ABOVE: MOON TAXI. IMAGE COURTESY OF ROB LOUD
There’s something familiar about Moon Taxi. The Nashville five-piece has a way of bringing the great outdoors right to your ears while making you feel simultaneously at ease and astounded. With their third record Mountains Beaches Cities, the musical process came naturally to members Trevor Terndrup, Tommy Putnam, Spencer Thomson, Tyler Ritter, and Wes Bailey. The album features catchy, indie-rock gems influenced by progressive rock, folk, and psychedelic sounds and imbued throughout with unmistakable Southern charm.
We spoke with Wes Bailey over beer after a private performance at BMG about Moon Taxi’s genre, camping, and growing up in the South. We’re also excited to premiere, below, a remix for the band’s song “Morocco,” which puts a new EDM spin on the island vibe of the original.
ILANA KAPLAN: How did you come up with the album title Mountains Beaches Cities?
WES BAILEY: It’s really long and confusing. I think through about a third of the way through the process, we realized that a lot of the songs were about exploring and traveling. We didn’t want to make it too deliberately about that, but it kind of happened upon some consistent themes from song to song. We were past our deadline for the title. We just played a really great show in Ashville, North Carolina at The Orange Peel, which is an amazing club. We surprised ourselves and had an even better show than we thought. We were on a high. We had a really good time and had some good local beer after. We were in the car riding back into the hotel. We were euphoric and were like, “This place is so great. You’ve got to love North Carolina. You have mountains, great beaches, and good cities like Asheville and Charlotte.” We realized that was it. There it was: Eureka Mountain. Mountains Beaches Cities. We said a prayer and that was it. We knew it would create some great artwork, so we left it.
KAPLAN: Who created the artwork?
BAILEY: It was a guy called Samuel Johnson from Australia. I think he’s living in London. It was someone our manager set us up with. It’s a cool cover.
KAPLAN: How long have you guys been a band?
BAILEY: We actually met in college. We’ve been together for awhile. We met at Belmont, in Nashville. I’m from Knoxville, but everyone is starting to call themselves Nashville natives because they’ve been there for so long. Spencer is from Bowling Green, Kentucky. Trevor, Tyler, and Tommy all went to high school together in Birmingham, Alabama. That was in 2007. It was good.
KAPLAN: Is your record a bunch of anecdotes compiled, or is there one story behind it?
BAILEY: No, there’s definitely not one story. It’s kind of compartmentalized behind each song with regards to how we went about it. We personally write song-to-song. We shift things in a way to keep it consistent within a theme.
KAPLAN: We’re going to premiere the Morocco remix. Can you tell me about how that remix came together?
BAILEY: My good friend Ben, who is from New York, his friend was doing remixes, so he wanted to take a stab at doing “Morocco.” He contacted us and had something put together pretty quickly. It was a friend-of-a-friend thing. We were all on the same page. It was really out there, but cool.
KAPLAN: Do you guys consider yourselves a part of the jam band scene or the indie-rock scene?
BAILEY: Definitely both. As you just saw, we like to solo, we like to explore, and we like to create a lot of energy in these songs. I guess that’s called “jamming,” but we call it exploring the music and taking it out as far as it can go energy-wise. We do a lot of builds and releases. That’s definitely taken from a more jam mentality, but we really focused on this record and the record before on our songwriting as opposed to our big solos. We saved that for our live shows. We engineered all of our songs for years just for the live setting. So, there was a big shift when the last record, Cabaret, came out where we made a conscious effort to write songs that will outlast us and are good, catchy songs.
KAPLAN: How do you think you guys have evolved from Cabaret?
BAILEY: We found a studio identity that we didn’t know of before. We found out how to record efficiently, write efficiently and in a fair way for all of the members to get their touch on the final product. We just learned how to create a system and a process for making records. We didn’t have that before. It felt like it took us two years to write Cabaret. This was a very fun, organic process for this album.
KAPLAN: Nice! Sounds like you guys have it down. Your video for “The New Black” just came out. How did you guys come up with the idea behind it and how it feeds into the sound of Mountains Beaches Cities?
BAILEY: We had seen a video that the director, Tripp Watt, did for The Morning Teleportation, who are some buddies of ours. We thought, this guy can do anything. He has this warped sense of imagery. It was really cool. We hired him to do the video with a few different treatments. It was one of those things I perceive as this girl who is fed up with her job. It’s open to interpretation. She’s bored, and we’re the voices in her head that are telling her to do something wild and crazy like drive her car through the desert with a blindfold on.
KAPLAN: Have you ever done that?
BAILEY: [laughs] I don’t think anyone has and made it out alive. I wouldn’t be there if I did that!
KAPLAN: I feel like it’s a common feeling to be stuck in a job and wanting to do something wild and crazy. What’s the most meaningful song for you and the band on the new record?
BAILEY: Well, I think each of the band members would have different responses. For me, “River Water” is a really feel-good song. That song used to be a funky and electronic, Daft Punk-like song.
KAPLAN: Why did you change it?
BAILEY: Because it was such a tender lyric. It used to be called “Camping Song,” up until very recently. It just feels really warm and nice. It’s produced brilliantly. There’s this perfect harmony, and an ’80s vocal with some banjo. We like to create records by combining organic and inorganic sounds to create something really unique.
KAPLAN: Have you guys been on a big camping trip together?
BAILEY: No, but we spent enough time sleeping in the van. We feel like we’re camping all the time together.
MOON TAXI’S THIRD RECORD MOUNTAINS BEACHES CITIES IS OUT NOW.