Nashville rockers Moon Taxi have been busy this year. From their television debut on Letterman, to releasing their third album, Mountains Beaches Cities, the band has a momentum that’s taking audiences by storm.
Alex May caught up with guitarist Spencer Thomson to talk about their 11/29 show at the Buckhead Theatre, their upcoming Acoustic EP release, and what drives the band.
Your new acoustic EP comes out on December 17th. Can you tell us a little about the process of adapting songs into an acoustic format?
It’s important to us that our songs can work on a purely fundamental level. Our live shows are known for being loud and energetic and our studio records are often very layered but at the end of the day we want the songs to be able to translate just as well when they are stripped down to the basic elements: the composition, the melody, the lyrics.
When we started learning the songs on this record for our live set, we actually started by learning them acoustically. The idea was that if we felt really solid with just the bare essentials first, it would make arranging the songs for any situation much easier.
In self-producing Mountains Beaches Cities, did you find it easier to achieve the overall sound you envisioned for the album?
Yes. There is really no point in the record-making process where it is out of your hands. If there is something you want to hear or try, you are able to just do it and see for yourself. As a fan I’ve always enjoyed records that are produced by the band or a member of the band. Listening to a record and knowing the band had complete control creates a strong sense of trust in the listener.
Each song of yours has its own character. How do you approach creating a soundscape that matches the tone of the song?
We start off each new song with a clean slate. We approach recording with the idea that anything is possible. In the beginning the question is always, “How do I want this to make me feel?” not “What should the guitar do in this song?”
Making sure that the sounds are evocative of the lyrics and vibe is really crucial. While we are working, it is very important to have a huge palette of sounds and instruments accessible so that virtually any idea can be realized fairly quickly. With technology these days, there is virtually no barrier between hearing an idea in your head and hearing it recorded moments later. After that, it is a lot of fine-tuning and attention to detail.
What generally influences your songwriting?
There are multiple writers in the band so the answer would be different for each of us. For me, at the risk of sounding too cerebral, I think my best material comes from tapping into my subconscious. When you are writing something and you are able for it just come out with no filter, I find that is the best stuff.
What are some elements that characterize your live shows?
The word which people use to describe our live show over and over is energetic. I think there is truth to that. We are passionate about our songs and it’s very important to us that the audience not only has a good time but that there is literally nothing else they would rather be doing, that they reach some sort of ecstatic state that it is only possible by being a part of that moment at that show.
As you play more and more shows, what are some things that you find yourself exploring more of musically?
Efficiency. So often the biggest impact is achieved from the simplest thing. Knowing what is essential and what is fluff is something you become more aware of the more you play and are involved in music
If you could play a show alongside any three artists, who would they be?
Bob Dylan, Talking Heads, David Bowie
Do you have any specific goals for 2014?
I’m looking forward to start working on the next album in between all the touring. It will be a new year and a blank canvas and there is no telling what direction it will go in and that’s very exciting.
Thanks again to Spencer to taking the time to talk with us, and make sure to catch Moon Taxi, playing Buckhead Theatre this Friday, November 29th.