide to put out another album so soon?

It’s just been so long prior to ‘Cabaret’ before we put out a studio album, and basically, we’ve been touring on a live album, which released in 2009. So it’s been several years. We just thought that we were long overdue for having a more solid studio catalog. And we were still inspired by the writing and creating of ‘Cabaret’ that we wanted to keep that going and not lost that. We wanted to recreate that energy again.

How did you approach the new album differently compared to ‘Cabaret?’

On the new one, we were learning and asking ourselves what would be the best process for us as far as the desired goal that we wanted to get. So when we went to do this one, it was kind of had it figured out in our head what we want, what we don’t want, what to do and what not to do from ‘Cabaret,’ since we were able to do it so quickly as far as a big follow-up. We learned a lot from working on ‘Cabaret’ and went with the same recording process and same plan on this one. It was just about taking it a little bit further and executing it.

What’s the story behind ‘The New Black?’

It was really just a goal to try to write something that was notably infectious and something instantly energetic. It’s nothing more than a keyboard riff that was a vague idea of a song, and then it came together with several other ideas. We never really set out to write a song and say, “I want this song idea. Let’s a make a song like this.” It all kind of fell our way and ended up totally different from when we start.

Can you talk about a song where the recording or production was especially memorable?

The song ‘Beaches’ was really cool for us, because most of the recording on the record was more of a layered approach. As a band, we were tracking it one member at a time. But that one, for the second half, we wanted to do something much more free-form. And we had a skeleton of the idea in the studio. We wanted to capture the cool live element on the album. We’re still a live band, and we want our studio record to be on par with that. It was cool to post a live moment on the record.

Most of the recording was done at your apartment. What was that experience like?

It can awesome but at the same time a huge curse, because you can’t separate it. We’ll spend all day working on stuff, and then everyone will leave. But I’ll be at home and go back and work on something. But I’ve got to make myself step away from it. That’s the thing about the home studio thing nowadays. You can work on anything and do anything whenever you want, but that’s also the problem, because you can constantly change stuff. And that’s not always the best thing. It’s hard to find when something’s done. There’s no end to what you can do. You can fix something or change something. It’s a huge sense of creative freedom. You just have to keep yourself in check.

You guys are well known for being a great live band and have performed at number of interesting shows this summer. Do you see yourself more as the band that would rather perform onstage than record new material?

No, not at all. We love making records as much as playing live. I think for so long we were playing a lot of shows, and I think the general public perception was we were just a live band. And we were never satisfied with just being a live band. We love to play live, but we wanted to really show that we are capable of good studio work as well.

What were your favorite Moon Taxi performances from the past summer?

All the festivals are a lot of fun. We did Hangout Festival, which was a lot of fun. Bele Chere in Asheville [N.C.] was really cool. Yeah, we did a show on a boat in New York, which was like a party on a boat with a lot of people. We’ve had a good summer.

Having just released your album and your summer festival run being over, what’s next for Moon Taxi?

More touring. All of October and November we’ll be on the road. We’ll be at Voodoo Festival in New Orleans. And then we’ll pretty much be touring up in to the spring and the next festival season.

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