Q&A: Moon Taxi

Q&A: Moon Taxi
Courtesy Photo Moon Taxi is (from left to right) Spencer Thomson, Tyler Ritter, Trevor Terndrup, Tommy Putnam and Wes Bailey.

Courtesy Photo
Moon Taxi is (from left to right) Spencer Thomson, Tyler Ritter, Trevor Terndrup, Tommy Putnam and Wes Bailey.

Moon Taxi have been blowing up these past few years, and they’re about to treat Fayetteville to a big ol’ jam session.

Described as a jam fusion rock/pop band, the group is known for their electrifying live sets and catchy tunes. You may have already heard their songs “Morocco” or “The New Black” on the radio.

Coming up on a decade of playing shows, Moon Taxi formed in 2006 by Trevor Terndrup (vocals, guitar), Tommy Putnam (bass), Spencer Thomson (guitar, programming), Tyler Ritter (drums), and Wes Bailey (keys) while the band members were going to school in Nashville, Tenn. at Belmont University.

The band started getting mass attention with their release of “Cabaret” in 2012. The album was more of a serious studio approach versus their previous albums that were much more jam band based. With years of touring under their belts, they soon landed performances at Bonnaroo, Governor’s Ball, Wakarusa, Houston Free Press and upcoming appearances at Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits. You could also add George’s Majestic Lounge to that list. The band played there last spring.

Moon Taxi will be stopping by Fayetteville on the way back from ACL this Saturday to perform at George’s Majestic Lounge, which will be exactly one day after the release of their new full-length album, “Daybreaker.” Tickets are $15, and are available in advance online from the venue’s website.

Last week we got the chance to call up Tommy Putnam, the band’s bassist, and talk about growing up in the South and the kind of album “Daybreaker,” is. Fun fact, his mother attended the University of Arkansas in the 70s.

TFW: Growing up in the deep south of Birmingham, Alabama, has southern music left an influence in your style in Moon Taxi?

PUTNAM: Absolutely. I loved the Allman Brothers. One band that Trevor, our singer, and myself, really got into in high school was Gov’t Mule. Our high school band was a trio, and Warren Haynes and Woody Allen, those are some southern dudes right there. If you ever talk to Warren, he’s got some southern drawl for sure. We loved that band. Y’know we were just like, these guys are fuckin’ awesome.

There’s some Birmingham bands that came up, real small ones that never got anywhere. There was this one band called Pain that was a southern ska band. As far as the southern influence specifically, Gov’t Mule has really effected us, especially my playing as a bass player. We were really into psychedelic rock growing up.

The southern influence in us isn’t necessarily the music aspect, it’s more just like the culture. The people here are pretty friendly and they’ve got their own way of living. It’s different than other places. It’s nice in some regards and others it’s a path. Especially Alabama. I don’t know about Arkansas, but Alabama doesn’t have Uber yet. They’re blocking it. And I’m just like, are you serious? Why? It’s a theme, especially with Alabama, it’s like come on, catch up. There’s a little bit of frustration and angst there. Alabama is always the one to play catch up.

TFW: Have you guys gotten the chance to see the world with Moon Taxi’s touring?

PUTNAM: Oh yeah. We’ve been to 46 of the 48 continental United States. We still haven’t been to Alaska or Hawaii and we’re going to hit up North Dakota this tour. We’ve toured through all of them.

We had one festival in Canada, north of Vancouver. It’s called Pepperton. That was a really cool festival. I’d been to Canada before on a canoe trip, but going up there, I was like wow, this really is a very different country. You get some of their currency and it’s like wow this dollar bill looks strange. It’s beautiful up there. If you ever get a chance to go to Vancouver, go. We did a helicopter ride to the top of a mountain and drank water from a glacier. It was the purest water I’ve ever had.

TFW: Tell me about the album Daybreaker you guys have coming out.

PUTNAM: It comes out this Friday. We do Austin City Limits the day that it comes out, and I think we’re playing Fayetteville on our way back. That will be our very first headlining club show we’ll play with the album. It will be available, we’ll play a bunch of the new songs and we can sign it there if people want.

TFW: How’s this one feel compared to the other albums?

PUTNAM: To me it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. It’s got a lot of our former flair in it, the kind of style that makes Moon Taxi, Moon Taxi. At the same time, we worked with a producer, Jacquire King, and he’s worked with Kings of Leon, Norah Jones. He helped a ton sonically. It really helped make the soundscape really deep and rich. You can hear things on this record that may not stand out as much on the previous records. Everything has it’s own place sonically. We had the ability to make any sound we wanted to at that studio. It was a real tool to have. Any kind of guitar tone, bass tone, drum sets, however we wanted them. Because of that, creativity really caught fire. I think we made our best album to date.

TFW: What sort of mindset was the band in when recording Daybreaker? Is there kind of a character to this album?

PUTNAM: All of our albums spread across emotions and some ways, genres. There’s definitely some rock songs on there, and some pop sensibilities on there, too. There are a little bit of dance songs on there, y’know, it’s across the board. I think it’s something that if a person listened to the whole album I think they will find something to their taste.

Another thing I thought was interesting, and I meant to tell you this, is we recorded at Blackbird studios, which is named after the Beatles song. Apparently, Paul McCartney wrote the song Blackbird after Central High School in Little Rock, the Little Rock Nine and the integration process. My grandmother taught at that high school while those kids were there and we were recording in the studio named after the song. I thought that whole circle of things was very interesting.

At the same time, I’m recording on a bass, a 1963 Fender jazz bass. This bass is way older than me. It’s like judging me on what I play. That was the intimidation factor of that studio. You’ve got so many amazing records recorded there. While I was sitting there I kept thinking like, man, I bet this bass has had some really bad ass shit played on it. I better keep up.

TFW: How has the band’s sound evolved over the course of the band’s career?

PUTNAM: Our songwriting has definitely gotten better. The first record was made in college six years ago. The next record was a live album. Then we figured out how to write songs, and we did “Cabaret.” We got better at it with “Mountains, Beaches, Cities” and a little better at recording. We got more mature, and the lyrics had more meaning. Then we got to go into a full blown studio.

We used to spend like two days in a studio. We got to spend six weeks at Blackbird. It’s a very real record. Like I said, it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. It’s the culmination of all of our hard work. As you get older you start dealing with heavier issues. Our guitar player had a baby. Our keyboard player got married, one of us got a divorce. You deal with a lot heavier of issues and you write a lot better songs as a result. I think that’s very true on this record.

Like, Blood on my Back. I mentioned that our guitarist had a baby and Wes got married. They wrote the lyrics to that song together. Wes had the chorus and we were all like, wow, this is really good. So everybody had a crack at the verses. Spencer wrote the best one. The songs about longing to be back with the people you miss on the road. Spencer just had a baby, and he’s essentially saying we’re always going to come back. We’re going to come right back from wherever. That’s a perfect example of us growing as people.

TFW: That’s interesting that everyone in the band writes the music together.

PUTNAM: Every song has a different combination of people. I bring the foundation of the song together. Wes and Spencer do a lot of writing, I used to do more. Trevor does some, too. Especially with the lyrics on this record, we all chimed in. We have songs in the pipeline that we might combine a couple things that might fit together. You never really know how a song will come to life. We just keep the pipeline flowing all the time.

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