Interview: Lo Moon Expands on the Beauty of Collaboration

In between the opening band and Lo Moon, Sade came on over the PA system which was sort of telling. With most people comparing them to Talk Talk and Prefab Sprout, Lo Moon have more in common with the beloved songstress than you’d think.

They share the same shimmering, sound that marries live musicians with studio fairy dust without one diluting the other. They also have two powerfully unique voices. Singer Matt Lowell has masterful control over his majestic voice which is just as impressive live as it is onstage.

Like Sade, Lo Moon sounds just as rich and layered live as they do on record which anyone that was at this show can attest. With just one album it wasn’t hard to guess where they’d draw their setlist from but they also threw in a few surprises with a cover of Springsteen’s State Trooper and a gorgeous rendition of Prefab Sprout’s Bonny. The eager crowd ate it up. It’s obvious Philly is a hot spot for the band with the local WXPN playing them almost non-stop.

When Collide spoke with Lowell on the eve of their album release we asked them about trying to translate their lush studio vibe onto the stage.

The album is such a headphones album.  The production, especially for a first album is just stunning. How did you nail this sound right out of the gate?
Matt: Like anything I think it was a lot of trial and error.  My favorite part of the album is that you can hear in the production that we spent a long time on it. For me that’s the only way to get there. At the stage we were at when we first started we were still getting to know each other and there was a lot of discovery. I credit everyone in the band and our also our producers for just letting that discovery happen.

For a song like “Tried to Make You My Own” there were like ten versions running at the same time until we kind of nailed down the direction. We went into different sessions and we’d say “That thing you did at three in the morning when you weren’t thinking, that was awesome. Let’s drop that in here and see where we’re at.” so there was a lot of painting, scratching the surface away, repainting and resurfacing.  That was the process for the album so I think that when you do that, in the end you get nuanced production.

Was there any friction between the three of you? Was someone  pushing for more rocky or more electronic or whatever or were you all in the same lane?

Interestingly enough when we first started I had a song called “Loveless.” Which was pretty much in a good state.  Most of what you’ve heard on the album was already there. They reacted to it and then we became a band. So we were kind of all on the same page like that’s the bar and now we need to do what it takes to get there. I can count the number of moments where we had friction on one hand.

We had more friction between the producers because that’s just the name of the game working with others. We’d have a song that we felt should happen one way or I was adamant about trying something one way I had heard and we’d have to go down their path first and kind of circle back and meet somewhere in the middle.

That to me is the beauty of collaboration. It was always better when we did that. The bottom line is we have a high standard for each other and the music and the music comes first. I feel lucky to be in a band where they can trust me and we can trust each other to say if you really feel that strong let’s try that. There’s just a lot of collaboration. Just chemistry you know?

And it’s really amazing because we made the album in the blind. We hadn’t played many live shows and I had a band called Stranger. We played a few of these songs out but it was a 3 piece and it’s really weird looking back like how the fuck did we get there?

It’s a very cohesive album.
Thanks I appreciate that. I think the thing that’s all you can do as an artist. We knew we wanted to make an album and we tried.  That was our vision and we put everything into it and we tried. Then if it comes out and people say wow this is an album then great! That’s the goal.

Did everything make it to the album or is there leftover material?
Not really. There are definitely  a few things that didn’t feel right that we left aside so we are in that weird space now where we are sifting through that and the new stuff. We’ve already played 125 live shows as a band last year and we are cracking some of those things open and we’ll try some things at my studio.

It’s funny to hear you’re into you next album and we are just hearing the first album. You’re still being discovered yet you’re working on the sequel just as we see the first flim so to say.
Exactly! The thing is we’ll run out of time if we don’t start the second album now with touring and all. We are just making little bits and pieces, getting started.

How long did this album take?
About a year and a few months.

It sounds like it! That seems like such a rarity these days. Bands used to go away and focus. When a band is in a studio for a year focused on an album, it always sounds more cohesive.
That’s the goal! We did some of it in Chris Walla’s studio in Seattle for 3 weeks at a time. Then we’d come home to L.A. and it was right back into my studio. When we were home it was like let’s jam and figure this song out. We’d figure it out and then send the demo to our producers, go back to Seattle and open it back up again.

So enough time to perfect it but not overcook it.
We hope so.  At the end we were getting to that point, I know the label and the Producers were worried about overcooking it. I can say that I am happy now that it’s out. It sounds like music. I want to hear the nuance but I really want to hear the music. Some albums are so overproduced you don’t hear music, you hear sounds. For me it’s the song. The song lives on and hopefully so does the album.

Is the live show stripped down?
No, not really.  It’s a lot of work. We all play different things throughout the show.  A lot of it is triggered samples etc.  We are at a point now that we can only do so much due to the budget constraints. We travel as a bigger band compared to where we’re at and how much we actually bring on the road.

But I’d say it’s not stripped down in fact It’s kind of full-on. It’s actually more rocky and guitar.  That’s kind of where we all come from but each time we play we find new ways to bring the nuance into it. It’s like seeing Radiohead where the songs just transform live.

Was this sound always your vision? Is it the identity you want the band  to be known for or did you just land on this for this album and it’ll be different the next time? Was it of the moment? Is there going to be a 180?
No, I think this is going to be our thing but we think it’s going to evolve as well. I think we’ll adapt and take things we love and things we’ve learned from this album and take them to the next one. I think we’re sensitive that just because  people like us live doesn’t mean we’re going to head back into the studio with a click track and do a track the whole album live so that it sounds like a live band in a room but it is an element that excites us.

It’s about finding the balance. I know I think about that every day.  That this worked for us but we need to continue to develop individually and then the band will develop. Different roles will happen for each of us. That’s the goal.

Who produced this?
Chris Walla and Francois Tetaz

Do you think you’ll work with them again?
Yes, we are already talking about it. Obviously there is so much that goes into it like scheduling, availability etc. but yeah. We love those guys.

It’s just amazing how you nailed it on your first try.  Again, this album just feels whole.
Thanks.  I’m glad to hear that especially after the singles.  

It’s great to have a whole album that’s not a few singles and then filler. It must be challenging to write 12 songs that all fit together without sounding the same or too different where it breaks a mood. So few artists seem to do it anymore. Elbow, Radiohead always seem to nail it but not many others.
Yes! The last elbow album is fucking awesome. They pull off a whole mood.

I’ve read that some of the inspiration for this album includes authors like Dave Eggers, Camus, Updike, Chabon, Michel Houlebecq and Joan Didion.
Yes.  I think that reading is very important for lyricists for writing lyrics. I think sometimes I don’t have a lot of ideas and reading fiction can inspire some ideas. I think it’s crazy that anyone can write a whole book and create these characters and worlds. A good writer can weave you in and out for 300 pages and that just amazes me. It’s hard enough when you have 3 minutes, or 6 minutes in our case (laughs)

With that Matt heads back to pack his bags and hit the road for what is sure to be their last tour in smaller venues. Check out the gallery below from their show at the Foundry. 


photo by: David Iskra