Nashville’s alt-rock quintet Moon Taxi’s highly anticipated fifth studio album, Let The Record Play, marks the band’s first album for a major label. It’s an infectious, ten-track LP that includes their monster single, “Two High," which to date has garnered more than 64 million streams on Spotify.
Produced and mixed by Spencer Thomson (who also happens to be the band’s guitarist), Let The Record Play lends itself as easily to home speakers as it does to the band’s dynamic live show.
We recently spoke with frontman Trevor Terndrup, Thomson and bassist Tommy Putnam about the band’s new album, and the incredible success of "Two High."
To someone who may not be familiar with Moon Taxi, how would you describe Let The Record Play?
Terndrup: It’s a continuation of our story. For people discovering the band for the first time, it’s a great introduction, and hopefully, they'll go through and check our back catalog. For fans who’ve been with us for more than a decade, they’ll appreciate that it's a continuation of our songwriting and production skills. We’re always striving to become better songwriters, and we're getting a more worldwide look with this record.
What was the songwriting process for this record like?
Thomson: One thing we tried to do a little more of on this album was to have a lyrical concept up front. So often, you end up having music that you like, but then you have the task of trying to put lyrics to it. It can slow down the process. What we've learned is that if you have an idea, lyrics or a title on the front end, it really helps the song move along and it makes it more of a cohesive concept to work with.
Terndrup: Spencer writes a lot of the lyrics, but everyone generally puts a stamp of approval on it. It’s all collaborative, so it has a pretty thick filter. Usually, it’s one person who comes in with the creative spark, and then the rest of us help push it to the finish line.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from Let The Record Play, starting with “Two High."
Terndrup: The music and the lyrics both happened within a two-week time frame. The idea came from our keys player, Wes, who sent a text that was an auto-correct fail. He had meant to say, “too high” and it came across as “two high”. He told me about it and I immediately thought about the iconic peace symbol from the sixties. It was right around the same time the Women's March happened and there was a lot of protesting going on. That's really when the chorus started to shape up.
“Not Too Late”?
Thomson: That one was the last song we wrote for the album and was a little bit of an odyssey. There was an initial track we were working on that had a musical bed with a Police-style beat. I wrote most of the existing lyrics, but something just wasn't jiving. So, we wound up scrapping the music but kept the lyrics. Because it was near the end of the album, we had a lot of musical motifs and chord progressions left over that we liked but hadn’t found a use for. We took a few things from different songs and it very quickly started coming together. In some ways, it’s a bit of a hodge podge of several things, but in the end, it was about finding the right tone to fit the lyrics.
“Good As Gold”?
Terndrup: That was our first co-write written with someone from outside of the band. Wes wrote the first push of the song with Kevin Griffin, who’s the singer for Better Than Ezra. Then we all sat down with it at Spencer’s studio and finished it. It's a banging track.
What are the band’s tour plans like for 2018?
Putnam: New things seem to be happening daily. We've got a bunch of small runs coming up and then some festivals, like Bonnaroo. We’ll probably get back to Europe at some point in late summer and then we’ll do a nationwide tour in the fall.
What’s your preferred setup when you perform live?
Putnam: I’m using a Fender Rumble direct and I’ve also just got a Fender Elite Jazz 5-string bass, which is just gorgeous.
Terndrup: Spencer and I traditionally have played Fender Twins because they're the same no matter where you go. But what we really wanted was to eliminate some of the stage volume. Fender has been great to us and came in with their Mustang GT series amps. They’re super-light and have a direct out in the back which allows you to turn the master down. But the signal isn’t some lame, guitar signal. It's processed and has the body, presence and sound of a Twin. It's really solved a lot of problems as far as too much stage volume. They’re awesome.
Thomson: I'll speak to the studio. We’ve always done a fair amount of recording using direct in, and more so than ever on this album. There's some amplifiers but it’s mostly direct-in guitar. For recording, I prefer to use computer plugins as much as pedals to balance the sound. It also allows us to record mobile when we tour. It opens up your creatively instead of being tied down.
What excites you the most about the release of Let The Record Play?
Terndrup: The success of “Two High” has opened up the world to us. Being on a major label has given us a reason and a platform for people to hear our music. We’ve had great records in our past that people may not have been exposed to before but will now be able to hear. We feel like we're the best version of ourselves right now, and that’s very exciting
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.